The Upland football team fared well last year in what was largely considered a rebuilding season. They were second in the Baseline to Chino Hills and made it to the CIF quarterfinal before losing a heart-breaker to Vista Murrieta.
The Highlanders (8-4 in 2015) are rebuilding again, not because of players who graduated but because of players who transferred. Coach Tim Salter saw 10 or so athletes, most of them starters, jump to other schools. But he isn’t dwelling on what he lost, he’s focused instead on those that remain.
“I’m sure all those kids had their reasons,” he said. “We have good kids here that want to play Upland football and they have worked hard. We have some kids with great potential, they’re just young.”
Sophomore quarterback David Baldwin will lead the charge. He took the reigns of the team midway through the Baseline League game against Chino Hills and never looked back. His stock continued to rise over the summer.
Other weapons in the offensive arsenal include senior running back Artis Seymore and junior running back Kyle Jones. Baldwin will also have some solid receivers in Gary Theard, Bryce Parker and Tyler Sweet, with Sweet a transfer from Bishop Amat.
“Those kids are all good. They just have not had the chance yet because of the players who were in front of them. I really like our potential.”
The effort up front will be led by senior tackle Hugo Esqueda and senior guard Kris Montano.
Top players on the other side of the ball include junior linebackers Leonard Leau, Corey Thomas and Nick Zamora, junior lineman Fou Hoching and junior free safety Malik Goss.
Salter is also looking forward to the return of senior Montez Evans, who was out injured last season.
The new version of the Highlanders takes the field at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday against Mountain Pointe (Ariz.) at Norco High School in the Brother in Arms Classic.
The young Highlanders will need to mature in a hurry though. The Baseline League is tough enough but Upland’s non-league schedule also includes perennial title contenders in Mater Dei and Redlands East Valley as well as much-improved Claremont.
“We play a lot of tough teams,” Salter said. “We’re going to find out how good we’re going to be right away. There really isn;t an easy team on our schedule.”