Aug. 30: Capital Christian L 48-0
Sept. 6: Argonaut L 49-14
Sept 14: @ Rio Americano, 1 p.m.
Sept. 20: @ Casa Roble, 7:30
Oct. 4: Vacaville Christian, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11: Bradshaw Christian, 7 p.m.
Oct. 18: @ Highlands, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25: @ Rio Vista, 7:30
Nov. 1: Encina, 7 p.m.
Nov. 8: @ San Juan, 7 p.m.
Team: Golden Sierra
League: Sierra Delta League — Bradshaw Christian, Encina, Highlands, Rio Vista, San Juan, Vacaville Christian
2012 record: 7-4 overall; 6-0 league, Sierra Delta League champs
Head coach: John Hilton, third year
Assistant coaches: John Piparo (Defensive Coordinator, running backs, outside linebackers); Mark Brunton (Special Teams Coordinator, quarterback, inside linebackers); Eric Agee (offensive line, defensive line); Chris Whitted (wide receivers, defensive backs).
Key dates: Oct. 4 Sierra Delta League opener/Homecoming against Vacaville Christian; Oct. 11 against Bradshaw Christian; Nov. 1 Senior Night against Encina Prep.
Intro — Recent history — last season — tells us that the Grizzlies needn’t produce a winning nonleague to be successful once league rolls around. So far, Golden Sierra is 0-2 after losses to Capital Christian and Argonaut but are optimistic that can reverse itself — like last year when the Griz went undefeated in the Sierra Delta League..
“It’s a tough preseason again but hopefully it (stronger, better once league starts) will work the same for us,” Hilton said. “Our aim is to stay healthy during preseason — our goal’s not wins or losses but learning how to compete and gain confidence.”
Once again the Grizzlies take the field with a small roster — 19 this year on the varsity squad. That in itself is reason for excuses but you won’t hear it from Hilton.
“Ideally I’d like to have 22 so we can go 11-on-11 in practice but we’re dealing with what we have,” Hilton said. “This team likes the underdog role. They’re tough-nosed kids that want to do the best they can.”
Offense — Expect the Grizzlies to utilize a shotgun, spread formation read type of offense for quarterback Daniel Lesher with Hilton projecting 75 percent of plays having a quarterback option.
The ground game will rely on Austin Burrows, Brian Cann, Cameron Stephens and Anthony Rosas while key receivers are Stephens and Dominic Chamberlain with Sam Steward the tight end. Hilton also sees Jeff Klahn as a factor on offense.
Justin Eicher, Casey Blakley, Wyatt Alexander and Trevor Pedri anchor the offensive with Jacob Hamilton or Roger Borba also in the mix.
Defense — Golden Sierra will run a 3-5 defense with linebackers Steward, Cann, Lesher, Burrows and Klahn.
The secondary will feature Rosas, Stephens and Chamberlain while the defensive line is a “by committee” group of Blakley, Hamilton, Alexander with Eicher rotating in.
Special teams — Cann will handle both kicking and punting. Burrows is the long snapper, Stephens is an explosive returner, and Chamberlain factors in as well.
League/outlook — Hilton thinks Highlands, with an explosive offense, will be the favorite and Bradshaw Christian, down last year, on the comeback. Vista was all juniors last season and are a season older, both San Juan and Vacaville Christian have new coaching staffs while Encina might struggle.
“Five of the seven teams have a legit chance to make a run at the league title,” Hilton said.
The Grizzlies’ goals are: learn how to work hard every day; create opportunity to win the Sierra Delta League; get back to the playoffs.
Other than Eicher, Golden Sierra will be inexperienced on its offensive and defensive lines. Last year, the opposite was true while skilled position players weren’t. Now, Cann, Lesher, Stewart and Stephens come in after solid junior seasons.
“We’re a mixed team of experience and inexperience,” Hilton said. “One area we have to grow is the line but our strength will be our returning skilled position players. As our offensive line comes along you’ll see our team improve.”
A main attribute for Golden Sierra is its internal trust, a big part of last season’s success.
“That was key. Right now we’re ahead of last season (in some repects) but what we have to do is build trust,” Hilton said.