Teams in the Metro-Pacific League, specifically the Sweetwater Red Devils, appear to battle a different set of circumstances than teams in other areas of San Diego County. It’s been a struggle at times but one that is not impossible to win.
“Every year we seem to start slow but once we catch up, once we get it together, we’ll go,” SuHi head coach Jose Mendoza said. “Here at Sweetwater, we battle grades (athletic eligibility), kids who move in and out of the area, and desire not to play.
“Battling all that, my coaching philosophy is not dealing with what I don’t have but making the most out of what I have.”
If the Devils can make the most out of what they have this season, they could be contending for a league championship title.
That was what was supposed to happen last year. But eligibility issues and untimely injuries diminished the team’s potential as the 2011 season wound down.
Sweetwater finished last year 4-6 overall and tied league rivals Castle Park and Montgomery with 1-2 marks in league play behind Metro-Pacific champion Mater Dei Catholic.
Mendoza feels the team that will peak at the end of this season will win the 2012 Metro-Pacific banner.
“We have some talented players on our team,” Mendoza said. “If we can keep everything together, I think we can be a contender in our league.”
Sal Nasser certainly has to rank as one of the league’s top multi-talented players. He returns to campus this fall after making a statement last spring in track and field by winning the San Diego Section Division I championship in the boys long jump and earning a berth to compete at the state championship meet.
Nasser will play a utility role this season on the gridiron. He can play quarterback from the wildcat position and serve as a slot receiver on offense and also play defensive back on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
He passed for 728 yards and eight touchdowns last season but it was his running ability from the QB position (608 yards and five touchdowns) that often gave opponents fits.
Other top returners include receiver/defensive back Zach Crutcher and linemen Kim Tongson, Joseph Osuna, Nicholas Concepcion and Robert Tapia.
Impact newcomers include running back/defensive back Raymond Dibella, tight end/linebacker Raven Middleton and quarterback Christopher Amon.
Dibella can deliver speed after turning in the top time (51.43) in the 400-meter dash last season in the South Bay League track circuit.
Linebacker/tight end Alex Gonzalez and receiver Ivan Cruz both will be stepping up from reserve roles last year to fill starting spots, according to Mendoza.
The Red Devils will already up the competition level a bit when they engage Mt. Carmel, Eastlake and Mar Vista in a four-way scrimmage on Friday, Aug. 24, starting at 6 p.m. at Eastlake High School.
“The scrimmage will tell us a lot about where we’re at,” Mendoza said.
Sweetwater Red Devils 2012 Schedule
31: Sweetwater at El Cajon Valley, 7 p.m.
7: Chula Vista at Sweetwater, 7 p.m.
14: Sweetwater at Monte Vista, 7 p.m.
22: Whittier at Sweetwater, 7 p.m.
28: Olympian at Sweetwater, 7 p.m.
5: Southwest at Sweetwater, 7 p.m.
12: Sweetwater at San Ysidro, 7 p.m.
19: Sweetwater at Castle Park, 7 p.m.
26: Montgomery at Sweetwater, 7 p.m.
2: Sweetwater at Mater Dei, 7 p.m.