The Tri-Valley League is off to inauspicious start. More coaches are busy counting the healthy than listing the talented. An all-star team can be formed in the nurses’ offices of these bedroom communities.
“What’s happened to America’s youth?,” St. Bonaventure Coach Damian Wilkerson asked. “If they’re out there, there not playing football.”
Carpinteria, a two-time Southern Section champion, has the largest roster with 41 players. Oak Park had the least on Tuesday when only eight healthy players showed up for practice. Fillmore recently raised its total to join St. Bonaventure with 30. Moorpark has 21 and Bishop Diego 17.
Needless to say, most players will see plenty of playing time and several will rarely leave the field during the course of a game.
The following is a look at the projected order of finish:
Carpinteria--It is hard to believe that Carpinteria would ever lose its stranglehold of the Tri-Valley League.
Carpinteria has won or shared three Southern Section championships, two in the last two years, and has been to the championship game five times under 13-year Coach Lou Panizzon.
The Warriors have won Tri-Valley titles in 1981, ’86, ’87 and ’88 and have won 15 consecutive league games over the past three seasons. Santa Ynez was the last league team to defeat Carpinteria, posting a 17-16 victory in the 1985 season finale.
Even more telling of Carpinteria’s dominance has been its margin of victories. Last season, Carpinteria outscored its opponents 191-27. That was somewhat of a disappointing season for the defense, considering it allowed only one touchdown in 1987, when the Warriors scored 226 points and yielded 7.
On offense, Coley Candaele returns for his third season as the starting quarterback. Candaele (5-foot-11, 165 pounds) passed for 1,630 yards and 24 touchdowns last season and made first-team All-Southern Section. Candaele, the nephew of major league baseball player Casey Candaele, is also a standout distance runner. He placed second in 1,600 meters and sixth in the 800 in the state track championships last June.
The rest of the backfield also will be made up of returning starters. Senior tailback Jose Hernandez (5-9, 175) rushed for more than 700 yards and 11 touchdowns and was an all-league selection. Senior Izak Ondre (5-8, 165) started at fullback for much of last season.
Fillmore--The Flashes have perhaps the best chance of unseating Carpinteria and should improve on last season’s record (6-4 overall, 3-2 in league play).
Quarterback Chad Van Winkle (5-8, 165) helped Fillmore make a smooth transition to passing-oriented offense last season. Van Winkle set school records for passing attempts (173) and yardage (1,023) as a junior.
The Flashes lost running back Anthony Chessani to knee surgery but have two experienced replacements. Hugo Virto (5-7, 175) rushed 53 times for 286 yards and Mike Kozar (5-11, 195) gained 158 yards in 26 carries.
Junior halfback Tory Cabral (6-0, 180) is a strong runner and will be the focus of the ground game. Cabral helped Fillmore’s junior varsity teams to undefeated league records and an overall mark of 17-3 the past two seasons.
Tight end Steve Palmer (6-1, 205) and tackle Ralph Meza (6-2, 270) were both all-league selections and will have to cover up for a relatively inexperienced line.
Fillmore was shorthanded until the team’s assistant coaches recruited 12 players in three days to raise the roster total to 30.
“It happened virtually overnight,” Coach Curtis Garner said. “I feel a lot more comfortable with my team knowing that I have some depth. I think we’ll be ready now to challenge for the league title.”
Moorpark--The Musketeers may have the second-best athlete in the league behind Candaele in quarterback Robert Hernandez (6-2, 170). He already has caught the attention of local college scouts. Now all he he needs is a receiver to catch his passes. Last season, Hernandez passed for 615 yards and two touchdowns but had a mediocre completion rate of 37% (56 of 151). Injuries already have taken a toll and Musketeers’ backfield has been affected the most. Junior Tony Upshaw (5-10, 180) suffered a deep cut in his right foot and could be out for two weeks. Senior Jeff Cox (6-0, 200), a two-year varsity letterman, will move from fullback to tailback until Upshaw returns. He will be joined by third-string fullback Doug Frasco. Backup fullback/linebacker Tom Uphoff (5-11, 190) suffered a torn quadriceps muscle in his right leg and also will be out at least two weeks.
Senior tackle Pedro Lozano (5-11, 230) and senior guard Victor Magdaleno (6-1, 210) are Moorpark’s strongest and best blockers and should provide better protection for Hernandez.
Moorpark has not won a league championship since 1941. Last season, the Musketeers finished 1-9 and 0-5. Second-year Coach Rob Dearborn hopes to finish at least in the middle of the pack this season.
St. Bonaventure--The Seraphs will go through a rebuilding season after losing 22 players from last year’s team that finished 3-7, 2-3.
Senior quarterback Chris Conley (6-1, 185) was a part-time starter last season and led the team in passing yardage with 607. He also rushed for 62 yards.
The other three returning starters are senior linemen--tight end Chris Borchard (5-10, 185), tackle John Kistler (6-4, 220) and center Ryan Garcia (5-10, 230).
Fullback Sam Monroe (6-0, 225) and split end Tom Marostica (5-11, 145) saw part-time duty last season. Marostica caught five passes for 85 yards.
“We’re looking to utilize Chris Conley on the option as much as we can,” second-year coach Damian Wilkerson said. “We’ll sink or swim with him. He’s all we have.
“The rest of the players are big question marks.”
Oak Park--After going 10-2 overall and reaching the second round of the playoffs, Oak Park expected to have a big turnout this season. Instead, the Eagles will be lucky to make it through the season without forfeitting any games. Coach Ron Veres said his team has lost eight players to injuries and may struggle to field 11 for its first game against Boron.
Oak Park does have some talented athletes when they are healthy. Kent Richter (5-9, 145), who sat out last season, will be the tailback. He was a member of the school’s 400-meter relay team that placed second in the Southern Section 1-A Division. Senior Carlos Pena (5-10, 185) earned all-league honors as a two-way lineman and will start at fullback.
Junior Mike Stern (6-1, 185) will shift from receiver to quarterback. His main targets will be senior Mike Devine (5-11, 165) and junior Chris Ruhle (5-11, 165). Senior Erikk Case (6-1, 175) and sophomore Jeff Gibbons (5-10, 165) are also receivers, but suffered injuries in practice. None have caught passes at the varsity level.
Bishop Diego--Coach Norris Fletcher almost had to wait until next year before officially beginning his first season at the helm for the Cardinals. Bishop Diego, which has won one game in the last two years, also struggled to fill its roster. The Cardinals ended up with 17 players, including two sophomores and one 15-year-old freshman.
Despite the low turnout, the Cardinals have almost an all-senior starting lineup.
The backfield consists of seniors Miguel Sanchez (5-9, 150) at quarterback, Sean Faitel (5-11, 170) at fullback and Joel Chenoweth (5-11, 155) and Aaron Baker (5-10, 160) alternating at running back.
Mike Hamilton (6-3, 160) and Keith Adett (5-9, 160) are the receivers.