COACH: Carl Thompson, 3rd year
LAST SEASON: 13-1 overall, Coastal Conference champion; first place in Marmonte League, 6-0.
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Name a standout on last year’s championship team and chances are that he has graduated. The Scorpions return only one starter on defense and four on offense. Gary Litten, Andy Dick and Tom Roberts are the top players on offense. Litten (6-3, 200 pounds), a tight end, caught the winning touchdown pass against Ventura in last year’s conference title game. Dick (6-5 225), an offensive tackle, is the only starter back on the interior line. Roberts, a 5-11, 190-pound fullback, played in the shadow of all-league quarterback Scott Cline and running back Jim Bittner last season. Junior linebacker Bill Heney will lead the defense. “He’s going to be a great college prospect,” Thompson said. “He’s strong, aggressive and runs a 4.7 40.” Another newcomer to watch is running back Lawrence Drough (5-11, 180), a transfer from Ventura High. Thompson said that Drough was clocked at 10.1 for 100 yards last year. Nick Riendeau, a 6-2, 190-pound senior, and Mike Henry, a 5-11, 170-pound junior are battling for the starting nod at quarterback. Riendeau played understudy to Cline last season, while Henry led the sophomore team to a 5-5 record.
OUTLOOK: “We don’t have quite the size, but in many ways this team is similar to last year’s at the same stage,” Thompson said. “Our biggest weakness is inexperience, but we do have some speed that we’ve been lacking in previous years. There is no doubt that we have the talent to be a contender again, it just takes time to fill in the missing links with such a young team.
COACH: Joel Gershon, 13th year
LAST SEASON: 9-2-1 overall. Second place in Marmonte League, 5-1
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Follow running back Carl Hughes closely or risk losing sight of him running behind the Raiders’ perenially huge offensive line. Andy Sunia (6-3, 245, senior) is the only returning starter back on the offensive front. He will be joined by five juniors who make up for their inexperience with bulk. Beefiest of all is tackle Fernando Hernandez at 6-2 1/2, 280 pounds. The other tackle is 6-3, 239-pound Al Yanez. Sunia, who is a two-time county power-lifting champion, will start at one guard, opposite Chito Guiterrez (5-10, 215). At center is Tsujio Kato (5-10, 200). Adding to the team’s strength up front are a pair of solid tight ends in senior Al Gordon and junior Vince Plymire. Gordon, 6-3, 201, runs the 40 in 4.8 and is noted for his blocking. Plymire (6-4, 245), adds extra bulk in short yardage situations. Standouts on defense should be Tom Aupiu (5-9, 165), who will move to strong safety after starting at outside linebacker last season. Scotty Matautia, a 6-3, 216-pound junior, will be back at defensive end. Starting at quarterback will be Martin Basaldue, a 6-3, 190-pound junior who started on the junior varsity last season.
OUTLOOK: Gershon’s strategy on offense has never been fancy. The Raiders usually pass only seven or eight times a game. Channel Islands prefers to run over and through its opponents rather than run or pass around them, and they have the size on the offensive line to do just that. “Our line has a chance to be very good,” Gershon said. “We’re very young, but there’s a lot of talent out there.”
COACH: Ken Cook, 11th year
LAST SEASON: 4-6 overall. Tied for third place in Marmonte League, 3-3
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Cook describes quarterback Jason Merrill (5-10, 145) as “small and not very fast” and in the same breath adds that he is the perfect person to run the team’s ball control offense. Merrill, a junior, was the leader of Newbury Park’s undefeated sophomore team last season. He will have a pair of reliable targets to throw to in junior Steve Muscarella and senior Sean Grady. Muscarella (5-9, 155) isn’t very fast, but he runs a good route and has sure hands. He was Merrill’s favorite target on the sophomore team. Grady (5-11, 170), was a second team all-league selection as a defensive back last season. He’s one of the team’s better athletes. Fullback Eric Craig (6-3, 215), will lead the team’s running game. He is big and strong enough to run inside the tackles and fast enough to sweep the ends. Craig is a middle guard and is one of the Panthers best players on defense. The other running back will probably be Sean McLeod (5-9, 160), who will also start at strong safety. Anchoring a solid offensive line are two-way starters Sean O’Brien and Larry Field. O’Brien (5-11, 225), will start at offensive tackle, and Field (5-10, 195) at guard. On defense, both play tackle.
