Grant Trueman makes a tackle against Upland in game last year.
Last year the Chino Hills football did something few have been able to do of late – wrestle the Baseline League title away from Upland. And the Huskies ran the table in league play which is always quite an accomplishment.
The Huskies, who finished 10-3 and advanced to the West Valley Division semifinal, will have their work cut out for them if they are to repeat however.
Gone are most of the skill position players that were integral in that run. Coach Matt Bechtel is gone too, having taken the job at South Hills in December.
The new man in charge is veteran Chris Stevens, who has a solid resume in the Inland Valley but most recently coached at Monrovia. Yes there is pressure to keep the ball rolling.
“I know what they have done here and what is expected,” Stevens said. “There is a level of excellence to maintain and we’re going to work hard to do that.”
While the Huskies had massive turnover at the skill positions there are a lot of veterans returning on both fronts which is always a good place to start when you’re rebuilding.
Returning offensive linemen are R.J. Stripling, Austin Villegas and Connor Garcelli with Stripling a first team All-Inland Valley and All-CIF selection.
On the other side of the ball the returning group is led by senior defensive linemen Grant Trueman, will also see time at tight end and does the kicking, and Oscar Burgueno. Other key veterans are linebacker Dylan Tucker and senior safety Max Masad.
Stevens also expects special teams to be a strong suit.
“Those are the things we’re going to rely on, especially early,” he said. “That’s where our experience is.”
Austin Zavala, a transfer from Ayala, will step into the starting quarterback role. The Huskies are thin at that position as starter Caleb Arreola graduated and his backup, Brett Borgogno, decided not to come out for football after suffering an injury last season and wanting to focus on baseball.
Randy Rivera, who got playing time last year when the Arreola and Borgogno were hurt, transferred to Roosevelt.
“I am most concerned about our quarterback position. Not because Austin can’t do the job. He has picked up the offense pretty well. It is just that we really don’t have anyone else ready to come in if something happens to him.”
Among those looking to shoulder more of the load this season will be senior wide receivers Noah Rigney and Tylin Charles.
Sophomore Walter Carl and junior Sean O’Donnell, brother of the graduated Grady O’Donnell, will be the main ball carriers.
The season gets underway on Friday with the Huskies hosting cross-town rival Ayala in the “Battle of the Bone.” Chino Hills holds a 9-3 edge in the series which includes a decisive 31-0 win last year.