EASTLAKE TITANS RELOAD WITH NEW COACH, SAME ATTITUDE
Despite returning only two starters on defense and buttressed by an entirely new offensive line, goals for the Eastlake High School football team remain the same, according to new Titan head coach Lee Price.
Those goals are, Price said: “Win league, win CIF.”
“We just want to get in the playoffs and advance as far as we can, and see where it falls,” the new EHS head coach offered.
Price officially took over as head coach just prior to the start of fall practices in August. He served as the team’s interim coach during July after former head coach John McFadden unexpectedly stepped down for personal reasons.
McFadden had compiled a 122-41-3 record during his 14 years at the helm of the Titans, winning coveted division championships in 2009 and 2012.
Price had served as defensive coordinator under McFadden since 2000, so there doesn’t appear to be any change in the direction of the program despite the loss of several key players to graduation. Price said his personal goal is to keep the team’s tradition alive and vibrant.
“I would like to maintain the excellence that has been Eastlake football as created by former coach John McFadden,” Price noted.
Eastlake finished 10-2 last season, recording an emphatic 51-0 victory against east side rival Olympian for the Metro-Mesa League championship.
Top returners for 2014 include senior running back Isaiah Strayhorn, junior quarterback Izzack Morales, junior running back/defensive back Dean Klaser, senior linebacker Ronnie Sallee, senior defensive back Santiago Andujo, junior defensive lineman Nathaniel Sweat and junior running back Traylon Reed.
Price lists Strayhorn and Andujo as the team’s top college recruits.
Price said the running game is the team’s obvious strength.
Strayhorn led the Titans last season with 1,278 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns while Reed ranked second with 1,063 yards and scored 12 rushing touchdowns.
Klaser, seeing part-time duty, rushed for 377 yards and scored five rushing touchdowns.
As a team in 2013, Eastlake averaged 340 rushing yards per game. If the offensive line can open some holes, it could be another breakout season.
In the passing department, Morales threw for 559 yards in 12 games last season with three touchdowns and three picks.
“We have a few skill guys returning but we have a lot of growing together,” the new EHS head coach explained. “We have good kids and some athletes but we are young.”
Impact newcomers include senior linebacker Justin Scott and sophomore defensive back Josh Olave, the younger brother of 2014 EHS grad and Metro-Mesa League Offensive MVP Isiah Olave (now on the football team at UC Davis).
Isiah Olave helped carry the Titans to the semifinals of last year’s inaugural San Diego Section Open Division playoffs by accumulating 1,128 total offensive yards, a team-leading 21 touchdowns and three picks on defense with 87 return yards.
Andujo, Sallee and Sweat look to lead the Titans defensively in 2014. Andujo ranked fourth on the team with 72 tackles last season while Sallee and Sweat tied for second on the team with six sacks.
Price said there are “ too many variables” to predict the order of finish in the Metro-Mesa League at this time but pollsters have tabbed the Titans as the top team in the 13-team Metro Conference.
Eastlake, which ended its 2013 season with a 33-30 loss to Oceanside, enters the season ranked sixth among section teams.
Cathedral Catholic is ranked at the top of the section (22nd overall in the state), followed by Mission Hills, St. Augustine, Oceanside and Helix.
Eastlake plans to honor its first section championship team in a special on-field ceremony at halftime of its season opener against Desert Ridge (Mesa, Ariz.). Tony Jefferson, currently playing for the NFL Arizona Cardinals, will be the special guest of honor.
The Cardinals are allowing Jefferson to attend the Titans’ Aug. 29 season opener, which falls a day after the NFL team plays the Chargers in a preseason game at Qualcomm Stadium.
Word is out to get as many members from that history-making Eastlake team to attend the game against Desert Ridge, which advanced to the semifinals of last year’s Arizona state Division I championship playoffs.
“Tony was the key and we’re glad he is willing and able to attend,” EHS assistant coach Mark Mendillo said. “This is the only home game that could fit into his schedule.”
Eagles take flight in search of Metro-Mesa League championship
The Olympian Eagles’ run of four consecutive league titles ended last season, though the Eagles still flew high with an 8-4 overall record and posted a CIF playoff win against Mira Mesa.
