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An upgraded Pflug, Apollos aim at improvement

by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Sunset junior quarterback Willy Pflug will start for the second straight season after coming on strong as a sophomore.

Last year, Sunset won six games.

This year, they want seven wins.

The Apollos reached the first round of the 6A playoffs in 2012.

In 2013, they’re shooting for the second round.

Sunset is all about betterment and building on the previous season’s success.

“We feel like we want to improve every year and we have so far,” said head coach Faustin Riley. “They haven’t been giant steps but they’ve been steps so every year has been better than the year before.”

Defense

Two-way senior star Josh Brown returns at defensive end (first-team all-league last year). Brown’s impact on both sides of the football was considerable as a junior and Riley expects nothing less from his leader this season.

“He’s somebody you have to account for when you’re on offense” said Riley. “He can disrupt things on the d-line. He’s a big, rangy athlete.”

Sunset doesn’t return a lot of experience on defense but they’ll plug in skilled two-way players like senior linebackers A.J. Smith (5’10” 180 pounds), Andrew Eickelberg (6’0, 175), Bobby Rake (6’2”, 180) and Charles Wenzel (6’0”, 200) along the front-seven. Likewise, juniors Joe Peterson and Seth Wilson have shown flashes of starting talent.

“Rake got some playing time last year, he’s not the biggest guy in the world but he’s very athletic,” said Riley. “We have kids who are very capable of playing well.”

Senior middle linebacker Jerad Steward led the Apollos in tackles last year.

Senior defensive linemen Alex Betancourt and Nile Cook both saw the field last season and new varsity players like Kyle Tagemen are getting bigger and faster for the fall.

Armin Ghorashian, Spencer Newcomb, Jeff Bieber, Clayton Welsh, and Caden Card will hold down the secondary.

Offense

The 6’6” Brown is back at tight end where he was third-team all-league last season.

“He’s improved a lot as a tight end both blocking and receiving,” said Riley. “He’s the total package and we have high hopes for him.”

Brown has one of the better returning signal callers in Willy Pflug pitching him the pigskin. The light really came on for Plug, towards the end of the year when the righty led the Apollos to three straight wins including a first round playoff triumph over McMinnville.

An even more confident Pflug will step back into the spotlight as a junior armed with authority and some extra muscles to help withstand the rigors of the Metro’s best defenses.

“This year he’s bigger, stronger and his arm’s stronger,” said Riley. “He has that year under his belt and he’s been very impressive in practice. He’s a very accurate thrower.”

Sunset is putting three capable backs into the fray who don’t have experience but have ability. Smith, Wenzel and Carter will each get a crack at seeing the field. Each brings something to the table whether it’s Wenzel’s power, Carter’s speed or Smith’s athletic ability.

“They’re all a little bit different,” said Riley. “Caden is a very good athlete, pretty explosive and really good vision. Charles is more of a straight-ahead kind of guy, he got hurt last year but our offense got better when he came back.”

The 6’3” Bieber started as a junior, was injured in the middle of the year but returned in time to give Pflug a tall, athletic target on the perimeter. Ghorashian leads a group of eight to 10 receivers including newcomers Kasey Porter and Michael Kearns who Riley says can contribute.

“We’re an inexperienced team but not a team without some talent and some weapons,” said head coach Faustin Riley. “A lot of stuff is going to happen, but it’s going to end up being a pretty good football team.”

Sunset’s offensive line is versatile and athletic which in Riley’s opinion is more important in high school football than being big. The Apollos’ have a pair of starters back in the mix with center Mark Iguidbashian and Betancourt at tackle. Iguidbashian, Riley says, is a smart, composed, hard-working player.

Senior guard Sam Alkana received a lot of playing time last year. Peterson and Wilson are two guys Riley’s been impressed with during fall camp. Cook and junior Garren Tiffee are battling for the tackle spot opposite of Betancourt.

“They’re quick enough to get where they need to go,” said Riley. “They’re not going to scare anybody looking at them but we think they’re going to be potentially pretty effective.”



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