LOOMIS – Year one in the Jeff Walters coaching era at Del Oro High is in the books and now ancient history.
All things considered, last season, despite Del Oro being a young and untested team mixing with a new coach, the Golden Eagles showed quite well in 2017.
After going through an up-and-down regular season, the Black and Gold caught fire in the playoffs and reached the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title game for the third straight year.
A 22-0 loss to Granite Bay notwithstanding, Del Oro’s overall record of 8-6 was nothing to scoff at.
“Last year was a learning experience for everyone; myself, players and coaches included,” said Walters. “Being in the second season now, we’re expecting good things this year.”
While losing several talented players to graduation, the Golden Eagles return a solid core of experienced players that will be interjected by a junior group that went 9-1 a year ago at the JV level.
“The kids have basically hit the ground running,” said Walters. “They know what we expect of them, and have been working hard.”
A year ago, the Golden Eagles split quarterback duties between senior Josh Gazzaniga and junior Carson Jarratt. Jarratt, a 6-foot-3, 195-pounder, threw for 1,634 yards and 15 touchdowns last season and shined in the playoffs.
Jarratt is back, but the Del Oro offense could have a different look at times with senior Dante Pericin also lining up behind center.
“Last year, we were pretty set on what we wanted to do on offense,” said Walters. “This year, I see us putting our best athletes where they can help us the most.”
Del Oro will have two of its top receivers returning in Matt Smart, who grabbed 37 passes for 660 yards in 2017, and Johnny Guzman, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound speedster who latched on to 29 passes for 587 yards and four scores.
However, the Golden Eagles will have to replace standout All-League running back Brice Edwards, who rushed for 1,087 yards and scored 13 TDs.
“We’ll do a lot with our two slot backs lining up in different spots in the backfield,” said Walters. Three-year varsity starter Dawson Hurst should get a lot of those snaps along with versatile Josh Moore and Sheldon Conde up from the JVs.
“We’ll have some depth back there for sure,” said Walters. “I like the makeup of our running backs and what they bring to the table.”
Del Oro’s offensive front line, called by Walters “the most athletic line I’ve been involved in five years as a head coach,” should also show strong this season. They include Tatuo Martinson (6-foot-2, 255 lbs), David Veske (6 feet, 230), Cameron Nelson (6 feet, 230) and Wyatt Berry (6-foot-2, 260).
On defense, Hurst returns after being a First Team All-Sierra Foothill League secondary pick in 2017. He’ll be joined by Martinson, Berry, Pericin and linebacker Charlie Rogers as the Golden Eagles’ top returnees.
Walters also singled out Carson Westlake as a “player to watch” in 2018.
“Carson is a great example of a Del Oro football player,” said Walters. “He’s a hard worker who shows up on time and is ready to do what he has to to help the team.”
Senior Ryan Whalley will inherit the place-kicking chores from Conor Calvert, now at UC Davis.
As far as Del Oro’s schedule this season, Walters notes that the slate is once again a meat grinder again.
“We open with Amador Valley, who I know well from my days in the Bay Area,” said the Del Oro coach. “They’ll be good, and then it’s Oak Grove at the Honor Bowl, and they have a back already offered by Washington.”
Walters added, “Windsor will be good. They have a new coach but came on strong last season and did well in the playoffs. In league, we have a rivalry game with Granite Bay right off the bat. It should be exciting.”
2018 Del Oro Football
Aug. 17 – at Amador Valley (Pleasanton)
Aug. 24 – vs. Oak Grove at St. Francis High (Mt. View)
Aug. 31 – vs. Windsor
Sept. 7 – vs. Sacramento High
Sept. 14 – at Granite Bay
Sept. 21 – vs. Whitney
Sept. 28 - Bye
Oct. 5 – vs. Oak Ridge
Oct. 12 – at Grant
Oct. 19 – at Rocklin
Oct. 26 – vs. Folsom