Injuries and off-field issues exposed the youth of Silverado’s football team last season.
And though the Skyhawks paid dearly for having to put inexperienced players in key spots, Silverado might be ready to reap benefits this year.
“On both sides of the ball we had a lot of underclassmen playing,” Silverado coach Andy Ostolaza said. “Hopefully it translates into more wins this year.”
The Skyhawks welcome back a quartet of seniors in the offensive backfield, and a renewed commitment to discipline should help the team improve from a 4-5 mark last season, including a 1-5 record in Southeast League games.
“We’ve all been together for a long time,” senior quarterback Trent Tipton said. “Hopefully, it helps a lot. We have a lot of returners who were juniors last year.
“As seniors this year, we all want to go out with a bang and be the best Silverado team ever.”
Tipton missed the bulk of last season with a separated throwing shoulder. He was cleared to throw again in January and said he’s “99.9 percent healthy.”
“It really hurt to watch the team and how it did,” he said. “I’m ready to turn it around and get back out there.”
The Skyhawks likely will utilize a three-back set on offense with classmates Terran Madu-Jules, Dariouse Gravely and Tyler Anderson behind Tipton.
Madu-Jules, Tipton’s cousin, led the team in rushing last season with 94 carries for 458 yards and three touchdowns. Gravely had 377 yards and three scores. Anderson added 145 yards and two TDs on a team that struggled to score late last season.
“Our main focus will be on the running game,” Ostolaza said. “It all hinges on Trent’s ability this year.”
After putting up 98 points in their first three games, the Skyhawks scored just 88 in the final six games.
“The biggest difference this year on offense is going to be our line,” said Ostolaza, whose team will start 6-foot-3-inch, 240-pound tight end Matt Hollen on an offensive line that averages more than 260 pounds per man. “We’ll be a lot better up front.”
Ostolaza likes the potential of his defense, despite losing high-profile players like linebacker Keenan Graham (UCLA) and defensive back Michael Wadsworth (Hawaii).
Senior middle linebacker Kyle Anderson and defensive backs Madu-Jules, Gravely and Jake Dlouhy all return.
“That’s the strong part of our defense coming back,” Ostolaza said.
As the Skyhawks learned last year, success isn’t just about play on the field.
Off-the-field issues led to the dismissal from the team of players and further sidetracked the season.
“Coach is disciplining us so that we get it in our heads not to turn out like last year’s team,” Tipton said. “It’s going to help us.”
Any advantage a team can get will be important in a league full of parity.
In the past four seasons, four different teams have been the Southeast’s No. 1 seed for the playoffs.
Basic, Green Valley and Del Sol each went 5-1 in league play last year. Silverado won the league in 2007.
“You can talk to almost any coach in our division, and no one will count out any of the teams,” Ostolaza said. “We have a lot of parity, and you’re going to see a lot of close games week in and week out.”