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|Is This The Year Warriors Put It All Together?|
|Written by Mike Terry Contributing Writer|
|Thursday, 09 August 2012 02:03|
Alemany Has Fielded Some Impressive Football Teams The Past Few Seasons. The 2012 Group Could Be The Best, Depending On One Small Detail….
Ready To Rumble -- Alemany High football players Steven Mitchell, Devon Dunn and Cory McManus (l-r) are gearing up for the 2012 season. Alemany has won or shared five consecutive Mission and Serra League titles.
Since 2007, the Alemany Warriors have been one of the Valley's best prep football programs, winning as many as 12 games in a season and sharing or winning outright five consecutive Mission or Serra League titles.
The only thing missing during this run: a Southern Section division championship. The closest the Warriors have come was a 24-21 loss to Manhattan Beach Mira Costa in the 2009 Western Division title game.
A section title in 2012 is, again, within reach. The Warriors, coming off an 8-3 season, are loaded at the skill positions, have plenty of beef and experience on the defensive side, have a nice blend of new faces and returning players and are highly motivated after losing last year to Bellflower St. John Bosco in the first round of the Pac-5 playoffs.
Only one ingredient keeps this from brewing a perfect storm.
"I can't say it could be my best team because we'll have four new starters on the offensive line," Coach Dean Herrington was saying before an afternoon practice. "But in spots it's by far the best we've been as a unit here."
A talented, strong, cohesive offensive line is mandatory for any successful football team. If you can't run the ball, if you can't protect your quarterback, you typically have only three chances for success – slim, fat and none.
But for the moment, its 2012 opponents are going to worry a lot more about what Alemany does have rather than what it doesn't have.
There is returning all-league quarterback Devon Dunn, a senior, who threw for 2,660 yards and 23 touchdowns (against nine interceptions) and completed 64.6 percent of his 154 pass attempts. Besides shining in summer passing leagues, Dunn made visits to Yale and Princeton among the colleges he is applying to.
"He's a couple inches taller (now 6-feet), 190- pounds if you can believe that, and had an unbelievable summer throwing the ball (in passing leagues)," Herrington said of Dunn. "It's always nice to have your quarterback back. It makes a world of difference."
Then there is a group of receivers Herrington declares without hesitation "one of the best in Southern California."
Steven Mitchell, a senior who has given a verbal commitment to USC, is coming off a year where he caught 51 passes for 993 yards and 11 touchdowns and is the undisputed alpha male. The next two in the pecking order are hardly slouches. Devin Ross, a senior and Mitchell's cousin, averaged 22.4 yards a catch last year and is mulling offers from Colorado and Utah, among others. Desean Holmes will be a sophomore, and Houston and Utah already think enough of his ability that each school has already made a scholarship offer.
The fourth receiver will come from among several candidates, Herrington said. And when the quartet is fully formed, it should make the Warriors' offensive attack that averaged 33.5 points a game last year even harder to stop.
As you might assume, Dunn and Mitchell can hardly wait for the season to start.
"This is by far the best receiving corps we will have," said Dunn, 17. Steven, Devin, Desean, and a bunch of other people to fill in that (fourth) spot; there won't be a loss at that position. "
And if they want to scheme to try and take Mitchell out of the game, the 5-11, 185-pound senior says bring it on.
"I definitely know I have a target on my back," said Mitchell, 18. "So I plan on being more physical; I gained about 10 pounds over the summer. Besides that, we have other great receivers. So if teams are keying on me it's gonna be hard to guard the others.
"We're gonna do pretty good this year."
Should Alemany get bored with throwing, running back Deshone Randall, a senior, will gladly throw his 5-11, 200- pound body into the fray. Randall was restricted to 207 yards and a touchdown last year, in part because of an injured ankle. But he is completely healthy now.
"People are going to say 'where did this kid come from?'" Herrington said.
The Warriors have had a reputation of being more finesse then physical as a whole. But that's a label the 2012 defense plans to rip off its jerseys and stomp into the gridiron.
On the defensive line is a pair of tackles that will be harder to move than kidney stones. Aubrey Jackson, a junior who checks in at 6-3, 300, crouches alongside John Taufahema, a sophomore, who is 6-2 and an even wider 320. Get between them at the lunch cart at your own risk.
"They don't have any (defensive) experience yet, but they can get after people," Herrington said, adding he's still deciding on the defensive ends.
The linebacking group, led by juniors Deyon Glass and Quinten Tartabull, are experienced and sure tacklers. The secondary, Herrington said, will be slightly less athletic than the receiving group.
So it comes back, again, to the offensive line.
The only returning starter is Cory McManus, a 5-10, 200- pound center who must be the glue and mentor to the other four that work with him."
"The (other players) are young, they have a lot to learn, they need to get stronger,' McManus said. "But I think by the start of the season they'll be okay."
They'll have to be. What learning curve the offensive line gets will come during the nonleague schedule, which includes dates against Riverside JW North, Los Angeles Dorsey and Norco. Once league play begins in October, the Serra gauntlet that is Notre Dame, Crespi, La Puente Bishop Amat and Los Angeles Loyola leaves very little margin for error or guesswork.
But should the Warriors reach the playoffs, they'll have a boulder instead of a chip on their shoulders. The 33-28 loss to Bosco last November still haunts Alemany, and the Warriors are determined to make a better showing than a first round exit.
"We're still a little upset because I thought we could make a run last year," Herrington said. "If we could have held on to the (St. John Bosco) game we would have gotten San Clemente at our place, and I liked our speed advantage against them. And (defending champion) Servite loses in the second round. So then we could have played Tesoro, which is a solid team, and who knows what would have happened.
"But it's like I tell our players all the time…in other playoff brackets your first place team will rarely lose to a third place team. In this one, it's possible. You don't play a good game, you're gonna get knocked off. And St. John Bosco was by far the best third place team in the division last year. We made a lot of mistakes, but we still had a chance to win the game and didn't do it."
The players agreed the loss left a bitter taste.
"You still sort of replay that game (in your mind) because you want to learn from it, what to do right for this year. I don't think I played to my full potential; I made mistakes. I just need to play better in playoff games – and in regular games, too."
Mitchell described the loss as a collective "brain fart" by the team, but added, "when we lost the game we were pretty shocked because we didn't think we'd lose in the first round. This year, that's not gonna happen."
So if the offensive line can jell and mature, keep Dunn upright and keep the Alemany offense flowing, it could be a memorable season.
Everything else is in place for such an occurrence.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 09 August 2012 04:12|