Lancers moving in right direction, could league title be in tow?
Stability breeds success. That appears to sum up the current state of the Hilltop High School football team, which enters the 2013 season led by fourth-year coach Cody Roelof.
The Lancers won their first playoff game in 15 years after defeating the host Orange Glen Patriots, 35-28, in overtime in the opening round of the 2012 San Diego Section Division II playoffs.
Hilltop ended its season the following week with a 50-0 loss to top-seeded Oceanside in the division quarterfinals.
But the statement had been made.
The boys in green and black will be looking to find success again this season as the section goes to new playoff divisions based on competition tiers.
The Lancers have landed in the revised Division III level alongside small private school giants Santa Fe Christian (2012 Division V champion), Francis Parker (2012 Division V runners-up) and Christian (2011 Division V champions).
Interestingly, Hilltop edged Francis Parker, 22-19, in a passing tournament game at the 15th annual Spartan Invitational July 20 at Chula Vista High School. The Lancers went on to record a meteoric second-place finish in the low-key eight-team tournament following a 30-8 loss in the championship game to the Olympian Eagles.
Roelof and his staff were left scratching their heads in trying to determine the last time a Lancer team had made the finals of a passing tournament. While Roelof & Co. were obviously elated by the turn of events, they were quick to point out that it meant nothing as far as upcoming regular season play is concerned.
“This was just practice,” Roelof said. “We didn’t have our linemen out there.”
Hilltop finished 6-6 in 2012, with three games going into overtime. The Lancers won two of those three OT match-ups but the one they lost proved to be the most costly: It came in the South Bay League championship game against visiting Mar Vista.
The Mariners won, 20-19, in overtime.
Mar Vista has won the last three Metro-South Bay League championship titles, and while the Mariners are under new leadership this season, Roelof still picks the Imperial Beach team as the ones to beat once again this season.
“We still have something to prove — they’re the defending champions,” the HHS coach said.
But the Lancers appear equally capable of writing a new chapter in their history book — one that could very well end with a league championship.
Top returners include junior quarterback Daniel Sanchez, senior running backs Montel Campbell and Drake Madarang, senior linebackers Jared Akers, Diego Uranga and David Vasquez and senior defensive back Christian Sandoval.
Sanchez, a first team all-league pick as a sophomore, passed for 1,059 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions while tacking on five rushing touchdowns during his rookie season in 2012.
Campbell rushed for 613 yards and scored five rushing touchdowns while Madarang rushed for 352 yards, scored twice on the ground, and posted an impressive 7.49 yards per carry.
Campbell also had two catches for touchdowns while Madarang had one TD pass reception coming out of the backfield.
Defensively, Akers — the 2012 South Bay League Defensive Player of the Year — led the team with 117 solo tackles last season, followed by Sandoval with 55, Uranga with 52 and Vasquez with 51. Akers totaled six sacks while Sandoval and Uranga each made three.
Sandoval led the team with five interceptions.
Impact newcomers include senior receiver Kameron Smith, junior receiver Isaiah Dillon and senior defensive back Manny Fernandez.
While several experienced players at skill positions return, Roloef said his team is faced with essentially rebuilding its offensive and defensive lines from the ground up.
“It hurts when you lose your offensive and defensive lines (to graduation) and have to start from scratch,” the HHS coach said.
Despite the turnover in player personnel, Roloef said the team’s goal will remain the same: to win the league championship.
“We seem to be falling short each year (a 13-6 setback in 2011 and last year’s overtime loss),” Roelof said. “We’re looking to get over the .500 mark. We’re looking to keep improving. We’re headed in the right direction. We want to keep it going in the right direction.”
The Lancers will get an inkling of just how good they are when they engage west side rival Chula Vista in the 12th annual Kiwanis Bowl game on Sept. 13. The Spartans hold a rather commanding 9-2 edge in the 11 previous games in the series but Hilltop seems ready to make a challenge this season.
“Well,” Roelof said cautiously, “We feel Chula Vista is a quality program and beating them will not be that easy. They bring a good product to the field every year and are very well-coached.”
Hilltop kicks off the 2013 season with a non-league game at Castle Park on Aug. 30.
Mariners seek to balance fortunes under new coach in quest for league title
New Mar Vista head coach Tyler Arciaga is coming home — to Imperial Beach, that is.
“I live in Imperial Beach, about three blocks from the school, in fact, so it kind of made sense to make the switch over here when the position opened up,” the former Bonita Vista High School standout explained. “It’s a nice opportunity to work in the community you live in.”
Arciaga, who played collegiate football at UNLV, coached the last two years at San Ysidro, compiling identical 4-6 records.
It was a move up for the Cougars from a 1-9 finish in 2010.
The job at Mar Vista opened up when former Mariners coach Brian Hay elected to make a move over to Sweetwater.
Arciaga inherits a more talent rich squad at MVHS than at San Ysidro. The Mariners have won the last three Metro-South Bay League championships.
However, with a new coach, changes are expected, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a different way of accomplishing the same goal.
Arciaga would like to run a more balanced offensive scheme with the Mariners, who reaped success with a run-oriented attack under Hay.
“It’s a 180 degree shift by spreading people out,” Arciaga said. ‘It’s tough to change that because they’ve been having success with it.”
Patience — both by the coaching staff and the players — in converting to a new system has been a top priority during preseason practices.
Arciaga said he hasn’t completely ruled out going back to the old run-oriented scheme, at least for a few plays each game because of the players’ familiarity with it.
Mar Vista advanced to the Division III semifinals two years ago and to the quarterfinals last year.
Top players in 2013 include seniors Jimmie Hills (running back/safety), Brandon Scales (free safety/receiver), Colt Meling (linebacker), Pono Cavaco (receiver), Andres Preciado (offensive/defensive tackle), Mike Cena (cornerback/receiver), Andrew Robinson (tackle) and Alejandro Akerlundh (linebacker).
