Live Oak High senior Christian Hauge will play a huge role on both sides of the ball for the Acorns football team in the upcoming 2023 season. (Jonathan Natividad/Morgan Hill Times)

The dog days of summer football camp are over and the time has finally arrived for Live Oak and Sobrato high schools to kick off the 2023 season.

The Acorns finished in a three-way tie for the Blossom Valley Athletic League Mt. Hamilton Division title and advanced to the Central Coast Section Division III playoffs in 2022.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs will attempt to bounce back in hopes of a postseason run for the first time since 2017. 

Following is a breakdown of each team for the upcoming season. 

Live Oak Acorns

Head coach: Mike Gemo (13th season)

League: Blossom Valley Athletic League Mt. Hamilton Division 

Last season’s record: 9-3, 4-1 (Mount Hamilton Division co-champion)

Playoffs: CCS D-III semifinalist

Mike Gemo’s Acorns finished last season as BVAL Mt. Hamilton—the top tier of the four divisions within the league—tri-champion with Christopher and Lincoln high schools. 

They reached the CCS D-III semifinals where Live Oak gave eventual titlist Menlo School their toughest battle in a 21-14 defeat.

“Great season last year going to the semifinals in Division III,” Gemo said. “We should be very competitive this year and challenge for a playoff spot.”

Pundits predict Christopher High the league favorite but the Acorns will be right there, especially if they can overcome graduation losses on offense. Live Oak scored 35 or more points seven times in 12 outings but league co-MVP running back Jordan Fuentes and quarterback Landon Stump have graduated.

Don’t sleep on the Acorns’ attack. Luke Newell takes over at quarterback; while Luke Richey, Keaton Dietz and Christian Hauge will lead the receiving corps. No opposing secondary can catch up to Hauge, who was the CCS 100 meters sprint champion this past spring.

Live Oak’s defense held opponents to 21 points or less in 11 games. A repeat performance is possible. Dietz and Josh Gagni lead the linebackers, with Richey nearby at defensive end. JJ Becks is part of a strong defensive line, bolstered by newcomer Mateo Robledo. Hauge will start at defensive back for the Acorns.

Gemo looks at Christopher and Santa Teresa as league favorites. Lincoln won’t drop far from its tri-championship, but don’t count out Live Oak.

2023 football schedule

Aug. 24: Gilroy, 7:15pm

Sep. 1: at Mountain View, 7:00pm

Sep. 8: Los Gatos, 7:15pm

Sep. 16: at Sobrato (El Toro Bowl), 2:30pm

Sep. 22: Branham, 7:15pm

Oct. 6: Lincoln*, 7:15pm

Oct. 12: at Leland*, 7:15pm

Oct. 20: Santa Teresa (Senior Night)*, 7:23pm

Oct. 26: at Oak Grove*, 7:15pm

Nov. 2: at Christopher*, 7:15pm

*Blossom Valley Athletic League Mt. Hamilton Division game

Sobrato Bulldogs

Head coach: Joel Rueda (3rd season)

League: Blossom Valley Athletic League Santa Teresa – Valley Division 

Last season’s record: 3-7, 2-3 (4th in Valley Division)

Playoffs: Did not qualify

Sobrato High alumnus Joel Rueda has the Bulldogs looking to make a step upward in the standings behind senior quarterback/running back Noah Taylor, who produced 1,241 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns last season, according to the MaxPreps website.

“After a season of growth and an off-season of maturation, our program’s numbers are up and the buy-in is increasing,” Rueda said. “We are ready to display our growth this season.” 

Sobrato’s attack features another versatile athlete in quarterback Ryan Hankins. The line is strong with Lucas Laisure, Jorge Mendoza, incoming junior Gustavo Ureta and 6-foot-3 junior tight end Alexandr Kushchanka, who contributes with blocking and receiving.

Sobrato put points on the board last year, averaging 22.4 per game, but struggled holding back opponents. Those aforementioned linemen will be a key part of defensive improvement for the Bulldogs.

“Stacking days, being patient and focusing on getting better every day will hopefully have us in a position to compete for a league championship at the end of the season,” Rueda said.

Biggest league tests for Sobrato are likely Westmont in the teams’ BVAL Santa Teresa – Valley Division opener in Morgan Hill and at defending league champion Overfelt in the regular season finale.

2023 football schedule

Aug. 25: at North Salinas, 7:30pm

Aug. 31: Del Mar, 5:00pm

Sep. 8: at North Monterey County, 7:30pm

Sep. 16: Live Oak (El Toro Bowl), 2:30pm

Sep. 30: Gilroy, 2:30pm

Oct. 7: Westmont*, 2:30pm

Oct. 13: at Mount Pleasant*, 7:15pm

Oct. 20: at Willow Glen*, 7:15pm

Oct. 28: Leigh* (Senior Day), 2:30pm

Nov. 3: at Overfelt*, 7:15pm

*Blossom Valley Athletic League Santa Teresa – Valley Division game

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