Estancia Football Position-by-Position: Feels like they're starting over

The Estancia High football team lost several key players and a top assistant in the off-season. Most of the players graduated and one moved out of town.

As for the assistant, Coach Mike Bargas said, he just grew tired of coaching and he dealt with medical issues. He doesn't blame the assistant for not coming back to the Eagles.

The assistant is the same man who gave Bargas sound advice six years ago. He told Bargas that it was time for Bargas to become a head coach.

That man was Dave Holland. Bargas said he owes Holland a lot of credit for his decision to leave his alma mater, Newport Harbor, after 15 seasons as an assistant and accept the job with the Eagles.

A lot of Bargas' success at Estancia is because of Holland.

A year after Bargas took over at Estancia, one of the best defensive minds to come through Newport-Mesa joined Bargas' staff. Holland, who led Corona del Mar to CIF Southern Section Division VI titles in 1988 and '89, became the Eagles' defensive coordinator.

"We tried to get as much information and knowledge as we could from Dave," Bargas said during Holland's five seasons, which included Estancia claiming undefeated Orange Coast League titles in 2010 and '11, making four straight CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoff appearances from 2009 to '12, and reaching the semifinals in 2011, all firsts in the program's history.

"The writing was on the wall [for Holland]. He [coached] for 54 years."

Bargas viewed Holland as his father-in-law. Holland's longtime girlfriend is the mother of Bargas' wife, Brook.

The defensive coordinator position is staying in the family. Bargas said his brother, Chris, is assuming the role. Chris coached the defensive backs and special teams last year.

This is Chris' first stint as a defensive coordinator.

"We'll find out," Bargas said whether his younger brother would be ready to fill Holland's shoes.

Bargas also hired four new assistants, Chris Flores (linebackers), Bob Fields (line), including two former Estancia players, Matt Redding (wide receivers) and Cameron Collins (defensive backs). The young coaches have given Bargas, 41, a boost before the season.

The Eagles enter their Friday night opener against Loara at Glover Stadium in Anaheim energized. They don't have much experience, only one starter is back, but below are the players who will try to get Estancia off to a strong start.

Quarterback: Connor Brown, a sophomore has won the starting job for the Eagles.

Bargas likes Brown's size at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, his arm and his fearless attitude. He takes over for Brad Wilson, a two-time first-team All-Orange Coast League pick.

Bargas, who calls the plays, said his West Coast offense plans to throw more than it has in the past.

Ronnie Urquiza, a junior, is the backup for the second straight year.

Running back: The ground attack lost standouts Robert Murtha and DeionTe Haywood to graduation.

Murtha, the three-time Orange Coast League Offensive Player of the Year, wrapped up his career with 5,489 rushing yards and 58 total touchdowns, both marks are Newport-Mesa records.

Haywood, a first-team all-league member last year, helped pave the way for many of Murtha's stats.

Christian Laurent, a junior transfer from Edison, gets the nod at running back.

"He's a little guy [at 5-7], kind of like Robert, but he's got a little bit of a burst, a little bit different than what Robert had," Bargas said. "Robert was kind of a slash north-south guy. Christian will hit the hole and then just take off. He's a got a little overdrive in him."

Blocking for Laurent at fullback will be either senior Jackson Letterman or junior Tyler Thomas.

Sam Cruz, a junior, will also carry the ball.

Receivers: A junior trio — Devon Jackson, Dalton O'Daly and Indiana Taylor — will start.

Jackson and O'Daly played junior varsity last season, and Taylor is an Edison transfer.

The Eagles' leading receiver from a year ago, Ben Beck, graduated. He finished with 17 catches for 384 yards and three TDs.

Tight end: Diego Herrera is the starter and Jason Jones the backup.

Jones, a junior, is a big target at 6-3. Herrera is one of 11 seniors on the team.

Offensive line: The only returning starter on the entire team is on the line, right tackle Osvaldo Villafana.

The 6-foot, 220-pound senior anchors a line featuring junior left tackle Brian Southwick (5-11, 280 pounds), junior left guard Kevin Valencia (5-10, 212), junior center Dorian Navarrete (5-9, 270) and senior right guard Mark Velasquez (5-9, 205).

"We're playing with bowling balls this year," Bargas said. "They actually got pretty good feet."

The Eagles lost Michael Hubbard, a first-team all-league selection last season as a sophomore. Bargas said he moved.

Defensive line: The Eagles will run a 4-3, with seniors Edwin Sanchez and Arturo Ortega as the ends and Southwick and Israel Larios inside.

"Larios is a little quick guy," Bargas said of the 5-6, 200-pound senior.

Jones will see action on the line as well.

The defense allowed 20.6 points per game last season.

Linebackers: Colby Koste, who shared the Orange Coast League Defensive Player of the Year award after a 112-tackle season, graduated.

The Eagles look for Thomas to play in the middle and Letterman and Urquiza at outside. Letterman has the most experience of the three as he got playing time last season, while Urquiza, a 6-1, 180-pounder, is one of the most imposing and athletic players on the team.

Secondary: A freshman, Dylan Laurent, starts at cornerback, along with Taylor.

Dylan is Christian Laurent's younger brother. He's athletic and not afraid to hit.

The safeties are O'Daly and senior Zack Shafer.

Bargas said junior Jake Brown, Connor Brown's older brother, would be in the rotation. Jake is coming off a knee injury, Bargas said.

Special teams: Taylor and Christian Laurent are returning kickoffs, and Taylor punts.

Josh Hernandez is the kicker and Urquiza the punter. Letterman is the long snapper.

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