Eagles aim for best season in brief history

Redesigned Sierra Valley Conference offers level playing field for Vista
By: Matt Long
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With the return of quarterback Anthony Mull and running back Trey Hairabedian, Vista del Lago is set for their best football season in their short history. Add to that fact that the Eagles have moved from playing bigger schools in a Division II league to playing smaller schools, which closer match their size, and the Eagles have high expectations. Anthony Mull, a second-team all-Sierra Valley Conference player last year, is beginning his third season as quarterback of the Eagles and has come a long way after 20 varsity football games. Hairabedian, a first-team all-leaguer last year, has been the Eagles’ go-to guy, carrying the ball 442 times over the last two seasons and is back again for one more go-round. “It’s nice to have those two guys back, especially at those positions,” Vista coach Chris Jones said. “Both of those guys have a lot of experience. Trey’s been our workhorse and we’ve ridden him the last two years. Hopefully, we’re more balanced this year and are able to give Trey some help on the perimeter by throwing the ball.” Jones has reason to be optimistic about the team’s passing attack. Mull has taken great strides from last year, shown during the team’s summer workouts where Vista won two passing tournaments. On top of that, Mull has quality receivers in Logan Smith, Caleb Gottschalk, Connor Valencia and Al McElroy to throw the ball to. “We’ve faced a lot of eight-man fronts the last two years because we haven’t been consistent in throwing the ball,” Jones said. “I think we’ll be able to give Trey some help. We’ve got good receivers and the kids understand the scheme.” Smith made the second all-SVC team a year ago and Jones feels it could be a breakout season for him. “Logan had a great offseason and he’s going to be a good playmaker for us,” Jones said. “Logan and Caleb will put up numbers catching the ball and that will help Trey. That balance will be critical for us.” The offensive line will be without the huge bodies of Vista’s two scholarship players last year, tackle Doug Drakeley and tight end Marques White, but still will be solid. Center Mason Reinert, guards Emery Vermilyea and Anthony Peoples and tackles Jacob Gudino and Sean Jennings, along with McElroy, will be counted on to open up lanes for Hairabedian and protect for Mull. Defensively, the Eagles return Gottschalk, who was a first-team all-league player a year ago. He teams with Tyler Weber at safety to form what should be a formidable duo. Andrew Willetts and Seth Sobottka start at cornerback and Smith will also see considerable time in the secondary. Henry Kozlowski, Ross Fiegener and Daniel Campbell will start at linebacker, while Reinert, McElroy, Vermilyea and Andrew Whitney will start on the defensive line. “I like the middle of our defense,” Jones said. “Emery brings experience and is active up front and behind him is Ross, who started for us and had a solid season last year. With Caleb and Tyler at safety, we’ve got a lot of experience up the middle and I feel like we’ve got guys playing around them that complement them well.” With the league realignment, the Eagles stay in the Sierra Valley Conference while Oak Ridge, Ponderosa and Christian Brothers move on. Vista still plays Union Mine, Galt and Liberty Ranch, but also faces Cosumnes Oaks, El Dorado and River City. Jones said the league now better suits his team and he hopes the Eagles can be one of the top teams in the league. “This allows us the opportunity to grow and be successful,” Jones said. “Playing schools like Oak Ridge and Ponderosa, schools that have nearly 1,000 more kids than us, that adds up and wears on you. I’d like to think we’re going to be one of the top teams in the league. Galt, Union Mine and Cosumnes Oaks will likely be the toughest competition. If we stay healthy we should be able to compete with anyone in the league.”