Hill, who ranks in the top three of his class academically and serves as the ASB vice president, rushed for 847 of Mar Vista’s staggering 4,978 total rushing yards last season, scoring four touchdowns.
Akerlundh, who earned all-league honors last year as a defender, is the team’s top returning tackler. He also tied for the team lead with three picks in 2012 besides average more than 12 yards per carry on offense on 14 attempts.
Robinson, a baseball standout, was a first-team all-league offensive selection last season. He also paced the team with 34 pancake blocks on defense.
“We’re a senior-laden team this year,“ Arciaga said. “We want to continue to build on the success the players have had over the last four years. Our goals are hard work and learning to get better.”
The Mariners kick off regular season play Aug. 30 with a non-league game at Valley Center.
Southwest Raiders looking for continued improvement
Second-year Southwest coach Frank Paredes is hoping that by establishing much-needed continuity in the Raiders program that good things result.
“Last year our coaching staff inherited a program where a lot of kids had been exposed to a lot of turnover (in the coaching department),” Paredes explained. “We’re seeking to establish a little stability for a change.”
In that regard, the future looks bright for Southwest.
Said Paredes: “We graduated about 20 kids. We have a lot of sophomores and juniors coming up.”
Goals continue to remain modest at present.
“We’re hoping to reach .500 and that might be attainable,” the Raiders sideline boss said. “Last year we won three games. Anything better than that would be great for us.”
Impact players include senior defensive back/running back Maceo Harris, senior quarterback/defensive back Dominic Villamor, senior middle linebacker/center Fernando Iniguez and junior receiver/defensive back Brandon Molina.
Villamor and Iniguez are both returning all-league performers.
Villamor passed for 1,369 yards with nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2012; he also rushed for 308 and five scores and led the team with six touchdowns overall.
Harris ranked second on the team last year with 247 rushing yards. He also collected 201 receiving yards in five games. Overall, he ranked second on the team with four touchdowns.
Defensively, Iniguez had two sacks and one fumble recovery in 2012.
Other top returners include senior running back/cornerback Anthony Martinez, senior receivers/cornerbacks Edgar Delgadillo, Alan Vergera and Victor Whiddon, junior fullback/linebacker Andres Lua and senior offensive lineman/linebacker Felix Mora.
Newcomers expected to make an impression include junior running back/linebacker Moses Robles, junior receiver/defensive back Eduardo Chaidez, sophomore receiver/defensive back Armando Diaz, senior receiver/defensive back Miguel Viscarra, senior receiver/safety Gerardo Lopez, sophomore tight end/outside linebacker Jeremy Ganac, senior offensive/defensive lineman Daniel Culala and sophomore offensive/defensive lineman Jesus Garcia.
Where will the Raiders fit into this year’s Metro-South Bay League standings? That is very much open to debate — and that’s something positive to say about this year’s Raider squad.
“The league has pretty evened out — it will be a tough one to predict,” Paredes offered his opinion. “We are hoping for a productive season. Our team overall is young with a few returning players. Our team goal is to minimize mistakes and play fundamental football and continue to improve each week.”
The Raiders kick off regular season play Aug. 30 with a non-league game at Crawford.
Will football be next sport to make a turn-around at SYHS?
Things are starting to turn around at San Ysidro High School. The evidence of this is highlighted by the school’s boys basketball, wrestling, girls tennis and baseball teams.
The Cougars have won either outright possession of or shared the South Bay League boys hoops title the last three years while the wrestling team has won the last two Metro Conference finals team championship titles.
The school’s girls tennis team slammed its way to the league title last fall, while this past spring the SYHS baseball team claimed the San Diego Section Division III championship.
The sports culture on campus appears to be on an upswing.
“I think it’s getting a lot better,” SYHS athletic director Terry Tucker said. “I think we’re getting coaches in place. We’re not hearing old excuses that kids at San Ysidro can’t do this or can’t do that.”
Tucker has been one of the masterminds behind the recent success of the school’s boys basketball team. He is taking over the coaching reins of the school’s football team this year.
The Cougars finished 4-6 last season, but were winless in Metro-South Bay League play.
Tucker feels it’s now the football team’s turn to step up to the next level.
“In order to do that, we want to get more kids involved and hopefully we can do it by instilling discipline and by setting standards on and off the field,” he said. “The first thing is that everyone has to know what their priorities are off the field and what the commitments are day to day, week to week and month to month. That’s how you build a core of players.”
Tucker will be working with a team that graduated 20 seniors and has just two returning starters, likely making the Cougars the youngest team in the Metro-South Bay League.
Top returning players include senior center Miguel Bracamontes, senior receiver Rance Brijandez, senior quarterback Alan Godoy, junior running back Oscar Fausto, junior safety Anthony Jenkins, senior defensive back Carlos Campos and senior linebacker Mohammad Surkhi.
Top newcomers include senior tight end Orlando Quinones and freshman running back Cory Maddox.
Quinones is a first team all-league basketball player, while Tucker calls Maddox the team’s “fabulous freshman.”
The addition of both Quinones and Maddox is expected to impact the team in a very positive way.
“We will rely on them to help the Cougars get out of the basement of the South Bay League,” the SYHS coach said.
The Cougars kick off regular season play Aug. 31 with a non-league game against Escondido Charter at Escondido High School.
STAR-NEWS PREP PIGSKIN COACHES POLL
Which team will win the Metro-South Bay League championship title?
1. Hilltop Lancers 37.5 points
2. Mar Vista Mariners 36.5 points
3. Southwest Raiders 32 points
4. San Ysidro Cougars 30 points
Note: Points based on 10-9-8-7-6 value in order of prediction.