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There’s been a lot of talk in the off-season about who’s not coming back for the Los Gatos High School football team this fall.
Nico Aimonetti, the Outstanding Offensive Lineman in the De Anza Division of the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League, and Kevin Kevorkian, the division’s Outstanding Senior, were both lost to graduation, along with a host of first-team all-leaguers.
Even longtime head coach Butch Cattolico has pulled up stakes and moved on to Elk Grove, retiring after a long and distinguished career as a teacher and coach at Los Gatos High.
But as last season fades deep into the shadows of 2012, and as the season opener looms large on the September horizon, it’s time to stop talking about who’s not coming back for the 2013 campaign and focus in on who is–and who will lead them into battle.
Veteran football coach Mark Krail takes over the Los Gatos program, and three comeback all-leaguers head up a cast of 27 varsity returners for the Wildcats, a list that includes four three-year starters.
Seniors Nick Bawden, Jack Tittle, Bailey McNally and Logan Chapman each return for a third varsity campaign, and junior Joey Wood is back for his second season after winning the De Anza Division’s Outstanding Sophomore award a year ago.
Wood (5-foot-11, 215) had a sensational sophomore season, racing for 1,015 yards on 172 carries that included 13 touchdown runs. He also pulled down seven passes for 91 yards and figures to be a major offensive threat for the Wildcats as a junior.
“He’s a downhill running back,” said Krail of Wood. “His physical style or running is his strength. We’re working on him being that one-cut runner because the physical part is what he does so well.”
While Wood figures to be running over defenders this season, Bawden (6-foot-3, 220) will be throwing over them.
The senior quarterback, who has verbally committed to San Diego State, is a returning all-league first teamer who completed 99 of 188 passes for 1,636 yards and 12 touchdowns last year.
“Physically, he’s the complete package,” said Krail of his QB. “He’s big and strong and he’s worked on his agility and quickness. He makes all the throws, controls the huddle and knows the offense inside and out.”
Bawden figures to be making many of those throws to Chapman (6-foot-1, 185), who is back this year after pulling down 20 passes for 332 yards in 2012.
Chapman leads a Gatos receiving corps that Krail considers “a real strength for us, probably our deepest position.” Junior Matt Wilcox (5-foot-11, 170) is a varsity returner and joins junior Nick Occhipinti (5-foot-9, 165) and senior Corey Olivet (5-foot-9, 170) as top pass-catching prospects. Seniors Cole Wisecarver (6-foot-2, 185) and Josh Rubnitz (5-foot-10, 165) and junior Austin Stewart (5-foot-8, 145) have also impressed their coach with their receiving skills.
Bawden’s back-up at quarterback is a good one in junior Dru Brown (5-foot-11, 180), the league’s frosh-soph MVP a year ago.
“He looks really good,” said Krail of Brown. “He’s the fastest kid on the team and one of the strongest kids on the team.”
In addition, senior Trent Bowling returns to take snaps at quarterback.
Joining Wood in the backfield will be senior veteran C.J. Butcher (5-foot-9, 180) as the back-up tailback, with junior Jack Salcido (5-foot-9, 175) also expected to get some carries, and seniors Tittle (6-foot-2, 215), Keegan Kreutzer (5-foot-10, 175) and MacKail Perry (6-foot-1, 195) sharing time at fullback.
Kreutzer “is the best runner of the three,” said Krail, “but they all are good blockers and know that blocking is a big part of being a fullback here.”
Another key blocker for Los Gatos is the tight end, and Krail believes he has a couple of good ones in senior starter Cody Marshall (6-foot-2, 210) and junior Dylan Plane (5-foot-11, 185).
“Skill-wise, we’re pretty good,” said Krail. “We can line up with anybody.”
The only concern for the Cats offensively is an untested crew in the trenches.
“Our main concern is the offensive line,” said Krail. “We have no starters returning, so we have some work to do there.”
Senior letterman Andrew Hilliard (6-foot-4, 225) and junior Brendan Ross (6-foot-4, 210) are top candidates at tackle with junior returner Jack Jarnigan (6-foot-1, 215), senior letterman Dane Huesby (6-foot-2, 205) and junior C.J. Hibbits (5-foot-11, 220) the frontrunners at guard. Senior vet Grady Duggan ((6-foot, 230) is the leader at center and has “really assumed a leadership role,” said Krail.
Senior returners Mitchell Kirkorian (5-foot-10, 235), Andrew Masek (5-foot-11, 220) and Myles Morrison (5-foot-11, 185) and junior Henry Tuckfield (6-foot, 225) are other hopefuls in the offensive front.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Krail of the line. “They could gel as a good group. They’re all football-smart guys.
“If it works out, we’re going to be pretty good on offense,” said Krail. “We’re very excited about the offense. It’s going to look very similar to past years.”
As good as the Cats figure to be on offense, Krail is equally impressive with he sees on the defensive side, with Tittle and McNally leading the charge there.
“I’m intrigued by our defense,” said Krail. “It seems like we can be very good. We’re very athletic.
