Today we continue our look at the East Bay high school football scene as the season inches closer. Here’s the second of 10 daily posts. For this one, we head to central Contra Costa County to check in with a Division III power and its league foes.
Q: Is Campolindo still the team to beat in the Diablo Foothill Athletic League?
A: Every year, Campolindo head coach Kevin Macy downplays his team’s expectations, yet the Cougars haven’t lost a DFAL game since 2010 and have one of the healthiest programs around from the freshman level on up. They also have one of the region’s most coveted recruits in tight end Tyler Petite, a Duke commit. So the short answer to the question is yes, the Cougars will remain the favorite to win a fourth straight DFAL title. One DFAL coach even told me he thought this year’s Campo team could be better than last year’s, which won its first 11 games before losing to El Cerrito in the North Coast Section Division III semifinals.
But don’t hand the banner to the Cougars quite yet. There are plenty of question marks. Perhaps the biggest is the passing game, an area the Cougars have excelled in during their recent strech of DFAL dominance. Not only did they lose QB Andrew Zolintakis, all the top receiving threats are also gone (except Petite).
“That’s probably the biggest transition for us,” Macy said. “We’ve always had a quarterback or some experienced receivers helping an inexperienced quarterback.”
The new quarterback’s name should be a familiar one, though. Jack Stephens, youngest brother of former QB standouts Brett and Tommy, takes over after playing defense for most of last year. Jack Stephens did start the first game of the last season when Zolintakis was out with an injury but, according to Macy, is only taking over under center this year out of necessity.
“His goal was to play defense,” Macy said. “He’s not trying to follow in his brothers’ footsteps and we don’t want to throw too much on him, especially because he doesn’t have an experienced receiving corps.”
(Bonus trivia question: When was the last time someone other than a Stephens or Zolintakis brother started at QB for Campo?)
But there’s plenty to like about Campo. Nick Fadelli had a strong junior year at running back and could be primed for a big senior year if the offensive line comes together (which it always seems to do).
The defense is pretty experienced with guys like Adam Remotto, Jack Shurtz and Tiger Garcia coming back.
So who might challenge the Cougars? Several teams look capable. Miramonte, after graduating a stellar senior class that led the way to a NCS Division II championship, has more questions than just about anyone. I’m not counting them out, though.
Dublin could be in line for a big improvement after a disappointing 2013. The Gaels return more experience than anyone in the league and have added NFL great Keith Millard to the coaching staff as the defensive coordinator.
Las Lomas finished third in the DFAL standings last year behind Campo and Miramonte, and have some key skill guys back (including QB/DE Ben Wood). They’ll also no longer be adjusting to a new head coach.
Acalanes seems to be building under Mike Ivankovich. They’ll have one of the best QBs in the league in Casey Harrington, who will have Oregon-bound Brady Aiello blocking for him.
Dougherty Valley — no longer a new program — continues to make strides and Alhambra coach Alan Hern is optimistic that his squad can emerge from its three-year funk.
For more on the DFAL, check out our team-by-team league preview here.