HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEWS: SOUTHERN SECTION : Games Decide Missing Factor in Equation
The equation, as Larry Edwards views it, usually is a simple one:
Agoura + Santa Clara + X = Frontier League playoff qualifiers.
Agoura and Santa Clara are the constants and one of the rest--Santa Paula, Nordhoff or Edwards’ Calabasas team--is the variable.
In 1986, it was Calabasas. Last season, it was Santa Paula.
“Santa Clara and Agoura keep winning,” Edwards said. “They’re definitely the class of the league. The rest of us are always clawing and scratching for the other playoff spot.”
So how will the season add up for Calabasas?
“We’re going to be sharpening our claws,” Edwards said with a laugh.
The league has added Santa Ynez to the formula, just to make the homework that much more interesting. The addition of Santa Ynez, a four-year, 800-student school in Solvang that had competed in the Tri-Valley League, certainly complicates matters.
“Jeez, Santa Ynez,” Edwards said. “One year they had players who pulled the bus to games. They were big.”
That would be quite a haul these days. Santa Ynez’s jump to the Division VIII league also means an increase in travel. Calabasas, the league’s southernmost school, is 90 miles from Solvang. “They should charter a plane to their away games,” Edwards suggested.
Unfortunately for Edwards, Santa Ynez plays host to Calabasas this season. But as long as versatile Mike Webb doesn’t miss the bus, the Coyotes have a chance.
“We have a lot of good kids, and we have Mike Webb,” Edwards said of his tailback-receiver-free safety-punter-return specialist. “I think we are a good football team. We’re not great yet, but we’re good.”
Players such as quarterback Dave Kalman, all-league wide receiver Bennett Fisher, nose guard Chris Margarif (6 foot, 1 inch, 250 pounds) and linebackers Casey Whalen (6-0, 205) and Scott Faer (6-0, 210) also will figure in the Coyotes’ quest to contend.
But the league crown rests with Agoura, where the players are perennially big enough to make the Chargers among the favorites.
Agoura, under 19-year-veteran Coach Frank Greminger, again has size across both lines. Todd Steussie (6-6, 230), Ken Thatcher (6-0, 190) and David Oronowitz (6-0, 195) are among the starters along the front.
Carrick O’Quinn (6-2, 220) will add muscle out of the backfield. Seniors Brian Jauch and Danny Jaffee and junior Josh Smaler are waging a three-way battle to play quarterback.
Santa Clara lost to Agoura, 24-7, in last year’s regular-season finale, the Saints’ only league defeat.
The difference this time could be junior Tim Gutierrez, who last season replaced injured quarterback Mike Teron after one game and passed for 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns. Gutierrez will throw to Matt Young and Kasha Clemens, who combined for 57 receptions and 917 yards last season.
Quinn Knight and Leo Berry will start in the Saints’ backfield. Leading the charge will be linemen Jim Caballero (6-4, 270), Robert Perez, Jr. (6-4 1/2, 255) and Ted Lawrence (6-1, 220).
Santa Ynez will be led by All-Southern Section linebacker Rod Smalley and nose guard Brent Messer.
Senior quarterback Rick Carpenter is the key at Santa Paula. He replaces Will McInerney, arguably Ventura County’s best at the position last year.
Nordhoff was a respectable 4-6 last season but lost all four of its league games. Key players include all-league guard Brian Baldwin (5-11, 180), receiver Steve Blundell, tailback Rob Lasby and tackle Chad Starnes.
FRONTIER LEAGUE Predicted Finish
1. Santa Clara (8-2)
2. Agoura (6-4)
3. Santa Ynez (6-4)
4. Calabasas (5-5)
5. Santa Paula (4-6)
6. Nordhoff (3-7)
Predicted record in parentheses.