Cats Open 2010 Season Saturday at Menlo-Atherton

Cats Open 2010 Season Saturday at Menlo-AthertonLos Gatos dominated San Mateo last Friday night in a football scrimmage at Helm Field, but coach Butch Cattolico is not yet ready to declare this team as another potential Central Coast Section powerhouse.

“I think the scrimmage showed that the Cats are not as bad as the coaches thought, but not quite as good as the players thought,” said Cattolico. “But that is usually the way it is.”
The next three weeks will show just how good this team really is. Los Gatos opens its season Saturday at 2 p.m. at Menlo-Atherton. The Cats then visit St. Francis on Friday, September 18 before opening their home schedule the following Friday against Salinas.

Over the last 10 years, no team in the CCS has won more games, and more championships, than Los Gatos. But will that continue into the next decade?
“I can tell you that without a doubt this is the strongest football team I have ever put on the field — at least from a weight-room perspective,” said Cattolico. “But whether that translates into an outstanding football season is still to be determined.”

Last year, Los Gatos finished 10-3 and won its 12th CCS championship. As always, Los Gatos graduated some very talented players, including quarterback Nick Hirschman, who is now playing at the University of Colorado, and wide receiver Andy Berg, who is catching passes at Harvard.

“But the players behind those guys were also very talented, and they are getting their chance this year,” said Cattolico. “The team work ethic this summer has been very impressive. These guys are hungry for their turn.”
Last season, Los Gatos relied on Hirschman and his receivers and were a pass-happy bunch. This season, the Cats look to be returning more to the ground.

Cattolico has a whole stable of running backs, led by senior Andy Heimer and junior Garret Zeiter. Heimer averaged seven yards per carry last year and scored nine touchdowns, but he missed five games with a separated shoulder.
Zeiter was brought up from the frosh-soph and started the first CCS game, rushing for over 100 yards. However, he suffered a concussion in that game and was also done for the season. Keeping the running backs healthy will be a big key for Los Gatos in 2010.

“Those two should give us a very strong running game,” said Cattolico, who said Jon Impey and Ben Hopner will both be in the mix as well with their outstanding speed. “We did not have a 1,000-yard rusher last year, but that will change this year.”

Junior Shane Smith and sophomore Max Herman are the leading candidates to be the fullback. Transfer Teddy Enfantino from Mitty will play both tailback and fullback as he learns the offense. Others vying for playing time are Rapheal Shin, Tyler Perry, Jake Ducharme and Lucas Alonso.
Senior Hayden Hibberd will take over the quarterback duties, and while he has some big shoes to fill, Cattolico does not sound too worried about it.

“Hayden is a very talented athlete who can run and pass,” said Cattolico. “He turned in an outstanding game against Palo Alto last year where he threw for 200-plus yards, and he has been waiting for his chance and is ready to take charge of the offense.”

Hibberd will also handle the punting duties. Backing him up will be junior Bryan Rose, who is coming off a very strong frosh-soph season. It will be hard to top last year’s receiving corps, and Cattolico is not even pretending that this year’s group can do that. But he still likes the talent he sees at that position.
“It is tough to replace Berg, (Jake) Hackman and (Sam) Bowers, but we will feature a very talented group in Dionte Cook, Andrew Tjon, Alec Nemirov, Tyler Olivet and Luke Hollander,” said Cattolico. He said that Cook and Tjon are emerging as the top two receiving threats.

Cattolico said that Nemirov is the strongest of the group and has good speed and toughness and runs outstanding routes. He said Olivet is the fastest and is faster than any of last year’s starters, but the senior still is trying to catch up after sitting out last year to concentrate on baseball.

Others in the mix at wide receiver are juniors Jake Bevans and Jackson Fondreist, who both started last year on the frosh-soph team. Senior Trevor Williams and junior Justin Williams have shown well this summer and may get some playing time. Trevor Comstock, Parker Beverly, Joey Comeau, Jimmy Eisner, Mitch Homeier, Caelan Morrison and Duke Lesu’I round out the receiving corps.

Hollander and Preston Rind are the leading candidates for playing time at tight end. Others battling there are junior Max Friday, senior Matt Gault, senior Chase Mardesich, and juniors Ryan Stojanovich, Connor Pieper and Nolan Cole. Rind, at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, is also valuable at the right tackle position and may start there. Los Gatos is big and strong up front, and Cattolico is hoping his offensive line can open big holes for his running backs.
“The offensive line, as always, is a real key for us,” said Cattolico.

Taig McNulty and Rind are both returning starters who started all 13 games last year. Cattolico said that Blair Gardner will start at left guard next to McNulty and should be very physical. “Senior transfer Ryan Bertrand has been a real surprise at center and has worked very hard in the weight room,” said Cattolico. “Although a little undersized, he has shown great feet and his strength has improved to where we believe he can handle anything that comes his way.”

He said the right guard spot is still open, but three candidates have really come on this summer. Junior Forrest (Chuck) Sullivan looks strong but may have to play tackle if Rind moves to tight end. Sophomore Kevin Tjon has outstanding size, balance, and great speed and is pushing all the linemen hard, and senior Landon Cramer has had a great preseason camp.

The success of the defense, Cattolico said, will once again start and end with the linebacker play. Smith and Gardner will both go both ways and anchor the defense at the linebacker spots. Backing them up will be Taig McNulty and to sophomore Max Herman. Lucas Alonso and Chase Mardesich have also looked good this summer.
“At outside linebacker, McNulty is cut in the mold of Jared Allen and Karl Winkelman, who both have played this position in the past,” said Cattolico. “He will be a strong side guy who will also rush the quarterback.”
The secondary is led by Heimer, Cook and Andrew Tjon, who all played regularly last season. The defensive line has lots of possibilities, with Preston Rind leading the way. Also vying for time there are Areman Hashemi, Landon Cramer, Taig McNulty, Ryan Bertrand, Max Friday, Sean Niemann, Chuck Sullivan, Kevin Tjon, Derek Dombrowsky and David Bates.

Cattolico said that this year’s team will look different from the teams of recent years, but he is hoping the outcome will be much the same as in recent seasons. “Last year, we passed the ball because we had to,” said Cattolico. “This year, we will pass when we want to because a strong running game will not make it a necessity to throw.”

Randy Frey is a writer for the Los Gatos Observer, and is frequently showcased on LosGatosFootball.com

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