By Ray Hamill — A young Fortuna football team has plenty to live up to in 2019, but head coach Mike Benbow believes this is a group that is ready to seize the opportunity.
The Huskies are coming off back-to-back North Coast Section championships and a state title in 2017, and are riding an H-DNL record 10-game playoff winning streak, but graduated a lot of core talent this past spring.
Having said that, this is a program that has posted winning campaigns in 10 of the past 11 seasons, and one that is expected to be competitive again with the new faces stepping into bigger roles.
“The cupboard is definitely not bare,” Benbow said. “They’re all part of the program, and they know what our expectations are.
“They’ve had good senior leadership the last few years and now it’s their time.”
The young players appear to be jumping at the chance, and the head coach has been impressed with the improvement his players have shown since they began practice at the start of last week.
“A week ago Monday to now, I really like what I see,” Benbow said.
Key returning players
Among the key returning players this fall, the coaching staff will look to Daedon Taylor to play a big role, switching from receiver to quarterback where he takes over from Zac Claus.
Taylor, according to his coach, has worked hard to make himself a “pretty good quarterback,” and also will play a pivotal role in the defensive backfield as one of the team’s defensive leaders.
Junior Max Hough has also impressed in camp, and is expected to push for playing time at quarterback as well.
“We normally use more than one quarterback,” the head coach said.
Along both the offensive and defensive lines, Luciano Medina and Cole Ivy are stepping into bigger leadership roles.
Medina started along a dominant line last year and brings plenty of experience to the table, while Ivy has stepped up his game and has gone from a back-up to starter.
“He’s worked hard in the offseason to progress,” Benbow said of Ivy.
The head coach admits he still doesn’t know whether the Huskies will rely more on the run or the pass this fall, but hopes to keeps opponents guessing.
“I don’t know exactly yet,” he said. “But we try to be as balanced as we can.”
Key to that will be the play of returning juniors Levi Nyberg and Branson Gans, who are each expected to play a big role at the skilled positions.
The speedy Nyberg took the H-DNL by storm a year ago at running back, while Benbow expects Gans to be “one of the top receivers in our area.”
The Huskies open the season with a tough game at Cardinal Newman a week from Thursday in Healdsburg.
But Benbow and his players wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We want to play the really good teams early to know what level we’ve got to be at,” the head coach said. “If you want to be the best, you’ve got to play the best. We’re adamant about that.”