SEBASTOPOL — Every “large-school” football team in the Redwood Empire started with a clean slate in 2015. But after four weeks of preseason action, only one team in either the North Bay League or Sonoma County League remains undefeated. And it’s probably not the one you predicted.
Analy, gutted by the graduation of its most high-profile players in June, hasn’t just maintained its footing. As we head into league play, the Tigers may be the dominant team in the area.
Schuyler Van Weele, Analy’s senior wide receiver and kick returner, admits he had some questions about this year’s squad heading into the season.
“Of course,” he said. “But honestly, this team has become a big program. And I think it’s more a mentality that our team has, that it’s grown bigger than the players here.”
With the SCL struggling to be competitive these days, Analy coach Daniel Bourdon knew he’d have to put together a challenging preseason schedule to boost the Tigers’ postseason seeding. So they played Casa Grande, Maria Carrillo and Montgomery — the solid middle of the NBL — and won the three games by a cumulative score of 117-50. Analy also won 41-19 at Acalanes last weekend.
Junior quarterback Jack Newman has emerged as a highly suitable replacement for Will Smith, who was an All-Empire pick before graduating last year. Newman has 1,096 passing yards and 14 touchdowns in four games, with just two interceptions. Another junior, Osiris Zamora, is averaging 84.3 rushing yards per game, while the speedy Van Weele already has 10 touchdowns and nearly 500 receiving yards. Senior middle linebacker Isaac Kangas anchors an underrated defense.
But as Van Weele alluded, the Analy program is bigger than individual players now. The JV program is strong, and varsity participation numbers are high. Several Tigers are playing significant roles for the Santa Rosa JC team now, which hasn’t always been the case.
And the man behind the resurgence is Bourdon, who is in his eighth season guiding the Tigers. In the four years before he took over the varsity program, Analy was 16-26. In Bourdon’s first four seasons the team improved to 23-22. In the past three-plus seasons, the Tigers have gone 38-5, including a 6-3 mark in the North Coast Section playoffs.
Bourdon, 34, gets it done with a youthful and occasionally manic vibrancy.
“The best word I could use is ‘motivational,’ ” Van Weele said.
Ja’Narrick James, last year’s All-Empire Offensive Player of the Year and now a starting halfback at SRJC, offered “energetic” and “raw.” Others prefer “intense.” Bourdon’s players are used to the transformation they see in their coach, who also teaches PE and weightlifting at Analy during football season.
“It was every week,” James said. “From Thursday night at the team dinner, he’d start getting fired up there, and he wouldn’t cool down until Saturday morning when we were watching film. You see him at school on Friday and he’s got this big grin on his face. He’s smiling, bouncing on his toes. That’s the kind of guy he was.”
The intensity only increases on game night. Van Weele’s favorite Bourdon moment was from a playoff game last year — he couldn’t recollect which one.
“It was some touchdown, and I just remember him running down the sidelines as our player was running down with the ball, and him throwing his hands up in the air and jumping up and down in circles,” Van Weele said.