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|Is There a Dynasty in the (Sierra) Canyon?|
|Written by San Fernando Valley Sun|
|Thursday, 05 July 2012 04:53|
Ready To Repeat -- Sierra Canyon seniors Brian Tucker (left) and Xavier Menifield have a grip on preparations for the 2012 football season. The Trailblazers enter the year as the defending state Division IV state bowl champion.
The Trailblazers Enjoyed A Perfect Season In 2011. And The Division IV Program Has The Potential For More Championships Over The Next Several Years
The view from the mountaintop must have been breathtaking. There was Sierra Canyon at a place few football teams have reached, a 15-0 record and the championships of the Alpha League, Southern Section's East Valley Division, and the state Division IV Bowl game.
Perfection doesn't get any better than this.
If this had been a movie, the Trailblazers' celebration following the 34-13 humbling of Le Grand in the state bowl game last Dec. 13, at the Home Depot Field in Carson, would have been the fadeout scene before rolling the final credits. But every year brings a new year of football. So Sierra Canyon has already spent the spring, and will now spend the summer, preparing to answer the question it will hear during the fall: What can the Trailblazers do for an encore?
Whatever it is, it will start with a memory lapse.
"To be quite honest, we haven't thought about (last year's title run) in quite a while," Sierra Canyon Coach Jon Ellinghouse said. "The [championship] ring has been put in a case and put away." "We're definitely focused on this year. It's a different year and a different team. It's time to move forward and make this team the best that it can be." One must remember how young this program still is.
Sierra Canyon opened as a high school in 2006. It started playing eight-man football in 2007, and moved up to 11-man football in 2009.
But Ellinghouse scoffs at the notion the Trailblazers have accomplished too much, too soon.
"We enjoyed the heck out of last year," he said, "but now we have to continue to build on it. Again, this is a new year and a new team. I tell them every day they haven't done anything, and they haven't won anything. So it's time to move forward.
Ellinghouse does say goodbye to 13 graduating seniors, most notably quarterback Tyler Stewart, who passed for 2,406 yards and 33 touchdowns, and who also rushed for 469 yards and five touchdowns.
Also gone is running back Danny Jordan, who accounted for 1,042 yards and eight touchdowns.
"We lost a few guys, there's no doubt about it," Ellinghouse said. "But I also feel our program's the best it's been, as far as it's ability to replace guys. We have young guys whom I feel are talented, and we're gonna do our best and work hard."
Ellinghouse said he is looking at three candidates for quarterback – Andre Nunez, who played sparingly behind Stewart as a sophomore, and newcomers Dan Judy and Isaiah Renfro.
Ellinghouse said he would take as long as he needs to select a starter. "Whenever steps up and makes it their job, that's when it will be their job.
Right now there is no clear, defined 'guy,' and I don't like to say I'm going to take a certain amount of time. We'll see how it progresses, and how they work."
Fortunately, the Trailblazers have arguably their best player coming back.
Xavier Menifield, who will be a senior this year, rushed for 1,494 yards and 28 touchdowns, and also caught 15 passes for 396 yards and six more scores.
He was at his best in the big games; 225 rushing and passing yards plus five touchdowns against Lancaster Paraclete in the East Valley Division contest, and 112 rushing yards and three touchdowns against Le Grand in the state game. "We're gonna lean on him a ton (to carry the offense)," Ellinghouse said."
Menifield, who has given a verbal commitment to attend Northwestern University – "great academics as well as bigtime football" – also said the players have had no problem putting last year's success behind them.
"The 'party' ended that weekend (they won the state championship)," Menifield said.
"After that, we focused on the new school year and what we have to do to repeat. Last year doesn't matter now, it's all about this upcoming year."
He expects to provide steady, consistent offensive production even though he will be a marked man by opposing defenses in the early going, or until other scoring threats emerge.
"I've been preparing," he said. "But all you can do is practice hard and play hard. But I think we're gonna have a great class, and a great chance to go back again (to another final). Our team is capable of doing it."
Good thing for Menifield: three of the starting five offensive linemen return. Abe Roca, Remy Linares and Jesse Janes will be seniors, and should weigh between 230 and 280 pounds. They will be able to create space for Menifield, and the speedy back has proven repeatedly that he doesn't need much room to operate.
Ellinghouse expects the running game to be comparable to last year, when the Trailblazers averaged a tick below 244 yards rushing per contest. Blade Brady, a senior, who racked up 767 yards and 10 touchdowns last year at Campbell Hall before transferring to Sierra Canyon, is one of several candidates vying to play alongside Menifield in the backfield.
Fullback Bishop Taylor, a senior, is a willing and dependable lead blocker.
"I think our run game is going to be potent, and we'll develop off of that," Ellinghouse said. Whoever wins the quarterback battle will have an experienced set of receivers to throw to. Preston White, who caught 40 passes for 561 yards and seven touchdowns, is one returning weapon, while tight end Brian Tucker had 26 catches for 342 yards and five touchdowns, is another.
Tucker said the new season will bring new challenges and he looks forward to being a defending champion.
"It's a new year," Tucker said. "We have new kids, and we start off fresh."
The defense should also be stout. Ellinghouse said the front eight "should be stellar," and he's very excited about the stable of experienced linebackers he can pick from, starting with Tucker, a senior.
Tucker said a "strong defensive mentality" was key to the Trailblazers going undefeated.
"We were flying around the ball, laying out and everything," he said. "We'll have to do it this year, too. We have to find that throughout the summer, into the fall."
If they do, the Trailblazers will be traveling down a familiar path.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 05 July 2012 05:02|