A familiar face has returned to the Estancia High football team. Dave Holland is back as an assistant, and Coach Mike Bargas is happy to have him again.
"He's a football lifer," Bargas said of Holland, who retired after the 2012 season because of health issues. "When he retired from coaching, he said, 'When I feel better, I'd like to still help you.'"
This season marks Holland's 55th in coaching. He joined Bargas' staff in 2008, a year after Bargas took over as the Eagles coach.
Holland helped Bargas transition into his first head coaching position, handling the defensive coordinator duties. He had the championship pedigree, guiding Corona del Mar to CIF Southern Section Division VI titles in 1988 and '89.
Holland won't be on the sideline with Bargas as in previous years, when the Eagles claimed undefeated Orange Coast League titles in 2010 and '11, and advanced to the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs in 2011. Holland will sit in the press box, giving Bargas another eye from up top.
Holland will also handle the punt and punt return teams. Holland is assisting Bargas' younger brother, Chris, who is the special teams coach.
There was an adjustment without Holland last season. Chris replaced Holland as the defensive coordinator. A poor start, losing three of the first four games, affected the morale inside the coaches' office.
"It was a little tenuous," Bargas said. "We were all trying to feel each other out. When you lose, you know, there [are] all kinds of bad mojo in the office and on the field."
The Eagles regrouped, enabling them to save their season. They won their last three league contests and shared second place in league with Calvary Chapel at 3-2. Estancia reached the playoffs for the sixth time under Bargas, and went 5-6 overall.
Another postseason appearance is likely. With Holland around, Bargas likes his team's chances.
Estancia has a scrimmage at Bolsa Grande on Friday, and it kicks off the season at home against Loara on Sept. 4. Below are the players the Eagles look to take them back to the postseason.
Quarterback: Connor Brown is in his second year as the starter, and the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder looks in better shape.
Brown, who made first-team all-league as a sophomore, dropped 15 pounds from last season. Bargas said Brown shed all the baby fat.
"We'll at least throw the ball 5 percent more this year [in our West Coast offense]," said Bargas, adding that Brown has matured and is more accurate with his throws.
Last year, Brown threw for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns, with 11 interceptions. He completed 42.3 percent of his passes.
Tyler Ross, a sophomore, is Brown's backup.
Running backs: The team plans to deploy a two-back system with seniors Christian Laurent and Indiana Taylor.
The two started for Estancia last season, Laurent in the first half of the season and Taylor toward the end. Laurent suffered an ankle injury in the Eagles' Battle for the Bell rivalry setback to rival Costa Mesa.
Taylor stepped in and excelled, rushing for 390 yards and five touchdowns in the three games he filled in for Laurent.
Laurent, who's more of a north-south runner, rushed 215 times for 986 yards and four touchdowns last season. Taylor, an elusive back, finished with 587 yards and seven touchdowns on 84 carries.
Tyler Thomas, a senior, will be the fullback blocking for Laurent and Taylor.
Receivers: Devon Jackson and Dalton O'Daly return as starters. The two seniors enjoyed good summers, and Jackson is a big target at 6-2 and O'Daly is tough at 5-10.
Jackson finished with 32 catches for 494 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Dylan Laurent, the younger brother of Christian Laurent, will see time at receiver as well. The sophomore stood out as a cornerback last season, earning first-team all-league accolades.
Tight end: Senior Ronnie Urquiza, who started at fullback last season, is the starter at tight end.
"We haven't had a decent tight end in like three years," Bargas said. "[Urquiza] can catch [the ball]."
Juniors Konrad O'Daly and Jason Jones are the backup tight ends.
Offensive line: Three starters return in senior left tackle Brian Southwick (6-1, 265 pounds), senior left guard Kevin Valencia (6-0, 215) and senior center Dorian Navarrete (5-10, 240).
Juan Lozada (5-11, 180), a junior, is the right guard, and senior Enrique Sotomayor (6-1, 260) is the right tackle.
Defensive line: Jones comes back as a starter, and he's stronger and better. Bargas said the 6-4, 190-pounder has what it takes to play on the next level. Jones has a year to add weight.
Southwick returns at defensive tackle and will go both ways again. Navarrete, Sotomayor, and seniors Erni Gutierrez and Anthony Gray will share the other inside spot.
Lozada, Valencia and senior Johnny Juarez are battling for the second end job.
Linebackers: Urquiza returns at outside and Thomas is in the middle.
Urquiza made 108 tackles last season, earning him first-team all-league honors.
Juniors D.J. Davis and Omar Gutierrez are competing at outside linebacker. Bargas said another player to watch is sophomore Jeffrey Alai.
Secondary: The Laurent brothers, Dylan and Christian, are at cornerback and strong safety, respectively.
Dylan and Taylor are in their second year starting at cornerback.
Jackson is the free safety, and Dalton O'Daly is a backup at safety and cornerback.
Special teams: Senior Ivan Perez is the placekicker, and Jackson and Urquiza are competing at punter.
Jackson will return punts, while Taylor and Laurent are the kick returners. Last year, Taylor returned kickoffs of 97 and 90 yards for touchdowns.
Konrad O'Daly is the long snapper.