Ben and I team back up again (as we will for the final two entries also) as also return to the world of reader-submitted questions. This comes to us from East Bay FB Coach.
Like every year, what teams will be the biggest surprises?
As implied in the question, this is a good one to ask and answer every year. Among last year’s surprises would be a team like Alhambra, which rolled up an 11-2 record and went to the NCS Division III semifinals after winning the DFAL. College Park was one of the surprise teams late, when it snuck into the playoffs with the expanded field and then upset No. 3 Amador Valley. Fremont of Oakland could fit in that category as well after starting 0-6 and then rallying to win its first Silver Bowl in school history.
That’s last year though. The question is about this year. One team I’m hearing to definitely keep an eye on, not necessarily as a league title contender but as a team that could be vastly improved, is American. The Eagles went 5-5 to make the NCS Division I playoffs as the No. 16 seed and are now a Division II squad. Shawn Wong returns as the starter running back and some MVAL pundits think American could have a real shot to finish in the top two or three in that league.
Another team that I won’t consider a league title contender but I’ve been warned to not sleep on is Kennedy of Richmond. It’s no secret that program has taken its beating the past few years with struggling to even field a team. They played just four games last year before having to shut it down and that came after a summer of uncertainty when it appeared at times that there wouldn’t be a season at all. Making last season all the more unfortunate was the fact that things appeared to be turning around in 2008 when Kennedy started the year 4-1, including a four-game winning streak when it outscored its opponents 189-25. But a five-game losing streak to close the year, including three losses by seven points or fewer, dashed the Eagles playoff hopes. A new coaching staff was hired way back in December with head coach Clyde Byrd (father of McClymonds graduate and Boise State center Thomas Byrd) taking over. He brought aboard Dan Shaughnessy, who embarks on his 51st year of coaching. The early hiring has allowed Byrd to developed an academic program and he said he now has 70 players participating throughout the program and will have 31-32 on varsity. Given those numbers (which are outstanding for a school such as Kennedy), there’s reason to believe a bit of a turnaround could be occuring and several BSAL coaches noted that the Eagles could give teams a scare this year.
Jimmy’s showing faith in the Eagles! I like it!
Alright, I’m gonna pick a couple as well. The first is from the ACCAL. I think Pinole Valley is a sleeper, not only for the league title but also for some playoff success. Word is that they have two monster defensive players, DE Antoine Davis and LB Travis Feeney. They also have a returning RB in Carvonte Hill. I think the Spartans are gonna be big, physical and tough to beat. And, there are more than a few people on the blog here that agree with me. So there!
And, while I’m showering praise on the Spartans, I’m gonna mention another ACCAL team at the same time. I came away from last year’s playoff game between Ygnacio Valley and Alameda extremely impressed with the tenacity of the Hornets. I think the duo of Tom Ruckman and Michael Cunningham gives them a heck of a start, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Alameda in the mix for the ACCAL title.
Lastly, I’m going to pick a traditional power that didn’t quite have the goods last year, Miramonte. The Mats return starting QB Ross Anderson, and a big time offensive lineman in Ross Dolbec. The guy I’m excited to see though is RB/LB John Coupin, who I thought was a standout two years ago when I watched Miramonte almost make the Division III championship game. I think John Wade’s teams don’t stay down for long, and the Mats are primed for a bounce back year.