Football: Falcons hope to rebuild after losing key players from last year’s team to graduation

October 15, 2020 — by Andy Chen and Jason Cheng

Last season, the Falcons had their best season in years, reaching the Division 4 CCS quarterfinals before ultimately falling to Carmel 62-43. How the team carries this momentum into the current season remains to be seen — the Falcons will have a tough time adjusting to the loss of several key players from the Class of 2020.

Those losses include quarterback Payton Stokes, wide receiver George Bian, linebacker Talon Cisco and defensive lineman Tyler Ouchida, all first team All League players. Also lost to graduation are wide receivers Tyler Prowse and Max Muilenberg, who both placed on All-League’s second team.

Still, junior wide receiver Parsa Hashemi predicts that with proper practice and extra training, the team will perform on par with last year’s CCS run.

“We’ve lost more than we’ve gained; losing our senior class is going to be tough,” Hashemi said. “Even so, we have a solid receiver core to replace the seniors, and I’m confident in our new quarterback, [senior] Grant Petters, to have a breakout season — the goal is always playoffs.”

Although the team hasn’t been able to practice playing actual football because of county COVID protocols, members meet on the school field three times a week to stay fit through weight training, head coach Tim Lugo said. Some players, including Hashemi, also use their free time as an additional opportunity to maintain their fitness.

“Although it really sucks to not be playing right now, quarantine has presented an opportunity to further improve myself,” Hashemi said. “I’ve been lifting everyday on my own and have seen physical improvement, which keeps me motivated.”

At the earliest, normal practices may resume in early December, although safety concerns and the state of the coronavirus may delay the date, Lugo said

In future practices, Lugo plans to incorporate passing and running drills while adhering to social distancing norms. Passing drills will be relatively easy to implement, but running drills require careful planning and use of spacing strips in place of defenders, Lugo said.

To prepare for the season, the team will shift focus from their passing to running game. While a strong passing game provided the foundation for the team’s success last year, unusually rainy conditions resulting from the season’s delay will make passing harder, necessitating running the ball as a more reliable option, Hashemi said. Ideally, the team’s relatively strong offensive line will create openings in the opposing defense for their running backs — seniors Tyler Chaffin and Trevor Green — to sprint through.

To run the ball more while maintaining ball fluidity, the team is also shifting their offense to a “two quarterback, three receiver” style, similar to what legendary head coach Benny Pierce ran for over 35 years at the school.

“We’re excited to return to our roots,” Lugo said.