RC opens football season tonight
Alhambra first up for defending NBL champs
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By Dave Williams  September 6, 2013 12:00 am

Count Rancho Cotate head football coach Ed Conroy as one who still prefers the traditional start of football season to begin after Labor Day. 

He needed no more confirmation for his feelings than Rancho Cotate’s scrimmage against Vallejo of the Sac-Joaquin Section on Saturday, Aug. 31 at Cougar Stadium. The Cougars, the defending North Bay League champions and runners-up in the North Coast Section Div. II, were one of the few teams in Sonoma County or Redwood Empire who did not start the season last weekend. And that was a good thing, Conroy said, because the Cougars looked sloppy.

“We ran the ball fairly well, but we fumbled it,” Conroy said. “We weren’t accurate with our throws. I thought the defense played well at times but overall I don’t think we tackled very well. Arm tackles are not going to work. Still, I did see a lot of good things on defense, and I think we’ll be pretty good.”

The Cougars had a week to work out the kinks before their season opener tonight (Sept. 6) at home against Alhambra High of Martinez, which opened its season with a 41-41 tie against College Park. Tackling will be of the utmost importance Friday because Alhambra has a bona fide weapon in running back Ciazonne Foster, who rushed for 143 yards on 20 carries. Also, his heroics preserved the tie as he blocked an extra-point attempt by College Park after the game’s last touchdown.

“Alhambra scored a lot of points, but they also got scored on,” Conroy said. “They played us tough last year and they just played a good team in College Park. But I’m not sure if either team was really good on offense or their defenses weren’t as strong. We’ll see.”

Kickoff tonight is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Rancho Cotate’s passing game remains a work in progress, Conroy said. Sophomore starting quarterback Gunner Mefferd and junior backup Cooper Nicks made the right reads and threw to the correct receivers in the scrimmage. But accuracy was an issue. 

“Our receivers ran pretty good routes but our quarterbacks didn’t get the ball accurately to them, but that will come,” Conroy said. “It comes down to our tempo at practice. We’re young and the quarterback position and we’re going to make some mistakes. But I’m sure we’ll get better.”

Defensively, Conroy said he’s been pleased with the progress of his interior lineman, including Kevin Ferreira, Joel Auerbach, Danny Ngo and Oscar Nava. He also believes the linebacker position, particularly Tanoa Peleti, will be a strength. Conroy also said Michael Ross has been coming on strong as a linebacker.

Malik Newton has the unenviable task of replacing Jalon Luque at running back. Luque rushed for more than 2,000 yards last season and was the NBL’s Offensive Player of the Year. Chris Taylor-Yamanoha is expected to be one of the offense’s top producers at the receiver position. Carlos Franco is also expected to contribute as a running back.

Conroy says the usual suspects, Cardinal Newman and Casa Grande, will be in contention for the league title, but he’s not counting out the defending league champions either.

“I think you’re never be as good as you can be. We’re talented, but I think you’re never as good as you can be,” Conroy said. “We have kids who can play, but you have to put quality work in. You have to rely on skills you learn and grind it out and work hard.”

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