Being as good as Kaiser was last year, as the Cats won 12 games in a row by at least 12 points before being upset by Wildomar Elsinore in the CIF-SS Eastern semifinals, allowed the Cats to play a lot of backups and young players late in games. With 18 of his 22 starters from last year having graduated, Kaiser coach Phil Zelaya hopes that the “garbage time” playing time of last year pays off this year.
“The good thing is that we have guys that have gotten some time at the varsity level,” Zelaya said. “The bad thing is that most of those guys don’t have the experience of playing four quarters. That what we hope they’ll be able to adapt to.”
Where Kaiser was decimated more than anywhere was along their defensive line and defensive backfield. The Cats lost Division I talents in defensive backs Desman Carter and Davonte Manning, defensive linemen Walter Earnest and linebacker Dennis Taylor. In their stead are players that Zelaya is curious to see how they’ll pan out.
“I know they are going to play hard and play physical, I just don’t know if they are as talented as the guys we had,” Zelaya said. “I hope playing last year as a bit of a shock to the system and that it’ll help this year.”
Kaiser hasn’t needed much helped in Sunkist League play, only losing one game in their 10 years of the league, winning at least a share of the title in nine of them. A run toward an 11th crown will start with the offensive line, which is the unit with the most experience. Senior Aiseah Hanson (6-4, 320) is a third-year starter and will be joined by seniors Nick Aguirre (6-2, 220) and Alex Serrato (5-11, 220).
Kaiser always employs an army of running backs and will be led at that position by juniors Taleeb Isom (5-11, 205) and Marquette Washington (5-10, 195). Isom got some playing time last year while Zelaya is high on the speedy Washington. Sophomore Ryan Mota (6-2, 185) will take over for three-year starter David Bedran at quarterback.
Defensively the Cats are pretty well equipped at linebacker, as seniors Anthony Flores (6-0, 215) and Anthony Saenz (6-1, 215) will team up with junior Kevin Trujillo (5-10, 190). Flores was a CIF-qualifying wrestler as a junior. Juniors Desmond Ferrera (5-8, 170) and Angel Hernandez (5-8, 150) got backup experience at cornerback a year ago.
Kaiser schedule (Home games in CAPS, * indicates league game)
Sept. 9: BARSTOW
Sept. 16: at Cajon
Sept. 23: RIVERSIDE NORTH
Sept. 30: PALM DESERT
Oct. 7: at Hesperia
Oct. 14: BLOOMINGTON*
Oct. 21: at Jurupa Valley*
Oct. 28: RIVERSIDE PATRIOT*
Nov. 4: RIVERSIDE NORTE VISTA*
Nov. 11: vs. Summit (Miller HS)*