New Frontier, same old results?
Calabasas High can only hope that isn't the case.
Nordhoff and Moorpark have monopolized the Frontier League title since 1991. But with Moorpark moved to the Marmonte League and Malibu joining the Frontier, Calabasas is favored to win the league title.
With an experienced quarterback, a deep receiving corps and king-sized linemen, the Coyotes seem ready to erase the memory of a disappointing 1997 season.
They were talented and touted last year, before injuries contributed to a fourth-place league finish. after a 5-0 start.
"We always seem to be a bridesmaid, never a bride," said Calabasas Coach Larry Edwards, whose team has been Frontier runner-up three times in seven years. "We don't want that to happen again."
Calabasas was 7-5 and reached the playoffs last season, but the Coyotes fell short of expectations in league play. The Coyotes have won the Frontier title only once, in 1986.
"I hope we can live up to the expectations," Edwards said. "I think we're pretty good. But anything can happen and this group saw that last year."
Traditionally a run-oriented team, the Coyotes plan to go to the air with senior quarterback Dallas Enoch (6 feet 4, 215 pounds) and a slew of receivers.
"Last year, we were Caltrans," Edwards said. "This year, we're going to be Air Cal." Enoch passed for 1,392 yards and nine touchdowns, with 11 interceptions, as a junior. Receiver Evan Rosenblum had 31 catches for 266 yards.
Other receivers include seniors Matt Lowenstein and John Shaff, junior Matt Bernstein and tight ends Bryan Jones and Dan Palmeri. Running backs Shawn Abdi and Drew Coppola also are capable receivers.
Guard Richard Klein and center Jon Opas return on the offensive line, which will have eight other players in the mix, including five newcomers from the junior varsity who are all at least 6-2 and 230 pounds.
The defense includes backs Abdi and Shaff, who each had four interceptions last year, linebackers Jason Nemit (6-3, 240) and Coppola (6-0, 205), and four returning linemen.
Calabasas' main competition should come from Nordhoff, runner-up last season. The Rangers have won four Frontier titles this decade and played in Southern Section division finals in 1994 and '96.
Senior quarterback Brandon Titus (6-2, 180) completed 44 of 94 passes for 541 yards and four touchdowns, with four interceptions last season.
Titus' targets will be junior Scott Drew, Nordhoff's leading receiver last season, and senior Jordan Schreiber. Running back Joey Briglio, who rushed for 953 yards and six touchdowns a year ago, also is back.
"We're going to try to spread the wealth around," Nordhoff Coach Cliff Farrar said.
Nordhoff's defense, which ranked third in the region last year by allowing 177 yards per game, is built around junior linebacker John Hill, nose guard James McCullah and junior free safety Etienne Emanuel, who had five interceptions in 1997.
At Santa Paula, junior quarterback Chad Metelak replaces three-year starter Willie Zavala. The top receiver is Mike Kolbeck (6-4, 190), a three-sport athlete who also plays free safety. Kolbeck led the Cardinals with 23 receptions for 492 yards and five interceptions.
"We'll be OK as long as the coach makes the right decisions," said third-year Santa Paula Coach Hoppy Mumford, who guided his team to third-place finishes in his first two seasons.
Santa Clara has not won a league game since 1994 and hasn't had a winning season since 1989. The Saints will try to turn things around under first-year Coach Eliseo Miguel, who guided the Santa Clara junior varsity to a 7-3 record last season and will call on many of those players.
"I think we're going to be very competitive," Miguel said.
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AT A GLANCE
* THE PROVEN: Quarterback Dallas Enoch of Calabasas passed for 1,392 yards and nine touchdowns in a run-oriented offense last year. Evan Rosenblum was the Coyotes' top receiver. Linebacker Jason Nemit is the key to the Coyotes' defense. Nordhoff quarterback Brandon Titus will play behind a line that includes tackle Jermaine Britton, a swimming and track standout. Junior inside linebacker John Hill was the leading tackler for a Nordhoff defense that allowed a league-low 177 yards per game. Santa Paula's Mike Kolbeck is an excellent two-way player at receiver and safety. Terrance Dotsy, a tight end-middle linebacker who led Santa Clara in receiving in 1997, has drawn raves from first-year Coach Eliseo Miguel.
* THE PROMISING: Wide receiver Matt Lowenstein is Calabasas' most improved player, according to Coach Larry Edwards. Speedy John Shaff gives the Coyotes another deep threat. Fullback-linebacker Drew Coppola steps out of the shadow of Robby Coppola, Calabasas' top rusher and scorer last season, who has graduated. Junior tackle Kent Sherman (6-6, 260) is the largest of several Calabasas linemen promoted from the junior varsity. Quarterback Chad Metelak of Santa Paula has a 4.0 grade-point average and has proved a quick study since taking over for graduated Willie Zavala. Senior defensive end Victor Garcia (6-4, 210) of Santa Paula is playing football for the first time. Junior Danny Chaparro was the leading rusher for a Santa Clara junior varsity that was 7-3 last year.
* FAST FACT: Nordhoff, a Division X finalist in 1994 and 1996, plays 1997 Division X champion Moorpark in a season opener Sept. 11 and 1996 champion St. Bonaventure in the third week.
* 1997 STANDINGS: 1. Moorpark 13-1 overall, 4-0 in league play; 2. Nordhoff 6-5, 3-1; 3. Santa Paula 4-7, 2-2; 4. Calabasas 7-5, 1-3; 5. Santa Clara 1-9, 0-4.