Terra Nova High may be losing its starting quarterback and running back from last season, but coach Bill Gray insists the team is right where it wants to be.
In the recent culture of success, the Tigers have become familiar with change.
But that will be the topic on everyone’s mind this season as the Terra Nova Tigers hit another week of practice, looking to win an unprecedented fifth consecutive league title with a whole group of new faces.
“We’re going to work to win a fifth in a row,” coach Bill Gray said. “When you go through a winning environment like that over a long period of time, kids graduate and kids come in and take their place. So the situation that we’re in right now is not unusual for us.”
But that situation has painted a target on the Tigers’ back. Last season, Terra Nova won a school record fourth consecutive league title, becoming the only team other than Aragon to win four straight titles since Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division’s inception.
Winning a fifth won’t be easy. Terra Nova is losing a big chunk of its offensive production for a season ago. They lose starting quarterback K'Ren Spain, who completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,336 and 17 scores a year ago to with another 971 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.
The Tigers also lose running back Tanner Piccolotti, who led the team with 1263 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.
However, the Tigers will have players ready to fill those roles, come the start of the season, Gray said
“Our lower level coaches, our sophomore and freshman coaches, do a great job,” Gray said. “And our varsity staff does a good job of getting kids ready to play varsity football.”
Those losses aside, there are a number of starters returning on both sides of the ball. Gray said the Tigers boast seven returners on offense, and five on defense. He said that’s more returners than usual on the offensive side of the ball and about the usual on the defensive side of the ball.
Junior quarterback Anthony Gordon may be one of the biggest question marks, coming in to replace Spain. But Gray has liked what he’s seen in the young arm this offseason, he said.
“He’s had a very good summer,” Gray said. “If he can play as well in shoulder pads and helmet as he does in T-shirts and shorts, we’ll be fine.”
He’ll be throwing to what should be the strongest set of returners on the field, the receiving corps — led by senior Jaylen Jones, who caught a team-high 70 catches for 820 yards in 2012.
But that crops, Gordon and the rest of the team will have their hands full come the start of the season. The Tigers will yet again play a challenging non-league schedule, opening the season with two road games, against Bishop O’Dowd and St. Ignatius.
They’ll then host Pioneer and travel down the coast to play Salinas before hosting Sequoia for the first league matchup of the season.
“If you can play teams that are that good that well and beat them, then you have a heck of a team,” Gray said. “If you can compete against them, then that bodes well for when you get into the league season.”
And for the sake of the their league winning streak, the Tigers are hoping that’s the case yet again this season.
Here's the 2013 schedule for the varsity team:9/6FRI - 7:00 Terra Nova High School @ Bishop O'Dowd
9/14SAT - 1:00 Terra Nova High School @ Saint Ignatius
9/20FRI - 7:00 Pioneer @ Terra Nova High School
9/27FRI - 7:00 Terra Nova High School @ Salinas
10/11FRI - 7:00 Sequoia @ Terra Nova High School (Homecoming)
10/18FRI - 7:00 South San Francisco @ Terra Nova High School
10/25FRI - 3:15 Terra Nova High School @ Menlo School
11/1FRI - 7:00 Menlo Atherton @ Terra Nova High School (Band Night)
11/8FRI - 2:45 Terra Nova High School @ Sacred Heart Prep
11/15FRI - 7:00 Half Moon Bay @ Terra Nova High School (Senior Night & Skull Game)
For more information, visit the Terra Nova High School Tiger Athletics page here.