South County pigskin teams gearing up for a full fall season

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Chula Vista's Raymond Cruz (6) earned MVP honors for his team at last spring's Chula Vista Kiwanis Bowl game. Photo by Phillip Brents

High school football fans got a taste of gridiron action during the spring; now it’s time to serve the full course meal.

Regular season play kicks off Aug. 20, preceded a week earlier by scrimmages.

Coaches are in universal agreement about the positives afforded by a return to more normalcy, particularly the existence of a true off-season in which players were able to hit the weight room and scrimmage live opponents in seven-on-seven summer passing tournaments.

Though no section playoffs took place, league champions were determined in the Metro Conference. Eastlake went undefeated in its three Metro-Mesa League games to earn a league title while the Montgomery Aztecs did the same in the Metro-South Bay League as did the Sweetwater Red Devils in the Metro-Pacific League.

Sweetwater posted an overall 5-0 record while Eastlake was 4-0 overall to both post undefeated mini-seasons.

What differs from the abbreviated spring season will be the return of the San Diego Section divisional playoffs.

Rankings were kept during the spring for each division, but no official CIF champions were declared.

Top-ranked teams in the spring included Cathedral Catholic (Open Division), Torrey Pines (Division I), La Jolla (Division II), Mater Dei Catholic (Division III), Patrick Henry (Division IV) and Tri-City Christian (Division V).

How will those teams stack up in a full 10-game regular season and playoffs?

It will be fun to find out.

First and Ten
The Metro-Conference returns to a two-league alignment for the 2021-22 season.

Mesa League members include Bonita Vista, Eastlake, Hilltop, Mater Dei Catholic, Olympian and Otay Ranch.

South Bay League membership includes Castle Park, Chula Vista, Mar Vista, Montgomery, San Ysidro and Sweetwater.

Southwest is not fielding a varsity program this season. The Raiders will field a junior varsity team instead.

Chula Vista Spartans
Head coach Howard Bannister III’s team finished 1-4 in the short spring season, 1-2 in Metro-South Bay League play.

But the upcoming fall season could see a complete turnaround, according to the CVHS sideline boss.

“This is a new, young team,” Bannister said. “They have the best chemistry I’ve seen since my first year here. We will only start three to four seniors, but many young guys got a ton of reps in the spring.”

Top returners include senior linebacker Raymond Cruz, sophomore strong safety/receiver Nathan Houck, junior receiver/defensive back Arbhal Saucedo-Franco and junior offensive/defensive lineman Joel Zapata.

Cruz and Houck were first team all-league selections while Saucedo Franco and Zapata were second team all-league picks.

Cruz paced the Spartan defense with 54 tackles during the team’s five-game spring season while Saucedo-Franco had eight catches for 133 yards and one touchdown in the spring (with one interception).

Arce received his baptism under fire by appearing in two games with 174 passing yards and three interceptions.

The team’s impact newcomers include junior quarterback/free safety Jacob Pedroza, junior running back Giovanni Barrios, sophomore cornerback/receiver Janon Macon and sophomore receiver/defensive back Jacob Davidson.

Young players who received invaluable playing time in the spring included then freshmen Santiago Macias (offensive/defensive line), Houck and Sean Arce (quarterback/receiver/defensive back).

“Our quarterback, Jacob Pedroza, is tough,” Bannister said. “With an upgraded offensive line, I’m expecting to have an impactful run game with senior Anthony Venegas and juniors Giovanni Barrios and Octavio Ramirez Garcia. We expect to compete for a league title, period.”

Sweetwater Red Devils
The Devils posted the most wins by a Metro team during the spring season, finishing third out of 17 teams in the Division IV section rankings.

Where does Sweetwater go from here? Back to the gridiron in search of more success naturally.

The Red Devils graduated 18 seniors off that 5-0 team but return eight starters.

Top returning starters in the team’s double-wing offensive scheme include senior wingback/defensive lineman Carlos Hopper (5-8, 185), senior fullback/inside linebacker Fabian Venegas (5-9, 220), junior offensive/defensive lineman Steven Herrera Jr. (5-8, 220), junior tight end/defensive lineman Cesar Guerra (5-9, 180), senior wingback/defensive lineman Javier Sanchez (5-10, 225), sophomore wingback/defensive back Adrian Guerrero (5-5, 160), junior wingback/defensive lineman Julian Ramos (5-8, 180) and senior quarterback/outside linebacker Nick Jenkins (5-11, 185).

