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Trojans have high hopes for 2012 season

By: Matt Long Telegraph Sports Editor
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After winning a playoff game last year for the first time since 2004, Oak Ridge High’s varsity football team hopes to take the next step and win a couple postseason games this season. While a few postseason wins is the long-term goal, for starters the Trojans want to start the season off with a win over Vista del Lago on Friday in Folsom. With steady, improved play each week, coach Eric Cavaliere feels the team will achieve its goals. “If we stay healthy and be consistent, I think we’ll be there in the postseason,” Cavaliere said. “There are times when we can be good and there are times when we can be not very good. I expect to compete for a league title and be there in the playoffs and cause some damage, but we’re going to take it one game at a time.” If there’s a word to describe the Trojans at this point of the season it’s inexperienced. Oak Ridge has only three returning starters on offense and two on defense. Two of those starters on offense are senior twin tackles Hekoti Chapman (6’4”, 300) and Tuita Chapman (6’4”, 290). Both are three-year starters and Oak Ridge’s success up front begins with them. The team’s only other returning starter on offense is senior quarterback Jason Samuels (6’4”, 185). Samuels and the Trojans were off to a good start a year ago before he separated his shoulder and missed the last five regular-season games and the playoff opener against Burbank. Cavaliere and the Trojans are hoping to have a healthy Samuels all season long. “Jason’s done a really good job and has worked hard,” Cavaliere said. “He’s very good between the ears. He knows the offense; he knows the reads and he’s accurate. Where he’s made big strides is with his body. He found the weight room and put on some weight. I bet he’s gained 15 pounds and he’s a lot stronger and more physical now. He’s any excellent player who will be playing at a college next year and we’re looking forward to having him for a whole season.” Junior Josh Wellman (5’9”, 180) and senior Blake Martin (6’0”, 195) will share the tailback position, while junior Tanner Hughes (6’1”, 220) and senior Jericho Hallare (5’9”, 175) will split time at fullback. Seniors Byron Spain (6’3”, 193) and Bradford Buenzli (6’0, 185) and junior Jacob Sipes (6’4”, 175) leads the receivers, while senior Ross Dwelley (6’5”, 200) and junior Trent Buenzli (6’0, 200) will hold down the tight end position. Joining the Chapman’s on the line are senior guards Kareem Ballal (6’1”, 255) and Jacob Proul (6’1”, 275). Junior Kyler Flynn (5’11”, 185) or senior Tyler Baker (5’11”, 225) will be the starter at center. “The success of our offense will come down to the big guys up front and whether they can take over a game,” Cavaliere said. Senior Zack Claiborne (6’1”, 195) is a returning starter on defense and the team’s only returning all-Delta League player. He will lead the defense as a starting outside linebacker. Proul is a returning starter on the defensive line and he and the Chapman brothers, Ballal and senior Eli English (6’3” 210) will anchor the defensive line. Junior Cory Gregersen (6’3”, 210) will play opposite of Claiborne, while the inside linebacker positions will be held down by senior Nick Gordon (6’1”, 175) and junior Thomas Mahlman (6’1”, 190). Senior Chad Augood (5’9”, 170) will start at one corner, while either Martin, Brad Buenzli or junior Victor Bunce (5’10”, 150) will hold down the other side. Sipes and junior Colton Giorgi (6’0”, 180) will start at safety with Hallare also seeing playing time. While the defensive unit is inexperienced, Cavaliere says the defense has a lot of upside. “With the graduation of Roman Andrus, Preston Dean and Jake Rosada and the entire secondary, we have huge question marks on defense,” Cavaliere said. “But I feel very good with what we have. The front seven, as a unit, is working better together than we were last year at this point. The senior class has really stepped up.” Coming off a successful season a year ago, the Trojans hope to pick up where they left off last season. “We made a lot of progress as a team and got over the hump with a playoff victory that we hadn’t had in a long time,” Cavaliere said. “We got knocked out by the team (Granite Bay) that went on to win it all and that was game was within a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.” The road to the postseason, however, won’t be an easy one. In the ever competitive Delta River League, the Trojans have their work cut out for themselves. “The teams at the bottom of our league would be playoff teams in any other league,” Cavaliere said. “Pleasant Grove is unbelievably talented and well coached. Folsom seems to have a 4,000-yard passer every year and their offensive line does a great job of protecting him. They’re well coached and very dangerous and explosive. Jesuit will have a shot of adrenaline with a new coach with a De La Salle pedigree and I’m sure they will be better than last year. Ponderosa is always a big game for us and we’re 0-3 versus Sheldon and that’s got to change for us to get over the hump. We want to play for a league championship and make the postseason and if we get there it’s a whole new season and everyone is 0-0.” Oak Ridge Trojan football schedule Fri. @ Vista del Lago Aug. 31 @ Rocklin Sept. 8 vs. Washington Sept. 14 vs. Grant Sept. 21 @ Vacaville Oct. 5 vs. Folsom Oct. 12 @ Sheldon Oct. 19 vs. Ponderosa Oct. 26 @ Pleasant Grove Nov. 2 vs. vs. Jesuit