South Tahoe opens football season tonight at home |

South Tahoe opens football season tonight at home

South Tahoe linemen Bryan Aguilar (left) and Hilario Nunez work on technique Wednesday at practice.
Bill Rozak / Tahoe Daily Tribune

It’s still summer, but the fall season is about to begin.

The South Tahoe Vikings football team opens its season tonight with a home clash against one of California’s best.

The Vikings will host the Bear River Bruins, of Grass Valley, for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. Bear River, a similar size school to South Tahoe, was a divisional champ in northern California and reached the state semifinals last year.

South Tahoe features many new faces this season. The team has 12 seniors, four juniors, a whopping 17 sophomores and one freshman.

“The sophomores, it’s a real strong class,” said fourth-year head coach Louis Franklin Wednesday at practice. “We love our seniors and juniors but there just aren’t a lot of them. There were a handful of sophomores that would be up here anyway. But I still wish we had more kiddos.”

Many varsity first-timers will play big roles, including the team’s starting quarterback Jake Tarwater.

“I’m really excited. It’ll be my first varsity game,” Tarwater said. “And I’m kinda nervous.”

The strong-armed 6-foot-3, 200-pound sophomore has Vikings coaches excited to witness and be a part of his development.

Tarwater got a brief look last year during practice at the varsity level when starter Peyton Galli was injured. He also made the Vikings playoff roster.

He officially took over the offense this summer and confidently fired accurate bullets all over the field during pad-less 7-on-7 games against some of the biggest schools in Northern California. Tarwater says there is a big difference in his game compared to his freshman season, where he played on junior varsity.

“I feel like I’ve been getting through my reads quicker and making better decisions,” he said.

With his size and ability and love for the game, Franklin said Tarwater could be one of the best quarterbacks he’s ever coached.

“He’s ready. He breathes football and he’s a coach’s dream,” Franklin said. “He’s gonna be a special one. For this Friday, we just wanna see him protect the ball and develop good habits. We know there are gonna be some breakdowns but he’s a kid that doesn’t get too high or too low. Our job as coaches is to put him in the best positions to succeed.”

Tarwater said his upperclass teammates have been welcoming and supportive while he develops his leadership style.

“It’s pretty nice having him back there,” said senior center Paolo Torres. “He’s definitely got a voice on this team.”

Torres, a 6-foot-4, 300-pounder, and 5-foot-10, 250-pound junior Hilario Nunez are leaders of the offensive wall tasked with protecting Tarwater and smashing holes in opposing defenses.

Senior Kody Griffis, a co-team captain last year, is the teams returning leading receiver (13 rec, 140 yds, TD) and was the only non-senior to make a reception. He also starts at safety on defense.

James Knudsen is the team’s leading returning rusher with eight carries for 67 yards and a touchdown.

Franklin is excited to watch him play every week.

“One kid I’m going to be excited to see on Friday nights is James Knudsen,” Franklin said. “He was on the team last year and his role grew bigger as the year went on. He’s gonna be playing both ways for us. Also Colby Glaze, he didn’t play much last year but has worked real hard and is going to have a prominent role.”

Those names could develop into some kind of three-headed yardage-eating, touchdown-scoring monster that could compare to the star trio of McCallan Castles, Matt Cain and Jakob Costley — the trio the Vikings relied on last season. All three are playing football in college, including Castles, who is vying for a starting role with the division I California Golden Bears of the Pac-12.

Last year’s Triple C threat combined to gain 3,118 yards, or 78 percent of the team’s all-purpose yards from scrimmage (4,026).

“We’re gonna try to maximize and use all our players,” Franklin said. “Last year we ran through two guys really, well three with Costley, Cain and Castles. We’re gonna have a new 1-2-3 punch and make sure we use those guys as much as possible.”

Win or lose to Bear River on Friday night, the outcome will not affect South Tahoe’s playoff hopes — only league finish matters. Playing the Bruins will act as the Vikings lone scrimmage or preseason game before starting the nine-game 3A Northern League schedule, five of which will be at home.

Franklin says Bear River will be a good measuring stick.

“You’re gonna see a lot of good flashes this Friday, but those are gonna be limited because we are playing one of the top teams in California,” Franklin said. “They are rockstars. They lost last year to the eventual state champs. We’re playing the cream of the crop and it’s a testament to the program, where we’ve built it to, and also where we wanna head. We know we’re biting off a big challenge. We have different goals for this game. This is kind of our scrimmage, we didn’t have one this year, so we want to see how we match up physically against one of the more physically dominant teams in California. And they’re a team that has consistent success because they don’t make mistakes. We wanna make it a game for them. Make it tough for them and we don’t want anything to happen easy for them.”

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