Let the games begin: Friday night football openers

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald
Mount Shasta High School head varsity coach Jason Young, upper right, is beginning his second season with the Bears. Chris Ballard, upper left, is the new head coach in Dunsmuir, and Byron Mathes and Darren Lonnon, bottom left and right, are the new co-head coaches for Weed High School.

The high school football season begins tonight for the Mount Shasta Bears, Weed Cougars, and Dunsmuir Tigers.

Mount Shasta is scheduled to host Hoopa at Joe Blevins Memorial Stadium with the JV game starting at 5:30 p.m. followed by the varsity at 7:30 p.m.

Weed is scheduled to play at Rogue River in Oregon at 5 and 7 p.m.

Dunsmuir begins the season as defending Northern Section 8-man football champions at 4 p.m. at Princeton.

Below are the season preview stories that appeared in a special Aug. 28 section of Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers:

BEARS: Speed, Talent and Experience

The Mount Shasta Bears are looking forward to taking advantage of their experience and speed in 2013.

"We plan to get the ball in a lot of people's hands," second year head coach Jason Young said just before the team's Aug. 23 scrimmage with Weed and Chester.

They did just that during the evening's action, which featured varsity teams rotating against each other on one half of the field and JV teams on the other half.

Mount Shasta's no-huddle spread offense moved the ball well often during an 0-10 campaign in 2012, but mistakes prevented them from scoring more than about 16 points per game; and they gave up nearly 42 points per game.

"We plan to score a lot more this year," Young said. "We've worked a lot on correcting those mistakes – fumbles, interceptions, penalties. We're ahead of where we were last year. We've got a really good group on offense and defense – a lot of good athletes."

Young also points to the Bears' experienced returning coaching staff. "We work well together," he said.

Most of the varsity Bears are returning seniors who are starting their fourth year of high school football. Many of them also played youth football with the Siskiyou Knights.

While few juniors have moved up from last year's JV team, those that have are good athletes and good football players.

The Bears haven't had a winning season since 2006, when they went 9-1 and defeated Live Oak in the Northern Section championship game under head coach Joe Blevins, for whom their stadium is now named.

Their best season in the last seven years was 4-7 in 2008.

This year, Young said, "The varsity has the capability and heart to get to the playoffs," Young said.

The Bears are scheduled to open at home Aug. 30 against Hoopa.

Their preseason schedule includes games at UPrep, Hamilton City and Fall River and a home game against Modoc for Homecoming Sept. 27. Young said Hamilton City is always tough and Modoc "will be a test; they're always a top team and good pre-season opponent."

The varsity Bears

Senior Elijah Chapman is a returning all-leaguer and sprint star for the Bears' track and field team. (Update: Coach Young said it's anticipated that Chapman will miss the first 3 to 5 weeks of the season because of an injured wrist). He rushed for 1,110 yards on 143 carries, an average of 7.8 yards per attempt in 2012. He had 1,873 all-purpose yards, including 570 on kickoff returns and was fourth on the team with 69 tackles.

Brandon Acord, who has played quarterback for the varsity for two years and was all-league in basketball and baseball, is also among the 14 returning players.

Young said Acord and Jake Green, who shared the quarterbacking duties last year, will do so again this season; and junior Jonathan Clemens will see some action there, too.

Acord, who can do it all, according to Young, will also play in the slot and at running back.

Clemens will play wide receiver along with senior Sean Eastis, junior Cesar Gonzalez and seniors Connor Ebel, Chad Mapes and Mitchell Robertson.

Joining Chapman in the offensive backfield will be Acord, Jarred Booth and juniors Gonzalez and Daniel Benham.

Booth was an all-league honorable mention pick two years ago as a sophomore linebacker/running back.

Seniors Dominic Tognolini and Green are tight ends.

Up front on offense are seniors Mark Bekstrom at center, Luke Starling, Jonathan VanDeWalker and Wyatt Zanni and junior Paris Muller.

The defensive front features Starling at nose. He was the team's second leading tackler a year ago with 87.

Tognolini, Green and Clemens are defensive ends; VanDeWalker, Muller and senior Travis Moro are tackles.

Young said the Bears have an excellent linebacking group featuring Booth in the middle and Benham and Acord.

The defensive backfield has plenty of speed with Chapman, Gonzalez, Ebel and Eastis.

