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30Q-2-KICKOFF (No. 12): Surprise, surprise

Today, we double up on a question we’ve gotten a lot over the last few years.

What team will emerge as the surprise of the East Bay in 2012?

Ben: I always enjoy this question, because no matter how smart I think I am, I almost always get it wrong.

To be fair, neither of us would’ve picked Campolindo in this spot last year. I think our track record on that one is pretty clear. I don’t think you could call the Cougars a surprise this year, but I wouldn’t expect them to drop off a ton. Will they make it back to Carson? We’ll see. But, I think they’re in for another good year.

My surprise team for 2012 isn’t really a huge surprise if you take a program’s history into account. I’m going with Foothill. In TE Ray Hudson and LB/DE Griffith Gates, the Falcons have two studs for senior leaders. They’re going to make plays, no question. Foothill also had a ton of juniors on the roster last year, and I think if those guys continue to mature and grow into starting roles, I think Matt Sweeney will have the team ready to roll. I also think that after De La Salle, the EBAL is there for the taking. I think this could be the perfect time for Foothill to get back into that 2 hole.

As an aside, I considered taking El Cerrito in a bit of home cooking. The Gauchos are gonna be good this year, and I think they’re better coached than people give them credit for. Remember that later this year.

Jimmy: Like Ben, I think El Cerrito is poised for a great year. But I won’t pick them because I wouldn’t really consider that to be a surprise.

My surprise pick is, like Ben’s, a team that is used to being very competitive. That’s San Leandro. The Pirates have been a very steady playoff team over the past couple decades, even if they haven’t gotten back to the NCS title game recently like they did in the Dennis Dixon and later Scottie Cordier years. But I think this team is back on the rise.

They looked great in their opening win over Berkeley last year and were competitive for a half with Bellarmine. Eventually, they took some lumps, losing to Tennyson, getting drilled in the regular season finale by O’Dowd and falling in a pretty competitive playoff game with Monte Vista. But they had a freshman quarterback last year. That’s right, a freshman in Stephen Johnson. And he’s an athlete. He showed that at times last year, even matching a state record with a 99-yard touchdown run. He also plays on the basketball team and runs track. So we’re talking about a primo athlete that the Pirates can build around for three more years. Can he become a Dennis Dixon type? I don’t know. But four years with a guy in your varsity program is a nice tool and I think the Pirates are well position this year to compete for the WACC Foothill title, albeit that league will be very competitive.

Ben Enos