By Fred Robledo ~ SGV Tribune
One of the biggest surprises over the winter was the firing of Los Altos coach Hector Spathias, a walk-on who took on a rebuilding team and turned it into a winner that finished last season 7-4 overall and third in the Hacienda League.
That was because Los Altos had its eyes on Travis Brown, a star alum who won two championships as a receiver at Los Altos before graduating in 2004. Brown coached at Cantwell Sacred Heart the past two years and was set to be Northview’s offensive coordinator this fall, but then news broke that Los Altos was parting with Spathias, which opened the door for Brown.
“It’s the ultimate dream,” Brown said when he was hired. “I don’t think there’s another way to put it. It’s still a surreal feeling that I’m home.”
What awaits Brown, however, are big expectations, as the Conquerors are ranked sixth in the SGVN football preseason top 10.
“My expectations for our team is for us to meet and exceed our own expectations,” Brown said. “I’m thankful to have a group of young men that set the bar high for themselves, that’s always a plus. What I appreciate is the work that they are putting in to back up those goals. It’s rare to have that combination when the core of your roster were sophomores (last year).
“We have individual goals set for ourselves, as well as team goals, and we have the opportunity to accomplish them all if we stay the course. It should be fun, and I can’t wait to watch our guys grow together.”
Los Altos is still a young team, but it was young last year, too. The talent is there, especially in its junior class.
Juniors Robert Gonzalez and Antonio Santillan are back on the offensive and defensive lines along with senior Jordan Porras.
There are also junior playmakers in running back/defensive backs Orellius Visaya and Joseph Reyes and receiver/corner Barry Bozoneir
Junior David Hacegaba is set to take over at quarterback, and the Conquerors have talented twins, Zedekiah and Zecheriah Rodriguez-Brown, who will spend time at receiver and in the secondary. The brothers are Coach Brown’s nephews.
“They will make a large impact for us at a number of positions,” Brown said. “It will be a treat to watch them come into their own.”
The Conquerors are also high on sophomore linebacker Jonathan Tirre.
Brown acknowledges there will be growing pains.
“Our biggest challenge will be overcoming our youth early in the season,” he said. “Our strength (youth) has the potential to be our weakness. I am very confident though in our young group and believe that we will see great things from them early and often.”
Los Altos is going to pin a lot of its hopes on junior all-purpose back Rene Zaldivar. Last season Zaldivar was used mostly at receiver and hauled in 49 receptions for 647 yards and nine touchdowns while he also rushed for 67 yards in spot play in the backfield.
This season Zaldivar will line up on offense in the backfield as a dual run-catch threat. On defense he will be one of the team’s best linebackers.
“There’s not enough I can say about him,” Brown said. “He’s as good a talent as you will see and one of the strongest and fastest kids I’ve ever been around.”
He’s so versatile that Brown wants to use him in a variety of ways.
“He’s a vertical threat for sure, but he’ll cause mismatches in the backfield,” Brown said. “He showed some of what he had last year, but he’s going to really show who he is this season, I can tell you that. The athleticism that this kid possesses is second to no one in the Valley. He is a great kid, student and a lot of fun to watch on the football field.”
This is where it gets murky. Los Altos is talented enough to win the Hacienda League, but the Hacienda is so tough with Charter Oak, Diamond Ranch and South Hills in the mix that it wouldn’t be a shocker if Los Altos finishes fourth in league. And don’t count out West Covina, which could be another surprise team.
“It is going to be exciting, the competition level in the Hacienda is as good as it’s ever been,” Brown said., “A lot of teams are young with a lot to prove, but there’s a lot of talent, and who rises to the level of their expectations should be the team that ultimately wins it.”
Los Altos faces a tough nonleague schedule that has it opening on the road at Covina, and includes games against much-improved St. Paul and Glendora.
Los Altos is in Division 5, where it could run into locals such as La Serna, St. Paul, Glendora and Diamond Ranch in the playoffs.
“In our league the key is winning and getting to the playoffs,” Brown said.
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