Eagles keep eyes on the prize

Del Oro welcomes the challenge as another tough schedule awaits and title hopes are renewed
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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All the right roles have been cast for the Del Oro High football team. The stage is set under the lights of Del Oro’s stadium. And fans of the black and yellow are hoping this year’s team has a section title encore to perform. But long before the stands are packed with zealous fans and the band blares, the Golden Eagles are meticulously rehearsing plays and pushing their bodies to capacity. Two-a-day practices, camps and a few scrimmages last week are all leading to Del Oro’s first game against Spanish Springs Friday night. Golden Eagles coach Casey Taylor said the defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champions and Sierra Foothill League champions aren’t looking for an easy ride. He designed the first four games of the season to be a litmus test of their strength. In the past playing the most competitive teams has also given the Golden Eagles an extra edge in SFL play. “We play the best to be the best,” Taylor said. “Sometimes you get a false sense of where you are at if you play the easier schools first.” In the traditionally strong SFL having talent is only half the battle. Taylor said that while the Golden Eagles didn’t play how they would have hoped in last week’s scrimmages, it allowed them the opportunity to recalibrate things. One item on the agenda this year is a more explosive offense; including seasoning Del Oro’s dynamic running game with more passing. Taking the helm at quarterback is returning starter, senior Bobby Heatherington. Taylor said that while he may not woo with his stats, Heatherington’s winning record says it all. “He never lost a game as a freshman or junior varsity,” Taylor said. “He started eight games for varsity and he is eight-for-eight. Stat-wise he is solid. He leads by example. The guys have played under him for so many years. They know how to win. There is a confidence he brings to the whole team.” Taylor has every confidence that senior running back and linebacker Nick O’Sullivan will continue to move the football. Last season he racked up a smoking 976 yards and 17 touchdowns. Wide receiver senior Russell Smith, also an all-league player, will round out the offense again, and do a little double dipping as a defensive back. Returning all-league senior Alex Bertrando, an outside linebacker and tight end, is a core leader on the team, according to Taylor. Bertrando was voted the team’s most valuable player last year by his teammates and may soon have a spot as captain. Junior Skyler Rand is returning at kicker, but was hurt last week. Bertrando may step in at kicker until he heals, though he is not as consistent according to Taylor. Seniors Blake Covey and Tanner Huber are returning to the field for their final season after being injured for most of last year. “We’re excited to have them back,” Taylor said. Bertrando said he is also glad Covey and Huber are back in the mix. Although he has tasted a section title before, Bertrando said it is no less appealing. “One of the goals is to make it to the section championship playoff game,” Bertrando said. “We want it jut as much. That is why we were are out there practicing every day and working so hard. We add plays every week.” Bertrando said he is hoping that hard work pays off when it comes to Del Oro’s grueling schedule. “We have a really big game against Westlake and they are one of the top ranked teams in California,” Bertrando said. “We probably have one of the hardest schedules in California.” Running back junior Brandon Monroe should be another power player for the Golden Eagles, according to Bertrando. Fans should also keep their eyes on sophomores Tanner Woods and Tyler Meteer. Lineman Zach Heath is the third Heath brother to start for Del Oro. At 6-3 and 265 pounds, Taylor said Heath will not only be a force to be reckoned with on the field, but will likely be a college recruit. Continuing his own family tradition is lineman Logan Lamb. His dad, Mike Lamb played college ball for the University of Southern California and now hosts a sports radio show. Safety Austin Soldano is another good addition at 6-4 and 185 pounds. Taylor said speed is one strength the line has this year. He isn’t looking for any fancy gimmicks to secure a title. In match-ups against powerhouses like Clovis West, Oak Ridge and Granite Bay, Taylor’s philosophy is simple. The coaching staff has made it even more of a priority to encourage service to the community and scholarship. Taylor said all of the players on the field have made a commitment to all three of those areas. “We have a great core of senior leadership. They are great on the field and in the community. They have the highest GPA of any group we have had,” Taylor said. “We have to establish a line of scrimmage. We have to take charge and move the football.” Reach Sara Seyydin at For the latest in Journal Sports follow us on Twitter @PlacerSports.