Gridiron Play Begins
The school year has begun, which also means the high school football season on the Island is about ready to kick off. The 2017 season begins tomorrow with a tilt between the Encinal Jets and Washington of Fremont at Stargell Field.
The 2017 season looks to be a promising one for the West Alameda County Conference (WACC) Shoreline League defending champs. The Jets went 4-1 in the league (9-3 overall) last year.
They plowed through their league rivals Mt. Eden of Hayward (47-12 on Oct. 7), Arroyo of San Lorenzo (48-0 on Oct. 21), Alameda (41-0 on Oct. 28) and San Lorenzo (51-0 on Nov. 4). Their only loss came in a 12-6 contest against Hayward on Oct. 14.
The Jets qualified for the North Coast Section (NCS) Div. III playoffs last year. They took down Petaluma 47-6 in the first round on Nov. 11, but lost to eventual Div. III champions Bishop O’ Dowd of Oakland 28-0 on Nov. 19.
The Jets’ 2017 roster will look very different compared to 2016. On defense, defensive back Derrick Purvis, defense lineman Darius Long and 2016 Shoreline League defensive player of the year at linebacker, Tele Lotomau, have graduated. The Jets will also be without some of their top offensive playmakers in University of Hawaii wide receiver Akil Francisco and Brandon Duckett, who led the team in rushing.
The Jets, however, do return three-year quarterback Theori Oliver and three-year wide receiver David Hamilton. Encinal will benefit from returning an experienced offensive line. The Jets’ three returning starters, offensive guards Delayo Faatiliga and Tommy Dinh and right tackle Jake Beales, will man the unit up front.
The defense will be upheld by returning all-league player Jacob Tolbert at defensive end. He will be joined by senior defensive back Abdul Holland.
The Jets will be poised to repeat as Shoreline League champions.
The Hornets are looking to improve from an up-and-down 2016 season. The Hornets began last year 0-6, but rebounded to win three of their last four games. Alameda finished 3-8 overall, but went 3-2 in the WACC Shoreline League including a 22-20 victory over Hayward on senior night that gave them the second place tiebreaker. The Hornets also had victories over Mt. Eden (41-0 on Oct. 14) and San Lorenzo (30-0 on Oct. 22).
The Hornets will have to overcome huge losses on offense if it is going to improve this season. Last year’s offensive MVP, Taj Banks Jr., transferred to Encinal. Banks, a wide receiver, accumulated more than 700 receiving yards, 1,300 total yards and scored eight touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Kenden Robinson Jr. also transferred to the rival Jets.
The Hornets also lost quarterback Devin Nash, running back Adam Joo and many others to graduation.
The man tasked to lead the turnaround is first-year head coach Paolo Sunia. Sunia’s Alameda squad will be led by quarterback Andrew Millpointer. The junior was Nash’s backup last season and this season was selected to take control of the offense. Senior Mario Bongiovanni will be the lead running back.
On defense, the Hornets’ secondary will be led by seniors James Lang and Ronnie Thomas. Both are expected to play offense as well. Senior Jake Chilcott will contribute at the linebacker position.
The Hornets will begin their 2017 campaign a week after the Jets on Sept. 1 at home with a contest against Del Campo of Fair Oaks.
The Island Bowl has been scheduled for Friday, Oct. 27, at Thompson Field.