Sorry to use this photo again, but you won’t see this game anymore … it’s noticably missing from Damien’s schedule
I must say that Damien games are a pretty exciting event. There’s usually an overflow crowd and “The Pit” provides a student cheering section that’s second to none. Just don’t tell any of them that they have more of a soccer crowd vibe than football. Whatever, it’s still the best student cheering section in the area.
Just thinking about Damien football harkens memories of a jarring experience for yours truly last season. As media, we sportswriters like some form of red carpet treatment. Is it deserved? Probably not. But we still like it. Anyway, I arrived at the Damien-Los Altos game last year and pulled up to a few gentlemen working the “reserved/preferred” parking area directly behind the home stands. I told them who I was, showed my press credential and boom, I was soon parked conveniently close to the stadium.
Fast forward, oh I don’t know, to a few days later for the Bishop Amat game. I do the same maneuver, only this time when I get there, I am told I can’t park there. I know what you’re saying, “You need the walk, Aram” … it’s true, I do, but just prior to a Friday night lights session is not the time for me to aerobic walking.
Now, keep in mind that I do a TV show that extensively discusses Damien football as one of its core teams and I also happen to write for a newspaper that gives Damien coverage. Needless to say, I didn’t appreciate the lack of hospitality. I didn’t appreciate being told “You can park there, but your car will be towed.” Just curious sir, but why wasn’t my car towed the week before? Of course, parking on the street at Damien can actually be a good thing since you can’t get out of the parking lot after games because Spartans students are catching their first glimpse of female co-eds and it causes some major delays. I digress.
About Damien football:
Two years ago the team was 2-8. Last year, 6-5. Both records are considered disappointing by Damien standards, but everything feels a little bit better heading into this season knowing that the Spartans were in the Sierra League race (barely) last season and made the playoffs.
Damien had two good wins last year – Charter Oak and Los Altos. Unfortunately, they both came in the first three weeks of the season and didn’t count for squat in league.
The Spartans didn’t win a meaningul game after that, losing to Bishop Amat, Chino, Chino Hills and most importantly to Glendora.
Offensively, Damien was a force in 2005. QB Mark Mendrun was a pleasant surprise and the running game came back to life a little.
Defense, on the other hand, was a problem. You can look at Damien allowing 24 points per game last season and say “it’s not so bad.” But take out the games against Charter Oak and Claremont, in which Damien allowed three points in eight quarters, and the Spartans’ points allowed number skyrockets. And you also have to remember those performances came in the first two weeks of the season against teams with new personnel in almost every offensive position.
Here’s the prob – Los Altos put up 35, Amat had 31, Chino scored 44, Chino Hills had 28, Glendora scored 36 and Canyon had 49. I don’t care how good Mendrun is, no team can expect to trade points every week and win.
So, is it good news or bad that Damien loses many of the key contributors from last year’s defense? LBs Chris Lucero and Dan Miller were good players. DB Ryan Farrar will be playing collegiately next season. Are there better players than those waiting in the wings?
The offense is going to be good again. Mendrun is back, as is his favorite target Travis Eschardies, who is one of the top receivers in the area.
The offensive line has some horses to replace, though. Every running back who saw meaningful carries last season also graduated.
Here’s the sked:
Week 0 riverside poly (win)
Week 1 charter oak (loss)
Week 2 claremont (toss-up)
Week 3 los altos (toss-up)
Week 4 st jon bosco (loss)
Week 6 glendora (win)
Week 7 ayala (win)
Week 8 diamond bar (win)
Week9 chino (toss-up)
Week 10 chino hills (loss)
Projected record: 6-4 or 5-5
Sierra League: 2nd or 3rd place
Playoffs: Yes; out first or second round
If you’re a local prep football fanatic, or Catholic, or both, the first thing you’ll notice is that Amat isn’t on the schedule anymore. I am bummed out by this, just like everyone else. I have no clue why the series ended, so please share if you know.
I like that both Charter Oak and Los Altos are on the schedule. It’s pretty brave to schedule two of the area’s top powers in addition to a tough nonleague.
The Sierra League schedule is going to be tough as usual. Chino Hills is the consensus favorite, with some people thinking they’ll be stronger than last year while some thinking they’ll take a step back.
Chino is a major question mark. The Cowboys lost a lot to graduation and a legend on the sidelines. Don’t expect the talent to dip too far, but the dominance will wane.
Damien probably fits right in between or just below.
As bleak as the above analysis reads, it should be remembered that Damien has a top-shelf coaching staff, a good quality of student and the key ingredient to a strong season – a good, veteran quarterback. An optimist would say those three factors mean Damien could have any type of season. A pessimist says that Damien has neither the overall returning starters needed for success nor the defense to hang with the current Sierra League elite, let alone a still difficult Division II (or whatever it’s called now).
The realist, and that’s me, says Damien will probably produce similar results to last season. Nothing more, nothing less. Like most area teams, the Spartans will be interesting to monitor over the summer.
2006 WILSON WILDCATS SCHEDULE + ANALYSIS COMING SOON (AKA “the other team in Hacienda Heights” as it was so eloquently put).