Oilers open 2012 season with major test

The 2012 high school football season gets underway this week for four local schools: Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Marina and Brethren Christian. Three of those schools — Fountain Valley, Marina, Brethren Christian — open their campaigns with home games.

Huntington, Fountain Valley, Marina, and the rest of the Pac-5 Division teams move from the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division to the Southwest Division this year.

Below is a brief capsule look at this week's openers.

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Thursday

Huntington Beach vs. El Toro, 7 p.m., Trabuco Hills High: A young Huntington Beach team starts its season in south Orange County against a seasoned El Toro squad that has several big-time players returning from a 2011 team that set several school records.

El Toro is coming off a 2011 campaign that ended with the Sea View League championship, a runner-up finish to Tustin in the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division, and a 12-2 record. This year, the Chargers have moved into the ultra-tough South Coast League and the Pac-5 Division.

Back to direct the potent El Toro offense is record-setting quarterback Conner Manning. Last year, Manning, who has committed to Utah, broke Matt Barkley's Orange County record for passing yards in a season. His favorite target in 2011, Cody White, also returns. White last year led the county in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. Returning to the backfield is the team's leading rusher from a year ago, Jacob Furnari, who rushed for more than 1,500 last fall.

"El Toro is a very good team," Huntington Coach Eric Lo said. "I'm concerned with the efficiency of their passing game, speed of the skill players and their game experience."

Huntington also is coming off an outstanding season, one in which the Oilers went 9-3 and reached the second round of the Pac-5 playoffs. Unlike El Toro, the Oilers have had to replace several playmakers. Junior Kai Ross has moved from his wide receiver slot on offense last year to quarterback the Oilers this fall. Ross also will play cornerback.

Huntington was just one of two teams to defeat El Toro last year. The Oilers beat the Chargers, 23-21, in the season opener for both teams.

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Friday

Foothill vs. Fountain Valley, 7 p.m., Huntington Beach High: Fountain Valley, which has 12 starters back from last year's 4-6 team, begins its slate against a Foothill squad that also returns several players from a year ago.

The Knights bring back nine starters from a 2011 unit that went 8-5, finished tied for second in the Century League and reached the semifinals of the Southwest Division playoffs, where it was edged, 21-20, by eventual champion Tustin.

The key returner among the nine players is quarterback Jack Gilchrist, who totaled nearly 1,800 yards in offense.

"Foothill is a very talented team that is well coached," Fountain Valley Coach John Shipp said. "They have some returning impact players, including their quarterback (Gilchrist). Being that this is the first game, this is one that should come down to the team that takes care of the ball."

El Rancho vs. Marina, 7 p.m., Westminster High: Marina takes its first step into the new season by hosting El Rancho of the Del Rey League.

Marina starts the season with 13 returning players from a 1-8-1 team. Among that group are All-Sunset League two-way linemen Izak Faoa and Casey Coffman, and running back/defensive back Eli Cabaccang. Marina Coach George Pascoe said Wednesday that junior Austin Sojka will start at quarterback Friday.

El Rancho, located in Pico Rivera, went 5-5 last year and didn't qualify for the playoffs. The Dons return quarterback Joe Sanchez but must replace their top two rushers (Josh Lopez, Ronnel Lone) from a year ago. Sanchez, a senior, threw for 621 yards and was the Don's third leading rusher with 279 yards. His top receiver last year, Johnny Garcia, also is back.

Vinnie Lopez is in his first season as El Rancho head coach.

"This week we have to get better doing what we do, take care of business and let the game take care of itself," Pascoe said. "El Rancho is going to be well coached and play hard. First game for Coach Lopez, so I'm sure the kids want to start him out on the right foot."

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Saturday

Animo Leadership vs. Brethren Christian, 7 p.m., Ocean View High: Brethren Christian heads into the season with new faces in key places, but 13 returning starters anchor the Warriors in 2012. Six All-Academy League players return from a 6-5 team that made the East Valley Division playoffs. One of the returners is junior Will Martin, who last year was named the league's co-Lineman of the Year. Another is junior Jack McInally, who steps in to lead at quarterback.

First up for BC is Animo Leadership, a charter school from Inglewood. The Aztec Eagles went 2-8 in 2011.

"We want to win our home opener," BC Coach Pat McInally said. "We feel it will set the tone for our entire season. We want execution on offense and aggressive, opportunistic play on defense to be the trademarks of our program."

michael.sciacca@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeSciacca

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