VALLEY PREVIEW : FOOTBALL ’88 : THE HIGH SCHOOLS : MARMONTE LEAGUE
COACH: Carl Thompson, 6th year
LAST SEASON: 6-5; 3rd in league, 4-2
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Somewhere in Camarillo, there is a factory that churns out big offensive linemen. Last season they rounded into form just in time to knock off Westlake, 10-0, in the second-to-last week of the regular season to make the playoffs. And this season, the bulge is back: The offensive line averages 6-4 and 233 pounds. “We’re going to be big,” Thompson said. “Our strength is definitely in the offensive line.” Only one player on offense is a returning starter, however, and that is tackle Brent Heninger (5-11, 205), who will move to the defensive line. Four juniors--tackle Brad Williams (6-5, 225), guard Ken Kibble (6-3, 215), center Sergio Estrada (6-5, 240) and tight end Scott Foster (6-4, 200)--will start up front. Transfers Tony Rivas (6-4, 250) and Kevin Wilson (6-4, 235) will man the right side of the line. The offensive skill positions are largely untested. Seniors Brett Ropes and Wes Nathaniel will battle at quarterback. Sophomore Kris Kirksey (5-11, 185) will be the halfback and Roger Teoli (5-9, 205) will be the fullback. Juniors Tim Cornish and Mark Lindbloom are the leading candidates at wide receiver. As many as five juniors and a sophomore could start on defense. Free safety Zack Akins (5-11, 190), linebacker Chris Johnson (6-1, 190) and Teoli are returning starters. Junior Steve Heidemann (5-9, 250) is strong at nose guard, as are senior Mike Gregson (5-10, 220) at tackle and junior Curtis Hanson at linebacker.
OUTLOOK: Thompson assesses Thousand Oaks and Channel Islands as “a notch above everybody else” but believes that his own team can compete despite its inexperience. That will likely depend on whether he can find anyone to replace the void left by departed seniors Bill Bell and Gil Valencia. Bell rushed for 1,454 yards and Valencia had 41 receptions for 705 yards.
COACH: Joel Gershon, 16th year
LAST SEASON: 11-3; 1st in league, 5-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Russell White comparisons aside, this could be the year of John Johnson. It could be the year he makes everyone forget about brother Hilria, who held the Ventura County career rushing record until last year, and Marc Monestime, the Thousand Oaks running back who made everyone remember Hilria and then forget him again. Johnson’s explosiveness and ability, and Channel Islands’ refocused offense, make Johnson the league’s biggest threat and the Raiders the league favorite. Eight offensive starters return, including four of the five linemen who cleared the way for Johnson’s 1,672 rushing yards and 9.8-yard average. They are: senior guards Jose Montelongo (5-9, 207) and Larry Pearson (6-0, 205) and senior tackles Gil Coria (6-2, 212) and Russell Edwards (6-2, 200). Senior Rick Eckert (6-0, 195) is the tight end. Senior Vince Medina and junior Mark Contreras again will split time at quarterback. “Both are quick and both handle the ball well,” Gershon said. Defensively, inside linebacker Lucio Vera (5-10, 182), cornerback-turned-linebacker Gerald Williams (6-1, 200) and cornerback Rod Jones (5-9, 175) return.
OUTLOOK: Channel Islands won the league title last season but twice came up empty against rival Thousand Oaks, the second time in the Coastal Conference championship game. “Statistically, we were one of the better offensive teams around last year,” Gershon said. “And with the majority of our offense coming back, we could be right there again.”
