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Five questions for Del Oro football

By: Mike Ray, Gold Country News Services
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At first glance, the 2011 football schedule at Del Oro High School could be one of the most anticipated in recent memory. It’s only been six months since the team won their final eight games of the season and along the way captured a share of the Sierra Foothill League championship and the CIF Sac-Joaquin Div. III title. Faithful followers of the Golden Eagle grid program are eagerly awaiting the 2011 campaign with plenty of optimism. And rightfully so. Del Oro will return several key cogs from last season’s squad, including skill players that accounted for nearly 4,000 yards in total offense, not to mention players that combined to account for more than 30 touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, the Golden Eagles will also welcome back several key members of a defensive unit that allowed just 25 points to be scored against them in four Div. III playoff games. While things look rosy for the Golden Eagles on paper, Del Oro coach Casey Taylor will be the first to say that the work put in by the Black and Gold during weight- and off-season training workouts in June, July and August will be the key to success in the Fall. “We have a lot of guys coming back with experience and that’s always nice to have,” said Taylor. “We also will be taking a look at some young players coming up that will be in the mix. But as we go to camp, we have a lot of work ahead of us.” Del Oro’s gridders had last week off but resumed their summer training this week. The Golden Eagles will also be participating in Sierra College’s team camp next week with scrimmage sessions set against the likes of Rocklin, Woodcreek, Casa Roble, Davis and Sacramento High School. Once again Del Oro will be facing a challenging schedule that includes non-league games against Spanish Springs, of Reno, perennial CIF Southern and Central section powers Westlake and Clovis West, not to mention Oak Ridge, Oakmont, and an always rugged Sierra Foothill League slate. With that in mind, here are five questions facing the Golden Eagles as they prepare this summer for the 2011 season. Who will pack the ball for the Golden Eagles this season? Kenny Andri and Nick O’Sullivan proved to be a potent 1-2 running punch for Del Oro last season as the duo teamed for more than 2,000 yards on the ground and 29 touchdowns. The good news is that O’Sullivan (194 carries for 976-yards, 17 touchdowns) returns and should be joined by speedy Brandon Monroe, a JV call-up in the playoffs who showed some flashes of brilliance. Taylor plans to take a look this summer to decide who will spell O’Sullivan and Monroe. Will Del Oro have holes to plug on the offensive line? The loss via graduation of stalwarts Dustin Mollard and Ryan Cope would hurt most teams, but the Golden Eagles – under new offensive line coach Dan Gazzangia – will mold things around returning starters Kevin Love, at center, and Zach Heath (6-foot-3-inch, 235 pounds), and Logan Lamb (6-3, 230). Additionally, 250-pound sophomore twins, Emileo and Daniel Campos, could also be in the mix. Defensive stalwarts Max Magelby, Kai Von Aalvenslaben, Schoi Martinson and Cameron Soldano all picked up their diplomas when the Class of 2011 graduated, who steps in for these graduated standouts? Don’t look for much drop-off from a unit that returns starters Russell Smith and Scott Westlake in the secondary, O’Sullivan at linebacker and Dalton Hudek, Garrett Collins and Ashwin Cardenas. The Golden Eagles should also be bolstered by the return of senior linebacker Tanner Huber, who was injured near midseason, and Austin Soldano (6-4, 195), who skipped football last season to concentrate on basketball. The Golden Eagles appear in good hands with Bobby Heatherington back at quarterback. The senior-to-be started the Golden Eagles last seven games – all wins - and finished the season with a 52 percent completion average, while throwing for 993 yards, seven touchdowns and just two interceptions. Who will Heatherington be throwing to? Speedy Daniel Thomas (42x706) returns along with tight end Alex Bertrando (29x373). Del Oro also has another weapon in kicker Skyler Rand who came up as a sophomore and handled the kicking chores more than ably. Once again the Golden Eagles have a challenging schedule. Will they be up to the task? If you are a Del Oro season ticket-holder, you have to love this schedule. Four straight home games – including back-to-back pre-season titanic contests Sept. 3 against Westlake and Sept. 9 against Clovis West – highlight the slate. Also, don’t forget to circle Oct. 21 on the calendar. That’s when Granite Bay visits Loomis for the Golden Eagles and Grizzlies annual grudge match.