Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - August 22, 2014

Oaks at home for season opener

Menlo hopes to build on last year's 5-5 record

by Palo Alto Weekly Sports Staff

Wade Hawkins took over quarterbacking duties in the third week of last season. The fifth-year senior has hit the ground running as the clear starter this year.

Hawkins, who threw for 1,1442 yards and 14 touchdowns in helping the Menlo College football team finish 5-5 last year, will be behind center Saturday when the Oaks officially kick off the college season with a home game against Eastern Oregon at noon.

"I know as a quarterback that it takes a while to feel comfortable," Menlo's second-year coach Mark Grieb said. "Having the spring practices and all summer to work with our core group of receivers has been great. He looks confident and has been really accurate with his throws. He's as excited as anybody on the team about what we have this year as a group."

The Oaks hope to continue the momentum of winning their final two games last year into this season against the Mountaineers, who were 6-4 last year.

The teams are meeting for the third time, and the first in 10 years. The schools have split their first two meetings.

Hawkins will have an experienced group of running backs but a relatively inexperienced group of receivers at his disposal.

The Oaks were fairly balanced last year, rushing for 1,844 yards and passing for 1,689 yards. The offensive line, led by junior left tackle Bryce Howard, returns in its entirety, giving Hawkins a sense of comfort.

Even without its top rusher, Brandon Bell with 706 yards last year, Menlo should be set in the backfield with no fewer than five backs, including Hawkins, who rushed for more than 100 yards last year. Amjed Aboul-Hosn (23 carries, 136 yards) appears to be the starter, with sophomore Kenneth Markey figuring into the rotation.

The Oaks graduated their top two receivers from last season, and lost 105 of the 150 receptions. Daniel Jones, with 22 catches for 22 yards, is the top returning receiver.

"The energy has been great at camp." said Grieb, a Hall of Fame quarterback with the San Jose SaberCats of the Arena Football League. "We've had excellent leadership from the veteran players and we've had a lot of very talented new players come in and spark the energy of camp."

Senior Brandon Soohoo and sophomores Ray Burney and Dylan Power will have to join Jones as Hawkins' primary targets.

Defensively, the Oaks will be led by senior linebacker Cam Grad, senior defensive back Ray Roach and sophomore defensive back Gabe Deol. They will be joined by several players with experience, including Connor Martinez, Edwin Martinez, Kaiiron Richards, and LeeRoy Richardson.

Second year assistant coach Vince Freitas takes over as defensive coordinator.

"I think he's done a fantastic job as far as preparing our guys to play," Grieb said. "We have a lot of veteran guys that are playing great. Cam Grad looks nearly unblockable. And our cornerbacks are playing as well as I've seen them play."

There's also a 38-player recruiting class, a number of which look to make an immediate impact.

"If the hard work and effort that we've had in camp can carry over to the regular season, I think we can have a very successful year. I'm excited to see what these guys can do. If they're capable of doing what I think they are, we're going to have a pretty successful season. "

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