If there’s one thing that Serrano has had during the last four years, where it has won three Mojave River League titles and has gotten to at least the CIF semifinals the last three seasons, it’s been a workhorse running back. Be it Cory Diederich or Dionza Bradford or, in last year’s case, Taylor Ruize, the Diamondbacks have been able to run the ball.
This year, the Diamondbacks have three tailbacks that they have faith in. Senior Darius Hogan (5-10, 170) is more of a scatback, while fellow senior Zak Tuman (5-9, 190) adds a physical element. Junior Michael Hawkins (6-0, 190) may be the best of the three eventually, as he has the size-speed blend that Bradford possessed. Add that to a solid fullback in senior Nick Heftman (5-10, 195) and an experienced, physical offensive line and confidence is high in Phelan for the upcoming season.
“We have three running backs that I feel can do the job,” Maholchic said. “We can mix and match them and play them more on defense because I have faith in all of them. It’s a good thing to have.”
Three of Serrano’s five returning offensive starters are senior o-linemen, with Mark Knapp (6-4, 300) receiving Division I interest and Anthony Mackesy (6-2, 230) in his third year as a starter. Tracy Costello (5-10, 220) also returns.
The passing game is more of a question mark, as junior Daniel Epperson (6-0, 180) takes over for Joey Peterson while classmate Cade Tropila (6-3, 170) is the main returning receiver. But Epperson could give the Diamondbacks options, as he’s more of a running threat than Serrano typically has at the position.
“We haven’t had a guy like Daniel in a long time,” Maholchic said. “I think having a quarterback with that type of ability opens up some things, both for our running backs and our receivers.”
Typically Serrano has its starters play both offense and defense, with this year being no different. Costello will anchor the defensive line at nose tackle, with Knapp and Mackesy flanking him. Heftman, Tuman and Hawkins will see time at linebacker while Hogan and Tropila will play in the secondary. The Diamondbacks also have one of the top kickers in the area in senior Leo Farias (5-8, 190).
Serrano schedule (Home games in CAPS, * indicates league game)
Sept. 2: vs. Paraclete (Antelope Valley College)
Sept. 9: vs. Silverado (Victor Valley HS)
Sept. 16: UPLAND
Sept. 23: PALMDALE HIGHLAND
Sept. 30: at Claremont
Oct. 14: APPLE VALLEY*
Oct. 21: at Sultana*
Oct. 28: OAK HILLS*
Nov. 4: BARSTOW
Nov. 10: at Hesperia*