For the better part of a century Healdsburg residents have enjoyed three certainties each fall; the start of the school year, the annual grape harvest and Greyhound football.
That routine was disrupted last year when the Hounds canceled the 2018 varsity campaign after just two games, due to low numbers and a majority vote by players.
But what proved to be a low point for Hounds football may prove to be just a bump in the road in the program’s rich history, with the much anticipated return of Friday night lights to Recreation Park this season.
Veteran head coach Dave Stine has stepped down to assume an assistant coaching position, giving rise to former JV coach Shaun Montecino.
Montecino will start the season with a varsity roster of 27 players this year, nearly double what the team had last season.
The first order of business for the new varsity head coach was to install a rigorous off-season program, hoping to build muscle and momentum in a skilled group of players moving up from his JV squad of a year ago.
“Much of the focus this off-season has been to ensure that the team trusts the process and approaches this season with an underdog mentality,” he said. “Due to last year’s fallout, we believe that this underdog mentality will only motivate our kids to prove the doubters wrong and help further exceed from the low expectations that may be set.”
The Hounds will benefit from a small group of returning varsity players from last season, led by senior all-purpose back Brian Garcia. He’ll be joined by a core of talented first-year varsity athletes that include senior tight end/defensive end Emilio Medina, junior quarterback Cole Conley and junior running back Cody Dugan. Other athletes that figure to make a big impact are junior offensive/defensive lineman Sebastian Novella and sophomore all-purpose back Constantino Garcia.
“For our returning seniors, this is their year to show what they couldn’t display last year, and it has showed during practice with some of them having that chip on their shoulder,” Montecino noted. “For our younger players, this is their chance to show what the future of the program will be in their second year, with a few more years to reach their full potential.”
With official practices already underway, the Hounds will open the 2019 schedule at Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo on Saturday, Aug. 24 at 2 p.m., followed by the home opener against Justin Siena on Friday, Aug. 30 at 7:30 p.m. Healdsburg will kick off the North Bay League Redwood Division schedule in the friendly confines on Oct. 4 against Piner.