Tonight’s matchup between Esperanza and Marina high schools will break the seals on their 1986 seasons with football’s answer to something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.
It will be a meeting of two of Orange County’s oldest and finest prep football traditions; two new coaches in Marina’s Chris Ramsey and Esperanza’s Gary Meek; the philosophies that Meek borrowed from his predecessor, Pete Yoder, whom he assisted for 10 very successful years, and the blue of the Viking uniforms.
The opener, at Bradford Stadium at 7:30 p.m., doubtless will be met with more intense scrutiny than the past three meetings between the Aztecs and Vikings. The sum of those games basically produced a faceoff, a 1-1-1 series record. Marina won last year, 21-7.
Both new coaches enter the contest seeking illumination about themselves, their teams and what the season may hold. Their unfamiliarity with their opponent’s coaching style adds a dash of mystery.
“We’re kind of in the dark, ourselves,” Meek said. “It’s really kind of scary. The films we have of them in the past don’t tell us what they’re going to do.”
Echoed Ramsey: “It’s all unknown right now. I feel good about our team, but we’ll have to wait and see how they actually perform when they turn the lights on.”
As far as Esperanza goes, the Aztecs look capable of a major rebound from a subpar 1985 season in which they squeaked into the playoffs and finished 5-6. One problem was the offensive line, but that doesn’t look to be the case this time. It averages more than 230 pounds per man, anchored by tackle James Rae at 6-5, 260.
Returning tailback Mike Miscione limped through the 1985 season with a bad ankle, but still managed to score 74 points and rush for 765 yards, second in the Empire League. Meek expects more mileage from Miscione with the aid of an experienced and big offensive line.
It doesn’t take long before a new coach in the county learns the usual party line on Esperanza.
“They’re a big team with a lot of people back, including a real good tailback,” Ramsey said. “They’ve been very good in the past and they should be even better this year.”
Another question for tonight concerns the Aztec defense.
If anybody can test it early in the season, the Vikings are a likely candidate with three of the Sunset League’s most talented returning skill players. Quarterback Rick Vanderriet passed for 10 touchdowns and 1,024 yards in 1985, his first season of organized football, and the Vikings earned the league co-championship.
“He’s very talented and at the stage he’s at, he should get better and better every week,” Ramsey said. Vanderriet is also a threat to run. Viking fullback Sean Magula led the league last season, gaining 1,128 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns. Receiver Brian Sterzer is the third threat in the multifaceted offense. However, the effectiveness of the trio could be hampered by the lack of depth and experience of the offensive line.
“They lost their whole offensive line (to graduation) and we feel that’s something we might be able to exploit, their greenness up front,” Meek said.
Although Ramsey’s approach may be entirely different than that of former Viking Coach Dave Thompson, Meek has not forgotten the way last year’s game was lost.
“They hurt us with two deep passes for about 120 yards,” Meek said. “They put the ball right on the money and beat us. We kind of figure that’s in the game plan they’re going to be using again.”
In other games tonight:
Fullerton vs. Anaheim in Glover Stadium: The Indians have some of the largest linemen in school history, such as tackle Jeff Bailey, a returning starter at 6-5, 255. They also have a talented tailback, senior Darrell Corbin. The Colonists are led by the versatile Ernest Johnston at fullback and linebacker.
Huntington Beach vs. Corona del Mar at Newport Harbor High School: The Sea King defense, a powerful unit last season, returns nine players. The offense is led by quarterback Mitch Melbon, but it will have some holes because receiver Sean Steele is out with strep throat and running back Tom Thomason broke his ankle surfing. The Oilers have excellent size and experience on the line--for example, 6-7, 290-pound tackle Dan Goodman. Ken Rehling, a safety last year, has been converted to running back and Coach George Pascoe says he shows considerable promise.
Los Alamitos vs. Los Amigos at Garden Grove High School: The Griffins are coming off a fine season as Empire League co-champions. Roger Roadstrom and Neil Sorensen return at running back with three powerful returning linemen--Chris Rose, Steve Wood and Chris Spoden--to break open the holes. Los Amigos also made the playoffs last season in the Garden Grove League, but this season’s team is young and its two quarterback candidates, Jimmy Siddal and Tim Kuzmick, need to gain varsity experience.
Ocean View vs. Kennedy at Western High School: The Seahawks’ new coach, Guy Corrozza, plans to put an emphasis on the passing of Mike Spence, who redshirted last season because of residency problems after transferring from Texas. Phil Bowen will be a leading receiver and Kurt Szuba returns at running back. Kennedy has an effective ballcarrier in John Christensen, who rushed for 524 yards last season. Quarterback Todd Bristow also showed promise as a junior despite a lack of protection from his line. Both teams were 2-8 last season.
San Clemente vs. Woodbridge at Irvine High School: The Tritons have speed, but not much depth or size. Rob Buhler returns at running back and Andy Greek at quarterback. Woodbridge is led by David Townsend, who rushed for 738 yards last season as the Warriors earned third place in the Sea View League. John Yurkovich returns at quarterback.
Saddleback vs. Santa Ana Valley in Santa Ana Stadium: The Roadrunners have many key players back from last season’s Central Conference championship team, including the entire defensive secondary. The Falcons, who won one game last season, are rebuilding with the guidance of new Coach Dan Castanon. Oscar Alvarez will start at quarterback.
Villa Park vs. Pacifica at Bolsa Grande High School: The Spartans are expecting an improvement from a 5-5, 4-3 season that left them a game short of a playoff berth in the Century League. Scott Creagan is an imposing figure (6-3, 205) at end. Tom Kelly, a left-hander, will play quarterback. The Mariners lost to graduation nearly all the important players from their Empire League co-championship team, except linebackers Tim Rife and Tom Hansen, but Coach Bill Craven seldom fields a team that isn’t in the thick of it. Brent Johnson, who played sparingly last season, takes over quarterback duties.