It’s a Wednesday, three short days until the season-opening Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League Jamboree, and a pass into the end zone that was nearly intercepted has Morris fired up.
“Quarterbacks,” he yells, “If you have a touchdown, take it!”
After a 5-4-1 season a year ago, the 2009 Cougars have the potential to put points on the board as long as their unproven offensive line comes to play as a unit.
The Cougars return two dynamic offensive players — quarterback Trevor Romele, the starter as a junior, and senior Kyle Todd, a bruising running back who also anchors the defense at middle linebacker.
Romele has gained strength and is a threat to run or pass on any play. Behind him is junior Zack Newberry, a promising player who has battled Romele for the starting job. The Cougars have able backups, as senior receiver Patrick Salibi and junior Luke Roberts can each play behind center.
Todd is a player that other teams will game-plan around, as he is a threat to pound the ball for yardage every play.
“If we can hand the ball to Kyle Todd every time, he will gain yards,” Morris said.
However, the Cougars have balance at the skill positions. Cody Lipperd, a speedy junior running back, has breakaway speed, while senior Robert Szakacs is a workmanlike fullback.
Seniors Clay Christensen, Salibi and Andre Perez are joined by juniors Nick Gorman, Nate Wood and Roberts to round out a talented receiving corps.
The line is the question mark.
Seniors Robert Scruggs and Prisco Crowley return with game experience, but seniors Scott Ewing, Nico Beechy, Jacob Graham and Dylan Patterson have little live action under their belts.
“We’re not going to scare anyone with our size,” Morris said. “We’re hoping they’re going to be a little bit scrappy and get the job done.”
Despite the line’s inexperience, Romele has confidence that this group will get the job done.
“Last year, the line was all seniors,” Romele said. “They’re working hard and getting better every day.”
Defensively, Todd, Luke Hester, Crowley and Szakacs continue the Cougars strong linebacking tradition, and Cree Darling, Beechy and junior Jared Smith will lead the defensive line.
The Cougars’ secondary is another strong point, with Salibi, Roberts and seniors Harrison Dirck and Chris Greenley patrolling the field.
The Cougars’ coaching staff saw longtime coaches Bob Locatelli and Dave Mercer retire after last season and the return of Mark Christensen as offensive coordinator.
Christensen is “bringing his own little wrinkles, but we’re sticking with the old stuff too,” Morris said.
Dave Poetzinger returns as defensive coordinator; David Grant coaches defensive backs; Ty Locatelli coaches linebackers and special teams; Mark Mercer is with the running backs; Paul Owens, with help from athletic director Marcus Northcutt, will work with the offensive line; and John Agnone is field manager.
There are no predictions coming out of Cougar camp this year, but there is a quiet confidence from this squad.
“I think we’re going to do well and compete,” Szakacs said.
And Romele is ready for some live action.
“We’re looking at one game at a time, and right now we’re focusing on the jamboree,” he said.
At a glance
WHAT: SCCAL Jamboree
WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29; SLV’s first scrimmage is 7:36 p.m.
WHERE: Cabrillo College, 6500 Soquel Drive,