The scheduled opener for Ocean View High’s football team was a Zero Week meeting with Brethren Christian.
Once the news broke that Brethren Christian would be unable to field an 11-man football roster for the fall, a series of events were set in motion.
Warriors coach Pat McInally called it a career, and many of the school’s players explored other options. The fallout allowed the Seahawks to fill one of their most pressing needs on the football field, as Noah Hickman enrolled at Ocean View in the spring.
Hickman, who was the signal-caller for the JV team at Brethren Christian, goes into the season as the lead quarterback on the depth chart for the Seahawks.
“He had a great spring,” Ocean View coach Luis Nunez said. “Great summer of 7-of-7 throwing the football. He has some nice touch. He’s got weapons. For him, it’s just about giving his receivers a chance.”
“He’s a lot better than we had before he got here. You can say it’s a blessing, a relief that he transferred here.”
Skeptics will point out that Ocean View enters the season without a single player that has seen a varsity snap under center, but there are ways of easing the learning curve. The Seahawks have a pair of towering receivers in Adam Meyer and Nathaniel Washington.
“When you have 6-foot-5 Adam Meyer and 6-foot-4 Nathaniel Washington, it’s just a matter of putting the ball somewhere they can get it,” Nunez said. “(Hickman) does a nice job of that.”
Meyer has received an offer to play football collegiately from the University of San Diego. He projects as a tight end at the next level.
Ocean View has added a nonleague contest in Week 5 against Irvine University High. Both teams had scheduled games against Brethren Christian this fall.
With their Zero Week game out of the picture, all team activities were pushed back a week. Thursday marked the first time that the Seahawks had practiced in pads.
Now in his sixth season, Nunez is the longest consecutively tenured football coach in school history. He grinned from ear to ear as he watched his team partake in full-contact drills at the start of practice.
The first day of pads generally gets the players going. It signals that the season is not far off. Washington hopes to do big things in his senior year.
“I’m very excited, hyped up,” Washington said of putting pads on for the first time in training camp. “I feel like we have a very good shot at taking league this year. Hopefully, we are going far in CIF.”
“In my four years, I feel like this is our best team. I feel like we’ve been working hard the years before, and we’re going to go extra far this year.”
The fight for a CIF Southern Section playoff spot brings up mixed feelings for a team like Ocean View, which last made a playoff appearance in 2014. The possibility of contending in the postseason is exciting, but the program also felt that it was wronged the last couple of years.
In 2015, the Seahawks finished 5-5, hopeful of receiving a wild-card berth. A Placentia El Dorado team that had one official win — coming via forfeit — was put in the bracket, but not Ocean View.
Nunez responded the next year by beefing up his schedule to eliminate the strength of schedule argument, only to be told that the playoffs now required a .500 record or above. Even with that being the case, Orange, also from the Golden West League, went 7-3 overall. The Panthers beat league champion Santa Ana on the field, but were forced to forfeit that game for using an ineligible player.
Santa Ana rolled through the CIF-SS Division 13 playoffs and into the championship game, defeating its first three opponents by an average of 34.7 points per game. Conversely, Ocean View fell to the Saints, 14-7, in a defensive struggle during league.
“For a school like us and Orange, we can go 7-3, finish in third in a tough league, and then in the Division 13 playoffs, we’re a lot better than most of those teams,” Nunez said. “We see Santa Ana roll through the playoffs and beat teams by 40 points. We’re thinking, ‘We lost by seven.’ ”
“Our kids know that we have to finish first or second, especially in Division 13. For us, it’s all about what we do in league. We can do what Orange did last year. We can go 7-3, finish in third, and be left out.”
A similar phenomenon played out with Brethren Christian. The Warriors became an independent team when the Academy League was reduced to three teams, and a 9-1 record was not rewarded with a playoff berth. That shock wave has landed the Seahawks their starting quarterback.
Lining up in the back field with Hickman will be Noah DeLoera. The projected starting running back was second on the team with 683 rushing yards, including a pair of 100-yard games against Garden Grove Santiago and Orange last season.
Most of the Seahawks’ defensive front is returning. The top four sack leaders from last year – Cesar Montano (eight), Andrew Helmer (five), Micah Cianca (five), and Alex Nieves (four) – are all coming back.
Helmer did not hesitate when asked which matchup he is looking forward to the most. For the Seahawks defensive end, it’s Santa Ana.
“They put up a fight,” Helmer said. “It was both of us going at it. Unfortunately, we were a couple plays short. You can’t let that happen. You’ve just got to come out and do your thing every single play.”
“We let up just a little bit. They took advantage of that and did what they were trained to do.”
The key matchup against the Saints will be hosted by Ocean View on Oct. 13. It will be the Seahawks’ first home game of Golden West League play.
Sept. 1: vs. Los Amigos
Sept. 8: at Rancho Alamitos
Sept. 14: at Santiago
Sept. 22: at Katella
Sept. 28: at University
Oct. 6: at Segerstrom *
Oct. 13: vs. Santa Ana *
Oct. 20: at Westminster *
Oct. 27: vs. Loara *
Nov. 3: vs. Orange *
* denotes Golden West League game