The Arroyo Grande High football team’s roster heading into 2012 is hardly recognizable from the star-studded team that suited it up for the Eagles a year ago.
Brent VanderVeen, Seth Jacobs and Garrett Weinreich have graduated and moved on from the PAC 7 to the Pac-12 at Oregon State, and Seth Jacobs, the team’s leading tackler and the Tribune’s co-County Player of the Year with Owens, is at Oklahoma State.
Between those four, and leading rushers Henry Adelman and Gabe DeLeon, Arroyo Grande loses more than 7,000 yards of offense and nearly 70 touchdowns off last season’s CIF-Southern Section Western Division championship team.
But in the eyes of head coach Tom Goossen and his players, last season may as well be ancient history.
“Last year was a great year, we had a great run at it. But that has nothing to do with this year at all,” Goossen said. “We’ll make our own history this year.”
That history making is going to start with senior quarterback Matt Willkomm, who had just five carries for 13 yards as a reserve running back last season. Willkomm hasn’t played quarterback since his sophomore year, when he started for the junior varsity team.
“I feel like I’ve improved from last time I’ve played quarterback,” Willkomm said. “I feel like I’ve gotten stronger over the year. I learned a lot from Brent. He showed me a lot.”
The Eagles hope he can pick things up quickly.
“It’s been a transition,” senior linebacker and team captain Chris Addy said. “He’s getting back in the swing of things. But he’s really stepped it up and he’s becoming more of a pocket passer. You can see a lot of improvement in him.”
Willkomm takes the reins of an offense that returns no skill position starters. In fact, the returning contributors from last year combined to score just four of Arroyo Grande’s 69 touchdowns.
But if there’s one thing that the seniors can hang their hats on this year, it’s the experience of being part of a championship team.
“I think we use it as confidence,” Addy said. “We are a team that everyone is looking to beat and we have to go out and prove them wrong. We aren’t just a one and done team.”
Addy, along with defensive back and fellow senior Tyler Auerbach, looks to anchor a defense that lost four of its top five tacklers from a year ago.
“Defense is important to us,” he said. “We gotta come out and stop them all the time, I just gotta show leadership to the new guys, help them find their role where they can contribute to the team.”
The Eagles hope a strong summer and team chemistry can make up for the lack of game experience on the field.
“I like this team,” Goossen said. “I like the work ethic. “These kids, from December on, have been in the weight room early, doing things at the school, giving up a vast majority of their summer to be down here for four hours every day. I am proud to be able to coach a team like this, and proud to be part of a school like this.”