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Metro-Pacific League football preview: Crusaders seek fourth consecutive league title Phillip Brents | Fri, Aug 30 2013 12:51 PM

Defending champ Crusaders seek to retain league title
Mater Dei Catholic head coach John Joyner is very optimistic about his team’s chances of winning its third consecutive Metro-Pacific League championship title.

“We feel really good about where our team is ending summer workouts and heading into the fall,” Joyner said. “Last year we finished 8-3 and were the Pacific League champs. Our goals are always the same: We want to win both the Metro-Pacific League championship and win the CIF Division IV championship.”

It is not inconceivable that both goals could be met in 2013 with the San Diego Section’s revised post-season divisional realignment coming into play.

The Crusaders have to be considered one of the top teams in the new-look Division IV competition tier.

Top returners include six all-league returners: receiver/free safety Iman Chatman-Dixon, receiver Evan Bebee, receiver/linebacker Damon Willis, offensive/defensive lineman Matt Garcia, linebacker Sebastian Kelley and receiver/defensive back Nick Conlin.

Chatman-Dixon and Bebee are both first team selections while Willis, Garcia, Kelley and Conlin are all second-team picks.

Conlin was a member of Park View’s 2009 Little League World Series championship team.

Other top returners include quarterback Marco Morales, running back Alonso Alzua and receiver/defensive back Eric Flores.

Impact newcomers include linebacker Donovan Williams, offensive/defensive linemen George Arce and Marvin Dragoc and receiver/defensive back Michael Pimentel, all juniors.

Missing from the line-up is quarterback Joseph Legrette-Luke, a two-time Metro-Pacific Offensive Player of the Year who now embarks on a stab at playing collegiate football after graduating this past spring from MDCHS.

That hasn’t diminished the expectations for this year’s Crusader squad, however.

“We feel we are very explosive on offense and have a great veteran group of linebackers and secondary,” Joyner said. “We will need to stay healthy but are looking forward to trying to win the Pacific League for the third straight year.”

The Crusaders kick off the 2013 regular season with a non-league game Aug. 30 against visiting Kearny.


CP Trojans return to wing-T, seek move up in Metro-Pacific League standings

The Castle Park Trojans are entering their third year under the leadership of head coach Hans Graham. They’ll be looking to improve on last season’s 3-7 finish after making strides to bolster a 2-8 mark in 2011.

Graham estimates the team lost about 20 players to graduation and is returning about eight to 10 players, including about five to six starters.

In other words, this year’s Trojan squad will be out to prove itself.

“This year we went back to what we do best, which is to run the wing-T,” Graham said. “We don’t have a lot of numbers but we have quality numbers.”

The team’s personnel seem well suited to run the popular misdirection offense, especially with a sizable part of the blocking line returning.

Top players this year include junior running back Jordan Danielson, senor defensive/offensive lineman Robert Stretch, senior linebacker/offensive lineman Raul Banuelos, senior quaterback/outside linebacker Eric King, senior tight end/linebacker/punter Roberto Budden, junior guard Alessando Torres and junior defensive end/offensive lineman Angel Juarez.

There is some good size here. Stretch finished second at the conference wrestling finals at heavyweight while Juarez stands 6-6.

Newcomers expected to impact the team include senior defensive back/receiver Felipe Loborio, senior defensive back/running back Mylik Steen and junior receiver Adrian Tolbert.

Enthusiasm seems to define the 2013 Trojans, and that can be a key team strength in pursuit of winning the Metro-Pacific League title and landing a berth in the San Diego Section Division IV playoffs.

“If we go 4-6 or 5-5, or even 6-4, it wouldn’t surprise me,” Graham said. “We always seem to get better toward the end of the season. We’ve got a lot of kids who are coming around who were JV last year. We want to establish the run.”

Castle Park appears set for the future with the addition of freshman coaches Freddy Dunkle and Chase McGuire, both former standout players at the school.

Present-day goals remain the same, according to Graham.

“I’m looking to win league and finish strong,” the CPHS head coach said. “The other teams in the league are basically in the same position with a lot of new people. It’s always a problem of injuries and grades. Anything can happen. It will come down to the bounce of the ball. It’s pretty even.”



