Sports

Pinewood looks to contend for MTAL 8-man football title

 

There is a tweaking of the 8-man Mission Trail Athletic League this season with East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy moving in and Alma Heights Christian Academy of Pacifica moving out.

As for Pinewood and Woodside Priory, two MTAL staples nicknamed "Panthers," they'll remain with Pinewood, expected to be a contender.

Pinewood, which rolled up 72 points against Priory in the final game of last season, returns plenty of firepower to make a serious run. Jaeden Bailey, at 6-1, gives Pinewood experience at the important QB spot.

"Jaeden has become a leader of the group," Pinewood assistant coach Sam Stewart said. "He does a great job of reading defenses. He has the physical attributes needed for the position."

The best football player for Pinewood could be junior Jackson Haun, a fullback/middle linebacker. Haun, who captains the defense, led the team in tackles last season.

"Jackson is a phenomenal linebacker," Stewart said. "He's intelligent and reads offensive sets well."

Junior DE/TE Bo Fick returns, as does RB/LB Alex Dagman, a junior.

"Alex is a monster," Stewart said. "He's the most experienced football player we have."

Traditionally, Trinity Christian on Monterey and Stuart Hall of San Francisco are the teams to beat.

"Trinity has given us trouble in the past," Stewart said. "But, I like this group. We are quick and intelligent. We have a good shot at it."

"This is the best team we've had in this program in awhile," Haun said. "We have good chemistry and are growing as a family. We have nine or 10 solid juniors, all starters. It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the fight of the dog. We need to show teams we have the heart."

Pinewood is coached by Matt Irvin, in his fourth year. Pinewood hosts Crystal Springs Uplands-Hillsborough in a nonleague game on Sept. 2. Pinewood was 6-2 overall, 3-2 in the MTAL, a year ago.

Woodside Priory

Doug Sargent is in his 7th year as coach of Priory. Sargent hopes to improve on last year's record of 1-7, 1-4 in the MTAL.

Sargent added former Stanford hoop guard David Moseley, head varsity boys basketball coach at Priory, on his staff.

"David brings a lot of energy to practice," Sargent said. "The kids like him."

Priory is young this year, though junior quarterback Adrian LaValle is back to lead the offense.

"The coaches are putting in some new stuff," the 6-3 LaValle said. "If we execute the fundamentals - throwing and catching the ball - we'll have a good record. The junior class has been together for a couple of years."

LaValle worked on his arm strength and accuracy in the offseason.

"I can throw the ball a lot farther," LaValle said.

Also back are three talented juniors - running back Keyshawn Ashford, tight end/defensive end Erik Larson and two-way lineman Emerson Swan.

"Stuart Hall or Trinity are the teams to beat," Sargent said. "You can't forget about Pinewood. They are always good and scrappy."

Priory hosts CSU on Sept. 9 to begin the campaign. Priory is at rival Pinewood on Oct. 28 in a MTAL clash.

East Palo Alto Phoenix

East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy (EPAPA) shouldn't be overlooked, despite being a "newbie" in the MTAL.

"It took a lot of hard work to get in the league," Phoenix coach Stephen Ashford said. "It was tough finding games."

Senior Jorge Barron is a rugged, running quarterback who possesses a strong arm. Expect Barron to try to connect deep with speedy wide receiver Marcus Law, who also plays safety. Ashford calls Law, "the best wide receiver in the MTAL."

"Marcus has good hands and he can leap," said Ashford, father of Priory's Keyshawn Ashford. "He's getting a few college looks."

Stephen Ashford has a sturdy lineman in senior Tony Jiminez, who plays both ways. Senior Daniel Acala is a hard-nosed linebacker.

EPAPA lost two key players to graduation, Jose Barragan and Alex Sanchez, both bull-like runners.

The Phoenix have two nonleague games -- vs. CSU and Brandon-Ross, in its first year of 8-man football. EPAPA, 2-5 a year ago, has three home games, to be held at Ronald McNair Academy.

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