COLFAX– If there’s ever been a football team that has entered a season with a chip on its shoulder, you might want to put a check mark by the 2018 edition of Tony Martello’s Colfax Falcons.
Colfax, 9-4 a season ago, just missed winning its first California Interscholastic Federation Sac-Joaquin Section Championship since 2003 when the Falcons absorbed a painful lesson in losing a 30-27 Division V championship game to Bear River.
For Colfax it was its second straight trip to the section finals. In 2016, the Falcons fell to Capital Christian in the title game.
“It was a tough loss, and I hope our kids and coaches learned from it,” said Martello. “We didn’t play our best, but you have to tip your hat to Bear River. They did a good job and earned it.”
For Martello, the 2017 season was one of peaks and valleys. The Falcons started off the season with five straight wins before going toe-to-toe with Pioneer Valley League heavyweights Placer and Lincoln and dropping respective, 41-35, and 48-42 decisions. Colfax then drubbed Bear River, 31-14, lost to Center, 48-34, and defeated Foothill, 55-26, to qualify for the playoffs.
Once in the postseason, the No. 5 seed Falcons went on the road and handed previously undefeated Orestimba a 43-20 lashing before venturing to Sonora and outgunning the favored Wildcats in a epic 56-55 shootout.
The Falcons were then thwarted by Bear River, their second loss to the Bruins in a section title game in the last four seasons.
“Think about it,” said Martello, “Placer went to a state championship game, and Lincoln gets beat on a last second field goal by Del Oro. We were just a few plays away from having a special season.”
Now, the Falcons seemed poised to take things a step further. For starters, when Colfax opens the season at home Aug. 17 against Golden Sierra, the Falcons, with a win, could hand Martello his 200th career victory.
“That stuff is all nice, but it’s really about the kids who have played here and are playing here now,” said the Colfax coach. “Looking back we have been pretty fortunate.”
Martello’s biggest chore this season will be replacing 3,000-yard, 38-touchdown quarterback Ryland Heimann and 2,300 all-purpose yards from versatile halfback Mason Ahrens, who also accounted for 29 touchdowns.
“Those two were a big part of our offense no doubt,” said Martello about Heimann and Ahrens. “But we have some good players I thing that are ready to step up this season.”
Colfax also received another boost to its season when veteran coach Jason Stowers returned to the falcons’ staff. Stowers will be working with the offensive line.
Senior Alex Weir, who played mostly in the secondary last season, seems poised to take the Falcons’ quarterback reins. Two seasons ago, he guided Colfax’s JVs to a 9-1 record.
Weir should have some capable receivers to throw to as Jake Green (53 catches, 859 yards), Colton Reeves (38, 565) and Max Wolff (13, 248) all return. In two seasons, Green has 74 varsity catches for 1,245 yards and 12 touchdowns.
At tight end, Martello noted that both senior Christian Evenson and junior Peter O’Brien looked good over the summer.
Hoping to pick up Ahrens’ slack in the running game will be senior Troy Little (552 yards, 11 touchdowns), senior Jack Watts and juniors Daniel Bliss and John Beckman.
Offensively up front, the Falcons have some experience in returnees Mike O’Neil, John McCann, Jacob Lahaie and Tyler Austin. A junior to watch is 6-foot-4, 265-pound Wiley Drummond while Nick Thompson returns after missing his junior season.
Martello noted that the Falcons have to improve defensively to be successful this season. The Falcons surrendered 30 or more points in five games a year ago.
“We have to play better defense, there’s no question,” said the Colfax coach.
Martello hopes that a playing rotation that Lahaie, Evenson, Jacob Schwartz, Angelo Margherita, Parker Sullivan and Virginia transfer Hudson Stroup will be able to do the job. Stroup, who played varsity as a sophomore at a Div. I school, is 6-foot-6, 220 pounds.
The Falcons will have plenty of experience with senior returnees in Dylan Owens, Tucker Klopotek, McCann and Sullivan. Lahaie and Bliss will also lend a hand in this department.
Green and Reeves both saw defensive back action last season. Meanwhile, hoping to bounce back after suffering an injury early last season is senior Zach Fejes. Others to watch include juniors Beckman, Jason Holm and Tyler Gansberg.
2018 Colfax Football
Aug. 17 – vs. Golden Sierra
Aug. 24 – at Woodland
Aug. 31 – Bye
Sept. 7 – at Colusa
Sept. 14 – vs. Union Mine
Sept. 21 – at Wheatland
Sept. 28 – at Foothill
Oct. 5 – vs. Marysville
Oct. 12 – at Lindhurst
Oct. 19 – vs. Bear River
Oct. 26 – vs. Center