COACH: Ken Cook, 14th year
LAST SEASON: 1-8-1; 6th in league, 0-5-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Last season, Cook reasoned that the Panthers would go as far as the young arm of quarterback and son Wayne Cook would carry them. One victory and too many sacks later and Cook has changed his tune only a little. Wayne completed 89 of 210 passes for 1,332 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was intercepted nine times. He needed more protection and a sturdier running game, which he may get this year. “We’re hoping to be not quite as predictable,” Cook said. “In the past, the running game was our staple, but that’s going to change.” Tackle John Merrill (6-3, 230) and center Brandt Kirk (5-11, 185) will shoulder leadership duties on the offensive line. Guards Rudy Avila (5-7, 185) and Mike Dagan (5-10, 185) also will be counted on to keep defenses away from Cook, the only returning starter in the backfield. Juniors Jason Sands (5-10, 205) and Craig Levy (5-11, 185) are competing at fullback and seniors Kelly Carmack (5-9, 160) and Artie Chisholm (5-9, 175) are vying for the tailback position. Cook also will play free safety. Juniors Jeff Jay (6-1, 210), Trevor Cull (6-1, 240) and Phil Pederson (6-0, 240) will lend size to both lines, but seasoning will come from Carmack at cornerback, Eric Greene (5-10, 160) at defensive back, J.R. Berardinelli (5-10, 170) at linebacker and Avila at nose guard.
Wayne Cook can only be as effective as his blocking and receivers. “For him to have a great year, we’ll have to have a good ballclub,” Ken Cook said. Cook chose Thousand Oaks and Channel Islands as the teams to beat but did not rule out dark horses. “End to end, this league is as tough as any in the division,” he said.
COACH: Gene Uebelhardt, 1st year
LAST SEASON: 1-7-2; 6th in league, 0-5-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Highlanders are big. Big losers , you might scoff. Perhaps, but if the linemen can block, Royal could surprise a few teams. On offense, they are: center Chris Henderson (5-9, 205), left tackle John Nitch (6-0, 235), left guard Scott Barrett (6-4, 225), right tackle Erick Anderson (6-4, 220) and right guard Darron Miller (6-2, 280). All are seniors, including tight end Tom Pitstick (6-3, 210). On defense, the Highlanders have tackles Jeremy Giancanelli (6-3, 205) and Alan Kent (6-2, 255) and nose guard Dean Hansen (5-9, 205). Quarterback Pat Ledesma, Uebelhardt said, is “the team’s rock. The cornerstone.” James Jones (6-1, 175) and brother Jason (5-9, 160) form the Highlanders’ speedy wide receiver tandem. In the offensive backfield, senior Clint Guy (5-9, 170) and junior Tyrone Evans (5-9, 175) will start off splitting time at halfback, as will senior Billy McNamara (5-7, 190) and junior Doug Tucker (5-9, 195) at fullback. The linebackers could be Royal’s most solid position. Seniors Batrone Hardy (6-0, 175), Steve Duerre (6-4, 190) and Steve Zamora (6-0, 225) all had lots of playing time. Tom Harris (5-11, 165) and Matt Brinkman (5-8, 165) should be the cornerbacks. Jack Vian (6-0, 160), Jesse Rosen (5-9, 185), Tim Ross (6-3 1/2, 185) and Matt Gillen (6-1, 175) will vie for the two safety positions.
OUTLOOK: Coaches around the league are calling Royal an enigma. But Uebelhardt, who served as an assistant at Cal Lutheran for several years, says there is no mystery. “We’re the worst team in the Marmonte League,” he said. Uebelhardt has introduced a heavy regimen of fundamentals to a program that has not been to the playoffs since 1983. “It’s a rejuvenation of a total fundamental practice plan,” he said.
COACH: Dave Murphy, 5th year
LAST SEASON: 4-5-1; 5th in league, 2-3-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Simi Valley could be in trouble; the Pioneers do not have a returning starter. Gone is all-conference running back Tony Kerr. In his place, Murphy likely will insert Lamont Harris (5-10, 180), who as a junior rushed 15 times for 79 yards. “We feel Lamont could be in the same mold as Tony Kerr and M.J. Nelson,” he said. Murphy will try seniors Tom Simmons (5-9, 180) and Jason Galvez (5-8, 195) and junior Chad Danowsky (6-0, 210) at fullback. Senior Ken Doll (5-9, 165) and junior Jeff Sommer (6-0, 195) will vie for the quarterback position. On the offensive line are Greg Lercel (5-9, 180), Mike Burroughs (6-3, 195) and sophomore Gary Mitsven (6-0, 210). Track standout Eric Hale (6-4, 195), who ran a 10.8 in the 100 meters, will start at tight end. Mike Jenkins (6-1, 160), Emery Nelson (5-10, 165) and Bryan Ha (5-9, 155) are the probable wide receivers. Outside linebackers Burroughs and Chadd Johnson (5-9, 160), nose guard Bryan Thornton (5-11, 180), inside linebacker Simmons and tackle Jason Meek (5-8, 230) are strong and fast.
