Tigers will host Lions in annual Golden Apple Bowl on April 2
In a typical year the onset of spring football is usually an opportunity for teams to work on technique, install new schemes and promote chemistry and camaraderie. Those elements will be front and center again this year, but will be taking on a much more exciting twist.
The recent state ruling allowing outdoor sports means the long-awaited return of Analy and El Molino high school football, albeit in a compressed, four-game season set to begin March 20.
Both the Lions and Tigers will compete in a revamped North Bay League Redwood Division, squaring off with Ukiah, Healdsburg and St. Vincent.
The abbreviated 2021 campaign calls for stringent health protocols to be followed, including the wearing of masks for players and coaches and weekly COVID testing (paid for by the state).
“We're excited to get going,” El Molino head coach Jerod Brown reported. “Of course, this hectic, mad-dash to the finish line wasn't exactly how I envisioned my first year as head coach going but I think we did a good job in the fall of staying connected. There are still so many logistical concerns to be ironed out but we're happy to just be practicing and are focusing on taking it one day at a time.”
Analy veteran coach Dan Bourdon, in his first season back after a four-year hiatus, was also eager to get on the field after so much uncertainty.
“I'm proud of these kids who stayed committed and engaged with the program, even when the chance to get a season in was starting to look like a long shot,” he said. “Hopefully that dedication will pay off when games begin.”
Lions eye competitive season
With a full roster of 30-plus players, El Molino will be looking to build on the momentum gained last season, compiling an overall record of 5-5 under former coach Randy Parmeter. At the center of the Lion’s fortunes stands talented veteran quarterback Weston Lewis, a first-team all-leaguer who has diligently prepared for his senior campaign. Lewis will be a premier run-pass threat, making things tough on opposing defenses.
Another key player in the El Mo offense is sure-handed all-league senior Jackson Dunkle, a big-play receiver with good speed and tremendous athletic ability. In addition, senior running back DJ Ramalia steps into a starring role and should have a breakout year.
“We're really excited about these three seniors in particular,” Brown said. “We also have two sophomores that I think could be difference-makers. Jaden Brady will rotate in at running back and is remarkably explosive for his age and Solomon Hall is an up-and-coming receiver that we're excited about.”
Anchoring the El Mo defensive unit will be a pair of inside linebackers; junior Anthony Pacheco and transfer student Dylan Dekker.
Like most teams, the Lions will adjust expectations for the spring season but retain many of the same basic goals.
“I think, like most coaches, our goal in this shortened season is to have fun,” Brown noted. “Of course, we'd like to win while we're at it and I'm confident that we'll have a competitive team. We want everyone to have an opportunity to safely play and our primary focus will be on making memories and savoring the little moments that we might sometimes forget, like being under the lights, the sound of cleats on concrete as you walk to the field, etc. In some ways, I think our players are more aware than ever of how fleeting some of these experiences can be. As a result, they seem to be even more invested in each second,” he added.
Tigers welcome back coach Bourdon
The Analy football community has been re-energized with the return of Dan Bourdon, re-taking the reins from former coach James Foster. One of the winningest football coaches in Analy history, Bourdon guided the Tigers to five straight Sonoma County League titles, yearly trips to the North Coast Section playoffs and an 81-30 record before stepping down in 2017. Look for the Tigers to once again feature a high-octane offense that will keep defenses on their heels.
Tasked with leading the Analy offense is a group of veterans that include; quarterback Jake Acosta, running backs Trenton Vogel, Kole Hunter and Dylan Pederson and receiver Nick Kraemer. Anchoring the offensive and defensive lines will be Jake Visser, Scotty Finn Kenady and Nester Jiminez. The linebacking corps will be led by Pederson, Vogel and Hunter, while Kraemer will lead of the defensive backfield.