Wednesday, November 25, 2015 • 02:26

New quarterback, linemen join veteran playmakers in 2013 VCHS football team's quest to get back to title game

August 07, 2013
Winning has been the standard for the Valley Center High School varsity football program since the school opened over a decade ago, and through each season, the Jaguars have consistently raised the bar for future teams.

So when the 2012 Jaguars lost to St. Augustine in the semifinals, marking the first season since 2006 in which the team failed to advance to the CIF Division IV title game, an achievement that would seem a huge success for most programs was instead seen as an off year for a team accustomed to accumulating championship banners.

It's understandable, then, to hear the excitement in head coach Rob Gilster's voice when he talks about hitting the field again this fall.

Despite losing more than 20 seniors to graduation, including the county's most prolific wide receiver, a top-level quarterback, and four of the five starting offensive linemen, Coach Gilster says that the team's focus this season is no different than that of the previous Jaguar teams.

"Our big thing here is just to win," he says. "Not just scoring more points than the other team, but winning by doing things the right way. Whether you're on the field, in the weight room, in class or out in the community, we want our players to do everything they do the right way. For us, that means that we're going to prepare well, work hard, learn the concepts we need to learn, and we'll be competitive. That's been the recipe for success for the last ten-plus years."

The Jags have a handful of exciting playmakers returning to the offense this season, including dangerous receiver Anthony Ricks and versatile tight end Brad Dozier. The team also has starting center Austin Paredes back to anchor the front line.

Stepping in to lead the offense will be junior quarterback Daniel DeLeon, who has been the starting JV quarterback for the last two seasons. Coach Gilster expressed his confidence in DeLeon's knowledge of the Valley Center offensive system, especially under the watchful eye of Coach Ron Ventimigilia. At six-foot-four and upwards of 190 pounds, DeLeon brings both knowledge and skill to the position.

"It feels almost like we have a returner at quarterback," Coach Gilster says. "Coach Ventimiglia coached him the last two years, so he knows the offense, and he's very intelligent. He's also a big, healthy kid, so we're excited about what he brings to the team."

DeLeon's targets will include Ricks, a player Coach Gilster calls a "playmaker, a guy who makes people miss, a guy we've got to get the ball to," along with Dozier, a player who can line up anywhere on offense and be a threat. The receiving corps also includes Jared Gilster in the slot, Josh Lucas and Luke Konyn, giving the Jaguars good depth at the position.

On the offensive line, Paredes is the only returning starter, but Coach Gilster says that returning defensive lineman Garrett Castner is expected to see significant action on the offensive side of the line as well. Joining him will be Erik Rangel, Kyle Morgan and Dylan Test, making up a young line that the coaching staff hopes to see making improvements throughout the season.

"If you don't have an offensive line, you can't control the ball, and your defense spends too much time on the field," Coach Gilster says. "We have enough guys, there's just not a lot of experience there. They have a lot of potential, but we'll have to develop as the season goes on."

On defense, the Jaguars hope to make the most of their experience while taking their cues from a new coach.

Longtime defensive coordinator Randy Cowell is stepping away from leading the defense to open his schedule to allow for more time with his son, who is playing football at another high school. Coach Cowell will remain with the Jaguars as an offensive line coach.

Meanwhile, assistant coach Jon Goodman will step into the defensive coordinator position after coaching the defense at the JV level and working with the varsity secondary over the past six seasons.

"He's going to put his personality on the defense," Coach Gilster says of Coach Goodman. "The scheme will be the same, but just like an offense can be run or pass, the defense can be more blitz-oriented or more standard. The main thing is that we want the defense to know the basics."

The strength of the defense seems to be at linebacker, where the list of impact players continues to grow.

Along with returning linebackers Dozier, August Fleugge, Dylan Chaffee and Derikie Blaze-Logan, the Jaguars will also add Jared Gilster to the mix.

"We have six to eight guys who can play there," Coach Gilster says. "We only have two returning starters, but we feel comfortable with the guys we have there. We're confident that we'll be solid at linebacker."

One of the returning linebackers, Matt Barnes, is expected to make an impact on the defensive line as an outside rusher. Coach Gilster added that the depth at linebacker will allow the defense to take advantage of its speed on the outside in getting to the quarterback.

And in the secondary, along with Ricks, the Jags will have Jacob Cunningham at cornerback and sophomore Jake Newman at safety.

"I'm excited about what we have going on this year," Coach Gilster says. "We're just going to focus on doing things right. Football season is always a neat time of year, and we're excited to get back out there."

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