Depleted but not defeated. That could be the mantra for this year’s Mountain View High football team.
The Spartans lack players – between 28 and 30 are expected to make varsity – but not determination, according to new head coach Shelley Smith.
“The kids have spunk and character, and we can compete if we have the right mindset,” he said. “The biggest thing is that they believe in what we’re trying to do.”
It’s yet to be seen if Mountain View’s aptitude can match its attitude. The Spartans, set to open the season at home against Burlingame 3:30 p.m. Friday, have few players with varsity experience. The roster includes 10 to 12 returnees, Smith estimated, and a handful of first-year players.
Quarterback Anthony Avery isn’t new to the team, but he is new to the position. The senior started at wide receiver the past two years. He now finds himself throwing passes instead of catching them after last year’s varsity and frosh-soph quarterbacks transferred (senior Will Fischer-Colbrie to St. Francis; sophomore Kyle Gounod to Los Altos).
“He’s never played quarterback before, but he’s working real hard,” said Smith, who intimated that Mountain View would take advantage of Avery’s athleticism.
Jake Butters is tabbed to start at fullback, linebacker and punter. The senior captain “is the ultimate team player,” Smith said, “and like a coach on the field.”
Two juniors are sharing carries at halfback – Austin Johnson and Isaiah Jackson, who start in the defensive backfield as well.
“Austin is one of our best all-around players and we’ll count on him a lot,” Smith said. “Isaiah is pretty quick, but not real big.”
Frank Kapp, last year’s starting tight end, “will play all over the place,” the coach said. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior is expected to see snaps at tight end, offensive tackle and defensive end.
Dylan Fluckinger, a 6-foot, 225-pound junior who transferred from Montana, is working at center, linebacker and defensive line. Other linemen who have impressed Smith include offensive guard Kris Reddy (6-1, 220 pounds) and offensive tackle/defensive end Matt McCarthy (6-1, 220), both juniors.
The coach also spoke highly of senior linebacker Brandon Swift and junior cornerback Jonathan Martinez, a first-year player.
With Avery moving under center, Mountain View has little experience at receiver. Senior Jorge Hernandez, also the backup quarterback, joins juniors Nico Mayoral and Peter Snelgrove as candidates to replace Avery as the go-to receiver.
Like several of their teammates, Hernandez and Snelgrove will pull double-duty, starting on defense as well (at safety and linebacker, respectively). Smith said 10 or 11 Spartans would play both ways.
The coach is aware of the toll that could take on the team, particularly when Mountain View gets into league. The Spartans play in the daunting SCVAL De Anza Division, in which they went 1-6 last year.
“We have to plan practices to handle the situation,” Smith said. “We have to be efficient, but not wear them out.”
Mountain View’s league slate includes a brutal stretch of games against perennial playoff teams.
“We play the big four all in a row,” Smith said, referring to Los Gatos, Wilcox, Palo Alto and Milpitas. “It’s like going through the meat grinder.”
The coach noticed something else about this year’s schedule.
“It seems like we’re playing in the homecoming game for a lot of our opponents,” Smith said. “But I don’t mind being the underdog in this thing – it’s a good position. The expectations on the team are high, but we’d rather lay low.”
2013 preseason football: Mountain View High School - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier