By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Losing nine of 14 first- and second-team All-League players might spell disaster for a high school football team.
But that also means five are returning, and if one of those is your quarterback, it eases the transition.
After the first few practices this year, Petaluma coach Rick Krist said his team is shaping up well after finishing 7-4 overall and 4-2 in the Sonoma County League last season.
Senior quarterback Brendan White, a first-team all-league selection last year, will be the foundation upon which the Trojans will build a team that hopes to challenge Analy for league honors.
“Brendan has been with me for three years. So it’s nice, things are running smooth because of it,” Krist said in the first days of mandatory team practices. “We’re progressing a lot faster than we were last year.”
The Trojans again will put up a strong rushing corps, using Lucas Dentoni and Tyler Williams as fullbacks to fill the void left by the graduation of 2014 co-back of the year Yusef Kawasmi’s graduation.
Kawasmi, the team’s offensive player of the year in addition to the league-wide honor, was Petaluma’s explosive running back, who carried the ball 151 times in 11 games for an 8.2 yard per-carry average.
He tallied 1,242 yards, including six 100-yard-plus games, and averaged 113 a game. He scored a team-high 11 rushing touchdowns.
Quarterback White was the Trojans’ second-leading rusher with 122 carries for 516 yards and six touchdowns.
This season, in addition to White, Petaluma has five returning starters on offense and five on defense. In all, seven seniors are returning.
“We have a big senior class coming back,” said Krist, in his sixth year as head coach of the Trojans, in addition to another 21 years at the school. “These seniors were undefeated as freshmen, so we have high expectations.”
In the Trojans’ path, though, is Analy, the SCL team to beat.
The Tigers have run the league table for three years in a row, going 18-0, and posting an overall 34-5 record — which includes three losses in the North Coast Section Division 3 playoffs.
Analy lost 15 starters from last year’s league championship squad and may have added pressure since it will essentially be homeless all year. Analy’s home field is being replaced, meaning the team will call Rancho Cotate its “home” field this year.
“Obviously the best team in our league is Analy,” Krist acknowledged. “But our goal is to win our league.”
The longtime coach suspects Analy coach Daniel Bourdon will use Analy’s nomadic nature this year as a rallying cry.
“They are well-coached,” Krist said of his rival. “I bet, the kind of team they are, it will fire them up. They’re going to use it to their advantage.”
While Krist isn’t predicting his Trojans will dethrone the Tigers, he said he will give them a run for their money. Other teams have learned not to count Petaluma out, he said.
“We want to have steady improvement all season long,” he said. “We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
You can reach Lori A. Carter at 521-5470 or email@example.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.
PETALUMA TROJANS AT A GLANCE
Coach: Rick Krist (6th year)
2014-15 record: 7-4, 4-2 league
JV record: 5-5, 3-3 league
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Brendan White, SR, QB: At 6-foot-4 with a year’s experience under his belt, White gives the Trojans an imposing leader.
Travis Plank, SR, OL-DL: Plank, along with fellow linemen Robert Krist, Ben Upton, will key Petaluma’s ground game..
Lucas Dentoni, SR, FB, and Tyler Williams, SR, FB: This tandem will get the carries.
GAME NOT TO MISS
November 6: The Trojans finish the regular-season schedule against league favorite Analy.
In 1977, Petaluma beat San Marin 28-20 to win the North Coast Section championship in the 3A Redwood Empire.
Aug. 28, Windsor, 7:30
Sept. 4 , Vintage, 7:30
Sept. 12 , at Terra Linda , 2:00
Sept. 18 , Santa Rosa, 7:30
Sept. 25, Sonoma Valley, 7:30
Oct. 3, at Piner, 1:30
Oct. 9, Healdsburg, 7:30
Oct. 17 , El Molino*, 7:30
Oct. 23, Elsie Allen, 7:30
Nov. 6, Analy**, 7:30
* at Windsor High School
** at Rancho Cotate High School