With just 40 athletes on its varsity team and only 11 of those players weighing more than 200 pounds, the Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders will be operating at a huge disadvantage when they take the field this season against their Mesa League opponents.
Last season, the Crusaders struggled to a 1-9 record with their lone victory coming against San Ysidro. While recognizing the team’s many challenges, coach John Joyner remains upbeat and optimistic that this year’s team will show a marked improvement.
“We have small school, a small roster and we are not overly gifted or fast, but these kids have a lot of character and they come here to work,” the MDCHS coach said. “They play with a chip on their shoulders. Because we are smaller and slower, we have to play smart and can’t afford to make any mistakes. We obviously can’t play perfect football, but our goal is to play as close to perfect as possible.”
At this point, Mater Dei’s defense is ahead of its offense and Joyner expects that trend will continue.
“We are pretty young on offense and new to what we are doing,” he said. “Defensively, we are pretty solid and have more play-makers on that side of the ball.”
The Crusader defense will be led by its corps of talented linebackers with senior Alec Urrutia and junior Andrew Martinez playing on the inside and seniors Tony Jacquez and Andew Chavez on the outside. Mater Dei’s undersized right defensive end, Ivan Camara, demonstrates that good things often come in small packages. Camara, a team leader and captain, knows his way around the weight room and is a two-way starter. Nico Siragusa, Mike Gamboa and Ramon Ros round out that group.
David Delacazada is the dean of the defensive backs. A year ago, he was a free safety, but this year he is being counted on to be a shut-down corner. Hard working strong safety Cole Lewis is perhaps the fastest player on the team and has the ability to close quickly on receivers.
On offense, everything begins with center Miguel Gonzalez. A two-year starter, Gonzalez stands 5-9 and weighs 230 pounds. He is described by Joyner as a “hard working square box of mean.”
Junior Arturo Cesena handles the right guard position and has shown significant potential. Andy Baynes will line up at right tackle and Siragusa (6-6, 282) will take on the blind side.
Francis Parker transfer Jack Fernandes will be calling signals for the Crusaders. Joyner likes his strong arm, maneuverability and intelligence.
Returning tailback Manuel Zea will get a lot of work running the football as will Cole Lewis.
Fernandes will have a pair of good targets to throw to when he goes to the air. Slot receiver Angel Basantes is expected to again lead the team in receiving. Basantes is not blazingly fast, but he is quick and shifty. Wide receiver Nick Kaiser has a good pair of hands and runs precise patterns. Kaiser will double as the team’s punter and Manuel Sotomayor, a star on the Crusaders soccer team, will handle the place-kicking.
“There is definitely a different vibe with us this year,” Joyner said. “The kids have been working hard and we have shrunk down the roster, but the 35 to 40 kids we have now really want to play football.”
Mater Dei Catholic kicks off its 2010 regular season with a Sept. 4 game at Division IV power Santa Fe Christian.
Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders
2010 Varsity Schedule
4: Mater Dei Catholic at Santa Fe Christian, 2 p.m.
10: Castle Park at Mater Dei Catholic, 7 p.m.
17: St. Augustine vs. Mater Dei Catholic at TBA, 7 p.m.
24: St. Joseph at Mater Dei Catholic, 7:30 p.m.
1: Del Norte at Mater Dei Catholic, 7 p.m.
8: Mater Dei Catholic at Olympian, 7 p.m.
15: Mater Dei vs. Bonita Vista at Southwestern College, 7 p.m.
29: Otay Ranch at Mater Dei Catholic, 7 p.m.
5: Mater Dei Catholic at Chula Vista, 7 p.m.
12: Eastlake at Mater Dei Catholic, 7 p.m.