The Gunn football team goes into league play Friday much improved, much stronger than last year. But the same could be said for its league.
In a number of recent years the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League El Camino Division has been pretty weak. But this year most of the teams in the division look to be on the upswing.
SH Prep hopes Isoa Moimoi returns soon. Photo by Keith Peters
Los Altos is 4-0 and coming off a win over SCVAL De Anza Division member Mountain View. Lynbrook and Cupertino are both 3-1. Fremont, Gunn's opponent Friday, is 2-1. Homestead is 2-2, like Gunn, but might have the most talented team in the division.
The Mustangs defeated Leland and Terra Nova, a pair of traditionally upper-echelon teams, the past two weeks. The only El Camino team with a non-league record under .500 is Monta Vista (1-3).
"In past years this league was full of doormats,'' Gunn coach Tony Kelly said. "That's definitely not the case this year. I think Cupertino and Homestead are the favorites.''
Fremont, under first-year head coach Nelson Gifford, formerly the team's offensive coordinator, has scored 124 points and averaged 400 yards of total offense over its first three games. The Firebirds are coming off a 35-33 loss to Santa Clara, an SCVAL De Anza Division squad this season.
"If we can protect the ball, limit turnovers, protect the quarterback and do the things we've done in practice we should be in the game,'' Kelly said.
In Gunn's 34-6 win over Andrew Hill, Etienne Daadi rushed for 104 yards, DJ Barnes had two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, a receiving TD and a fumble recovery, all in one half of action. McKinley Kalar had three tackles for loss and Marc Paletua had 10 tackles.
Palo Alto (1-3) hopes to get back on the winning track when it opens SCVAL De Anza Division play Friday against Santa Clara. The Vikings, after a season-opening win over Patterson, are coming off consecutive losses to San Benito, Mitty and Oak Grove.
Palo Alto coach Danny Sullivan said fundamentals were the focus at practice early this week.
"We understand how important that is,'' Sullivan said. "They were frustrated with their performance the last couple of games. Take away some minor mistakes and we'll go into league right there.''
Santa Clara won the El Camino title last year and moved up to the De Anza. Junior QB Chris Brown is in his second year as a starter. RB Erik Ketton has rushed for 429 yards through the first four games.
Milpitas (4-0), with all its size and athleticism, is the clear favorite for the De Anza title this year. Los Gatos is off to an uncharacteristic 1-3 start, but has historically given Milpitas trouble. Wilcox is nearly always a factor with its dynamic veer-option ground attack.
"A lot of teams can cause trouble for each other,'' Sullivan said. "There are a lot of questions up in the air, how teams respond to adversity. There are a lot of questions to be answered over the next six to seven weeks.''
Peninsula Athletic League teams Menlo-Atherton, Menlo School, Sacred Heart Prep and Woodside all have byes this week. SHP coach Pete Lavorato is hoping the week off helps running back Isoa Moimoi and LB/TE David Peterson, perhaps his two best players, get healthy. Moimoi, a 1,000-yard rusher as a junior, has yet to play this season.
The Gators, who played for state championships in two of the last three years, are off to a 0-4 start.
"We've never had a schedule like this,'' Lavorato said of playing San Benito, Riordan, Palma and McClymonds the first four weeks of the season.
"We definitely have some talent on this team,'' Lavorato said. "I think we can compete, and that's all I can ask for. We'll see what happens down the road. I just want to get into the playoffs so we can keep playing football.''