Head coach Paul Van Nostrand is optimistic his team can return to the winners podium in 2014.
“If we can put it all together, we can make a decent run,” he said. “The team always to beat is Eastlake.”
The Eagles managed to best the Titans their first two seasons in the Metro-Mesa League after winning titles in the South Bay League in 2009 and the Metro-Pacific League in 2010.
But Eastlake rang Olympian’s bell to the tune of a 51-0 blowout win last season.
The race for the league banner expects to be closer this season, however.
“It should be another dog-fight for the banner,” Van Nostrand explained.
Junior quarterback Gary Cannon, who passed for 771 yards and seven touchdowns while also rushing for two scores last season, leads the team’s top returners.
Other key players in 2014 for the Eagles include senior outside linebacker and pulling guard Bradley Erickson, junior defensive lineman Nathan Tavita, senior linebacker Marcelo Knox, sophomore fullback/linebacker Noah Lacsina, senior safety R.J. Leomiti, senior running back Will Lampkin, senior running back Ed Galloway and senior tackle Fabian Gonzalez.
Lampkin recorded 649 all-purpose yards last season while Galloway also stood out on the defensive side of the ball.
Leomiti (6-2, 180) and Gonzalez (6-0, 240) are both forces to be reckoned with on the field.
Olympian is among 24 teams placed in the combined Open Division/Division I playoff field. Teams in the division will jockey for positioning throughout the season, with 20 of the 24 teams landing a post-season spot either in the eight-team Open Division (top eight teams) or the 12-team Division I field.
Westling brings positive vibes to Spartans
The Chula Vista High School football team enters the season led by new varsity head coach Drew Westling, a former standout at Southwestern College who went on to play two seasons at San Diego State University.
This is Westling’s first job as a head coach. Good things could be in store for the Spartans.
“We have great senior leadership,” said Westling, a 2005 graduate of Aliso Niguel High School who played during the 2007 season at SWC. “We have 40 seniors on our team and I’ve already said that this is not going to be a rebuilding season. We’re going to try to win every play. We’ve got a good group of seniors and we want to give them the best reasons to succeed.”
A pro-style quarterback, Westling passed for 2,988 yards and 28 touchdowns his senior year at Aliso Niguel before logging two seasons in a reserve role at the University of Tulsa. He appeared in three games for the Golden Hurricanes in 2006 with one pass completion for 37 yards.
However, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound signal-caller blossomed under the guidance of coach Ed Carberry while attending Southwestern. He passed for 2,087 yards and 14 touchdowns, completing 53 percent of his passes, while earning scholar-athlete honors from the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.
Westling grew up as the son of a football coach; he considers coach Carberry to be like a second father.
“Playing for my dad (at Aliso Niguel) was really neat,” Westling said. “He wasn’t one of those dads who was overbearing and forced me to play. I actually loved football more than he did. Coach Carberry and I are both football junkies. He loves football more than I do. He’s a great mentor and always such a positive motivator. He wins with integrity.
“I kind of take the same mental approach here. If someone is interested in playing football, I’ll tell them, ‘Get onboard, let’s see what you can do and have fun.’”
The former Orange County star appeared in seven games for the Aztecs during his two seasons at Montezuma Mesa, earning one start as a junior. He completed 32 of 65 passing attempts for 270 yards with one touchdown during his two years at SDSU.
He spent 2010-12 as the offensive coordinator at Aliso Niguel and returned to Chula Vista to do student teaching at Eastlake High School. While at EHS, he also served as the quarterbacks coach at Southwestern.
He will call the offensive plays as the new Chula Vista head coach.
However, Westling said that doesn’t necessarily mean the Spartans will instantly be transformed into a passing offense.
“We’ll always have personnel-driven teams,” the new CVHS coach said. “Depending on the situation, we could pass the ball 50 times a game or run the ball 50 times a game. You never know until that first game what kids can actually do.”
