East County Sports

Returning Sultans poised for next step

NOTE: This is the second of a 13-part series that will take a look at each football team that East County Sports.com covers.  Each day, we will look at a different school, leading up to the final preview which will be published on the day that most of the teams in East County have their scrimmage leading into the 2015 season.  This edition we look at how the Santana Sultans will try and improve on their 1-3 Valley League record of 2014.

Photo courtesy of Tammy Ryan (TRyan Photography)

Photo courtesy of Tammy Ryan (TRyan Photography)

By Chris Davis
© East County Sports
SANTEE (8-10-15) — Last year was a step up from the 2013 season, but the coaching staff and players are looking for another step up this year and look to be contending for a playoff spot.

“I really like our team this year,” Head coach TIM ESTES said after a recent practice.  “I think barring injuries and other unforeseen issues, we could be pretty good this year.”

One of the reasons for the positive outlook is due to the returning presence under center of senior FRANKIE GUTIERREZ (see video above).  The three year starter has taken his bumps and bruises and now is looking to lead the Sultans to the Promised Land.  Last year in eight games, Gutierrez sat career highs in completions (109), yards (1,312) and touchdowns (8).  “He is looking really good here in camp,” Estes said.  Junior AIDAN RASMUSSON will be backing up the senior.

Those that tot the ball down the field on the ground will see junior BOBBY WALLACE taking most of the carries.  In his sophomore season Wallace carried the ball a team high of 69 times for 427 yards and two touchdowns.

Looking in the air, gone is TANNER WEISS (24-193-2) due to graduation.  However, ADAM CHILDRESS led the receiving corps last year with 30 catches for 390 yards and four touchdowns, and he is back for his senior campaign.  Also coming back for his senior season will be JAMES BRANSON (11-145-2).  “Both are doing very well in training camp,” the fourth year coach said.

The offensive line will be really good.  The group is led by three year starter JAKE KITTEN, who when he isn’t on the field going through his own reps is working with the JV linemen to show them the proper techniques.  Three other lineman starters are back from the 2014 squad.

Photo courtesy of Tammy Ryan (TRyan Photography)

Photo courtesy of Tammy Ryan (TRyan Photography)

On the defensive side of the ball, the Sultans will have four starters returning in the front seven.  So there will be some places that the Purple and Gold will be looking to bring up to speed quickly.

The back end of the defense will more than likely be a troublesome spot for the Sultans at the beginning of the season as the cupboard is bare.  When the consistency of the backfield was stated as going to be “hit and miss” Coach Estes said “yes.”

Special Teams and field position could be an issue as well.  “We lost our kicker from the last couple of years who was an outstanding kicker.  Kicked it in the end zone every time,” Estes proclaimed.  So taking JACOB HAMPSON’s spot will be a pair of Sultans.

When Estes looks at the Valley League, he sees a lot of question marks.  “For all of us, I haven’t heard too much about a lot of the teams.”  He states that West Hills has a very good quarterback and one of the fastest guys in the East County.  “Granite Hills has a couple of really good defensive guys coming back,” he continued.

Looking at the schedule as a whole, the veteran Sultan coach chose to go the all division route.  The season will kick off at home when San Diego Southwest who struggled last year to a 1-9 record in the Metro Pacific league, will come to Santee Community Stadium.

The month of September starts off with a road trip to Kearny Mesa to take on the Komets of Kearny.  Kearny had an imperfect season last year going winless over the 10 game slate.  A two game home stand will follow that trip.  Castle Park (Sept. 11th, 8-4 Metro Pacific champions in 2014) and Montgomery (Sept. 18th, 3-7 in 2014).  Following the home stand the Sultans will be road warriors as they will be away from their friendly confines for four of five games.  The first will be downtown when they play the San Diego Cavers on Sept. 25th in historic Balboa Stadium.  The Cavers are coming off a 1-10 season and are on their third coach in the last nine games.

October will see the Sultans will finish their tour of the Metro Pacific when they travel down to Imperial Beach to take on the Mariners of Mar Vista.  The Mariners went 6-4 last season.  Grossmont Valley League play will begin on the ninth with a trip to Monarch Stadium to take on Monte Vista.  Monte Vista was able to procure a playoff spot last season.  The next week, Santana travels across Mast Blvd. in Santee to West Hills. The annual Mayor’s Cup will have an eerie backdrop as it will be contested the night before Halloween.

Granite Hills will wrap the slate up with a game at Santana.

When reflecting on everything at Santana, Coach Estes said “This is a really good group of guys that we’ve had.  They have been together for quite a while now and we have had the best weight room attendance in recent memory.”

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