New CIF division could usher in new era of success for Montgomery
With the San Diego Section’s realignment of its playoff divisions, the Montgomery Aztecs are looking at 2013 as the beginning of a new era — perhaps one of long-term prosperity.

“The new CIF Division IV is a better fit for us,” MOHS coach Ted Jarumayan said. “It’s created renewed interest for players to go forward on.”

The Aztecs remain in the Metro-Pacific League and will be looking to unseat two-time defending league champion Mater Dei Catholic.

Montgomery finished 1-9 last season — 0-3 in league play — but is looking to make a move upward this season.

Top players include all-league returners Martin Garcia (linebacker/fullback), Sebastian Orozco (tight end/defensive end), Stanley Schwing (running back/safety), Kameron Bradley (guard/defensive end), all seniors, and junior lineman Brendan Guerra.

Martin and Schwing led the team with 79 and 72 tackles last year while Bradley and Orozco tied for the team lead with 4.5 sacks. Orozco also had two fumble recoveries.

Newcomers looking to make an impact include senior cornerback Justin Toledo, junior quarterback Nate Aragon and senior linebacker/fullback Josef Flores.

“Mater Dei Catholic is still the team to beat in our league,” Jarumayan said. “But I think everyone is going to go after it. Everyone has the same mind-set: to win the league title.”

The Aztecs have seven teams in the remade Division IV on this year’s schedule: El Cajon Valley, Clairemont, San Ysidro, Southwest, Castle Park, Mater Dei Catholic and Sweetwater. Montgomery faces one Division I team (Olympian) and two Division III teams (Bonita Vista and Calexico).

Only three of those 10 teams posted winning records in 2012, which would seem to make this year’s schedule more competitively balanced. Such was exactly the intent for the section’s divisional realignment.

“We feel we’re just as competitive as any team in Division IV,” Jarumayan said. “We’re looking to make something happen in November.”

The Aztecs kick off regular season play Aug. 30 with a non-league game against Bonita Vista at Olympian High School.

Will new-look Sweetwater Red Devils prosper in 2013?

If all things go as planned, the new-look Sweetwater High School football team will make its home debut in the school’s new-look football stadium on Sept. 20.

Construction on Sweetwater’s new Field Turf stadium is expected to be completed in time for the team’s scheduled non-league game against Monte Vista on that date.

There’s obviously much excitement on campus in regard to the new stadium, and much excitement as well on the gridiron under new head coach Brian Hay.

Hay comes over after compiling recent success at Mar Vista High School, winning three consecutive Metro-South Bay League championships.

He’s hoping to bring that success with him to the Red Devils program in pursuit of a Metro-Pacific League title.

“Any time you go into a community with a tradition as rich as Sweetwater’s, it’s a great feeling,” Hay said. “The kids want to do all the things to win, and the coaching staff is here to help them accomplish that. I’m very excited about being here.”

Hay brings a cumulative 106-79-3 record into this season following stints at Banning, Southwest El Centro, Hilltop and Mar Vista high schools.

Sweetwater finished 2-8 last season, 1-2 in league play.

The Red Devils are switching to a run-oriented offense that found success at MVHS. The double-wing offensive scheme emphasizes ball possession and control of the clock. It can also be punishing to opposing defenses.

Mar Vista accumulated an astounding 4,978 yards in rushing offense last year. Does Sweetwater have the same type of personnel able to run it? We’ll see.

Top returners include senior running backs Joshua Christopher and Jaylon Davis, both of whom possess incredible speed and could be Division I recruits as either defensive backs or wide receivers in college, according to Hay.

“They have the speed to cut anyone off at the corners,” the SuHi coach said.

Also back to lead the team are senior linebacker/running back Raven Middleton, senior offensive linemen Joseph Osuna and Nate Garcia and junior free safety James Zarate.

“Like anything, there’s an adjustment period,” Hay cautioned. “Our goals are to get better each play and every single day and have fun while doing it, and things will happen.”

The Red Devils kick off regular season play Aug. 30 with a non-league game at La Jolla Country Day High School.

Which team will win the Metro-Pacific League championship title?

1. Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders 29 points
2. Castle Park Trojans 26 points
3. (tie) Montgomery Aztecs 24 points
3. (tie) Sweetwater Red Devils 24 points

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