OUTLOOK: The Pioneers open league play with games against defending Coastal Conference champion Thousand Oaks and defending league champion Channel Islands. “I think that by midseason we may sneak up on some people,” he said. The Pioneers denied the Lancers the league title by tying them in the regular-season finale.
COACH: Bob Richards, 6th year
LAST SEASON: 12-1-1; 2nd in league, 4-1-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Lancers will try to transform their Coastal Conference championship of last season into this season’s Division II title. Only five starters and 12 lettermen return from their 12-1-1 team, but the sophomore team was undefeated and many of last year’s juniors contributed heavily to the school’s first football championship. Two-way linemen Rick McCathron (6-4, 245) and Lance Burch (6-1, 227) will be among the best in the area. Iowa transfer Mark Floyd (6-1, 235) will add bulk to an already large line, as will junior Charlie Shin (6-0, 197). Anthony Gonzales (6-0, 163) is an exceptional athlete who has been converted from cornerback to quarterback. He will be backed up by left-handed Scott Barkman (6-0, 165), who played tight end on the sophomore team. Senior Jeff Moore (6-0, 187) started at linebacker last year and is very physical. Junior Steve Rudisill (5-11, 177) could be one of the league’s best safeties and John Mogler (5-8, 155) has added wide receiver duties to his role as a placekicker. Competing at running back are Rudisill, junior Mike Lindsay (5-10, 165), who transferred from league-rival Westlake, and senior David Kuenstle (5-10, 177), who started at slotback last year. Ahmed Selim (6-0, 187) and Noah Rubenstein (6-0, 193) are the defensive ends. Chris Foster (5-9, 205) and either Bassam Kneizeh (5-11, 184) or Floyd are the tackles. Cornerback Jimmy Magallanes and safety Todd Newman join Kuenstle and Rudisill in the defensive backfield.
OUTLOOK: Richards is hoping for some confidence-building wins early that could propel his young team to a strong league showing. They will be tested against Canyon in the third week of the season. “We have the ability to put ourselves into the league championship race,” Richards said.”
COACH: George Contreras, 11th year
LAST SEASON: 6-4; 4th in league, 4-2
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Westlake has not qualified for the playoffs since 1983. The Warriors were the only team to beat Thousand Oaks last season and were atop the league standings until consecutive losses to Camarillo and Channel Islands at the end of the season knocked them into fourth place. Nine starters, including four on offense, return. Halfback Keith Burke (5-11, 165), who last season carried 41 times for 301 yards, will move to fullback, a featured position in the Delaware wing-T offense. Allen Waldrop (6-1, 195), Mike Monroe (6-1, 220) and Mike Foster (5-6, 145, yes, 145 ) will anchor a small but quick front. The quarterback position has come down to sophomore Todd Preston and senior Chris Edwards. Junior Luke Crawford (5-10, 170), will be at halfback and seniors Matt Wolcott and Rick Kohut are at wide receiver. Back on defense are guards John Teahan (5-8, 175) and Mike Gibbons (5-10, 180), ends Mike Monroe (6-0, 210) and Damon Puckett (6-1, 190), and linebacker Evan Baker (5-11, 175), who led the team in tackles.
OUTLOOK: This is the fastest team Contreras has coached at Westlake. “I think our offensive line is a little bit better going in than it has been for several years,” he said.