Every team has a select few players who can tip the scales in their favor. The 2019 prep football season started last week, and a few have already made their presence felt.
Here are five players to watch who will be instrumental moving forward in the team’s success as they compete across the county:
Seth Robescotti, Atascadero, Sr., TE/DE
Atascadero has not been a pass-first team for many years, but if it were, Robescotti would be a candidate to lead the county in receiving.
At 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, he is not the fastest receiver, but he has reliable hands and is a big target who finds the open spaces in defenses.
Understandably, the senior has been a favorite target of quarterbacks Wes Cooper and Tyler Chapman. Robescotti had 32 catches of the 93 completions that Atascadero made last season. Many came on long-yardage situations to move the chains.
But his contributions on the other side of the ball might be more important to the Greyhounds this season. As a defensive lineman, Robescotti is big enough to stand up offensive linemen, while nimble enough to chase down runners in the backfield.
The Greyhounds are coming off a year in which they went 0-10. Successful or not, Robescotti will play a major role in Atascadero’s season.
Emilio Corona, SLO, Sr., QB/FS
Corona may be the most important player to his team on this list. Last season, the Tigers lost Corona in the first half of their league-opening game against Pioneer Valley. They made it close, but without him, they became much more predictable.
In 2018, he threw for nearly 1,900 yards and 18 touchdowns, with 11 interceptions, while rushing for 800 yards and 11 scores.
The Tigers rely on Corona to run RPOs (run-pass options) effectively, where he can hand the ball off, run himself or pass — all out of the same look.
In SLO’s opener Friday, behind Corona’s two touchdowns, the Tigers beat the Arroyo Grande for the first time since 2008.
Expect him to make the most of his final year in football and his talented cadre of receivers around him.
Marino D’alfonso, Templeton, Sr., WR/CB
Templeton hasn’t had a problem scoring points in bunches since hiring Tyler Lane as head coach three years ago. The issue was that the Eagles couldn’t stop teams from getting into the end zone.
This year, Lane moves to offensive coordinator, while Don Crow takes over as head coach. Crow will oversee the defense, his specialty.
Crow previously was the Eagles’ head coach from 2004 to 2008, when he compiled a record of 39-16.
D’alfonso has proven already that he can be a boon for both coaches this season. The senior caught six passes for 106 yards with two touchdowns in Templeton’s 32-6 season-opening victory.
On defense, he had an interception and four total tackles.
D’alfonso had 51 catches for 824 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. The three-sport athlete seems poised to build upon those numbers this year.
Keyshawn Pu’a, Nipomo, Jr., RB/LB
Since head coach Tony Dodge took over at Nipomo, the running game and defense have been the Titans calling cards year after year.
Players who have taken on the role Pu’a finds himself in this year, such as Isaac Bausley, have been the heart and soul of the team.
Pu’a, a third-year starter, has been an impact player since a freshman. At 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, he is a load on either side of the ball.
This season, he will see the bulk of the carries at running back and will anchor the defense at middle linebacker.
Brian Kowall, Mission Prep, Sr., RB/CB
They wear the same number, but as the cousin of Pat Laird, Kowall has carved out his own name at Mission Prep. Kowall rushed for over 2,000 yards and had 26 touchdowns in the Royals’ undefeated 8-man Central Section championship run last season.
This year, Mission Prep made the return to 11-man, and every player on the roster is crucial to its success. With about 20 players, Mission Prep outnumbers 8-man teams, but lacks the depth of many 11-man teams.
Kowall was on crutches and in a walking boot during Mission Prep’s opener against Woodlake. It isn’t clear when he will return. But when he does, he will be sure to have an immediate impact.
Friday’s games involving SLO and northern Santa Barbara county teams
7 p.m. unless otherwise noted
Paso Robles at Frontier
Centennial at Arroyo Grande
Lindsay at Morro Bay
Buena at Atascadero, 7:30 p.m.
Cabrillo at Nipomo, 7:30 p.m.
Righetti at Lompoc
St. Joseph at Garces Memorial
San Marcos at Santa Maria