Cougars’ hopes high for second consecutive winning season

By From page A6 | August 20, 2014

2014 El Dorado
Varsity Schedule

Aug. 29: @ South Tahoe, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 5: Lincoln-Lincoln, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 12: Rio Americano, 7:30 p.m.
Sept 19: @ Mesa Verde (San Juan High), 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 26: Bye
Oct. 3: @ Foothill, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 10: @ Liberty Ranch, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 17: Rosemont, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 24: @ Cordova, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 31: Galt, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 7: Union Mine, 7:30 p.m.

Bold denotes Sierra Valley Conference games

Plenty of weapons on offense return  

Team: El Dorado

Division: IV

League: Sierra Valley Conference — Cordova, Galt, Liberty Ranch, Rosemont and Union Mine

2013 record: 6-5 overall, Sac-Joaquin Section D-III playoff berth; 3-3 in the Sierra Valley Conference, third place.

Head coach: Joe Volek, third year.

Assistant coaches: Mike Mitchell (offensive coordinator/assistant head coach), Travis Cox (defensive coordinator), Tim Hum (defensive line), Moa Palepale (secondary), Henry Hamilton (offensive line), Chad Palen (running backs), Jeremy Ogzewalla (strength coach), Mike Liddell (team physician), John Volek (consultant). Coaches will work as a group to call the special teams.

Key dates: Sept. 5 home opener against Lincoln; Oct. 10 conference opener at Liberty Ranch; Oct. 17 Homecoming against Rosemont; Nov. 7 Senior Night, rivalry and conference finale against Union Mine.

Intro — What is the 2014 El Dorado High football team going to do for an encore after last year’s team posted a winning record for the first time since 1998?

Cougar head coach Joe Volek has the answer.

“Host the first round game of (the) Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs,” Volek said.

Most of the players from last year’s 6-4 playoff team return this season.

“This is a new team,” Volek said. “The progress of this program rests heavily on the shoulders of the seniors, and their ability to lead in the weight room, on the practice field, and in our community. If they continue to work hard, strive for success in all they do, we will have a chance to be pretty darn good.”

This Saturday, El Dorado will scrimmage Placer at the Cougars’ field at 9 a.m. Then the season kicks off Friday, Aug. 29 when El Dorado plays at South Tahoe in a non-conference game.

Offense — For a second consecutive season, El Dorado will run its no-huddle, multi-formation, high-tempo offense that cranked out 31.1 points per game in conference action last fall, and 38 for the season. Guiding the offense is quarterback Nick Bonniksen (6-foot-1, 150-pounds), a three-year starter who passed for 1,495 yards and 7 touchdowns last fall.

“There is no question the offense is directed by Nick,” said Volek of his signal-caller. “Not only is he a great athlete and quarterback, but is really maturing into a team leader.”

B0nniksen’s weapons will be wide receivers Colby Harrington and Zach Culp. Cody Miller returns at the slot position.

“He may be the most exciting player on the field,” said Volek of Miller.

In the backfield, Tyler Van Cleave and Carter Meyer will split time at fullback. Newcomer Tyler Clanin will carry the ball the bulk of times for the Cougars, who lost Logan Kirby to graduation.

“He has big shoes to fill, but I think he is up to the task,” said Volek of Clanin.

On the line, center Sam Osterhout (6’3, 240) and left tackle Austin Danker (6’4, 322), both seniors, return. A starting tight end last fall, Osterhout moves to center because “he is the strongest player on the team,” Volek notes.

Nick Hicks will start at right guard, and there’s “a fierce competition taking place for the starting (left) guard and right tackle positions,” Volek said.

Isaac Bugbee and Fernando Esparza are battling to handle the point-after, place-kicking and punting duties.

Defense — The Cougars will run “the physical attacking” 3-3 stack that Volek feels has stars all over.

“Coach Cox and his staff have built a very fierce squad,” Volek said.

On the line, Osterhout and Aric Helsvig return.

“Aric and Sam are two of the hardest workers in the weight room, rarely missing (morning) training days in four years,” said Volek of the two linemen. “Their dedication has put them is a great position to dominate this fall.”

El Dorado plans to run five linebackers behind the line, and, according to Volek, “each one can run.” The mixture of seniors and juniors are Christian Mardis, Brandon Ollar, Britton Stark, Carter Meyers, Harrington and Van Cleave.

In the secondary, senior Kyle Nalley returns. Culp, Ollar, Harrington, Clanin and Hern are expected to see action as defensive backs and free safety.

Conference — League realignment gives the Sierra Valley Conference a new look through spring 2018 — league realignment cycles run every four years.

Gone are Cosumnes Oaks (Capital Valley Conference, D-II); Vista del Lago (Capital Athletic League); and River City (Tri-County Conference — latter two leagues are D-III.)

Returning are Cordova, which was in the conference from 1996 to 2010. The Lancers played in the CAL for the last four years. Rosemont, which had a brief stint in the SVC from 2004 to 2006, was in the Metro Conference the last four years.

“I think the Sac-Joaquin Section finally evened the playing field for our league,” Volek said. “Cordova and Rosemont are well-coached programs that will add quality football to the Sierra Valley Conference.”

Liberty Ranch, Galt’s second high school, returns key players from last season, and should battle El Dorado for the conference title. Galt should be much improved, and Union Mine, under interim head coach Davy Johnson, will challenge, in particular when the Cougars and Diamondbacks meet for their intra-country and conference finale at El Dorado on Nov. 7.

“Union Mine has great kids,” said Volek of the D’backs. “Davy has retained a good staff.”

Volek, his coaches and players are now just counting the hours toward their scrimmage against Placer, and the Week 0 opener at South Tahoe.

“Should be an exciting season,” Volek said.

Contact Mike Bush at 530-344-5079 or [email protected] Follow @MBushMtDemo on Twitter.

Mike Bush

Mike Bush has been a Staff Writer at the Mountain Democrat since August 2011. Follow him on Twitter @MBushMtDemo
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