Football preview: San Dimas basking in CIF title

Bill Zernickow sounded practically as happy a few days ago as he did through the press box wall at Citrus College on Dec. 12 – only a little less muffled. Winning the first CIF championship in school history will do that to somebody, muchless if you defeat the No. 1 seed in a dramatic six-point, rain-soaked victory. “It’s something you can take to your grave,” Zernickow said.

Fortunately for San Dimas, the Saints can probably afford to be a little fat and happy considering they return 14 starters from the team that went 13-1 in 2009. The entire offensive and defensive lines are back as are playmakers Jordan Taylor and Dillon Corona.

But it’s not all gravy for San Dimas. One of those returning starters, junior quarterback Shawn Kennedy, is out until midseason with a shoulder injury suffered playing baseball. In Ryan Kohler and Tre Evans, the Saints graduated 2,374 rushing yards and 37 TDs.

Lucky for the Saints, senior transfer quarterback Cody Watts (6-feet, 190 pounds) is ready to step in for Kennedy, who threw for an effecient 1,225 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions last season. Kennedy averaged just over 12 yards per pass attempt thanks in large part to leading receiver Kevin Kolbeck, a 6-foot-4 senior expected to be a big-play option again this season, but Watts is a better runner , according to Zernickow.

Allen Brown, a 6-foot-2, 260-pound offensive tackle and Alec Zenner, a 5-10, 245-pound center are two of the stalwarts on the offensive line, but for whom they’ll be leading the way is still mysterious. The 5-foot-8, 165-pound Corona rushed for 846 yards and 7 TDs from his wing back position as a sophomore. Both he and the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Taylor averaged over 11 yards per carry in 2009. Taylor, an all-CIF selection last year, will undoubtedly surpass his 43 carries, 494 yards and 7 TDs of last year, but some of the work horses are still being sorted out.

“At fullback we’ve got some bruisers who can lead up the middle,” San Dimas coach Bill Zernickow said. “We take a lot of pride in our running back position because we like to talk about finishing the play.”

The Saints will rely on many of the same linemen who fuel the offense to provide a stout defensive front in front of the team’s largest question mark. Having graduated 221 tackles and 46.5 sacks from three starting linebacker positions, there is much to live up to in the middle of the defense. Some of those same bruiser types Zernickow referenced will play the linebacker positions too.

Baldwin Park appears a very real threat to San Dimas’ Valle Vista League supremacy, but beyond that this year could look a lot like last year for the Saints. Pomona could be a challenger but their best offensive player just transferred to Claremont. Covina seems to be a team on the rise but the Saints beat them 35-0 last year. Hacienda Heights Wilson comes to the league from a larger division but hasn’t had a recent history of success.

The team I’m most curious to see San Dimas play is Rancho Cucamonga, one of the biggest of the big boys (their offensive line averaged 305 pounds a member) in the Inland Valley. If San Dimas impresses in that Sept. 17 game, Zernickow may be looking for another press box wall to yell through.