COACH: Rick Scott, 3rd season
LAST SEASON: 6-5; 2nd in league, 5-2
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Buena has a strong offensive line with tackles Steve Sawyer (6-foot-3, 260 pounds) and Phil Kurta (6-2, 220), center Greg Lyle (6-1, 195), and guards Pat Kelly (5-11, 225) and Brent Tingle (5-9, 175). Juniors Duane Hurst (6-1, 205) and Kevin Moran (6-1, 200), and senior transfer Tim Burtin (6-2, 250) will add depth to the offensive line. Dan Bradley (5-10, 185) and Chuck Mullany (5-11, 180) are returning starters at linebacker. Linebacker Steve Ledesma (6-2, 180) has recovered from knee surgery and is expected to provide defensive help. Rodney Carmona (6-2, 240), sidelined because of a broken arm last season, will start at defensive tackle. Eric Eads (5-10, 165), who filled in for injured Tony Williams at tailback last season, will start. Mullany, Bradley, and Matt Kemsley (6-1, 200) will share the running back position. Mike Dexter (6-1, 180), Jim Seguine (5-10, 175), and Matt Ertman (6-0, 145) are fighting for the starting quarterback job.
OUTLOOK: Scott concedes that his team is a year away from contending for the league title. Buena’s traditionally strong passing game might take a back seat to a new-found running game, led by its strong offensive line. “Hopefully, our linemen can beat up on some people and let us run it a little bit more than usual,” Scott said. Buena’s defense isn’t big. “But hopefully we’re more mobile and active,” Scott said.
COACH: George Machado, 5th season
LAST SEASON: 0-10; 8th in league, 0-7
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Hueneme will abandon the run-and-shoot in favor of a veer offense, and junior quarterback Rex Barrios (5-7, 140), a running back in ’89, will be in charge. “He’s not big, but he’s fairly quick and a real competitor,” Machado said. Terry Zolley (6-0, 170), academically ineligible last season, will play fullback. “The rest of the positions are wide open,” Machado said. Robert Harris (6-0, 225) will start at either right guard or tackle. “He’s strong as an ox, and a good leader,” Machado said. Ysidro Jimenez (6-2, 205) will return as the starting center. The defense will be led by Harris at nose guard, Barrios at outside linebacker, Sal Franco (5-11 195) at middle linebacker, and Adam Anaya (5-8, 145) at safety.
OUTLOOK: Machado says Hueneme is “in a talent lull.” The Vikings have lost 13 consecutive games and are 4-16 the past two seasons. Yet Machado remains optimistic because of a strong sophomore class. “It’s like we’re in a horse race and we’re riding a mule,” he said. “It’s a nice mule, and the mule works really hard, but the horses pull away. We just want to make sure that the mule doesn’t quit.”
COACH: Jack Davis, 32nd season
LAST SEASON: 7-3; 4th in league, 4-3
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Tailback Kenyon Lewis (6-2, 190) could be the finest back in the league. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds and was mentioned among Super Prep magazine’s Far West players to watch. Junior Dan Duchai (5-10, 160) will join Lewis in the backfield and Larry Bumpus (5-10, 165), only a sophomore, will start at quarterback. Tight end Brooke Johnson (6-0, 185) is one of only three returning offensive starters, along with Lewis and junior guard John Smith (6-1, 215).
OUTLOOK: Oxnard must replace most of last year’s 7-3 team, including an explosive offense led by quarterback Johnel Turner and fullback Bryant Taylor. “We have a lot of holes, but I don’t think we’ll be a real bad team,” Davis said. Davis will use Lewis as much as possible. “Our offense will be pitch-it-to-Lewis,” he said. Oxnard will not be helped by its nonleague schedule, which pits the Yellowjackets against Marmonte League favorites Westlake, Camarillo and Channel Islands. “That’s just a killer schedule,” Davis said. “We could play real good and still lose a bunch of games.” Oxnard has six home games, however. Said Davis: “At least we don’t have to take that long bus ride home after we get beat.”
COACH: John Reardon, 23rd season
LAST SEASON: 4-6; Tied for 6th in league, 2-5
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Sal Balsano (5-9, 180), who rushed for 500 yards as a tailback last season, has been moved to fullback in the Spartans’ option offense. Balsano makes room for tailback Gordy Abellera (5-8, 160). "(Abellera) is the first true tailback we’ve had in about seven years,” Reardon said. Angel Lopez (5-8, 155), who played sparingly a year ago, is being pushed for the starting quarterback position by junior Andy Contreras (5-10, 170). Senior Jamie Liddel (5-8, 160), a starting split end last year, will move to safety and might start both ways. Junior Swanson Nunnery (5-10, 160) will provide depth at running back. Offensive tackle Matt McHale (6-2, 210) is the lone returning lineman. Reardon says tight end-linebacker Sam Garcia (6-1, 205) is Rio Mesa’s best player. Frank Tinoco (6-2, 200) started at defensive end last season but might move to inside linebacker.
OUTLOOK: Rio Mesa has struggled the past four seasons but has set its sights on a playoff berth. The Spartans will need to develop an experienced line to spring Balsano and Abellera. “We’ll be steady, but I’m not sure we’re good enough to win the league,” Reardon said. “I think we need one player to put us over the top.”
COACH: Harvey Kochel, 11th season
LAST SEASON: 5-4-1; 5th in league, 3-4
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Ventura has one of its largest offensive lines in history with guards Chet Lindemann (6-3 265) and Brandon Evans (6-5 255), center Greg Chase (5-11 215), tackles Samsun Okinaga (6-0, 220) and Jason Ishee (6-1, 275), and tight end Brian Righetti (6-3, 225). Okinaga (6-0, 220), an all-league selection last year, ranks among the best offensive lineman in the league. Tailback Jack Hammond (5-10, 170), who rushed for 400 yards as a fullback last year, should have plenty of running room. Quarterback Jeff Dietz (5-9, 155) is being pushed by junior Trevor Rumsey (5-11, 160) for the starting job. Linebacker Curt Schommer (5-10, 185) is a returning starter.
OUTLOOK: Ventura’s large offensive line should allow the Cougars to move the ball, but the Cougars lack skill-position players. “I’m not sure we have all the great runners and catchers, but we have some speed and have some good size,” Kochel said. Ventura seems certain to land a playoff spot and might challenge for the league title. “The kids have a good attitude and have made a lot of sacrifices,” Kochel said. “If we coach them right, and do what we’re capable of doing, we could be the team to beat.