Young Lowell hoping to reclaim spot among AAA’s elite 

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Other than a blip in 2010, when it only won a single game, the Lowell High School football team has been a paragon of consistency over the past seven years — winning between four and six games and advancing to the San Francisco Section playoffs in every season.

That level of steadiness is admirable, but Cardinals coach Danny Chan is hoping this is the season Lowell finally breaks through and reclaims its position as one of the preeminent teams in the Academic Athletic Association. For that to happen, Chan knows that his young Lowell team will have to play extremely heady football.

“We really don’t have the athleticism of some of these other teams, and quite frankly, our style of play is very plodding and methodical,” Chan said. “That means we really can’t make any mistakes. The last several years, we’ve been hurt by either injuries or mental errors in big games. If we want to get over the hump, we’re going to have to play smart.”

Using a hybrid rushing attack that combines old-school elements of wishbone and option offenses, Chan’s Lowell teams are famous for lulling opponents to sleep with relentless efficiency.

However, it has been eight years since his team has advanced to the Turkey Bowl (which came during a stretch of five straight appearances in the city championship game).

That dry spell may end soon, due in large part to the return of senior quarterback Antonio Hughes. The 6-foot-2 Hughes led the Cardinals’ dynamic offensive attack last season, but was injured during the first quarter of Lowell’s 46-28 playoff loss to eventual champ Galileo. Chan is high on his veteran quarterback’s ability to lead Lowell this season.

“He has a lot of experience running this offense,” Chan said. “If we keep him healthy and on the field, I like our chances to compete.”

Along with Hughes, Chan is expecting big things out of senior wingbacks Zachary Toy and Johann Leffler, as well as Daniel Ambrocio, a 250-pound two-way interior lineman. Junior defensive back Valentino Kunaidy and senior defensive end Darius Thomas are also poised to make major contributions for the team this season, Chan said.

Still, with major losses on both sides of the ball from last year’s team, Chan will be suiting up many players who’ve yet to see action in a varsity football game.

“We’re going to be a lot younger this season, that’s for sure,” said Chan. “Even some of the seniors on our roster are pretty inexperienced. If we’re going to be successful, a lot of guys will have to grow up quickly.”

Cardinals breakdown

Last season: 5-6 overall, 4-3 in Academic Athletic Association (fourth place; lost to Galileo 46-28 in San Francisco Section semifinals)

Three things to watch:

- Although he is a sophomore with no varsity experience, Martell Coleman is expected to lead a young linebacker crew for Lowell. The Cardinals graduated their entire linebacking corps from last season.

- Danny Chan’s Lowell teams are so utterly reliant on their rushing attacks that the coach doesn’t even list a wide receiver on the official team roster.

- Just how young are the Cardinals this season? Quarterback Antonio Hughes is the only returning player who gained yardage in the team’s playoff loss to Galileo last season (he had two carries for 10 yards before being injured).

Lowell schedule

Aug. 30 Terra Linda* 1 p.m.

Sept. 13 at Tennyson* 1:45 p.m.

Sept. 26 at Jefferson* 7 p.m.

Oct. 3 at Galileo 3 p.m.

Oct. 11 at Balboa 2 p.m.

Oct. 17 vs. Burton 3 p.m.

Oct. 24 vs. Marshall 3 p.m.

Nov. 1 at Washington 2 p.m.

Nov. 7 vs. Mission 2 p.m.

Nov. 14 vs. Lincoln 2 p.m.

* nonconference

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Will Reisman

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