No matter how much talent is on the Arroyo Grande High football roster or what the Eagles accomplished last year, they’re adamant they’re not going to overlook anyone on their schedule this season.
“We try not to think about last year,” senior guard Brandon Berguia said. “We’re building a new team right now. We can’t take anything for granted at all. We need to prove ourselves and just keep trying to improve every day.”
Thanks to a majority of key starters who’re back, Arroyo Grande is ranked No. 23 in the state by CalPreps.com and No. 45 by Cal-Hi Sports, the highest of any Central Coast team for now.
The Eagles have four seniors who are nationally ranked Division I recruits in quarterback Brent VanderVeen (who has committed to Oregon State), kicker Garrett Owens (Air Force), offensive tackle Garrett Weinreich and outside linebacker Seth Jacobs (each of whom has numerous scholarship offers from Pac-12 programs).
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A year ago, Arroyo Grande reached the CIF-Southern Section Western Division championship game, where it lost 35-10 to Serra in Gardena. It was the first time a San Luis Obispo County-based school had made it to a divisional final since 2001.
Prior to that end-of-the-year showdown, the Eagles stunned much of the region with a 52-19 semifinal playoff win over Chaminade Prep of West Hills, an affluent program that is again ranked above the Eagles this preseason.
“That was a great moment for us, to be able to play at such a high stage,” Jacobs said of the championship game. “But we pretty much knew we were starting from scratch (this year).
“We have a lot of returners,” Jacobs continued, “but then again, it’s a whole new team, because we have a lot of underclassmen coming up.”
Before their late-season surge a year ago, the Eagles (who finished 11-3 overall) lost two games in the PAC 7 stretch, 18-6 to Atascadero and 14-10 to Paso Robles.
“We know how competitive of an area we’re in,” coach Tom Goossen said. “All you have to do is just look at our playoffs and see how many PAC 7 teams were in it at the end (Paso Robles made it to the semifinals, while Atascadero played in the quarterfinals). So we know there’s a long, long road ahead. We’re aware of that and preparing for it.”
The last time Arroyo Grande captured a league title was 2004.
“We approach every day humbly,” Jacobs said. “We’ve been doing a good job at practice just focusing on getting the little things done and working on what we can improve.”
Added Owens: “We’re trying not to lose momentum. We’re trying to keep the same intensity we had at the end of the season and build off that.”
One of the Eagles’ more unheralded leaders figures to be senior Henry Adelman, a starting inside linebacker and a regular at fullback. Adelman made a team-best 112 tackles as a junior, 83 of which were solo.
The Eagles also have an experienced pair of senior defensive ends in James King (who had 64 tackles and six sacks a year ago) and Morgan Beaudoin (47 tackles).
On offense, another integral veteran is senior fullback Ciaran Costa, who rushed for 437 yards and five TDs on 67 carries and was also a forceful blocker. Costa, who doubles as a strongside linebacker, had 52 tackles in 2010.
Additionally, Gabe Deleon, a receiver and cornerback, is also back after making 40 tackles as a junior, as well as catching eight passes for 151 yards and a TD.
Arroyo Grande will open the season Friday at 7 p.m. at home against Lompoc, the defending Northwest Division champion.