Quarterback play will make, break Eagle offense

By: Nick Pecoraro
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The 2017 season marks the beginning of a new era for Vista del Lago football.

After nearly a decade of sharing Prairie City Stadium on the campus of Folsom High school with the Bulldogs, the Eagles are set to debut its new and improved home field on its own campus off of Broadstone Parkway.

Coach Mike Struebing, entering his fifth season on the sidelines, and the rest of the Eagles are ready to defend their new nest.

“(Sharing a home stadium) is like having a roommate. Some things kind of bug you, and I’m sure they’re glad to have us out,” joked Struebing. “I’m glad (Folsom coach) Kris Richardson let us stay around for as long as we did.”

Last season the Eagles finished 8-4 with a 4-1 Capital Athletic League mark, finishing second to Christian Brothers, and fell to Oakdale in the second round of the Division III Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. It was the first time since joining the CAL that the Eagles did not claim the league title.

Vista graduated three All-Metro players last year in quarterback Brent Schaeffer (third in the entire section in passing yards and threw for 49 touchdowns), and receivers Brenden Hall and Blake Tuter (first and second, respectively, in TD catches in the CAL last year).

The Eagles are returning the CAL’s top rusher from 2016, Dominick Norris. As a junior, Norris rushed for 1,349 yards and 13 TDs and had six games of over 100 yards, including a beast-like 202 in an opening round postseason win against Vanden.

“There is no doubt we’re going to lean on (Norris),” said Struebing. “He’s an AP kid, super bright, strong, fast, everything you want in that position.”

Senior left tackle Andrew Cokley said that he and the rest of the offensive line are looking to help Norris have a huge season.

“Dominick refuses to go down, even with three or four guys on him,” said Cokley. who has drawn football interest from Cal Poly, San Diego State, Boise State, Army, Air Force and UC Davis. “One of our goals this season as offensive linemen is to help Dominick set a school rushing record. We want to punish the defensive front. We don’t want anyone hitting any of our guys in the backfield. It’s a blue-collar job.”

Norris will be chasing Colby Carrera’s school record of 1,649 rushing yards set in 2014.

“I’ve been trying to work on a lot more speed stuff, trying to get faster at varsity level,” said Norris. “It’s been an adjustment, but we have a pretty good O-line. It’s about trust. You have to trust the hole’s there and run behind them.”

Norris won’t be the only one the O-line protects. Struebing said there is a healthy competition for the starting QB spot between senior Nate Cromwell and junior Grant Patterson.

Their receiving corps is deep. Brenden Pugh is a returning starter who tallied 651 yards and seven TDs, including a breakout 107 yards with two scores in the playoff win over Vanden. Joining Pugh in the receiver roles will be senior Cade Bader and juniors Chad Wilson and Nate Hollingshaus, and sophomores Mitchell Northcutt and Ryan Tung.

Cromwell is excited about not only the prospect of playing with a really talented group of skill players, but also finally being able to play in front of a true home crowd.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “We’ve looked at those stands since we were little kids. Defending our new place is so important. We want to come into that first game and set the tone.”

Vista opens the season on Aug. 25 at Oak Ridge before opening up its new home field on Sept. 1 against Ponderosa.

Said Cokley: “It’s nice that we can build something that’s our own. We can develop our own brand and what we represent. We want to show who Vista is as a whole school.”