Last season, the Saugus football team got off to a red-hot start winning its first four games and six of its first seven. And the Centurions did so in dominating fashion, putting up 207 points while allowing a mere 32 points in their first four contests.
Saugus defeated Taft 63-0 in the season opener.
This year, Saugus is trying to replicate that commanding start, as it takes on Granada Hills Charter on the road in the first game of the season tonight.
“I think it is very critical to start off very hot,” said starting wide receiver and defensive back Cade Gallagher. “Last year we started off better than expected and it led to a great season. We need to start off very hot like we know we can. If we all do our jobs and believe in the guys to the right and left of us, I think we will do great tomorrow and all season.”
Starting junior quarterback Colton FitzGerald will make his varsity debut and is excited to display his abilities on the field.
If it’s anything like last season’s season opener, however, he might not have a chance to display his arm talent all that much.
Last year’s starting quarterback Cole Gallagher only threw six times against Taft, though two of his completions went for touchdowns. Saugus relied mostly on its rushing attack and defense, as the Centurions gained 198 yards and four scores on the ground, plus an interception and fumble return for touchdowns.
FitzGerald is hoping for a similar result in tonight’s game, and for the rest of the season for that matter.
“We believe in the backs and believe in the O-line. We have a great backfield this year,” FitzGerald said. “We also can work with the wideouts this year because of all the talent we have out there. And with our defense, I know that they will get us the ball back and we can do our thing.”
The Highlanders have had their fair share of woes over the past few seasons, going 3-8 in 2018, 5-8 in 2017 and 3-8 in 2016. Granada Hills hasn’t had a winning season since 2011.
This year they have a new coach in charge: former NFL player and current NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks, who brings credibility back to the program that was once home to Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.
The Centurions know that their opponent’s record last year is meaningless, and playing in the first game of the season coupled with a new coach presents its own challenges.
“The challenge for us with Granada, a new coach, the first game of the year, we don’t know what we’re going to see,” Saugus head coach Jason Bornn said during training camp. “We have to be prepared to be able to defend multiple offenses as well as attack multiple defenses because we just don’t know what they’re going to be doing.
“That’s true every single year. Even though you might play a team multiple years in a row, the first game of the year they could very easily change in the offseason. Any program that is doing their due diligence will always either add or and take away probably about 20% of each side of the ball’s playbook, so you don’t know what you’re going to get that first game of the year.”
Dating back to 2004, Saugus and Granada Hills haven’t faced off, and the Highlanders have only played three games against the Centurions’ Foothill League counterparts. Granada Hills lost to Canyon back in 2008 and lost to Golden Valley twice, in 2013 and 2014.
The Highlanders will rely on a new quarterback and running back tandem this year. Both starters from last year, Dylan Bowman at quarterback and Zachariah-Austin Hawkins at running back, graduated. Of their 50 touchdowns in 2018, 33 came from the hands of those two players.
“All their new players along with the coach have done a great job for not having as much experience and we have watched as much film on them as we could possibly have,” Gallagher said. “They run a similar offense as Bishop Diego, but we are prepared and ready for the matchup tomorrow.”
The Centurions are excited to start the season and get the ball rolling in the right direction. They did the work in the offseason and through camp, then formulated a plan of attack for tonight’s game.
Now it’s just a matter of executing.
“We are very excited to start the season off, we have been waiting for this day ever since the last game ended last season,” Gallagher said. “We couldn’t be more stoked to go out there, do our job and be some absolute dogs like we know we are.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.