Returning starters to lead Vista offense

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Six returning starters on offense, including quarterback Grant Patterson, has Vista excited about the offense this season.

Patterson is a speedy senior quarterback who learned the ropes a season ago when he attempted all 303 passes the Eagles threw as a team. A starter from the first game, Patterson completed 59 percent of his passes for 22 touchdowns against eight interceptions. He learned a lot last season, and should be even more effective this year.

“Grant is head and shoulders above where I thought he’d be,” Vista coach Mike Struebing said. “He worked extremely hard and had a great offseason. He’s so much more comfortable this year. Last year, we pushed him to grow and we saw the growth we were looking for and we’re excited for him this season. He’s comfortable with all of our packages and what we want to do. Because of that comfort, he’s picking things up quicker this season.”

Patterson should be more effective and efficient in running the offense, not just because of his experience a year ago, but also because of the chemistry he’s built with his top-two receivers from a year ago: Chad Wilson and Nate Hollingshaus. The two combined for 97 catches and 13 touchdowns and look to put up bigger numbers this season.

“Chad has busted his butt and worked hard,” Struebing said. “He doesn’t say much, but he takes a lot of pride in doing things the right way and it shows in his play. Him and Grant together, they have a good partnership and got together regularly to throw in the offseason.

“Nate is a perfectionist and wants to be perfect in everything. He’s our most technical guy and will run routes over and over again to get it perfect. I’m happy with his growth the last three years. It’s impressive the amount of work he’s put in.”

Mitch Northcutt caught 13 passes a year ago, but that number should be way higher this season.

“Mitch is as athletic as any guy on our roster,” Struebing said. “He’s extremely fast, and at 6-3 is very long. He moves well and will be a heck of a weapon.”

Perhaps the biggest loss to the offense was the graduation of leading rusher Dominick Norris, who gained 2,227 yards on 347 carries and scored 25 touchdowns. Slated to replace Norris was junior Jaxson Hansen, but a broken leg in the team’s scrimmage against Oak Ridge ended his season. Ethan Menezes and Garet Homer will now carry the ball for the Eagles.

Another key loss is tackle Andrew Cokley, but the Eagles do return two starters in center Collin Homer (5-10, 190) and tackle Josh Morris (6-2, 215). Homer and Morris, both juniors, will lead the offensive line.

“Both Collin and Josh were sophomore starters last year, so it’s nice to have them back anchoring the offensive line,” Struebing said. “We’re young, but we’re not necessarily inexperienced. We had a lot of sophomores up last year. Having Collin and Josh back up front will help us a ton, because they will give the new guys up front a good understanding of what’s going on.”

Struebing was reluctant to mention the other starters, as he said there are several players battling for positions. He is looking forward to watching the offense grow and play with the potential that it has.

“The keys to the offense this season will be balance,” Struebing said. “Everyone is going to have to contribute. It’s not going to be like last year when we handed the ball off to Dom and had him carry us. It’s going to take everyone contributing for us to have success. That will make it more fun too, as everyone will be involved.”