Senior Gordon Crossland is a wide receiver/cornerback and senior Quinten Mansell is a running back/safety.

Seniors Nicholas Pearson and Osten Cummins are linemen.

Chapman was far and away the team's leading point scorer with 11 touchdowns last year. Tognolini was second with 26 points, including 14 PAT kicks and 2 field goals.

Acord completed 53 of 99 passes for 626 yards and 7 touchdowns last year, while rushing for 304 yards on 56 carries.

Green completed 23 of 55 pass attempts for 345 yards and 3 touchdowns, while averaging 5.4 yards per carry on 10 carries.

Booth was the team's second leading ball carrier last year with 384 yards rushing on 62 carries.

Tognolini was the second leading pass catcher.

Starling was the team's second leading tackler 87, while Booth had 76, Bekstrom 57, and Acord 43, Eastis 37, Green 36, and Tognolini 30.

Ebel led last year's team with 3 pass interceptions.

Assistant coaches

Assistant coach Mike Burns said the Bears under coach Young are better conditioned than at any time in the recent past.

"Conditioning is one of my main focuses," said Young, who was previously the offensive coordinator for Dunsmuir High School's 8-Man football team. "We have a small squad. Because of that we have to be better conditioned so guys can go both ways, just like at Dunsmuir."

Young is the team's offensive coordinator, Todd Mack returns as defensive coordinator, Burns coaches linemen, and Jason Gearhart is the special teams coach.

Randy Cardoza returns as JV had coach and offensive coordinator, assisted by defensive coordinator Larry Arrington, line coach Nick Barnaby and Ron Caldwell.

JV Bears

Returning for his fourth year as Mount Shasta's head JV coach, Cardoza said the Bears "had a solid 19 players" during training camp, the majority of them freshmen.

"I'm pleased with what I'm seeing," Cardoza said. "The freshmen understand the game, and the Knights program helped that. They have a lot of heart... I have a good feeling about these kids. We expect a really good season."

As some fans noticed during the Aug. 23 scrimmage in Mount Shasta, the JV Bears are big – "much bigger than last year," Cardoza said.

Varsity head coach Jason Young said early in training camp that he hopes this year's JV team will compete for the league title.

Returning sophomores are quarterback Kirby Kindley, wide receiver/defensive back Chris Zanni, lineman Christian Berg, and running back/linebacker Joe DePeralta.

New to the team are running back/linebackers Cole Skinner and Alex Urbano, wide receiver/defensive backs Avery Zimmerman, George Bricker and Christian Husa; tight end/defensive back Hunter Moyer and tight end/linebacker Kenji Maumasi; and linemen Cameron DeBortoli, Tommy Houston, Bodie Kindley, Aiden Funk, Tyler Santi, David Linden and Alex Norzad.

Return to SCL in 2014

Optimism is high that the program is turning things around, and next year Mount Shasta moves from the Sacramento Valley League back into the Shasta Cascade League.

In 2014, Mount Shasta's football team will be back in the Shasta Cascade League.

For many years Bear Football has played in the Sacramento Valley League with Live Oak, Willows, Durham, Trinity and Pierce.

As announced by athletic director Steve Nesheim in February 2013, as Mount Shasta's enrollment has fallen in recent years, the school built its case to propose moving back into the SCL for football with Burney, Etna, Fall River, Modoc and Weed – the teams the Bears play against in other sports.

Nesheim wrote a proposal using enrollment, travel and four years of competitive inequity as evidence of the move being warranted. He said he was assisted with the proposal by head football coach Jason Young and his staff, Siskiyou Union High School District board member and former principal Gregg Gunkel, Weed High School Principal and SUHSD Superintendent Mike Matheson and MSHS Principal Jennifer McKinnon.

During a realignment meeting Jan. 30, the other SCL schools decided to go along with MSHS being reinstated into the SCL for football, along with the changes made in the overall American Conference Football realignment package, Nesheim said.

The change of league will begin in 2014; realignment cycles are a two year process.

COUGARS: Weed Football Program Is Moving Forward

Weed's football program appears to be on the upswing following a JV-only season last year and a 2011 varsity season that ended early because of too few players.

The 2013 varsity Cougar roster includes several athletes who have had success in multiple sports and were part of the JV team two years ago that stayed in the race for a league championship until the final game of the season.

This year's JV team features a second straight strong freshman class and many players who come to WHS with youth football experience.