The Spartans finished 3-7 last year under former head coach Judd Rachow, who is now an assistant at Otay Ranch High School. Rachow coached at CVHS for nine seasons, leading Chula Vista to the CIF playoffs in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012.
A promising new era could be starting.
Westling lists nine returning senior starters on this year’s roster. They include running back Chris Alonso, tight end Elias Torres, defensive lineman Kyle Gomez, linebacker Jaylon Candler, defensive back Angel Gonzalez, defensive back Demitrious Gibbs, defensive lineman Andrew Raffle, offensive lineman Manny Araojo and wide receiver Brandon Cabrera. Also returning are wide receiver Matt Apodaca, quarterback Mario Cabada, linebacker Greg Fernandez, all seniors.
Impact newcomers include senior quarterback Mark Ryan Peralta, senior wide receiver DeAnthony Cabe, junior linebacker Craig Wilson and sophomore defensive lineman Garry Cabogason.
The team’s five co-captains include Cabada, Alonso, Fernandez, Torres and Eddie Gutierrez.
Enthusiasm appears to be Westling’s biggest attribute so far; it’s becoming quite infectious throughout the Spartan lineup.
Candler played fullback last season before going on to win the 195-pound individual championship at the 2013-14 Metro Conference wrestling finals. He is very complimentary of the team’s new coach.
“It’s going good,” Candler said. “We’re learning a lot. We’re on a faster pace to be ready when the season starts. (Our new coach) is doing everything he can to get us to win.”
The team’s players hope to match their coach’s positive outlook in 2014.
“We’re an up-tempo team,” Westling said. “We want to play faster and harder than everyone and make sure we’re having fun.”
Chula Vista will renew its west side rivalry in the Chula Vista Kiwanis Bowl XIII on Sept. 12. The Spartans lead the series 9-3.
Improved Bonita Vista Barons look for success in 2014
The Bonita Vista Barons won four games in 2013 — double what the team recorded in 2012 and more than the three wins posted in each of the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
It was a learning experience for new head coach Chris Thompson and, for the most part, it was successful. The Barons wrapped up their season with a 28-14 loss to Granite Hills in the opening round of the section playoffs. The game was highly competitive and offered a springboard for the team’s returners to measure their success.
The team’s motto in 2014 is “One family, one purpose.”
The Barons appear to be gaining ground.
“We had more than 80 kids try out for varsity and the program is pushing toward 200 kids,” Thompson explained. “We had to make cuts because we just don’t have enough equipment. I think we have things going in the right direction. The future looks bright.
“I think we’re going to be better (than last season).”
Offensively, Thompson said the team will be on the young side with just three returning starters: senior offensive lineman Kennedy Maranion, junior running back Chris Boguille and sophomore quarterback Anthony Posada.
Posada passed for 626 yards with five touchdowns and 10 picks as a freshman last year. His numbers should improve with a year of maturity.
Boguille averaged 41 rushing yards per game in 2013 as a sophomore.
Thompson said the team’s offensive arsenal isn’t exactly bare. “We do have some explosive skill kids — junior wide receiver Michael Skiff, sophomore wide receivers Keenan Ellis and Jake Rozar — guys who can change a game in one play,” the BVHS coach said.
The big man on campus will undoubtedly be senior tight end/defensive end Christian Melhorn, a giant on the field at 6-3 and 245.
Melhorn will anchor the team’s defensive line. He collected 68 tackles, three sacks and one interception in 10 games last season.
“We expect big things out of our D-line again this year,” Thompson said.
That group also includes seniors Brice Jackson and Anthony Siragusa and junior Daniel Kemp.
Thompson said the linebacker position has turned out to be the best competition of the summer and will continue right into the team’s Aug. 22 scrimmage. Alex Ulloa and Angel Landovazo are the returning seniors but a hungry group of talented juniors — Aaron Diehl, Leib Lipowsky and Tristan Schultz — are ready to go, the BVHS coach said.
“I think our secondary may end up being the strength of the team,” Thompson said.
The BV secondary is led by senior safety Willis Faalogo and Junior Atoa Fox — two big physical safeties who, Thompson said, “will intimidate a lot of offenses.”
