If there was ever a team with a target on its back, San Lorenzo Valley High has earned that bull’s eye. After cruising undefeated through the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League and outscoring opponents 199-92 during league play, the defending-champion Cougars finished 9-2 overall with a loss to Menlo School in the first round of the Central Coast Section playoffs.
Last season’s success, coupled with 13 SCCAL championships in the past 20 years, has painted San Lorenzo Valley as the area’s team to beat.
The Cougars have 45 varsity players, a relatively large number, considering that the high school’s enrollment has dropped from 1,380 students in its heyday to about 730 this year.
“As always, I don’t want to say too much,” head coach Doug Morris said. “We have a ton of work to do and really not a lot of time to do it in.”
Morris’ approach is consistent with his program’s humble beginning when he took over from Earl Hansen in the late 1980s. At that point, the Cougars had not won a title in the SCCAL since their first season in 1976, and they wouldn’t until the 1991-92 season. In his reign at SLV, Morris has known prodigious success, but he also knows none of that was derived by talking big.
The Cougars have earned three Central Coast Section championships and 13 league titles under Morris, including a seven-year streak without a loss in league play from 1996 to 2003.
The Cougars return a 21-member senior class. The gaps left by graduates will be filled by 24 juniors from last year’s league-champion junior varsity team.
Tyler Gilbert earned all-league honors last season as a defensive back and this year will take the reins from two-year starting quarterback Zack Newberry, who graduated and will play for Cabrillo College.
Gilbert is a 6-foot-2, 180-pound senior with quick feet and a unique awareness that will help out in offensive coordinator Mark Christianson’s pass-heavy attack.
He will be backed by juniors Pat Doran and Eric Dempsey.
“Super Duper” Jonny Cooper will resume action where he left off in the Cougars backfield with a host of talented backs beside him. Robbie Biagiotti, Patrick Sakoda, Joe Huffman, Ivan Serrano, Lucky Thomas, Johnny Lucas, Jamie Kinder, Kaleb Arehart and Jon Szakacs will be in support, with Derek Poetzinger returning to action in week three or four after he recovers from shoulder surgery.
With talented receivers Luke Roberts and Nick Gorman having graduated, the receivers will be some fresh faces from a group of gifted athletes — seniors Nick Calabray, Nate Loofbourrow, Rick Alves, Cameron Morse, Ian Tveit, Larry George and Justin Jobe and juniors Lucas Sinnott, Andrew Hoag, Jordan Reynolds, Trevor Patterson, Dylan Miller, Aiden Brown, Sid Chi, Colin Fraser, Dylan Bie and Ryan Olmstead.
Senior Trace Massa and junior Jake Sabini will occupy the tight end positions.
Line coach Paul Owens has a healthy set of returning linemen from last season, with senior Cole Morris at center, Ian Reavey at guard, and “Big” Ben Landauer at tackle. Joining them in the trenches will be seniors Nic Trevino, Logan Nance and Travis Gelb. Juniors Matt Phillips, John Camacho, Herschel Dennis, Ben Snyder, Max Cunningham and Bryson Davis round out the corps.
Tentative defensive starters in SLV’s 5-3 defense include Calabray, Alves and Loofbourrow at defensive back. Linebackers will be Cooper, Biagiotti, Sinnott, Thomas and Massa.
On the defensive line, Reavey, Morris, Phillips and Landauer will battle in the trenches.