With College of the Canyons reviving its football program, there will be seven junior college teams in the region this season.
The jury is out on whether Canyons will contend for a conference title. Meanwhile, Moorpark and Valley again appear to be the region's top programs.
A team-by-team breakdown:
Coach: Brent Carder, 29th season.
Last season: 7-4, second in Foothill Conference at 6-2.
The Marauders have five durable running backs and Carder intends to spread the carries among them.
Sophomores Tyree Booker (5-9, 200) and Jan Brown (5-8, 195) will see the most duty. Freshmen Kasey Young (5-10, 265), Nick Olivares (5-9, 230) and Andrew Campbell (5-10, 230) round out a Bull Elephant backfield. The offensive line has three returning starters--tackles Bryant Perez and Ray Candalaria, and tight end Jason Boyett.
Sophomore Justin Holtfreter from Quartz Hill High and freshman Monte Gutowski, a transfer from Mendocino College, are competing at quarterback.
Among six returning defensive starters are free safety Marcus Prevost, and inside linebackers Gary Hardy and James Juneau.
Coach: Chuck Lyon, first season.
First year of football since 1981.
Lyon will double as offensive coordinator and employ a single-back, four-receiver scheme. The attack will be wide open, and so is competition for many starting positions.
Chris Kobe from Saugus High and a transfer from Cal State Northridge is competing for the quarterback spot with freshman Peter Dirksen from L.A. Baptist High and sophomore Kevin Carrasco from Saugus.
Running backs include George Garcia from Monroe and Charles Jamison from Kennedy. Receivers include freshmen Jude Oliva, Brian Pritchett, Mark Hamilton, Kevin Rhaburn and Tim Feirfeil.
Freshman Jonathan Jackson (6-5, 335) from Columbus, Ohio, sophomore Travis Knowles (6-1, 268) from Burroughs High and freshman Misi Te'i (6-4, 345) from Samoa are the best offensive linemen.
Question marks abound on defense. Six players are contending for starting roles in the secondary. Kevin Giberson, a transfer from Northridge, and sophomore Sean Cogswell from Canyon High lead the linebacking corps.
Coach: John Cicuto, 10th season.
Last season: 2-8, fourth in Western State Conference Northern Division at 2-3.
The Vaqueros appear to be among the region's most-improved teams. All-state running back Darrell Durham rushed for 1,500 yards last season, closing with a 303-yard performance against Santa Barbara. Freshman fullback Chris Nicholson (6-1, 228) from Venice High won't just be counted on to block.
The offensive line includes sophomore Adis Davtyan (6-4, 295) and freshman Ed Martinez from Diamond Bar High. All-conference tight end Brian Gelt (6-2, 225) played virtually all of last season with a broken wrist.
Sophomore Chris Cervantes returns at quarterback but is being challenged by freshman Mike Frost from Ayala High. Wide receiver Tommy Lee missed three games last season because of a separated shoulder. Lee doubled as a defensive back last season but will play exclusively on offense this year.
Defense is a question mark, considering several key players departed. Derek Lyons (6-2, 215), a second-team all-conference selection anchors the defensive line.
Coach: Jim Bittner, 20th season.
Last season: 6-4, tied for first in WSC Southern Division at 4-1.
Sophomore running back Carl Richardson ranked fourth in the WSC last season with 1,195 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Richardson might be the best but he is not the only talented back in a program that has made the running game its hallmark. Emmanuel Evans, who rushed for 2,205 yards last season at Birmingham High, and sophomore Emory Holmes, who rushed for 460 yards, won't go to waste.
Ross Randolph is the top returning receiver. Quarterbacks Farhaad Azimi, a transfer from Brigham Young, was a senior at Rio Mesa in 1996. Returning backup Brian Spencer and freshman Scott Ange from Thousand Oaks High are in the running.
Several starters return on offense and defense. They include tackle Brian Wykowski, defensive backs Russell Burwell and Bubba Jackson, defensive tackle Kevin Kos and linebackers Jermaine Isasc and Andres Navarro.
Linebacker Jud Southwell transferred from UC Davis after graduating from Thousand Oaks in 1997. Kicker Robert Lord transferred from Houston.
Coach: Bill Norton, eighth season.
Last season: 0-10, sixth in WSC Northern Division at 0-5.
Pierce's losing streak stands at 28 games and the outlook remains bleak for the Brahmas.
The passing game could be a bright spot if Norton can shore up what last season was a porous offensive line. Quarterback Calvin Zinck, a transfer from Moorpark and former standout at Kennedy High, has a strong arm. Wide receivers Vaughn Corley, who led the region with 70 receptions last season, and Basil Duncantell, who had 53, return. Wide receiver Damon Coleman, a transfer from Eastern Arizona, attended Taft and Van Nuys. Raymar Adams, a transfer from Moorpark, can play running back and wide receiver.
Two starters return on the line--tackle Jeremy Atteberry and guard Ryan Fee. Freshmen Tyler Brennan from Taft and Bobby Davis from Birmingham join the secondary, where Rob Anamizu returns as a starter.
Coach: Gary Barlow, second season.
Last season: 6-4, fourth in WSC Southern Division at 2-3.
The Monarchs, arguably the region's most successful program the last five years, slipped a notch last season. But Barlow's run-and-shoot scheme should keep Valley competitive. Four quarterbacks--Eric Holtfreter, Mike Adams, Travis Winn and Todd McLean--are in the running. Holtfreter, brother of Antelope Valley quarterback Justin Holtfreter, and Travis Winn from Chatsworth High, are freshmen. Adams transferred from Boston University. Left-hander McLean is the only sophomore among the four.
The running attack includes Vinny Walker, who rushed for 1,600 yards last season at Monroe, and Jamian Barbour, a sophomore from Crespi who played sparingly last season.
The receiving corps is depleted. Kevin Carlsen, who caught 39 passes last season, is the most experienced. Scott Collins moves from backup quarterback to tight end.
Linebacker Marc Zimmerman and defensive backs Donte Morgan, Charles Law and Ron Atkins are returning starters.
Coach: Terry Morris, second season.
Last season: 1-9, fifth in WSC Northern Division at 1-4.
Morris plans to employ a more balanced offense than last season's up-tempo attack. Sophomores Brian Rucker and Brian Shubin, a transfer from Texas Christian, are competing at quarterback. Protection is a concern since the offensive line is filled with freshmen.
Wide receiver Dominic Delillio led the Pirates with 34 receptions last season. Ventura has several good running backs, including Travis Rogers, a freshman from Tennessee and Sammy Ayala from Hueneme High.
Defensive back Rashadd Cousins missed last season because of a knee injury after earning all-conference honors as a freshman.
Some facts you need to know about junior college football:
* Valley last season failed to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 1992.
* Canyons will play in the Western State Conference Northern Division and play conference games against Glendale, Pierce and Ventura. The Cougars play a nonconference game at Antelope Valley.
* Pierce, which has lost 28 consecutive games, is far from breaking a national record for futility. Coahoma College in Mississippi holds the national junior college record for consecutive losses with 50 from 1980-84.
* Antelope Valley last season played in its first bowl game since 1993, the inaugural McDonald's Community College Bowl. Antelope Valley will host the same bowl game this season Dec. 5.
* Valley plays at Pierce on Sept. 19 in the 31st meeting between the Valley's two junior college football teams. Valley holds a 17-13 edge. Pierce has not defeated Valley since 1991.