Prior to the start of school, the Cougars had 17 varsity players in training camp and nearly 30 JV players.

They're scheduled to open the season at Rogue River in Oregon Aug. 30.

New co-head coaches Byron Mathes and Darren Lonnon also have numerous years experience coaching Siskiyou Knights Pop Warner teams, and Mathes was an assistant for the JV Cougars a year ago.

They took over the coaching spot after Steve Van Ert, who was named the head coach after the season ended last year, left Weed High School for a teaching position at Eagle Point High School.

Mathes said the Cougars are running a spread offense, the same system they used with the Knights.

"We have a lot of good athletes in the skill positions – a lot who play three sports or more," Mathes said. "That helps tremendously. The kids are practicing hard; they're excited."

Senior quarterback Aidan Hagarty threw often in a scrimmage at Mount Shasta Aug. 23.

Junior Rashaan Broomfield, a starting running back who put up big rushing numbers at the JV level the past two years, has also been practicing at quarterback.

Mathes said he was excited about what he saw from the Cougars in their scrimmage.

The varsity roster also features running backs Trevor Shaffer and Carlos Sanchez, wide receivers Spencer Hall, Edgar Casorla and Elijah Walker, and tight end Jordan DeBortoli. Linemen include Justin Toms, Darontay Harris, Michael Logue, Tristan Pierson, Blake Roy, Jack Bell, Tyler Bertolucci, Craig Felheffer and Darryon Felheffer.

Preparing to compete

Mathes said the goal for this year's varsity team is simple: "We want to be able to compete."

He and Lonnon are working with assistant coaches Adam Zwanziger, John Wayne Gregory, Jared Brown, Kent Cunningham and Jeff Vandyke to get the Cougars back on the plus side of .500.

Since winning a section championship in 2001 and a league championship in 2002, the varsity Cougars haven't had a winning record, although they did win a playoff game in '03 and earned a playoff berth in '04.

Mathes said he and Lonnon have wanted to coach at the high school and field the team with youth football players. "Numbers have been low in the last few years because kids didn't play youth football," said Mathes. "For any successful program you have to have a youth program. There are kids on the team that have been playing youth football together for almost six years."

"We have a lot to build on," said Mathes.

One of the new coaches' goals is to "Change the Culture." To Mathes that means focusing on the positive and moving forward with a full team, making football fun and not a job, and getting back to a winning mindset.

The new coaches see the team as a family. "We want them to do great in the classroom and succeed here on the field as well," said Mathes early in training camp.

They want to have a positive effect on their athlete's lives.

They are bringing the same system they used in youth football to the high school and are training JV and varsity together for consistency.

While the varsity skill position players have shown their talents in other sports at Weed High School, the Cougar linemen have less experience.

"The kids on the line either have not played football or not played in two years," said Mathes, whose own playing career included walking on in college at Appalachian State.

After the scrimmage, Mathes said, "We just need to tighten up some things. Hopefully we'll get it dialed in, get a win at Rogue River and get better each week.

JV Cougars

About half of the nearly 30 JV Cougars who participated in training camp are freshmen.

Mathes said he liked what he saw from his young Cougars during the JV scrimmage.

On the not-so-bright side, Cougar sophomore Nick Berquist suffered a season-ending broken shoulder in the scrimmage. But Mathes said Berquist was in good spirits when they spoke over the weekend and looking forward to next year.

The 2013 JV Cougar roster features returning players Christian Bangert, Scottie Thienpheth, Aaron Dickson, Truth Davis, Evan Van Dyke, Beniah Greene, Sven Walker, Kyle Gonzalez and Blake Foster; and Caleb Perry, Dakota Wilson, Dominik Fregosa, Gabe Gaither, Derrick Harden, Kobe Lonnon, Darian Mathes, Taran Miller, Alex Pappas, Dillon Page, Devin Rizzo, Thairen Sivongsa, Connor Thomas, Daniel Wall, Owen Ward, Lewis Williams and Rick Van Buren.

Coach Mathes said freshman quarterback Thairen Sivongsa had a good outing in the scrimmage "once he settled down," and "I can't say enough about how well the JV defense played."

TIGERS: On Prowl For Another Big Game

Some of the seniors on this year's Dunsmuir High School football team are starting their fourth year on the varsity after playing numerous seasons of youth football before that.

They're returning along with some of the younger players who were also part of last year's history-making Tiger team that won the school's first football section championship.