OUTLOOK: “The big question is, are we going to play Newbury Park defense? Or, are we going to do what we did last year,” Cook said. Newbury Park teams are usually noted for their defense but last season the Panthers gave up an average of 22 points a game. “I’m worried because once again we lack a kamakazie--that one crazy kid whose aggressive nature is contagious,” Cook said.
COACH: Tom West, 1st year
LAST SEASON: 2-7-1 overall. Seventh place in Marmonte League, 0-6
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Royal not only had a poor record last season, but also lost its annual battle with rival Simi Valley High for the first time in five years. Quarterback Shawn Christensen (5-120, 170) is expected to be the key man in the Highlanders offense. He started as a sophomore last season, but completed less than 50% of his pass attempts and threw 17 interceptions. He did show flashes of brillance, however, throwing for 1,178 yards and 7 touchdowns. Consistency is still a question. Wide receivers Ralph Blanks (6-3, 175) and Roger Greene (6-1, 170) also return. Both started as sophomores last season. Blanks had 31 receptions and 3 touchdowns, while Greene had 22 catches for two touchdowns. Competing for time in Royal’s one-back offensive set are three newcomers to the varsity--Terry Taylor, Jeff Gillespie and Robbie Martin. Taylor (6-1, 180) played football as a freshman and sophomore, but sat out last season. Gillespie (5-10, 185) was on the team, but wasn’t a running back. Martin, a 5-7, 160-pound junior, is up from a 3-7 sophomore team. Tim Jones (6-2, 200) was a running back, but after gaining 40 pounds during the off-season, he has been switched to offensive tackle. The team’s best lineman is tackle John Goslin (6-2, 210), who also starts at linebacker. Robert Porter, a 5-11, 175-pound senior linebacker, and Jeff Walker, a 5-9, 160-pound junior, are two of the team’s better players on defense.
OUTLOOK: The Highlanders return five starters on offense and eight on defense, but considering last season’s record, that could be either good news or bad news. “It’s an old line, but it’s true,” West said. “Success breeds success. These guys have to learn to win.”
COACH: Dave Murphy, 2nd year
LAST SEASON: 4-6 overall. Fifth place in Marmonte League, 2-4
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Murphy has an envious problem: Who will be his two starters at running back? M.J. Nelson and Scott Fisher were starters last season and return for their senior season. They will have to beat out David Barrow, a 6-0, 170-pound junior transfer from New York, to keep their jobs, however. Nelson, a 5-10, 155-pound tailback, was the most dangerous weapon in Simi Valley’s offense last season. He gained 682 yards and scored 11 touchdowns rushing and averaged 5.9 yards a carry. He also caught 24 passes for 298 yards, returned punts for a 28.7 yard average, and returned kickoffs for a 29.8 average. Fisher, a 5-8, 200-pound fullback, gained 589 yards, scored 5 TDs and averaged 6.2 yards a carry. He rushed for more than 300 yards in the team’s final two games last season. Who will hand off to the talented trio of runners is also a question. Ty Wilcox and Mark Bustamonte are in a tight battle for the starting nod at quarterback. Wilcox, a 6-2, 190-pound senior who also plays outside linebacker, is the better runner of the two. Bustamonte, a 6-0, 180-pound junior, is the better passer. He threw for more than 1,000 yards for the sophomore team last season. On defense, seven starters return, including Mike Bird (6-1, 190), a second-team all-league selection last season who will make the switch from linebacker to strong safety. The Pioneers already have two other experienced linebackers in Tony White (5-10, 195) and Mark Hatch (5-9, 195).
OUTLOOK: It’s been seven years since the Pioneers made the playoffs and 23 years since they last won a league football championship. “If we block up front, we could be real good,” Murphy said. “We have some talented runners. All they need is some room to run.”
