Football Preview: The brotherhood of the Trojans

By From page A10 | August 23, 2017

Team — Oak Ridge Trojans

Head Coach — Eric Cavaliere

Assistant Coaches — Bill Bunce (wide receivers), Mark Watson (quarterbacks), Ron Martin (running backs), Ben Sweet (defensive backs), Chris Williams (offensive line), Darren Jonutz (linebackers), Kevin Placek (defensive line).

2016 Record — 10-3 overall and 5-1 in the league with a a perfect 7-0 home record and 2-3 for away games. The Trojans scored 455 points and gave up 297 during the season.

Sierra Foothill League — Del Oro Eagles, Folsom Bulldogs, Granite Bay Grizzlies, Nevada Union Miners, Oak Ridge Trojans, Rocklin Thunder, Woodcreek Timberwolves

Schedule — Aug. 25, 7:30 p.m. Vista del Lago; Sept. 1, 7:30 p.m. @ Vacaville; Sept. 8. 7 p.m. @ Burbank; Sept. 15, 7:30 p.m. Reed; Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m. @ Woodcreek; Oct. 6, 7:30 p.m. Rocklin; Oct. 13, 7:30 p.m. @ Granite Bay; Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m. Del Oro; Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m. @ Nevada Union; Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m. Folsom.

Last year the Trojans advanced to the semi-finals of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Football playoffs, losing to St. Mary’s 61-21. In 2016 they finished the year ranked 44 in the state and 404 in the country according to MaxPreps, and going into the 2017 campaign are ranked 22 in California — five spots behind league rival Folsom High School — and 168 in the nation as of Aug. 20.

Oak Ridge will build on experience at key positions but has some holes to fill.

“We’ve always done a really good job here of building teamwork and brotherhood,” said coach Eric Cavaliere. “We invest a lot of time in that. We have a team camp in T-shirts and shorts. It’s not a padded camp, but we do that so we can get the guys out of their element, invest in each other, know each other and develop that brotherhood.”

Offensive line — They have three returning starters led by Brian Catchings as the starting tackle, who is a potential Division I college football player. The other returning starters are senior Bailey Smith and junior guard Jacob Crannell.

“Brian has multiple D-I offers and is one of the best linemen we’ve ever had,” Cavaliere said. “Brian is 270 pounds and is quick and very agile. Bailey is a team captain, so he’s that level of player and person for us. I’m very excited to have Bailey as our center. “

Backs — The Trojans return their starting quarterback Marco Baldacchino, the reigning league offensive MVP from last year. The team has two players at running back that can carry the load — Davin Simmons, Troy’s all-league returning running back, and senior Devin Kemp.

“There are some big expectations for Marco and nobody expects more from Marco than Marco,” said Cavaliere. “For us, we need him to manage and execute our offense and that’s exactly what he will do. There’s that special ingredient that Marco has, which is his explosiveness and ability to score at any time. He’s just that kind of athlete.”

Receivers — Oak Ridge lost several members of its receiving corp through graduation, including Cameron Stone and Austin Eastman, but welcome back one of its top receivers in Justin Poerio.

Defensive line — On the defensive line returns starter Devin Kemp, who led the team in sacks last year and also plays running back. Gage King, Austin Jarrard and Hayden Nabers will be the other players coach Cavaliere will look to hold down the defensive line.

Defensive backs — It’s the group that the coaching staff that had the biggest concern for in the beginning of the year and the biggest losses from graduation. The Trojans have two athletic corners in sophomore Avant Jacobs and junior Sawyer Merrill. Merrill started a few games last year and brings varsity experience to the field. Then at the safety spot, Justin Poerio will shift over from his position at corner where he played last year.

Linebackers — The Trojans return a three-year starter and all-league player in Nate Otto, penned in as the center of the linebacking crew. He set a school record for tackles last year with a total of 141. On one side of Otto will be Ryan Brown, who has made great strides from last year. In that third linebacking spot is another battle for a starting position between Tyler Lackowski and Samuel Sanders. Both will see significant snaps depending on the defensive situation.

League/outlook — It’s a balanced league, according to coach Cavaliere. Along with the usual powerhouse teams, the league is stacked with other schools that have made strong improvements to their programs, making Sierra Foothill one of the toughest and most competitive leagues in the state.

“If you look at Folsom, they’ve probably been the most prolific offense, if not in California at least Northern California for the last 10 years,” Cavaliere said. “Then you look at Granite Bay and Del Oro. They have been top rushing producing teams in the area year after year. It’s shaping up to be another battle of the heavies this season.”

Mark Studyvin


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