LA MIRADA — Youth is being served for the La Mirada High School football team this season.
But that doesn’t mean the the Matadores can’t continue their recent tradition, which includes winning the Suburban League title the past two seasons and the CIF-Southern Section Southern Division in 2009.
If anything, the concept by most that La Mirada will take a step back, just fuels the Mats’ fire.
“We want to be the underdog every weekend,” said La Mirada offensive coordinator Armando Rivas, who is interim coach while head coach Mike Moschetti recovers from a pneumonia. “We want to be the team that no one knows what to expect. We’re going to thrive on that every week, build on that momentum, and get better.”
La Mirada will lean on its senior class, which features returning starters Andy Gramajo, Reuben Poncedeleon and Josh D’Ambra.
Gramajo, a receiver last season, has replaced running back Max Gama, now at Washington State, with Poncedeleon, sliding into a receiver slot. D’Ambra is one of the top returning defensive linemen in the area.
The rest of the Matadores are talented, but inexperienced. The list includes a pretty good battle at quarterback between sophomores James Meyers and David Madrid and junior Tyler Hallock.
“We graduated 32 seniors,” Rivas said. “We have just three starters (back), so there are 18 open spots available. It’s been a big battle, a lot of competition. These guys are so young, it’s been fun as a coach staff to teach these guys.
“Last year, most of the guys were three-year starters, so they knew a lot of the stuff. This year, it’s like starting over. It’s been really interesting and a lot of fun.”
MEYERS IS THE ONE
Rivas said that Meyers will start the season at quarterback, with Madrid and Hallock battling it out over the next few weeks for the No. 2 spot.
“(Meyers) got a couple of snaps last year on the varsity level,” Rivas said. “He’s worked hard, had a great offseason and has worked closely with Coach Moschetti and Coach (Erik) Meyer to get on the field. We’re only going to be as strong as our quarterback. Right now, (we have confidence) in him. He’s getting better every day.
“He’s put himself ahead of the other two guys, so he’s our guy.”
The youth movement didn’t stop Moschetti from mapping out a tough nonleague schedule, which might be one of the toughest in the area.
It begins with a visit to St. Paul for the opener on Sept. 2, followed by a home game against area power La Habra a week later before traveling to tradition-rich Bishop Amat on Sept. 16.
“One thing about coach Moschetti is that he really wants to get us ready for league,” Rivas said. “We open up with cross-town rivals in St. Paul and La Habra. Those are two big programs, with a lot of history. Going into St. Paul is tough, but if we pull together, we can do it. We want to even up the score (against La Habra), because they’ve had our number the past few years.
“Yes, we got a big challenge in La Puente against Bishop Amat. It’s a big-time program and it’s going to be a great experience for our boys.”