No time to rest. This was the premise of Rancho Cotate Head Football Coach Gehrig Hotaling’s post game message to his team after their shut out of El Cerrito High School. Hotaling was happy to see the Cougars passing game respond after two sub-par games, but he and many players on the team know how crucial the bye week is.
The Cougars got blown out by Cardinal Newman last year after their bye week. This was the message from Hotaling. He wanted to make sure the team is locked in because, if they aren’t, it might get ugly quick.
Of course, the team Hotaling was referring to be the Pleasant Valley Vikings. The Vikings are the defending 4-AA State Champions. They are winners of two of the last three to be precise. The Cougars did beat Pleasant Valley at home last year, but this year will be different. This game will be in Chico, Ca. and traveling a long distance can take a toll on a team.
Though this will be a difficult game, it’s the type of game where we will see exactly how good the Cougars are. They entered the season with high expectations, looking to break through after losing in the semifinals last year. This Friday’s game will be the biggest test for the Cougars this year to date.
Some keys for the Cougars will be the continued improvement of the passing game. The passing game struggled the first two weeks of the season but excelled against El Cerrito. The key was figuring out the 4-2 single high safety defense played against them. The Cougars’ running game is exceptional and will only get better with the addition of Sumari Jones. Jones missed the first three games but is expected to return shortly for the Cougars. If quarterback Jared Stocker can play how he played against El Cerrito, the Cougars could make an early season statement.
The Cougars’ defense and special teams are playing at high levels, so the offense taking care of the football and passing game clicking will be the keys for the Cougars.
As for Pleasant Valley, they are only 2-2 on the season, but that record is deceiving. Their two losses are against Del Oro High School and Valley Christian High School. Del Oro is ranked 74th in the state of California, while Valley Christian is ranked 27th. Right now, through four games, the Vikings are 135th while the Cougars are 118th. Looking at the rankings, this game should be very competitive.
The players to watch for Pleasant Valley start with Linebackers Byron York and Aidan Park. York and Park are the captains of the team and captains of the defense. Park is the star though, as he’s already committed to Division 1 Montana State University where he will play linebacker. Park is also the starting running back and coming off a four-touchdown performance last week against River Valley. York is a dual sport athlete, who also plays baseball in the spring.
As for what the Cougars’ defense will face, they will face sophomore Ian Guanzon. Guanzon is a 5’11’’ 185-pound dual threat quarterback. He and his skill position players will be a test for the Cougars defense.
For those community members who want to watch, this game will be on television. The game will be televised Friday on NFHS Network at 7 p.m.