Confidence growing in Yucaipa

As first years on the job go, Justin Price’s at Yucaipa ranks pretty high. The former Granite Hills coach led a senior-dominated team to its best finish in the Citrus Belt League since joining the league in 2006, as the Thunderbirds tied Redlands and Miller for second place in league, making the playoffs after missing the postseason a year before.

“I thought we did some great things last year,” Price said. “We were playing REV in week nine for a chance to win the league title, which is a huge step for this program. We were a coin-flip away from hosting a playoff game for the first time in a long time. We are pretty proud of what we did, especially we didn’t have a full offseason to work together.”

While Yucaipa loses 12 of its 22 starters along with several key contributors, Price is hoping that having a full offseason will compensate for any lack of experience and keep 2010′s momentum going. Having three of those returning starters coming on the offense line helps even more.

Yucaipa is bullish on its three senior returners on the offensive line – Matt Parrish (6-5, 300), Tyrin Loya (5-10, 250) and Andrew Clarey (6-2, 290). Parrish and Loya started every game last year, with Parrish receiving interest from Division I schools.

“If there’s one position group that you want to have experience at, it’s the offensive line,” Price said. “I feel that these guys have a chance to do something really good this year. Mark may be the best offensive linemen in this league. He’s right with the REV and Redlands guys.”

After filling in for the dynamic Dylan Malone at times a year ago, junior Clayton Leach (5-11, 175) will be the quarterback for the Thunderbirds. One of his primary tasks will be finding a way to get senior wide receiver Chayse Dunn the ball. Dunn (5-11, 180) will be used on jet sweeps as well as in the passing game, with Trevor Glaser (6-0, 175) joining him at wide receiver.

Yucaipa only returns four defensive starters from last year, but have potentially the best linebacker in the league in senior middle linebacker Nate Pascale. Pascale (6-1, 230) had 58 tackles as a junior and will be flanked by senior outside linebacker Conor Johnston (6-0, 210), with Glaser leading the way in the secondary.

Yucaipa schedule (Home games in CAPS, * indicates league game)

Sept. 2: OAK PARK
Sept. 9: vs. Moreno Valley Canyon Springs (Moreno Valley HS)
Sept. 16: LITTLEROCK
Sept. 23: at San Gorgonio
Sept. 30: vs. Beaumont (San Gorgonio MS)
Oct. 14: at Eisenhower*
Oct. 21: FONTANA*
Oct. 28: at Redlands*
Nov. 4: MILLER*
Nov. 10: REDLANDS EAST VALLEY*