Tigers tackle new season

Team looks to improve on last year’s 8-2 mark
By: Tom Kellar Press-Tribune Sports Editor
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No one could blame Roseville High School head football coach Larry Cunha for feeling like the football gods had turned against his Tigers squad during the 2007-08 season. Officially, the Tigers finished the year with a stellar 8-2 record, but they were eliminated from playoff contention even before the last game of the season. Take away an eight-day stretch in mid-October – when the team lost by a field goal to Sierra Foothill League rival Del Oro and then a week later beaten handily by eventual section champ Granite Bay - and it might have been the Tigers who were celebrating a Div. II section crown. “What happened last season will be motivation for us this year,” Cunha said. “We played great football last year, went 8-2 and didn’t get into the playoffs, so obviously, it left a sour taste. Out goal this year will be to put the focus on the league games. We stumbled in league play and that cost us.” Last season, the SFL had five of its six teams finish at .500 or better. Cunha isn’t expecting this year’s schedule to get any easier. “The SFL is the toughest league in the section and maybe the state,” Cunha said. “Granite Bay and Del Oro both made the finals last year, Rocklin and Roseville both went 8-2, Oakmont was 5-5, Woodcreek struggled a little bit, but top to bottom it’s a war every Friday night. It’s tough for kids to get up emotionally for five consecutive weeks.” Looking at his program this season, Cunha is excited by a defense that has grown in experience and strength. “I think defensively we’re going to be better, our front seven or eight are very strong physically,” Cunha said. “We’re returning three first-team All-League players.” Anthony Clark and Johnny Rapp return on the defensive line and Christian Christi and Aaron Wagoner return as starting linebackers. On offense, quarterback Michael Moreno will attempt to fill the shoes left by Mike Elliott. Elliott was arguably the quickest player in the SFL, but Moreno would appear to have the stronger, more accurate arm. “As tough as it is to say, I think Mike Moreno will be a step up at the quarterback spot for us,” Cunha said. “Elliott was tremendous for us last year, but Moreno has the ability to throw the ball down the field and run just as well as Mike. Our offensive line is much improved, we need some depth at wide receiver, and last year Wagoner was an All-League running back.” The Tigers open their season Sept. 12, with a non-league road game against Rio Linda. Last year, Roseville manhandled their first opponent 34-6, and Cunha is hoping for another successful start to this year’s campaign. “On paper, I think we will be comparable to where we were last year,” Cunha said. “We’ll just have to see how it falls.”