COACH: Bob Richards, 3rd year
LAST SEASON: 6-6 overall. Tied for third place in Marmonte League, 3-3
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Thousand Oaks was consistently average last season, splitting its four preleague games, six league games, and two playoff games. If the Lancers are to again rise to the level of performance they enjoyed in the 1970s (five league titles) this season, they will have to do it with an inexperienced team that returns only four starters on offense and three on defense. Dan Nagelmann (6-0, 170), a starter at defensive back last season, will be the quarterback. In the little action he saw at the helm in 1984, Nagelmann didn’t throw much, but that could change this season since wide receivers Kevin Medieros (5-11. 170) and Mike Trevathan (6-1, 170) and tight end Dean Johnson (6-2, 188) all return. Bruce Moore, who rushed for more than 1,200 yards last season, has graduated, so heading up the rushing game will be Joe Cruz, a senior tailback. Dennis Ward (5-11, 180), a starter at defensive tackle last season, will anchor the offensive line from his center position. The Lancers’ top prospect on the offensive line may be Spencer Smith, a 6-3, 210, tackle who helped the sophomore team to a 8-2 record last season. Mike Yasenchok (6-1, 190), another junior, will be the other tackle. Seniors Craig Clow and Dave Horvay will be the guards. Leading the defense will be Chris Newman and Gus Nelinger, both linebackers. Newman (6-1, 190) started at middle linebacker last season. Nelinger will play on the outside. Also playing key roles will be Ryan Estes, Eric Hubbard and Rich Strickland--all of whom are seniors who didn’t play on the varsity last season. Estes (5-11, 195) is a fullback/linebaker. Hubbard (5-11, 160) is a corner back and Stricklin (5-10, 165) is a wide receiver/corner back.
OUTLOOK: “We have a lot of kids with potential, but that doesn’t mean anything until they cross that line and make it performance,” Richards said. “We have a lot of new faces so the key to our season will be how quickly those new people adjust to the varsity level.” The Lancers are ranked No. 8 in the Coastal Conference in the Southern Section’s Preseason Coaches Poll.
COACH: George Contreras, 8th year
LAST SEASON: 2-8 overall. Fifth Place, Marmonte League; --
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Warriors return a league-high 15 starters, including Gary Salvin, the team’s Most Valuable Player last season, and Gary Wellman, the Valley area’s fastest player. Slavin (5-9, 170) was the team’s No. 2 rusher in 1984, gaining 357 yards on 58 carries. He also started at cornerback. Wellman (5-9, 165) gained 516 yards on 67 carries, despite missing 3 1/2 weeks with an ankle injury. He has been timed at 4.36 in the 40 yard dash and was Marmonte League sprint champion. Also returning in Westlake’s Delaware Wing T backfield are Steve Sidler (5-10, 175) and Brad Gossen (6-1, 205). Sidler gained 312 yards on 77 carries as a fullback, while Gossen was unimpressive as a part-time starter at quarterback. Contreras says he is much improved, however. Leaders of the offensive line include center Scott Ford (6-1, 190) and guards Paul Taylor (5-11, 170) and Ken Katz (6-0, 185). Chris Mann, Vic Topper and Bill Fisher, all juniors, give the Warriors three solid wide receivers. On defense, Matt Brown (5-10, 170) has the unenviable task of replacing Mike Fredericks, a Times’ All-Valley selection at defensive guard last season. Lending support will be Josh Thompson (6-2, 210) at defensive end, Pete Weisman (6-2, 205) at inside linebacker and Mike Holcomb (5-10, 140) at defensive back.
OUTLOOK: Four of Westlake’s preleague opponents are ranked in the top ten of the Southern Section Coaches Poll. “If we stay healthy we could be tough,” Contreras said. “We got beat up in the preseason last year and we have another killer schedule this season.” Seven of Westlake’s 1985 opponents made the playoffs last season.
Football previews were compiled by Dave Desmond, Mike Hiserman, David Keck, Gary Klein, David Morgan, Jeanmarie Murphy, Derek Raser and Johannes Tesselaar.