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Trojans prepped for V VAL

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Petaluma’s Trojans, for the last several seasons one of the Goliaths in the Sonoma County League, will definitely be in the David category as they move into the new Vine Valley Athletic League this season.

For the last several seasons, Analy and Petaluma have dominated SCL football. Petaluma enters the VVAL as one of the smallest schools in the new league.

Petaluma head coach Rick Krist pointed out that Petaluma and Sonoma Valley are the only Division 3 schools in a league that features two Division 1 schools in Napa and Vintage.

That doesn’t mean Petaluma is going to back down when confronted by the big guys.

“We like the challenge,” said Krist. “If we stay healthy, I think we can compete. We’ll have to play great to win in some games, but I think we can compete.”

Petaluma hasn’t completely cut ties with such traditional rivals as Montgomery, Santa Rosa, Terra Linda and El Molino. And, in the new league is Sonoma Valley, like Petaluma, moving over from the SCL.

Krist’s optimism is based in the reality of solid senior leadership provided by a corps of experienced veterans.

One of those senior leaders will be quarterback Cole Powers, who is expected to direct the Trojans’ option offense full-time this season after splitting snaps with senior Justin Wolbert last year.

Powers completed 20 of 40 passes last season for 428 yards and seven touchdowns. Although noted for his passing accuracy, Powers also has the speed to carry his share of the rushing load in Petaluma’s option offense. He gained 71 yards in just eight carries last season, scoring two touchdowns.

Krist said the senior benefited from attending a camp at Cal Poly during the off season. “He gives us some versatility we haven’t had in the past,” said Krist.

Playing behind Powers is talented sophomore Jack Hartman.

“He is a good football player and a good runner,” said Krist. “He will get some snaps.”

All-league Garrett Freitas returns to lead the running backs. Last year, he gained 655 yards on 70 carries, averaging 9.4 yards per carry, and scoring six touchdowns.

He is also dangerous as a kick returner. Last season, he averaged 26 yards per kickoff return and ran two back for touchdowns.

Also expected to get carries are senior Dominic Butts and Connor Pedersen, one of the area’s best wrestlers.

Derrick Pomi will start at fullback, a vital position in Petaluma’s offense, charged with getting the tough yards between the tackles, and being the lead blocker for the other running backs.

Krist has been impressed with junior Luis Lazano. “He has lots of power,” the coach said of the 190-pounder. “He would run through a brick house.”

Another potential fullback is senior Colton Prieto, a standout on Petaluma’s North Bay League wrestling team.

All of the fullbacks are expected to play. “The more guys we can rotate in the better,” Krist said.

One of Petaluma’s best receivers, Dax Hogya, will not be available for several weeks as he recovers from mononucleosis. Meanwhile, the Trojans will count on a basically inexperienced group that includes senior Jacob Havard, junior Tony Moeckel, junior Ryan Sullivan and senior Mac Shattuck.

An intriguing newcomer is senior Robbie Isetta, an outstanding basketball player who hasn’t played football since his freshman year.

Nick Ayers returns at tight end to provide solid blocking and good receiving skills. The only problem is that, because of injuries to other linemen. He will start the season at tackle, opening the way for senior Garett Gehring to start at tight end.

Ayers, a 200-pounder, joins an offensive line that has both size and experience. “We could possibly go 240 pounds across the line,” Krist said.

The anchor is center Daniel Decarli, a 235-pound senior who was second-team all league last season.

Nick Siembieda, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound first team all-league senior, and Matt Saylers, a 240-pound junior who was good enough as a sophomore to earn second-team all-league honors, provide the core of the offensive front.

Also helping out on the offensive line will be seniors Chris Olvera, Mariano Jaramillo and Donavin Capps.

An intriguing possibility is 245-pound Logan Wagers. “He is the strongest kid in the program,” noted Krist. “He still has a lot of learning to do, but he is very strong.”

Wagers will most likely see the majority of his playing time on the defensive line, where he will join Saylers and Siembieda at tackles.

Ghering and Lucas Cheda are at defensive end along with new-to-football Kenny Alexander, a standout basketball player.

The heart of the Petaluma defense is linebackers Ayers and Pomi. They are being counted on to not only provide leadership, but also make the plays on the field.

Lazano will also be a key defender.

Outside linebackers will be Pedersen, Havard, Dante Ratto and Prieto.

In the secondary, Shattuck, Gianni Johnson, Hartman and the rapidly improving Sullivan will all get playing time at safety. “I feel comfortable with all of them,” said Krist.

All-Leaguer Freitas returns at cornerback.

He will be joined by some combination of Hogya, Moeckel, Reidun Christobal, Butts, Lucas Stevensen or John Candau.

Hogya and Christobal will handle the kicking and Powers and Ayers will be the punters.

Other players who will contribute are Ryan Ramos; Justin Plumtree, a junior running back; Joseph Alioto, a junior linebacker; Scott Crayne, a two-way lineman; Caden Shirk, a junior wide receiver; and Josh Dunbar, a junior defensive back.

Since Petaluma has a small turnout of sophomores, many of its freshmen will play on the junior varsity and Krist will schedule a few games for freshmen only.

Petaluma opens the season with a game against a familiar rival from its days in the North Bay League, playing at Montgomery on Friday night.

The Vikings were just 3-6 last season but made the North Coast Section playoffs.