For the football fanatics:
Here’s a pre-preseason 2008 top 5 for area high school football programs:
1) LA HABRA
Defending Southeast Division champions graduate eight of their 10
All-CIF selections from their 13-0 season, but the other two, division
Offensive Player of the Year running back Ronald Hillman and safety
Randall Nygren, along with postseason honors candidate running back/defensive back Joshua Quezada,
are back for coach Frank Mazzotta to build around. Nygren is the likely
heir apparent at quarterback, and the Highlanders’ unbeaten freshman and
junior varsity teams should provide some quality replacements. Add
Mazzotta’s workplace environment and attitude and a well-entrenched
approach to the game’s physical aspects (i.e. hitting), and it all puts
the familiar favorite’s target on the Highlanders’ backs.
2) ST. PAUL
The defending Western Division champions’ only offensive position that
might have been questioned this season, quarterback, returns all of the
participants – starters Paul Lopez and Andrew Canales and backup Chris
Wilson, as well as Gabriel Encinas, who switched from QB to wide
receiver, and all of whom would probably start on most other area
programs, who will be a year older, wiser and more experienced and
playoff tested. Not a bad starting point. Replacing key lineman on both
sides of the ball will be paramount, but then, that was true this season,
and look how that turned out. The big plus defensively is the return of
coordinator Gilbert Jimenez.
3) SANTA FE
The Chiefs will have been smarting for nearly a year from a
disappointing 5-6 season that featured both promise and frustration,
and that should take care of any motivational concerns. QB is a question
mark, but Alex Flores should begin his junior season with the inside
track. Postseason honors candidate Aaron Turner returns at running back,
and while coach Jack Mahlstede’s 2007 program lacked marquee linemen,
several of the returners have 2008 marquee potential. Santa Fe’s junior
varsity and freshman programs were a combined 7-1 in league play, a
reminder that the Chiefs’ player pool is never empty and rarely shallow.
Ronnie Palacios, arguably the area’s best returning quarterback and
speedy running back Matt Botello give the Titans explosive potential on
offense. And coach Ramon Juarez says there is enough talent among
returning personnel and newcomers to perhaps open up the offense even
more than usual. Defensively, many of the players who received
considerable game time out of necessity as sophomores and by earning it
as juniors the past two seasons should be ready as seniors to make some
noise come league play.
5) LA SERNA
Thanks to the return of quarterback Ben Burke, the Lancers head a list
of at least three teams that could break into the Top 5 early on in
2008. A gifted runner and improving as a passer, he will shoulder much
of the offensive responsibility for gaining yards and scoring points.
Replacing graduated players is commonplace, but replacing the special
ones is critical. Coach Margarito Beltran has a challenge in finding
someone to fill the many shoes that were worn by Rudy Jordan, a standout
Running back, receiver, defensive back and return specialist.
Other teams to watch:
California – Defending Del Rio League champion was one of the season’s
bright spots, but losses at too many key positions may preclude Condors
from making it back-to-back titles.
El Rancho – 2007’s Cinderella team. New coach Gene Parsons led the Dons
back from 2006’s 0-10 campaign to a respectable 5-6 record that included
a berth in the Southeast Division playoffs. Program
definitely on move in right direction, but may need more time to become
a true contender.
Whittier – Cardinals return one of the area’s top three running backs in
Daniel Enriquez, which give them a leg up on most area teams. Finding
him a complementary support group will be the key.
Please be specific, short and to the point … and kind.