By Jeremy Balan
In many ways, Stuart Hall High School’s first football season was more about getting its feet wet than wins and losses, but year two is another story.
The Knights not only have the desire to make an impact in 2011, but may also have the players to do so.
What’s inspiring so much optimism from the Knights is a mix of solid senior leadership from players like Laboyd Ricard and Alex Asadorian, and an influx of new talent, including starting sophomore running back Ethan Hankins.
“This team has a lot of speed,” said Stuart Hall head coach Richard Robinson, who will take over coaching duties from athletic director John Bertken in 2011. “We have strength too, but our speed is well-rounded. Even our big guys can move and we have plenty of weapons we can use.”
Stuart Hall will move from the Coastal League to play an entirely independent 8-man schedule with a mix of Central Coast Section and North Coast Section teams that went a combined 31-25 last season.
Ricard, a speedy and dynamic all-around player, will again be a focal point as the Knights’ quarterback. Unlike last season, however, the Knights hope to limit the pressure on Ricard, who often had to carry a heavy load.
“He’s our quarterback, so we definitely want him to be the leader of the team, but we don’t want him running every play,” Robinson said. “He’s going to have a sense of what he can and can’t do, because this can’t be a one-man show. If Laboyd has a great game and we lose, that’s a waste in my book.”
Hankins, a stocky but quick runner, will help ease Ricard’s load, as will a group of young, athletic receivers.
“I’m going to spread it out a lot more. We have some really good receivers and a good running back. It’s not going to be all on me,” Ricard said. “We have more experience and we’re way more prepared. We’re looking really good coming into the season.”
Ricard and Hankins will likely have the ball in their hands often on offense, but the undisputed leader on the other side of the ball will be Asadorian, who will lead the defense at linebacker.
“The main thing we’re looking for out of Alex is to be that guy at linebacker, and really take control and be a leader out there in all aspects,” Robinson said. “You can tell he’s very motivated. He works hard. You never have to tell him to pick it up, but we have a lot of guys like that. That part of it is making it easier on me.”
A three-sport standout, Asadorian is looking to start what could be an outstanding senior year with a successful football campaign.
If all goes as planned, the Knights will enter the final week of their season in a showcase, not only for the school, but for 8-man football.
For the first time in history, an 8-man game will be played at historic Kezar Stadium, featuring Stuart Hall and Anderson Valley of Boonville on Oct. 29.
“I did that obviously for us, to get us out on the stage and to get people to come out and watch, but I also wanted to promote eight-man football,” Bertken said. “It’d be nice if some of these other schools could look at the eight-man game and said, ‘Hey that’s not a bad alternative.’ I know they’re thinking about it.”
For the players and coaches, Kezar presents the largest of stages in the City and they hope to live up to it.
“It’s a big stage and it’s going to be our coming-out party,” Robinson said. “A lot of eyes are going to be on us, so we definitely want to play well. When people look back on this season, that’s the game they’re going to remember.”
Week 0: Fri. 9/2 – @ Woodside Priory (Portola Valley), 4 p.m.
Week 1: Fri. 9/9 – @ Pinewood (Los Altos Hills), 4 p.m.
Week 2: Sat. 9/17 – @ Alma Heights (Pacifica), 1 p.m.
Week 3: Fri. 9/23 – @ Potter Valley, 7 p.m.
Week 4: Sat. 10/1 – vs. Point Arena @ Treasure Island, 3 p.m.
Week 5: Sat. 10/8 – vs. Crystal Springs Uplands (Hillsborough) @ Treasure Island, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Bye
Week 7: Sat. 10/22 – vs. Mendocino @ Treasure Island, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sat. 10/29 – vs. Anderson Valley (Boonville) @ Kezar Stadium, 7 p.m.