2012 SCV High School Football Preview
September, 2012 - Issue #95
photography by Ted Dayton
photography by Ted Dayton
It is said that of all the sports, football is king in the Santa Clarita Valley and the crown is the Foothill League championship. In 2012, there's a favorite, but that team is not necessarily a runaway favorite. Hart High football, armed with its most potent offense since its last Foothill League championship in 2007, is the trendy pick for the team to beat in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Yet with the parity that we've seen over the last eight years - with Valencia, Canyon, Hart and Saugus all winning titles - there's no reason to think that this season will be a gimme for the Indians. Valencia has won three straight Foothill titles. Saugus shared the crown last year. Canyon is always a threat and should have had a share of the title last year, had it not had to forfeit a game due to the use of an ineligible player. West Ranch was the hottest team in the first half of 2011. Then there's the team that could ruin it for another squad - Golden Valley. Here's a look at each Foothill League team and what if has to offer for the 2012 season.

Hart High Indians
(Last year: 8-4 overall, 3-2 in the Foothill)

The Indians don't have one good quarterback. They have two. Returning junior Connor Wingenroth, who can beat teams with his legs and his arm, and sophomore Brady White could be the two best signal callers in the Foothill League. If White ends up under center, that makes for another offensive weapon, as Wingenroth's speed and ability to break tackles could give Hart an added dimension on offense. Making things better for the Indians is the return of wide receivers Trent Irwin, Wes Fitzpatrick and Davis Koppenhaver. Hart also has a stout offensive line with returners John Perkins, Austin Lee and Blake Porter. The secondary and defensive line are question marks, though, said head coach Mike Herrington. In order to be on top, Hart has to fix an issue from last year.

"What KILLED us last year was mistakes," Herrington said.
"To be on top, we can't turn the ball over in our league games."

Valencia High Vikings
(Last year: 6-5 overall, 4-1 in the Foothill)

Valencia's identity last year was built on defense, and the graduation of Foothill League Player of the Year Ryan Gorman and Foothill Defensive Player of the Year Billy Shipman will have its effect on the Vikings, who lack experience on that side of the ball. So offense will carry the load. Valencia is loaded at the skill positions with wide receivers Tedric Thompson, Jay Jay Wilson, Malik Townsend and rookie varsity running back Stone Jackson. It also has a veteran quarterback in Sean Murphy to deliver the football. Defensively, there is a pair of strong interior linemen in Jake Solley and Grayson Largman. A lot will be expected of the highly recruited Thompson on the defensive side of the ball as well, as he is now a three-year varsity veteran as a defensive back.

"Every team's different, so I think every team has its own personality," said Valencia head coach Larry Muir. "I hope this team understands the standards around here. I think they do, but the goal is always to WIN the league championship."

Canyon High Cowboys
(Last year: 9-3 overall, 3-2 in the Foothill)

Canyon has the most accomplished returning football player in the Santa Clarita Valley in senior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky. Wolitarsky is arguably the greatest wide receiver in Santa Clarita Valley football history. The three-year varsity starter has 192 catches for 3,869 yards with 39 receiving touchdowns - all Canyon High records. At the beginning of the 2012 season, he is 80 receptions and 677 yards shy of breaking Taft High graduate Steve Smith's state records. Delivering him the football is new quarterback Cade Apsay. Apsay has other weapons in rookie varsity running back Dominic Pennucci, who is one of many track stars on the offense. The defensive line is a terror, led by returners Juan Rodriguez and Esteban Vasquez. Canyon's question mark lies in its youth with the secondary and linebacking crew being predominantly underclassmen.

"I never try to look ahead," said Canyon head coach Rich Gutierrez. "Anything can happen on Friday. We have to execute and do our thing. With youth, that's the battle sometimes. The chemistry is trying to come together."

Saugus High Centurions
(Last year: 7-4 overall, 4-1 in the Foothill)

Saugus goes into another season as the you-never-know-what-you're-going-to-get team. One thing is certain, its defensive line is stellar. Foothill League Lineman of the Year Denley Rodriguez returns for his senior year with fellow lineman Torrey Patterson. They will be joined by promising sophomore Trenton McAlister. The Centurions have a very athletic quarterback in Chris Hamilton. But Saugus' skill positions and offensive line are question marks. Head coach Jason Bornn is hopeful and has even stated that his usually balanced or even run-heavy offense could rely on the pass more in 2012. But Saugus knows what it's up against.

"There are so many teams on any given week who can beat another team," Bornn said. "It's a matter of who shows up, who's healthy, who makes the least amount of mistakes, who's able to capitalize on the other team's mistakes and who's able to do what they're trying to do."

West Ranch Wildcats
(Last year: 5-5 overall, 1-4 in the Foothill)

The thing that stands out about West Ranch is numbers. There were 80 guys in varsity camp in the summer. Of those was quarterback Gerrit Mouw, who is returning to take the reins. There are also three returning defensive linemen in Blaine Littleford, Andrew Eichten and Jake Lambirth. Depth will make the Wildcats the freshest team in the league. There are holes on the offensive line and defense, though, because of graduation. Yet, West Ranch believes it's in the race. Another hopeful thing for the Wildcats is the return of dynamic athlete Rawston Redick, who had a promising sophomore season, but was lost to a knee injury last year. Running backs Mark Collins and Zahr Lyttle rotated in last year with since-graduated Jeff Coprich and could prove to be an impressive tandem in 2012.

"We've got to play very good defense and control the ball," said head coach Sean O'Brien. "We're probably going to have to be the best in turnover-ratio."

Golden Valley Grizzlies
(Last year: 1-9 overall, 0-5 in the Foothill)

The Grizzlies look to break through for their first-ever Foothill win. They lost a ton of talent with the offensive skill positions with running back Earl Johnson, receiver Isa Bey and quarterback Reid Soliman all gone to graduation. The Grizzlies are hoping their lines will be their strength in 2012. Three players - Kyle Edwards, Juan Cervantes and Jose Villa - are expected to lead the way. Golden Valley had a quarterback battle in the summer between senior Chase Lewis and sophomore Erik Zarate, but is banking on the fact that the team will be motivated to shake the past. Golden Valley is 0-29 all time in Foothill League play - a record that doesn't sit well with anyone.

"I think we're just trying to coach up more guys. We can't rely on a few guys," said head coach Robert Fisher. "We need to coach up more guys to be more technical, to develop skills. The more guys you have to perform the task, the better you're going to be."

Catch a Game, Eat Gourmet
Schreiners Fine Sausages rules the concessions at Valencia and West Ranch High Schools football games with their new carne asada tacos and tri-tip sandwiches. Known for sausages of all types, their bratwurst will make you stand up and yodel. Did someone say catering? They can handle that too, with a full-service mobile barbeque. 818-244-4735
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