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High School Football Preview: Los Amigos to dedicate season to late coach Harold McDowell

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Maopu Tuato, who is entering his first season as the Los Amigos coach, looks on during practice on Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Los Amigos High might have its best football team since the glory years at the turn of the century, welcoming back nearly every vital player — seven of them as third-year starters — and employing a new offensive scheme designed to best utilize their talents.

There’s ample motivation after the Lobos’ worst Garden Grove League campaign in decades — 0-5, no loss by fewer than 16 points — and a driving desire, under new head coach Maopu Tuato, to return to the times of league championships and deep playoff runs.

Tuato, a 2003 Los Amigos graduate who quarterbacked the Lobos during those winning days, has a lot of talent, big plans, and the ingredients for something special. Tragedy underpins it and adds an emotional component that, he hopes, will bring out the best in his team.

Harold McDowell, a Los Amigos legend set to take charge of the team following Carl Agnew’s departure to become Lakewood’s defensive coordinator, died suddenly in April.

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Los Amigos High football coach Harold McDowell died in mid-April, Lobos athletic director Chris Sandro said.

“It’s been tragic, but motivational, as well,” Tuato said. “These kids, they’re a lot stronger than most people give them credit for. They’ve dealt with the loss of Coach Harold, and they’re dedicating this season to him, and it’s starting to show out on the field. We’re having a lot of success in-house out here, because the kids are really buying into the program and really dedicating themselves to represent for Coach Howard this upcoming season.”

Tuato, who has coached off and on at Los Amigos for more than a decade and returned to the staff last year as quarterbacks coach, was asked to take charge after McDowell’s death.

“To be honest, I wasn’t ready at all,” said Tuato, who had known McDowell since his childhood. “But when the call came, I couldn’t say no. I wanted to continue what Coach Harold wanted to do. Coach Harold meant a lot to me — he’s been a friend, a brother, a coach, a mentor — and I’m just trying to keep some of the promises he made to these kids and continue forward with what he had planned for them.

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“Me coming back and coaching this team is a testament to what he does for kids around Los Amigos. He builds them up, and he turns them into better men.”

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Juan Contreras, center, sheds a block during practice at Los Amigos on Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Injuries last year devastated the Lobos, who lost star running back Brian Pacheco to a knee injury just before the league opener. He’s still rehabbing and likely won’t be back on the field until at least mid-October, Tuato said, but he’s installed a spread offense to emphasize quarterback Justin Boyer’s abilities and a dynamic receiving corps led by Joshua Barriga, Adolfo Chavez and Juan Contreras.

Andrew Cummins and sophomore Pablo Madriz will be the chief weapons in the backfield. Left tackle Arturo Torres is the leader on the offensive line.

“We’re trying to teach the kids to play a smarter brand of football, rather than just lining up and trying to bulldoze our way down the field, as in the past,” Tuato said. “We’ve got a lot of talent on the outside, and being able to pass, we’re going to open up the run game a little more. ... Justin’s got a strong arm, he’s extremely talented and gifted athletically, and if we can get him to make the right decision on every play, he should be one to watch out there.”

The Lobos have a strong core of linebackers led by Jesus Sanchez and defensive captain Jose Hernandez, only a sophomore. Carlos Vargas, and Gabriel Langinbelik are key up front in Tuato’s 3-4 defense, and Barriga — the lone returning all-league player — Chavez and Contreras make for a dynamic and experienced secondary.

Tuato says he wants to “restore some glory back into this school.” He believes they can win the league title and make a CIF Southern Section Division 14 playoff run if everything falls into place — but that’s not just about being a good football team. The Lobos last won a league title in 2008, when they shared it with Garden Grove and Santiago.

“I’ve stressed to the kids that we need to be better in every aspect, not just on the field,” he said. “We’ve got to be better students, better citizens at school, better kids to our parents when we go home. I feel like if we’re putting our energy into being better everywhere in life, then having success on the football field will follow.

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“I’m a true believer in that, and when I went to school here, [former Lobos head coach Roger] Takahashi used to preach to us about trying to be perfect in every aspect, and league championships followed. Making noise [in the playoffs] is going to have to start with us at square one, being better and young men, period. Then we’ll try to be better out on the field as well.”

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Los Amigos defensive back Adolfo Chavez, left, covers wide receiver Joshua Barriga during practice on Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

LOS AMIGOS LOBOS

CIF Southern Section Division: 14

Coach: Maopu Tuato (first year)

Staff: Charles Galbreath (assistant head coach, quarterbacks), Able Amezquita (defensive coordinator), Zach Antolin (special teams), LaRue Carr (wide receivers), Raul Carrillo (running backs), Felix Cruz (outside linebackers), Josh Grace (strength and conditioning/offensive line), Daniel Hernandez (inside linebackers), Tim Niumata (quality control/special teams), David Nuñez (defensive line), Diego Nuñez (defensive line), Alex Ocegueda (safeties), Steven Razo (offensive line), Cliff Weimer (player-personnel), Rudy Cheng (trainer)

2018 season: 3-7 overall, 0-5 in the Garden Grove League (sixth place)

Offensive scheme: Spread

Defensive scheme: 3-4

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Returning offensive starters: Nine

Returning defensive starters: Nine

Returning with honors: Sr. WR/DB/K Joshua Barriga

SCHEDULE

August

23 — vs. Dana Hills at Garden Grove High

30 — at Ocean View

September

6 — Bye

12 — vs. Saddleback at Segerstrom High

20 — vs. Costa Mesa at Garden Grove High

27 — at Garden Grove

October

3 — vs. Santiago* at Garden Grove High

10— vs. La Quinta* at Bolsa Grande High

18 — vs. Rancho Alamitos* at Garden Grove High

25 — vs. Loara* at Glover Stadium

November

1 — at Bolsa Grande*

*denotes league game

All games 7 p.m.

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