Live Oak built to win

Caleb Ojeda, Connor Hennings, Nick Lomanto and Logan Wiemann will play key roles for the Acorns this season. Photo by Robert Eliason.

A little over three weeks before the season opener, Live Oak coach Mike Gemo pulled Caleb Ojeda aside and told him, ‘You’re a full-time QB now.’ The 5-foot-10, 167-pound junior was stunned with the news, having practiced as a receiver at different football camps earlier in the summer. 
“I was a little shocked at first because I trained all summer to be a receiver,” he said. “But my reaction was if this is what the team needs, I’ll do it.”

Based on the availability or non-availability of players, teams must make adjustments on the fly. For the Acorns, this qualified as a big one, as Ojeda has been in competition with sophomore Trent Cousens to take over the position that was vacated by the superb Jonathan Singleton, who was an absolute tour de force under center. Although no one is expecting Ojeda to put up the numbers Singleton did—Ojeda last played QB as a freshman on the junior varsity team two years ago—Ojeda is expected to protect the ball and make plays. 

After all, Ojeda possesses plenty of athleticism, having shown playmaking ability last year when he led the team in receiving. Ojeda knows ball security is key, and a big part of that is recognizing various looks defenses throw his way.

“What I need to work on is reading defenses because before as a wideout I only needed to see what the cornerbacks and linebackers were doing,” he said. “Now I have to read coverages and be more protective with the ball and know that if I do something wrong, it may mess up our whole offensive drive. … My arm is coming along. I don’t have a real strong arm, but I could definitely put the ball where it needs to be. It’s just a matter of staying calm, not trying to overpower the ball and making sure my form is correct.”

Live Oak is coming off another solid season, finishing 8-3 overall and 5-2 in the Blossom Valley League’s Mount Hamilton Division. The Acorns were a couple of plays away from beating Lincoln, which would’ve earned them the league championship. The Acorns have plenty of reasons for optimism, as they return several starters, including Logan Wiemann, who earned BVAL Mount Hamilton Division Offensive Lineman of the Year honors in 2018. 

Wiemann anchors a line that includes center Nathan Zavaleta and standout Julian Mendoza.

“We’ll have new guys at the tackle and guard spots, but the line is jelling right now and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do. … Logan has such a great motor, and he gets madder when we make him have a breather. He loves to play the game, is strong and understands football. He’s just an outstanding athlete on both sides of the football.”

If the line stays healthy, the Acorns will be able to do some major damage on the ground. That’s because in Nick Lomanto and Mosiah Saulala, the team has a potent combo. Lomanto is as dynamic a running back as they come, able to shift and change directions on a moment’s notice and make cuts that fool opposing defenders. Saulala, on the other hand, often runs straight through defenders, churning out yardage. 

“The offense will run through Nick and Mosiah right now, and that could be a pretty tough combo to stop with Caleb playing quarterback,” Gemo said. “I like the idea of Caleb having the ball on every snap because you never know what is going to happen with the ball in his hands.”

Indeed, with Ojeda at the control of running a triple option offense, teams will have to worry about multiple Live Oak running threats. Whenever A.J. Gustaveson is cleared to play, he’ll add another dimension to the team’s run game. The Acorns are also loaded at wide receiver, with returning standouts Elijah Fernandez, Matty Blocker and Connor Hennings leading the way. Sophomore Brandon Hooks has also done well in practice and could be an impact player at wideout.

Wiemann, Mendoza and defensive end Brandon Castillo anchor the defensive line, while Jared Martinez converted from linebacker to nose guard and will be a major factor. 

“Jared did a great job in the off-season with his speed so he can really be a threat from the nose guard position,” Gemo said. 

If Ojeda shows up well at quarterback, that will only boost his chances of getting recruited to play at the four-year level because it will show his versatility and willingness to take challenges that come his way. Hennings and Saulala return at linebacker, and both players earned all-league honors at that position a year ago. 

“Mosiah has gotten bigger and more nasty this off-season,” Gemo said. “We’re looking forward to seeing what he does along with the rest of the defense.”

Hooks and Anthony Gracia are a pair of sophomores who could start in the secondary. With a fairly talented roster, the coaches and players know the team’s success will come down to one thing: chemistry. 

“I think if they decide to come together as one group and play for each other, they’ll have a pretty successful season,” Gemo said. “I really love the talent on this team.”

SCHEDULE

8/30 at Burlingame, 7:30 p.m.

9/6 vs. Christopher, 7 p.m.

9/13 at Gilroy, 7:30 p.m.

9/27 at Oak Grove, 7 p.m.

10/4 vs. Pioneer, 7 p.m.

10/11 at Independence, 7 p.m.

10/18 vs. Piedmont Hills, 7 p.m.

10/25 at Leland, 7 p.m.

11/1 vs. Lincoln, 7 p.m.

11/8 vs. Santa Teresa, 7 p.m.

Leave your comments