“We’re pretty strong against the run up front, and against pro-style teams we’re going to be very solid,” he added. “If teams line up and try to pound the ball on us, we’re going to be pretty good.”
Leading that effort will be McNally (5-foot-10, 185) at noseguard and Tittle at middle linebacker, both of them three-year starters on defense.
“McNally is a very hard worker, and the other kids feed off of that,” said Krail.
Tittle moves to inside linebacker after winning all-league first team honors as an outside ‘backer last fall.
“We’re going to try to limit his fullback play if we can,” said Krail of Tittle. “He’s a guy we’re counting on a lot. He’s been good, and he’s figuring it out.”
Marshall and senior returner Cameron Ackerman (6-foot, 180) are other top linebackers for the Cats. Plane and seniors Chris Gonzalez (5-foot-10, 170), Spencer Mashkoori (5-foot-9, 165) and Chad Cramer (5-foot-10, 170) and juniors John Cruse (5-foot-10, 165) and Nick Stojanovich (5-foot-10, 175) will also see playing time at linebacker.
Hilliard, Jarnigan and Masek are top candidates in the defensive line along with junior Griffin Jordan (5-foot-11, 225) and senior returner Ricky Carroll (6-foot, 195) with senior letterman Marshall Mistry (6-foot-3, 215) joining Ross, Perry, Kreutzer and Huesby at defensive end.
“Our base defense is going to be a 5-3, which is a little different than it’s been in the past,” said Krail. “Our defense is probably a little more unsettled than the offensive side.”
Along that same line, Krail calls the secondary “a work in progress.” Wilcox will start at free safety with Butcher and Olivet at the corners. Junior Hunter Impey (5-foot-9, 145) will also get playing time in the secondary and Wisecarver, and junior Mitchell Schwager (6-foot, 170) should see action at safety.
Seniors Ben Bergkamp (5-foot-8, 165), James Detweiler (5-foot-8, 150), Cayce Hopkins (5-foot-11, 170) and Joey Ridgway (5-foot-11, 165) and juniors Aviv Brender (5-foot-9, 155), Evan Warkov (5-foot-10, 170) and Quinn Spiteri (5-foot-9, 165) are also working out in the defensive backfield.
Juniors Jacob Jolley (5-foot-10, 185) and Austin Bohn (6-foot, 185) are each injured and not expected to start the season on the active roster.
Los Gatos will get tested right out the gate when the Wildcats open against powerful Archbishop Mitty on Sept. 6, 7:30 p.m., at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills.
“Mitty will be a tremendous challenge for us,” said Krail, who will be assisted this fall by Danny Sullivan, Heath Clark, Joe Farwell, Dale Gustafson, Justin Stenger, Clint McCoy, Mike Jones, Kevin Krail and Jim Polanco. “Word around the area is that they are going to be really good this year. Our hope is that we’ll be able to run the ball a little.”
A week later Gatos opens its home season against Menlo-Atherton–“a playoff-caliber team, and they’re going to be big,” said Krail–before visiting defending Central Coast Section Division I champ San Benito.
The three non-league games get the Cats right into the De Anza Division schedule, where Krail expects the top four–Palo Alto, Milpitas, Wilcox and Los Gatos–“to be the top four again.”
“Milpitas has athletes everywhere and a lot of returning players, Palo Alto is going to be very good with [all-league quarterback Keller] Chryst back, and I’m hearing a lot about how good Wilcox is,” said Krail.
“And Saratoga deserves mention, too,” he added. “Tim [Lugo] is doing a great job over there.”
Paly, Saratoga, Milpitas and Wilcox all have talented quarterbacks back from last year’s teams, but the Los Gatos returner is pretty good, too. And anyway, the Wildcats aren’t looking back as the 2013 season gets under way: They’re just looking forward and hoping for big things to come.
The coaching changes at Los Gatos this fall aren’t just limited to the varsity. Andy Holland takes over as the new frosh-soph head coach for the Wildcats, who are coming off of a 9-0-1 season when they won the De Anza Division title with a 5-0 record.
Holland ranks wide receiver Ryan Gault (5-foot-10, 150), linebacker Matt Terbet (6-foot, 205) and quarterback Hunter Bigge (5-foot-10, 170) as top players on the squad this year. All three return from last season’s championship team.
Holland, who will be assisted by Chad Purcell, John Lapava, Erik Eastland and Manny Soria this fall, figures that the Cats will contend with Wilcox for the division championship again this year.
- Nick Bawden (6-3, 220), Sr., QB
- Joey Wood (5-11, 215), Jr., RB
- Jack Tittle (6-2, 215), Sr., FB/LB
- C.J. Butcher (5-9, 180), TB/DB
- Logan Chapman (6-1, 185), WR/DB/K
- Bailey McNally (5-10, 185), NG
- Cody Marshall (6-2, 210), TE/LB
- Keegan Kreutzer (5-10, 175), FB/DE
- Andrew Hilliard (6-4, 225), OT/DT