The Hilltop Lancers have chased the Mar Vista Mariners the last two years for the Metro-South Bay League championship, coming up just short last year in a 13-6 setback played in wet, muddy conditions.
The Lancers look to be chasing the Mariners once again, and it’s no disrespect to what Hilltop has on the talent table.
“Mar Vista is still king of the hill,” Lancer coach Cody Roelof said. “You’ve got to give them their props.”
Hilltop will be looking to re-tool under a new quarterback. Roelof admitted replacing graduated star signal-caller Omar Hernandez after three years and 6,227 yards in passing and rushing offense will be a challenge.
“There are a lot of changes on offense, the first finding a quarterback,” the Lancer sideline boss said. “That’s our biggest challenge now. There are a lot of new faces.”
Chase Neibert, Daniel Sanchez and Chris Sanchez were the top three contenders to take over for Hernandez entering training camp.
Despite the QB turnover, Roelof still expects his team to be competitive.
Strengths will be at running back and on defense.
In all, Hilltop returns three first team all-league players: junior linebacker David Vasquez, senior defensive back Ben Bernabe and senior offensive lineman Andrew Baynes.
Vasquez and Bernabe (four picks) ranked first and second, respectively, last year in total tackles.
Senior running back Dustin Downs rushed for 374 yards and scored four touchdowns to earn second team all-league honors in 2011.
Junior linebacker Diego Uranga was a second team all-league selection last year while senior linemen William Hanau and Russell Ewbank were both all-league honorable mention picks in 2011.
Uranga and Ewbank each were credited with two fumble recoveries last year.
Also returning are junior running back Montel Campbell (452 rushing yards, six total touchdowns), junior defensive back Sergio Bueno, senior lineman Carlos Briceno, senior linebacker Angel Galvan, senior receiver Sergio Martinez and junior linebacker Adrian Rios.
Impact newcomers include senior defensive back Brian Contreras, senior receiver Sergio Vidrio, senior lineman Jose Gonzalez and junior linebacker Jared Akers, all up from last year’s JV squad.
“Last year we finished 5-5 — we are looking to finish better this season,” Roelof said.
Hilltop Lancers 2012 Schedule
31: Olympian at Hilltop, 7 p.m.
7: Hilltop at Patrick Henry, 7 p.m.
14: Chula Vista at Hilltop, 7 p.m.
21: Hilltop at El Capitan, 7 p.m.
28: Hilltop at Bonita Vista, 7 p.m.
5: Castle Park at Hilltop, 7 p.m.
12: Hilltop at Montgomery, 7 p.m.
19: Hilltop at Southwest, 7 p.m.
26: Mar Vista at Hilltop, 7 p.m.
2: San Ysidro at Hilltop, 7 p.m.