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Jones ready, but Aliso Niguel still figuring out QB position
ALISO VIEJO - The Aliso Niguel football team has had a prolific passing offense in recent seasons. In 2012, Nathan Cole threw for 3,185 yards, and last season Nick Chapman threw for a county-high 3,041 yards.
Aliso Niguel coach Kurt Westling is confident that Aliso’s passing game could have been even more dangerous if receiver Tyler Jones was healthy last season.
“He likely would have been our leading receiver, and Blake Sabol had almost 900 yards," Westling said. "Tyler (Jones) would have been one or two in the county as a sophomore.”
In 2015, Jones played in the opener against Marina, but then broke his collarbone against Long Beach Millikan in the second game. The sophomore missed the rest of the season and finished with two touchdowns on just three catches and 87 yards.
“It was tough knowing I could help out and not being able to,” Jones said. “It was discouraging but it motivated me more for this season.”
Jones is expected to be a big part of the Wolverines' offense this season, but it is unclear who will be throwing him the ball.
Two young quarterbacks are competing to replace Chapman, who was a three-year starter for Aliso. Junior Nate Sorensen and sophomore Kyle Robertson are taking reps with the first team in practice.
Sorensen led the Aliso Niguel's junior varsity team to a 7-3 record in 2015 in just his first season playing football. He started the season opener against Marina after only playing football for three weeks.
Robertson was the freshman team quarterback last season and has shown he has a good understanding of the offense.
“Kyle (Robertson) is very intelligent and will be a great quarterback in the future,” Westling said.
It will be a tall order for either of the young quarterbacks to achieve what the Wolverine offense did last season, throwing for 327 yards per game and 32 touchdowns. But Jones is confident in the progress of Sorensen and Robertson.
“It started out kind of slow but they have improved a lot. Things are looking good for us,” Jones said.
Westling named his three captains for this season immediately after the team’s last game in 2015 - Sam Marrazzo, Bear Greene and Andre Cotton. They each earned All-Sea View league honors last season.
“All three of them are great leaders," Westling said. "This is a good group of kids that, with the right leadership, could be great. Normally we wait (to name captains), but we wanted to make sure we had good leadership in the offseason.”
It is unusual for a coaching staff to name captains before any offseason activity starts, but it helped establish excitement for the upcoming season.
“I think we all had a feeling it would be us but we never talked about it because we are all pretty humble,” Marrazzo said. “It pushed us to work harder in the offseason than we might have, knowing that we would be leading this team.”
The three captains delivered on the field as juniors last season. Cotton had 937 total yards and 12 touchdowns, and Greene had a team-high 46 tackles in just six games. Marrazzo led the offensive line and has a scholarship offer from the University of San Diego.
“It feels great knowing that they trust us to lead this team. It’s an honor,” Cotton said.
“They are definitely leaders that I expected to be our captains," Jones added." Bear (Greene) has always been a leader and everyone looks up to him. Marrazzo and Andre lead with their play and it makes us all want to follow them.”
RETURN TO THE SIDELINES
Brent Melbon has joined the Aliso Niguel coaching staff as coach of the quarterbacks.
Melbon was the head coach at Dana Hills from 2008-2010, leading the Dolphins to an 18-14 record. In 2009, Melbon led Dana Hills to a playoff win over Orange Lutheran, the school’s first since 1991.
“It’s a new beginning," Melbon said. "I really like Kurt (Westling). I like the creative things he does offensively. This staff is a lot of fun to work with.”
Melbon’s experience is a valuable addition to the Wolverines' coaching staff.
“He has experience as a head coach and knows a ton of football," Westling said. "He is a very humble guy who is doing whatever he can to help the team.”
All three quarterbacks who played at Dana Hills while Melbon was the head coach went on to play college football. Sorensen and Robertson have made great strides since Melbon joined the staff in the summer.
“Seeing the progress already from those guys under him is exciting," Jones said. "It’s really nice having him around.”
Melbon is enjoying his time at Aliso and expects good things from the team.
“Kurt has a great personality and these are all good guys," Melbon said. "It makes it a lot of fun.
"We threw against the other teams in our league this summer and we match up pretty well. If we stay healthy we can really compete with these guys.”