The strength of this year’s Otay Ranch High School football team will be its defense, according to new head coach Anthony Lacsina, who should know something about that after serving as the team’s defensive coordinator under former head coach/current athletic director Gene Alim.
“I’ve coached with Gene for years, so it’s the same system,” Lacsina said.
Alim is the South Bay’s coaching legend with 151 victories and a pair of San Diego Section championships in 1983 and 1984. He served two stints as head coach at Otay Ranch, retiring each time because of health problems. He’s now handed the torch to Lacsina, whose enthusiasm and optimism appear contagious throughout the Mustang program.
“Team chemistry is one of our strengths,” Lacsina said.
Otay Ranch suffered through an injury-plagued season in 2009, finishing 3-7-1 overall with a trip to the Division I playoffs. The Mustangs finished 2-3 in Mesa League play, trailing league champion Eastlake, Chula Vista and Bonita Vista in the league standings.
Lacsina is calling his 2010 team one that will “surprise” people.
He may be right.
The Mustangs are led by a multitude of all-league reutrners, starting with first team all-league defensive tackle/offensive guard Jon Bajet, second team all-league safety Shaun Licudine, second team all-league running back Ernie Hicks and all-league honorable mention Lauvai Tufele at middle linebacker.
Other top returners include senior linebacker Kyle Doton, senior offensive tackle Steven Chromiak, offensive lineman Jonathan Henkel and senior receiver Marques Roberts. Senior receiver J’Vion Johnson, up from last year’s junior varsity squad, and fellow wide-out John Dumaran will add depth to the offense that will be guided by quarterbacks Marcus Hernandez and Cody Springsguth.
Linebacker/wide receiver David Mondy could be among the surprise additions who make the Mustangs roll in 2010. Others being counted on as leaders include linebacker Albert Lopez, strong safety/linebacker Felix Escobar, tight end/defensive lineman Fernando Murillo, defensive lineman/ offensive lineman Koachar Mohammad, receiver/defensive back Andrew Jones, linebacker Andre Jones, defensive lineman Tyler Bell, defensive lineman/tight end William Bobier, and offensive linemen Jonathan Gula and Gary Birtwell.
“On offense we will be led by two big tackles, Chromiak and Henkel, and Bajet will go two ways for us,” Lacsina said. “We will be running behind a huge O-line.”
The ORHS coach said an injury to Doton last season severely impacted the team’s fortunes. “Having him back healthy this year will make a big difference,” Lacsina said. “I think defense will be a strength for us this year.”
Lacsina said while the team possesses much physical talent, the mental aspect will be equally as important to concluding a successful season.
“Just getting the kids to believe they can play how we think they can is the key,” Lacsina said. “We have a lot of talent on this team. The kids just need to believe in themselves..”
The Mustangs kick off the season with a Sept. 3 game at Elsinore of Wildomar and continue their non-league slate with four more tough match-ups: Sept. 10 at Serra, Sept. 17 at home against defending Division IV champion Mission Bay, Sept. 24 at Ramona and Oct. 1 at Temescal Canyon.
Otay Ranch Mustangs
2010 Varsity Schedule
3: Otay Ranch at Elsinore, 7 p.m.
10: Otay Ranch at Serra, 7 p.m.
17: Mission Bay at Otay Ranch, 7 p.m.
24: Otay Ranch at Ramona, 7 p.m.
1: Otay Ranch at Temescal Canyon, 7 p.m.
8: Sweetwater at Otay Ranch, 7 p.m.
15: Otay Ranch at Eastlake, 7 p.m.
22: Bonita Vista at Otay Ranch, 7 p.m.
29: Otay Ranch at Mater Dei Catholic, 7 p.m.
12: Chula Vista at Otay Ranch, 7 p.m.