By Fred J. Robledo
The Miramonte League took a big step toward proving it’s the most competitive league in the Valley when undefeated Charter Oak defeated league foe Diamond Ranch 30-14 in the CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division championship game, giving the Chargers and coach Lou Farrar the school’s fourth CIF championship. The Chargers finished 13-0-1 and though they lose area player of the year Chris Allen at quarterback, they have a handful of prized returning starters in pursuit of their first back-to-back championship in school history.
Leading the way is highly regarded running back Adam Muema, who despite a hamstring injury rushed for 1,922 yards and 29 touchdowns, earning first team all CIF and all-area honors.
With Muema pursued by several Pac-10 schools, his backmate Brandon Golden already has given a verbal commitment to Washington State, giving the Chargers two dynamic Division I-caliber backs.
“After losing a great quarterback like Chris, it’s a great situation having two guys in the backfield that we have a lot of confidence in,” Farrar said. “Adam barely scratched the surface of his potential last year. He was battling an injury most of the season, but he’s 100 percent healthy and his body looks amazing. He could take a cover shot for muscle magazine. He’s really put in the work and is excited about the season.”
The Chargers are loaded at receiver and defensive back, and have two quarterbacks, sophomore Travis Santiago and junior Josiah Thropay, who will likely battle it out through the first few games before Farrar names a permanent starter.
With receivers like Dennis Rufus, A.J. Powell and linebackers Leon Youngblood and Keith Smith, the ingredients for another championship are there, even though Farrar is hoping to keep a low profile.
“Our players know the heat is on them,” Farrar said. “There are spots on paper that look very well, and there are spots that we’re not to sure about.
“We lost Tyler Perri and Evan Williams, those guys are difficult to replace. Obviously the elements are there but you have to gel and put it together. Look, I’m an old-fashioned guy. I’m not going to worry about November and December until we get there, I’m worried about week one against Gardena. We will take it from there.”
Diamond Ranch coach Roddy Layton is hoping his Panthers have enough to compete with the Chargers, but to do so they must replace several highly-regarded defensive players, and hope that quarterback Gus Viramontes is the answer after the departure of running back Brian Spirlin.
“I think we’re going to be alright, and can actually surprise some people,” Layton said. “Our front lines, offensively and defensively, are in good shape, they just need game experience.
“We have a lot of athleticism on this team. We had a lot of guys on the lower levels who were waiting for their opportunity and I have been extremely pleased with their development.”
Offensively, the Panthers could be deeper, with four offensive lineman in front of Viramontes returning.
Senior Amari Staten and Elisha Henley both have speed in the backfield and wideouts Brandon Taylor, Ryan Gibson and Andrew Fisher are just scratching the surface of their potential.
“Gus has all the tools around him, and he’s a quarterback we’re going to unleash, because he’s ready to take over and lead this team,” Layton said. “He has done all the right things to get himself ready. Last year we didn’t utilize him enough because we didn’t have to. This year he has the keys to the offense, and we think he’s ready to go.”
Although Bonita defeated Diamond Ranch in league and finished second, the Bearcats were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by West Covina while the Panthers marched to the championship game.
Nobody lost as many players to graduation as the Bearcats, particularly impact players like quarterback Terry Paradez.
That leaves Bearcats coach Eric Podley hoping Deron Holmes, Kenneth Calvin and Giamani Johnson can manage the backfield, a stark contrast from the pass-happy offense that Podley normally runs.
“It’s a situation where we feel like we have three talented backs, but also a new offensive line,” Podley said. “For the first time in a long time, I’m just not sure about the quarterback spot.”
Juniors Greg Spathias and Garrett Pendleton are competing to replace Paradez, but neither has stood out so far.
“We had a decent summer throwing the ball, but not an outstanding one,” Podley said. “Hopefully we can move the ball on the ground so we can bring those guys (quarterbacks) along slowly.”
Podley said one thing is certain, Charter Oak is still the favorite with the rest an unknown.
“You don’t like to say it, but it feels like you’re battling for second, Charter Oak is that loaded,” Podley said. “Hopefully we progress as the season goes and give it (league title) a good shot, but we do feel like we can be one of the top teams in the league, despite losing so many players.”
Los Altos is hoping to crack the top three after a miserable 1-9 season under first-year coach Felipe Aguilar, who returns a young team with a lot of potential.
Senior Justin Zamano returns at quarterback with Andrew Yamakawa at running back and a handful of starters on offense and defense hoping to avenge a season that saw a lot of wins slip away in the fourth quarter.
“We weren’t as bad as our record indicated,” Aguilar said. “We have to learn how to win again. We probably have as much returning as anyone, and I have a full year under my belt, all that is going to make a difference.”
Aguilar’s especially pleased with the progress on defense.
“From linebackers, to ends to defensive backs, we have improved,” Aguilar said. “We made so many strides I can’t tell you how excited I am to start playing games.”
Wilson is the big wild card under first-year coach Brian Zavala, who takes over an 0-10 team after leaving Northview where he was a well-respected defensive coordinator.
Zavala replaces Greg Hoyd, whose contract wasn’t renewed after one season.
“I just get the sense that everybody’s ready to win, because they’re putting in the work,” Zavala said. “I think they kind of feet short-changed with the experience they went through last year.
“We know our league is extremely difficult, but we’re hoping we can get off to a quick start, win a few games and build some confidence. We have the kind of (nonleague) schedule that gives us a chance to succeed, but all it is right now is an opportunity, we have to make it happen.”
Zavala said junior running back Moses Vega is the key.
“He had an impressive spring and summer and is someone we can build our offense around,” Zavala said. “He’s going to turn some heads.”
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