Junior Trevian Lanier and senior Sebastian Bustamante will lock down the corners. “And look out for junior transfer Ethan Williams,” Thompson said. “He is our ‘do everything’ guy … defensive back, wide receiver, kick-returner.”
Senior kicker Lloyd Alexander is also being counted on to produce this season after leading the Barons in team scoring last year with 26 kicking points. He converted all 11 of his extra-point kicks and made five of nine field goal attempts — his longest from 32 yards.
If Bonita Vista is to be successful this season, the team will need to increase its touchdown production given the team’s difficult early season schedule.
“We’ve got high expectations,” Thompson said. “We have a tough schedule — Vista, Mission Hills, Helix, Madison — and then you get into our league with teams like Eastlake, Olympian and Otay Ranch. I think we’ve turned the corner and set down standards. We’d like to build up our lower foundation.
“But the story of our season will come down like every season: how fast does our young offensive line get good. If juniors Moli Faalogo and Gabe Melhorn and sophomores Adrian Ramirez and Chris Rouston can open holes in the run game and give Posada time to find the open man, then the Bonita Vista Barons will be turning heads.”
New coach sets new direction, goals for success at Otay Ranch
Lance Christensen might be best known as the head softball coach at Eastlake High School; he’s also a football man, and he’s eager to begin his first head coaching assignment at Otay Ranch High School.
He admits there will be challenges to overcome, not only for himself but also for his players.
“No. 1, we’re trying to change the culture,” Christensen said. “We’re trying to create an environment with these kids to strive to win: They compete in all situations and do it with a level of honor and humility. As a coaching staff, we’re not coming in here to rebuild but win right away. We think we have the kids to do that.”
Top returners include senior middle linebacker/center Jensen Peterson, senior offensive guard Mike Olivas, senior offensive tackle Esteban Perez, senior tight end /outside linebacker Justin Holloway and senior fullback/linebacker Emilio Razo.
Impact newcomers include junior quarterback Arturo Saenz, junior receiver Adrian Rodriguez and senior safety/receiver Nate Cobbs.
The Mustangs finished 3-8 last season with a 35-6 first-round playoff loss to Grossmont.
Despite the heavy loss of talent to graduation, Otay Ranch should fare well in a more balanced Metro-Mesa League in 2014.
“Our offensive line will be our strength,” Christensen said. “I think we’ll have some running backs with some good speed who will do some good things for us. Overall, we’ll have above average speed. We’ll be fast. Defense will be a strength for us.”
Metro Conference Football Rankings
(CalPreps Preseason Power Ratings)
1. Eastlake Titans 46.9
2. Sweetwater Red Devils 25.7
3. Olympian Eagles 23.7
4. Hilltop Lancers 21.5
5. Chula Vista Spartans 19.8
6. Bonita Vista Barons 13
7. Otay Ranch Mustangs 6.7
8. Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders -1
9. Castle Park Trojans -3.3
10. Mar Vista Mariners -4.2
11. Montgomery Aztecs -17.7
12. San Ysidro Cougars -31.6
13. Southwest Raiders -39.7
1. Eastlake Titans, 2. Olympian Eagles, 3. Chula Vista Spartans, 4. Bonita Vista Barons, 5. Otay Ranch Mustangs
Metro-South Bay League
1. Sweetwater Red Devils, 2. Hilltop Lancers, 3. Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders, 4. Mar Vista Mariners
1. Castle Park Trojans, 2. Montgomery Aztecs, 3. San Ysidro Cougars, 4. Southwest Raiders
San Diego Section Football Rankings
(CalPreps Preseason Power Ratings)
1. Cathedral Catholic 55.4
1. Mission Hills 55.4
3. St. Augustine 53.5
4. Oceanside 52.5
5. Helix 49.8
6. Eastlake 46.9
7. San Pasqual 45.0
8. Ramona 43.9
9. El Capitan 40.3
10. Carlsbad 38.3
11. Rancho Buena Vista 37.6
12. Torrey Pines 34.8
13. Grossmont 34.5
14. La Costa Canyon 32.7
15. Mission Bay 31.8