COACH: Frank Greminger, 2nd year
LAST SEASON: 14-0 overall, Desert-Mountain Conference champions; first place, Frontier League, 5-0
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Coming off a championship season, the Chargers aren’t rebuilding--just building. There is talent, but little experience, leaving Greminger’s lineup undecided going into Friday’s opener against Newbury Park. “We have to get some experience before our first league game,” Greminger said. Agoura’s biggest challenge will be to replace quarterback Steve Armstrong, an all-league performer in three sports last season. Greminger has yet to find a successor. Only three players--all seniors--are certain to start. Donnie Rea, (6-1, 195 pounds) will play tight end and outside linebacker; Mike Bowman (6-3, 240) will double as an offensive tackle and inside linebacker; Jodie McGee (6-0, 187) will play center and defensive tackle. That leaves 16 positions to be filled in the next two days. “I wish I knew,” Greminger said. At this point, Greminger says the defense is ahead of the offense. “But you can’t win if you don’t put points on the board,” he said. “We still have to work on being more consistent on offense.”
OUTLOOK: In a preseason poll of league coaches, Agoura is picked second behind Santa Clara. Greminger thinks the Chargers can contend if they learn some early lessons. “If we learn the little things, by the time the league season starts we will be a team to be contended with. But Santa Clara is definitely the team to beat.”
COACH: Larry Edwards, 6th year
LAST SEASON: 2-8 overall; last place in Frontier League, 0-5
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: With only four returning starters and seven seniors on the first unit, the Coyotes will rely on the remnants of a 10-0 junior varsity team to move out of the Frontier League cellar this season. Calabasas will be led by linebacker-guard Lary Bloom (6-1, 210), a third-year varsity player who bench presses almost 400 pounds. The other returnees from last year include tight end John Perlstein (6-6, 200), defensive tackle Steve Enrico, wide receiver Todd Wensley and strong safety Kenny Moscow. The rest are newcomers. The quarterback will be junior Darren Delandrae (5-10, 165), a converted wide receiver whose throwing ability forced Edwards to change offenses from the veer to the I-formation. His deep threats will be Ty Stoller and sprinter Pete Williamson, league champion at 100 meters last year. The Coyotes are deep in the backfield with fullback Jim Ervin (5-10, 210), Crespi transfer John Russiello and speedster Larry Griffin. The top newcomer could be sophomore Scott Pensis (6-0, 180). Calabasas has good size in both lines, Edwards said. Free safety Spencer Siegel is one of them team’s better athletes.
OUTLOOK: The Coyotes hope to ride a team-slogan out of the league cellar. “The kids call it ‘Air Cal,’ ” Edwards said. “We definitely want to spend some time throwing the ball.” With 55 players on the roster, Calabasas is deep--but inexperienced. “You can’t teach heart, and these kids have it,” Edwards said. “When we go out to practrice, we don’t act like a team that was 2-8 last year, and I expect that continue into the season.”
COACH: Dave Wilde, 2nd year
LAST SEASON: 5-5-1 overall; tied for third place in Frontier League, 2-3
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Flashes draw from the smallest school enrollment in the league, and although the team’s turnout is a respectable 44, 30 are underclassmen. Fillmore is young, slow and small--about the same as last season when it finished third in league and earned a playoff berth. The top returnee is second-team all-league linebacker Doug Burt (5-11, 205). Four other seniors will start on defense: linebacker-tight end Tom Starr (6-0, 185), defensive end Jerry Maus (6-1, 185) and cornerbacks Kurt Klasen and Eric Standridge. “If we have a strong point, and we’re not sure that we will, it would have to be defense,” Wilde said. “We are noted for not giving up a lot of points.” Scoring points could also be a problem. Tackle John Chessami (6-0, 205) and defensive end Mark Nunez (5-11, 195) were starters last year as sophomores. The quarterback will be junior Larry Roberts (5-10, 155), a converted wide receiver. Wilde’s greatest concern entering the season-opener is an offensive line that is small and slow. “Running right at people certainly will not be our forte,” he said.
OUTLOOK: Wilde makes no bold predictions for the Flashes this season. “If we win four games that would be fine,” he said. “If we win five, I’d be real happy.” Wilde expects Fillmore to contend with Nordhoff for fifth place, but he isn’t writing off the season. “That’s where we like to be now,” he said. “We know all we can do from there is improve.”
