Coaches who talk about winning a league title a year after finishing fourth usually come off as a little TOO optimistic.
New Etiwanda coach Kevin Davis is in that position this year. But unlike most, the Eagles loom as a legitimate threat. Most agree the Eagles had more talent last year than any other team besides Upland. So yes they underachieved in finishing fourth with a 4-5-1 overall record.
“The biggest thing will be learning to close out games,” said Davis, who comes over after two years as offensive coordinator at Colony. “There were a lot of games here last year that could have gone either way.”
The Baseline League will be as tough as ever. Yes there is defending champion Upland, traditional challenger Rancho Cucamonga and Chino Hills which made quite the splash last year, its first in the league.
Damien and Los Osos, the bottom two finishers last year, also look much improved.
“We’re going in there with a goal of winning the league title,” Davis said. “We definitely have the talent. There are a lot of good teams in this league but we really believe in what we have.”
Leading a large group of returning players is senior defensive back Treyjohn Butler, who has more than a dozen offers from Division I schools. His presence is one reason Davis singles out his secondary as the Eagles most solid position.
Other key returners on defense are safeties Kamari Pleasant and Kendall Greer, middle linebacker Aidan Anderson, linebacker-end Kendell Jordan and defensive end Nate Neal, who will also play some tight end.
Quarterback Andrew Kanatsky heads the returners on offense and stand to be the big beneficiary in the arrival of Davis as head coach.
Joining Kanatsky as key returnees on offense are brothers Evan and Noah Gutierrez who will figure into the passing game, as well as senior center Kyle Bagnall and running back-wide receiver Kempson Pearce.
Among the significant newcomers are wide receiver Josh Keith, a speedster who has come over from Summit, as well as junior offensive lineman Chris Bradberry (6-6, 350 pounds), a transfer from Rancho Cucamonga.
Sophomore running back Lawrence Starks, who played on the freshman team, last year, is also expected to be a big contributor.
“The biggest factor for us will be how quickly the kids adapt to a new offense and new defense,” Davis said. “That’s one of those things you never know how long it is going to take.”
The curtain comes up on the new season Aug. 28 when Etiwanda challenges Norco.