For 17 consecutive years, the Katella High School football team had ended the season on the wrong side of the win-loss column. Last year, a new approach and a new coach, Larry Anderson, turned things around.
Now, the Knights are intent on establishing a winning tradition.
“A lot of people in the community don’t know we’re real yet, but if we beat Esperanza, then they’ll know that the Knights are real,” said Joe Pastorello, Katella’s fullback, linebacker, punter and one of the reasons for the team’s success.
Katella (3-1-1) plays its Empire League opener against Esperanza (4-1) tonight at 7:30 in Glover Stadium in the first full week of league play in Orange County.
Both teams like to run, but Anderson said the keys to victory for Katella will be its passing game and Pastorello--a 6-foot, 190-pound senior.
“He’s the kind of kid they make movies about,” assistant coach Tom Jessee said of Pastorello, who is homecoming king and returning team captain.
He carries the bulk of Katella’s option running game as well as a 3.4 grade-point average.
He has rushed for 573 yards and 9 touchdowns in 97 carries this season, but attributes his success to the offensive line.
“When I first started here, the whole attitude toward the football team was (such that) everybody thought we were a bunch of losers,” Pastorello said. “After Coach Andy came, we started to get all kinds of support from the fans. The booster club and parents are starting to get into it and get behind us. It’s a great feeling to have that support behind you.”
Last year, Esperanza, traditionally one of the biggest teams in the county, pushed Katella around in the rain, winning, 14-8.
This year, Pastorello said things will be different.
“If we can keep the intensity we had last week against La Mirada (a 10-0 victory), and take it up one notch higher, there is no way we shouldn’t beat them,” he said.
Last season, Anderson moved the Knights into the weight room, installed the veer offense, kept them on the practice field longer and drilled them on fundamentals. And that has made all the difference in a 6-4-1 season.
“When you get the kids’ confidence and they believe in what they’re doing, they start to consider themselves championship material,” Anderson said.
Even with the new confidence, Katella’s passing game will have to gel tonight for the team to be successful, he said.
And therein lies the challenge. With the graduation of 3-year starting quarterback Jeff Yourstone and wide receiver Ted Brown, Katella’s passing attack is under construction. The Knights don’t have the threat of the deep pass. Sophomore quarterback Dennis Briggs has completed 15 of 34 passes for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Briggs will have to “be poised,” and his offensive line will have to give him more protection if the Knights want to be a championship team, Anderson said.
Katella’s defense, which has allowed 1 touchdown in the past 3 games, will have to recognize and contend with a multitude of Esperanza formations. Junior running back Lance Brown leads the Aztec offense with 423 rushing yards in 5 games.
Esperanza Coach Gary Meek anticipates a ball-control game because both teams like to run and neither has demonstrated an overwhelming passing game.
“If Pastorello has a big night, then Katella is going to be very successful,” Meek said.
Esperanza will concentrate on a balanced defense because if the Aztecs focus on Pastorello, Katella will burn them with the option to Jeremy Sherman, Meek said.
Fountain Valley (3-2) vs. Ocean View (3-2) at Huntington Beach High School--Both teams are coming off losses. Fountain Valley, formerly ranked No. 1 by the Orange County Sportswriters’ Assn., lost, 35-20, to Long Beach Poly.
The Barons will look to David Henigan, the county’s eighth-rated quarterback, to help them regroup. Henigan threw for 255 yards last week. He has completed 83 of 145 passes for 5 touchdowns. He is second in total passing yards (1,092) only to Trabuco Hills’ David Lowery (1,290).
Henigan likes to throw to Mike Cook, the county’s fourth-rated receiver with 22 catches for 403 yards, and Doug Weaver, who has 15 receptions for 250 yards. Tailback Kedric Powe powers the ground game with 411 yards in 92 carries.
Ocean View is coming off a 10-0 loss to Tustin. The Seahawks were held to 52 yards. They have a young quarterback in sophomore Randy Karliner, whose favorite target is Greg Szuba. Szuba has 14 receptions for 206 yards. Dean Martinez is Ocean View’s leading rusher with 289 yards in 67 carries.
Kennedy (3-1-1, 2-0) vs. Santiago (3-2, 1-1) at Garden Grove High School--The game features two of the Garden Grove League’s top teams. Santiago bounced back last week from two consecutive losses to defeat Rancho Alamitos, 36-7. Quarterback Dana Ripley is the key to the Cavalier offense; he has thrown for 611 yards and 7 touchdowns. Of his 6 interceptions, 5 came in one game (against Corona del Mar). Running back Rudy Motley is the team’s leading rusher with 229 yards. Kennedy has a versatile offense, featuring quarterback Pete Montera and running back Ed Williams. Montera has thrown for 718 yards, including 251 in last week’s 18-17 victory over La Quinta. His favorite target is tight end Tom Deep, who has 18 receptions for 248 yards. Williams has rushed for 436 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Corona del Mar (5-0) vs. University (2-3) at Irvine High School--The Sea Kings, the defending Sea View League champions, have great momentum going into tonight’s league opener--especially compared to last season. In 1987, Corona del Mar was 1-4 before its first league game, which it lost, 14-13, to Tustin. University, which lost its first three games this season, has won its last two, including a 31-20 victory over Dana Hills last Friday. Corona del Mar quarterback Ty Price is averaging 102 yards passing per game, and Weston Johnson has caught 4 touchdown passes and made 5 interceptions. Running backs Jim Roberson and Gary Smarr, each averaging 4.9 yards per carry, lead University.