COACH: Hal Matthewson, 1st year
LAST SEASON: 2-8 overall; fourth place in Frontier League, 1-4
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Matthewson has a big job ahead in his first season at Nordhoff. The former coach at Big Pine High, which fields an eight-man team, Matthewson takes over a team that won only two games last season and has only 26 players to help him turn things around. There are no returning starters and only six seniors on the team. “I’ve been going nuts trying to get in a new offense and a new defense,” he said. “I finally resigned myself to the fact that it is going to take time to get things organized.” If there is a bright spot at Nordhoff, it is at running back. Senior tailback Todd Whaland and junior fullback Orlando Lopez are among the few who have secured starting positions. Junior Todd Conlin and senior Tim Palmer are battling for the starting quarterback job. The offensive line will be anchored by senior Jack Morrison (6-0, 230) and sophomore Mike Salka (6-1, 215). The team’s 5-2 defense will be be keyed by linebackers Mike Briggs, a junior, and John Swangler, a senior. Matthewson said he has speed in the defensive backfield, but, in a familiar phrase, “no experience.”
OUTLOOK: There are more problems than pluses for Matthewson in his first season. But a small turnout and a lack of team size have not discouraged the new coach. “I’m a little disappointed at the turnout,” Matthewson said. “But they’ve had a few losing seasons here, and that can affect the numbers. The main problem is depth. Our first 15 are a solid bunch, but it could be midseason before we come on.”
COACH: Steve Dann, 2nd year
LAST SEASON: 11-2 overall; lost to Yucaipa in Desert-Mountain Conference semifinals, second place in Frontier League, 4-1
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Defense is a trademark at Santa Clara, but that could change this season. Not that the defense is bad--the offense has eight starters returning, including five of six linemen. Guard Robert Robledo (6-0, 190) is the newcomer on the line, joining holdovers Troy Lunde (5-11, 210), Paul Mesa (5-11, 195), David Vallejo (6-2, 220), Jack Ryan (6-2, 210) and tight end Brett McBride (6-3, 210). The front wall will protect senior quarterback Dave Duarte (6-0, 185). Other returnees on offense are split end Frank Madrid, who can catch “deep or inside,” according to Dann, and fullback Alberto Santana (5-11, 210), a three-year starter. Five starters--four who will go both ways--are back. Lunde, an All-Southern Section nose guard, anchors the defensive line, joined there by Santana, McBride and end Dave Gutierrez. Madrid also starts at free safety. One of Dann’s few worries in the preseason is depth with only 38 players out for the varsity. “Our key will be whether or not we stay healthy,” Dann said. “If we do, we’ll be tough.”
OUTLOOK: The Saints are the favorites to win the Frontier League, according to a preseason coaches poll. “I’ve had these kids for four years, and they know my terminology and I know them,” said Dann, a junior varsity coach for two years before assuming taking the varsity job last year. “Our goal is to win league and then take it one game at a time in the playoffs.”
COACH: Henry Jacinto, 7th year
LAST SEASON: 2-8 overall. Tied for third place in Frontier League, 2-3
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jacinto looks at last year’s record (2-8), and shakes his head. “We lost a lot of close ones,” the seventh-year coach said. “We could easily have been 6-4 or 7-3.” Instead, the Santa Paula wound up the season in fourth place. Jacinto’s hopes for a turnaround are pinned on a group of underclassmen. Junior Joe Gonzalez will start at quarterback after passing for almost 1,500 yards on the junior varsity last season. His primary targets will be junior split ends Vincente Guerrero and Mike Estrada. Senior Dale Hendrix adds experience at tight end. The top running back is junior Milton Bustillos. “We have big-play capability, but we have to move the football more consistently to be successful,” Jacinto said. On defense, the Cardinals have experience up front in seniors Eric Starr (6-1, 190) and Roger Kleinhans (6-3, 255). “I think the defense will be pretty solid even though we lack in experience at linebacker,” Jacinto said. In all, there are only seven seniors on the Santa Paula roster. Fourteen juniors start.
OUTLOOK: Although his team is inexperienced, Jacinto believes he has the talent to be a winner if things fall into place. “We need to get off to a good start so these kids can get some confidence,” he said. “If we get some good experience before league, we’ll be all right. If we don’t, it could be a long season.”
Football previews were compiled by Dave Desmond, Mike Hiserman, David Keck, Gary Klein, David Morgan, Jeanmarie Murphy, Derek Raser and Johannes Tesselaar.