New faces, same goals for Spartans | 2013 Reporter Prep Football Preview

Skyline lost three-year starter and All-American Max Browne to graduation, but don't expect the back-to-back 4A state champions to feel sorry for themselves.

When Skyline head football coach Mat Taylor had a question about his team during the past three seasons, he knew where to turn.

Whether he wanted to calibrate the game plan, talk about offensive installation or simply find the pulse of his group, he looked to quarterback Max Browne.

“He was unbelievable, my right-hand man,” Taylor said of Browne, whom he has known since he was a Skyline ball boy. “I could confide in him.”

The latest in the lineage of Skyline quarterbacks that began with his brother Mitch, Max Browne rewrote the record books for the Spartans during his three-year tenure as starter, reaching the state title game all three years, capturing a pair of championships and earning a host of All-American honors along with the Gatorade National Player of the Year award for football as a senior in 2012.

He paced an offense that was predicated on his precision as a passer and intuitive abilities as a field general, leading Skyline to 40 or more points in 11 of 14 games, 50 or more nine times and an eye-popping 71 points against defending Idaho state champion Coeur d’Alene.

But with Browne graduated and now at USC, Taylor will turn to a far less familiar face in transfer Kilton Anderson, a senior transfer from Naples, Fla. who was forced to leave his former school when his father’s job called for a relocation.

While his life has been in a constant state of flux during the past several months as he met new teammates and attempted to acclimate himself to life in the opposite corner of the country, Skyline head coach Mat Taylor said Anderson has met the challenge at every turn.

“What an adjustment for a young man,” Taylor said. “He has embraced it and the kids have really taken well to him.”

Junior Cameron Saffle, the only non-senior captain on the team, missed much of last year rehabbing from an injury after seeing time on varsity as a freshman and said the comfort level between Anderson and the rest of the group has been growing steadily since his arrival.

“That is the biggest part, getting that chemistry down,” he said. “Kilton is doing a great job.”

The challenge will be a major one for Anderson and the Spartans without its offensive and defensive leaders from 2012 in Browne and Peyton Pelluer, now a linebacker at Washington State.

Both were multiple-year starters and are only two of many pieces no longer in place.

Top rusher Cedric Cooper and his 900-plus yards and 13 touchdowns are gone, as are the 300 yards and six scores on the ground from Jack Valencia. When Anderson takes to the air, he won’t be connecting with many of the same targets as his predecessor, as Skyline returns only five players who caught a pass. That group accounted for only 13 catches total and one score from now-senior Cole Blackburn, but Nic Sblendorio (58/1085/12), Trevor Barney (48/850/14), Matt Sinatro (38/834/10) and six more seniors from last year who caught touchdown passes are gone.

Owing to that reality, the moniker around the Spartans this year has been “TXVII”, or “Team 17”, the title this group bears as the 17th to play football in Skyline’s brief but storied history.

“Team 16 did a lot of great things,” Taylor said. “But Team 17 hasn’t done anything yet, just like Team 16 hadn’t. They know it is about making Skyline better and us right now.”