Chris Anderson is in his first year as head football coach at Fountain Valley High, but he is aware of what the Barons have been doing in recent years.
Anderson, 33, enters his 10th year coaching in the Sunset League in 2019. He was the offensive line coach at Newport Harbor for eight years before taking the same role at Corona del Mar last season.
“People kind of forget that [Fountain Valley] is a place with a lot of great tradition, a lot of good people,” said Anderson, who was hired in January after Jimmy Nolan resigned. “It’s one of those things, when I came on board, I was like, ‘I need to start reaching back out to the alumni base.’ ”
Kyle Middlebrooks, the former Fountain Valley standout and Arizona State running back, was one of the people who got a call. Middlebrooks is back at his alma mater this year as a receivers coach on a staff that has other familiar names.
Garrett Govaars, who coached with Anderson for seven years at Newport Harbor before helping out at Huntington Beach last year, is Fountain Valley’s new offensive coordinator. Former Estancia assistant Lance Chavez, a Newport Harbor alumnus who coached at Montebello Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Mary last year, is a new offensive line coach.
The Barons believe they can be competitive in the Sunset League after going 1-4 last year — only good for fifth place in the six-team league — and losing to Santa Ana 48-26 in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 8 playoffs. Fountain Valley, an at-large selection into the postseason, went 5-6 overall in 2018.
“Since the transition happened, with CdM coming in and Marina coming out, it’s a gauntlet,” Anderson said. “Minus the Trinity League, I would put the Sunset League up there with any league in California. It’s great. It’s kind of become a two-tiered league right now. You’ve got [defending league champions] Los Alamitos, Corona del Mar and [third-place] Edison [in the top half], and in the bottom half, you’ve got us and [fourth-place] Huntington [Beach] and [sixth-place] Newport Harbor.
“The thing about it, the Sunset League is crazy. It’s a league with three- and four-way ties and coin flips. If things break your way, you’ve got a chance … I like the guys that we have, and I think we can play with anyone.”
Last year’s quarterback Josh Stupin transferred to Villa Park for his senior year, so junior Jimmy Russell takes the controls for the Barons. Anderson said that junior Liam Caldwell, a transfer from Edison, also could compete for the starting job following his 30-day sit-out period.
“Right now [Russell and Caldwell] each have their good and bad days,” Anderson said. “They’re neck and neck. The biggest thing is just experience, because neither one has really taken a varsity snap. We’ll see after the first five weeks. Liam is eligible to return headed into league … and we’ll see if Jimmy has asserted himself during those five weeks. If we’re struggling, then it still becomes an open competition.”
Russell, the Barons’ junior varsity quarterback last year, has a returning receiver in Blake Anderson, who had 18 catches for 193 yards and two touchdowns last season. Anderson will look to fill the hole left by the graduation of Brandon Krause and Kishaun Sykes, who combined for 1,697 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns last year.
“We’re definitely putting in the work after practice, making sure the chemistry is there,” Anderson said of his relationship with Russell. “He’s definitely got quick feet. He’s a dual threat. He can throw it, and [he can] run it if he wants.”
The Barons plan to employ seniors James Martinez, Tanner Ciok and Carlos Salazar at running back. Ciok is a starting safety and Salazar a middle linebacker, so a rotation could be in order.
Chris Anderson said that the offensive line is a strength, with five seniors projected to start in left tackle Moses Atuatasi, left guard Fernando Silva, center Brad Sweeney, right guard Joey Tallabas and right tackle Adrian Alcala. Atuatasi, Silva and Sweeney are all returning starters.
“People kind of forget that [Fountain Valley] is a place with a lot of great tradition, a lot of good people. It’s one of those things, when I came on board, I was like, ‘I need to start reaching back out to the alumni base.’”
Many of the same names will be in play for snaps on the defensive line in the Barons’ 4-3 formation, Anderson said.
“There’s not one guy that’s a full-blown [two-way starter] where you’re going to play 120 snaps in a game, but we’ve got a few that will get action on both sides of the ball,” he said.
The Barons coach indicated that he plans to have several players involved in a platoon on offense and defense.
Salazar leads the linebacker corps and senior safety Jerry Ngo, a three-year starter, is a leader in the secondary.
Fountain Valley may not have a player like Middlebrooks, the two-time Sunset League Offensive Player of the Year who rushed for 1,347 yards and 20 touchdowns a decade ago in his senior year of 2009. For a young team, though, his presence on the practice field will be valuable.
“This is probably the last group of kids, these seniors, who actually remember him playing at Fountain Valley,” said Anderson, who will start as a physical education teacher at Fountain Valley this fall. “It’s kind of cool for them to see him out here.”
FOUNTAIN VALLEY BARONS
CIF Southern Section Division: 7
Coach: Chris Anderson (first year)
Staff: Garrett Govaars (offensive coordinator), Walter Fletcher (defensive coordinator), Talon Graff (running backs), Kyle Middlebrooks (wide receivers), Ryan Formento (offensive line), Lance Chavez (offensive line), Avery Wash (defensive line), Bradford Carter (linebackers), Terrence Wise (defensive backs), Rob Martino (strength and conditioning), Dan Feiler (equipment manager)
2018 season: 5-6 overall, 1-4 in the Sunset League (fifth place), lost 48-26 to Santa Ana in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 8 playoffs
Offensive scheme: Spread
Defensive scheme: 4-3
Returning offensive starters: Four
Returning defensive starters: Five
Returning with honors: Sr. RB/LB Carlos Salazar, Sr. WR Blake Anderson
23 — at Elsinore
30 — at North Torrance
5 — vs. Woodbridge at Huntington Beach High
13 — at South Gate
20 — vs. Agoura at Huntington Beach High
4 — at Newport Harbor*
11 — vs. Los Alamitos* at Cerritos College
17 — vs. Corona del Mar* at Huntington Beach High
25 — vs. Edison* at Orange Coast College
1 — vs. Huntington Beach* at Westminster High
*denotes league game
All games 7 p.m.