By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
For the first time in the past few seasons, Analy goes into the 2015 campaign with a significant number of question marks, especially on offense. Sonoma County League opponents — who have been pulverized by the Tigers the past three seasons — may be sniffing their chance at payback and perhaps a changing of the guard in the league standings.
In addition to the uncertainty in personnel and losing 15 starters off last year’s team, Analy (11-2 overall last season, 6-0 in the SCL) will not have a traditional advantage during home games since it will be playing all “home” games at Rancho Cotate. Analy’s football stadium and playing surface are being upgraded during the 2015 season, which means Analy will be on the road for 10 games, certainly not a fortuitous development.
“There is some adversity that we won’t have that home field advantage like we are used to. But we have awesome fans and they will travel to our games,” eighth-year Analy head coach Daniel Bourdon said. “I think in the long run it will be a positive for our program having a new stadium.”
The drawback is for the seniors who will not have true home games in their final season but won’t be around to reap the benefits of an improved stadium beginning in the 2016 season.
“The seniors were a little disappointed that we won’t have home games,” senior linebacker Isaac Kangas said. “But it will be good for the future of this program.”
Defense will be Analy’s strength, at least early in the season until the offense can get its bearings. Bourdon said Kangas will lead a deep linebacker corps that will be the strength of the Tigers’ defense.
The real concerns are on offense and whether the new personnel will be able to deftly run the spread, no-huddle, fast-paced offense that has come to define Analy’s scoring machine.
“A core group of players who have carried us for a while are gone. We had some special players on our team last season,” Bourdon said. “There are a lot of fresh faces this year.”
Gone to graduation are three critical offensive skill players: quarterback Will Smith (now at Kansas Wesleyan); running back Ja’Narrick James (Santa Rosa JC), the 2014 SCL Player of the Year; and wide receiver Kerr Johnson Jr. (SRJC), the 2013 SCL Player of the Year. Also gone is the Tigers’ tremendous team speed that was one of the hallmarks of the 2014 team.
“Our offense is not as explosive as last year but it is improving. There are definitely some big shoes to fill,” Kangas said. “Our defense will have to step up.”
The most pressure will be on new starting quarterback Jack Newman, who came in for second-half mop-up duty in blowout wins last year as a sophomore.
“Jack got a lot of reps last year because backups played in most of our second halves,” Bourdon said. “He is accurate and understands his reads. Jack is ready to take control of our team.”
Bourdon said that unlike the past few seasons there aren’t one or two big-play, go-to guys, meaning the scores and high-yardage gains for the Tigers will come by committee. He added that the offense will need to be efficient to score points.
Analy has been as dominant a team in the SCL the past three seasons as one could imagine (18-0, almost all blowouts). The Tigers are 34-5 the past three years with three of those losses coming in the ultracompetitive NCS Division 3 playoffs. The Tigers were knocked out of the playoffs in the semifinal round by Campolindo, 62-46, last season. The Moraga school went on to win the California state NCS Division 3 title.
“We battled Campolindo,” Boudon said. “There were just a couple of plays we didn’t make. We made a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes.”
In 2015, Analy is hoping to get over the NCS playoff semifinals hump, having ended a step short of the championship game the past three seasons. However, the Tigers — clearly still the cream of the SCL — would be wise not to look ahead to the playoffs as they will likely be in closer games this preseason (Casa Grande, Maria Carrillo, Montgomery and Acalanes of Lafayette) and face at least a few SCL opponents that will give the Tigers their money’s worth.
“We have some question marks and we have the potential to be good, but we are not there yet. We expect results when we get on the field,” Bourdon said. “We are well aware that there is a target on our backs this season and teams want revenge.”
ANALY TIGERS, AT A GLANCE
Coach: Daniel Bourdon (eighth year)
2014 record: 11-2, 6-0 in SCL (first place)
2014 JV record: 10-0
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Isaac Kangas, Sr., LB/RB: Third-year varsity starter anchors the defense at middle linebacker and is the leader of a deep and experienced linebacker corps. Bourdon said of Kangas, “He is just a physical guy with good instincts and he knows how to get to the football.”
Jack Newman, Jr., QB: The quarterback position is a big question mark going into the early part of the season and there is a huge hole to fill with the graduation of dynamic quarterback Will Smith, who spearheaded the offense on last year’s squad. Newman got a lot of reps last year but almost all were in the second half of games as part of the clean-up crew after the Tigers were up by large margins. It will be a different story this season as Newman’s snaps will be the real deal against first-string defenses.
Schuyler Van Weele, Sr., WR/CB: A third-year varsity player who figures to be one of Newman’s primary targets downfield. Bourdon said Van Weele is a solid route runner with consistent hands and explosiveness after the catch.
Tristan Savage, Sr., LB: A first-year starter, Savage came off the bench last season but has been promoted after “having a great offseason where he improved tremendously since last year,” Bourdon said.
Lucas Housman, Sr., WR: A primary deep-ball threat who has good speed. Housman will rely on his refined route-running techniques to find open patches of field to stretch defenses.
GAME NOT TO MISS
Circle the first game of the season, Aug. 28 against NBL power Casa Grande at Santa Rosa High. Right out of the gate Analy will find out if the new offensive personnel is ready for prime time against what should be an aggressive and physical Gauchos defense. Analy smashed Casa Grande last season 47-14 in the opener but the Gauchos surely haven’t forgotten the drubbing. “We caught Casa last year before they put things together,” Bourdon said. “NBL games are important to us. Everyone thinks the NBL is the class of the Redwood Empire so we want to have a good showing against NBL teams and be in the conversation. We also want to represent the SCL well.”
The entire 2012 season was the sea-change year that turned the Tigers program into a Redwood Empire power and heightened expectations for future seasons. The 2012 Tigers won the SCL with a 10-0 mark and went 12-1 overall — their one loss came in the semifinals of the NCS playoffs. The groundbreaking season featured a talented core group of players that far eclipsed the school record for total wins in a season (nine wins was the previous record).
Aug. 28, Casa Grande*, 7:30
Sept. 4, at Maria Carrillo, 7:30
Sept. 12, Montgomery**, 7:30
Sept. 18, at Acalanes, 7:00
Oct. 2, at Sonoma Valley, 7:30
Oct. 10, Piner**, 7:30
Oct. 16, at Healdsburg, 7:30
Oct. 24, El Molino**, 7:30
Oct. 30, at Elsie Allen, 7:30
Nov. 6, Petaluma**, 7:30
* at Santa Rosa High School
** at Rancho Cotate High School
Richard J. Marcus, for The Press Democrat