New head coach Chris Ballard says the goal in 2013 remains the same: "We want to be back in the big game again this year," he said. "I think it's doable."

There are many reasons for optimism in Dunsmuir, including the Tiger football team's string of successful seasons since moving into the California North 8-Man League in 2008.

After going 0-10 in their final Evergreen League season in 2007, the Tigers 8-Man teams have posted consecutive records of 7-4, 10-2, 9-3, 11-2 and last year's 12-1.

That's a 49-12 record over the past five seasons, a winning percentage of slightly over .800.

They won last year's section championship, but the Tigers are still seeking to win their first 8-man league championship. They finished one game behind in second place three of the last five years and two games behind in third place the other two years.

After two weeks of practice, the Tigers looked good during a scrimmage Aug. 24 in Dunsmuir that featured four other California North 8-Man League teams: Butte Valley, Happy Camp, Tulelake and Hayfork.

The 2013 Tigers

Seniors on this year's roster are quarterback/defensive back Brian Taylor, wide receiver/defensive back Dayton Pepperdine, running back/linebacker CJ Palmer, lineman/kicker Randy Hix, linemen Joey Campbell and Trent Johnson, and Angel Olivares.

Taylor, Pepperdine, and Palmer earned all-league honors a year ago, as the Tigers went 12-1 overall, culminating with a 34-15 win at Redding Christian in the Northern Section Division 6 championship game on Nov. 16.

Juniors are lineman/linebacker Chase Sordahl, running back/defensive backs Shawn Adams and Adam Camphouse, wide receiver/defensive back Tommy Stibi, lineman Hunter Kirch, and Cole Martinez.

Sophomores are lineman Thomas Welch, wide receiver/defensive back Andrew Rodriguez, running back/defensive back Jacob Mitchell, lineman Kris McClendon, and Jack Webb.

Freshmen are Bryce Padula, Daniel Brashear, Trace Ashcraft, and Trent Price.

Returning assistant coaches are Scott Sordahl, this year's defensive coordinator, Jimmy Palmer, Robert Wallace and former head coach Ray Kellar. Wallace will help when he can, although he is also serving as the Tigers' head volleyball coach this fall.

New coach, same system

Ballard, a 2007 DHS graduate, is continuing as the Tigers' offensive coordinator. An assistant coach under Kellar for four years and a player on Kellar-coached Tiger teams, he was named the head coach after Kellar took over as school principal this summer.

Ballard said Kellar "has taught me a lot about football."

Kellar, who is continuing as the DHS athletic director, said Ballard "is an alumni who takes pride in athletics. Chris works hard to put together a program that works for the personnel that he has, and has an adjustable attitude to change of conditions. He is dedicated to DHS athletics and wants not only the program, but the players to excel. I am completely confident in his ability to guide this team into the playoffs this year. Chris has a good group of men working with him, and they all have been with the program for a few years."

After last year's historic season, Ballard said most of this year's Tigers "know what it takes to win a championship and how much effort it takes."

The Tigers may not be as strong in some areas, but "we have a lot of talent," Ballard said. "The rest of the league has a lot of talent, too. We need to make sure we're going 100 percent every game."

Most of what the Tigers do this season will be similar to what they've done in the past, Ballard said. They're continuing to run the spread offense, but are making some changes because of changes in personnel.

He said the Tigers have less experience on the line and will try to pass a little more.

"We need guys to step up on the line," said Ballard.

Some top returning players

While top players from last year's team including league MVP Justin DeClusin and all-leaguers Jeff Rhoades, Mason Mekeel and Cody Hagedon have graduated, many of this year's returning players have played regularly.

Brian Taylor ranked 7th in Division 6 last year with 779 rushing yards. He was 4th in rushing touchdowns with 12, 5th in passing with 622 yards and 8 touchdowns, and 7th in scoring with 76 points. He completed 28 of 56 pass attempts without throwing an interception. On defense, he was No. 1 in the section with 9 pass interceptions.

Dayton Pepperdine ranked 2nd in Division 6 last year with a 13.8 yards per carry average, gaining 538 yards on 39 attempts. He scored 7 rushing touchdowns and caught 5 passes for 101 yards.

CJ Palmer was 1st in Division 6 with 286 yards on punt returns, averaging nearly 30 yards per return. He was 13th in tackles with 93 and was 2nd on the team with 140 yards receiving.