Hopper, Sanchez, Venegas and Guerrero were all first team all-league selections from the shortened spring season while Herrera, Ramos and Guerra were second team picks.

Impact newcomers include sophomore offensive lineman/inside linebacker Carlos Delgado (5-10, 210), sophomore quarterback/defensive back Xzavier Crews (5-11,185) and senior lineman Adrian Ramirez (6-3, 250).

Crews is a recruit from the school’s track and field team and will bring speed to the lineup.

Hopper (572 rushing yards, one touchdown) and Javier Sanchez (437 rushing yards, four touchdowns) rank as the Devils’ top two returning ball-carriers. Both also return as the team’s top sack-masters on defense.

While the spotlight might shine on Hopper and Sanchez, head coach Ervin Hernandez appears to have plenty of accolades to hand out this season.

“We’re returning inside linebacker Fabian Venegas, who was second on the team with 26 tackles last year, and who will also be playing fullback in our double wing offense,” the SuHi coach noted. “It will be tough replacing Metro Pacific League Offensive Player of the Year Mario Villa (871 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns), although, we will have another strong rushing attack with sophomore Xzavier Crews playing some wingback and quarterback.

“We only have two returning starters on the offensive line, but sophomore Carlos Delgado has stepped up this summer and will take one of those starting roles. We also have a young secondary with three sophomores and a junior starting back there.”

The Devils will face a much more challenging schedule in 2021-22 as the team moves back into the South Bay League as well as meets schools outside the Metro Conference.

Sweetwater kicks off the season Aug. 19 with a non-league game at Grossmont High School. Start time is 6:30 p.m. (revised date due to lack of officials).

Castle Park Trojans
The Trojans finished runner-up in the Division V section championship playoffs to cap the 2019 football season. The 24-21 setback to the Francis Parker Lancers was a bittersweet ending for the team’s senior student-athletes.

But it was nothing compared to what followed: the COVID-19 pandemic that delayed the start of the entire 2020 season.

Castle Park (11-2 overall in 2019) was able to return to the gridiron before the 2020-21 interscholastic season expired, though the Trojans turned in an up-and-down spring campaign that started with a 40-0 loss to neighborhood rival Montgomery, then quickly turned around the next week with a 54-16 victory against San Ysidro.

Overall, Castle Park finished the short spring season 3-2 overall, 2-1 in Metro-Pacific League play.

The Trojans return to the realigned South Bay League this fall with an agenda to “to be sound and finish strong,” according to second-year coach Paco Silva.

Silva took over head coaching duties last spring. It took a game for Castle Park to get all the pieces on the board assembled but once it did the Trojans seemed to return to past form, or at least close to it.

The Trojans dropped a 26-13 decision at Sweetwater in what turned out to be the Metro-Pacific League championship game. The game was fiercely fought throughout, with the host Devils scoring a late insurance touchdown to clinch the league banner.

Castle Park ended its short five-game season with decisive victories against Mar Vista (56-7) and Kearny (41-12).

Top returners from the spring include quarterback Jose Jackson and senior offensive/defensive lineman Marcos Morachis Also on board again are junior lineman Guillermo Perez, senior Kamea Luna, senior kicker Sergio Cobos, linebacker Ricardo Soto and senior tight end Eli Benevidez.

Jackson passed for 395 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions in four games for a 91.5 quarterback rating.

Cobos averaged 42 yards on kickoffs, 41 yards on punts and converted 16 of 20 extra-point attempts (80 percent) in the spring.

The Trojans faced huge losses on the field in graduated seniors Erik Hernandez (663 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns) and Ramon Cabal (455 rushing yards, five touchdowns), both first team all-league picks on offense and defense, respectively.

Hernandez led the team with 785 all-purpose yards, averaging 196.3 yards per game, while leading the team in scoring with 12 touchdowns (including two pass receptions). He concluded his three-year varsity career at Troy with 2,626 rushing yards (10.8 per carry, 109.4 per game), 36 rushing touchdowns and 40 total TD.

The team’s impact newcomers include senior linebacker Ray Villareal, senior halfback Davian Simler and sophomore running back Jeremiah Simler.

Castle Park kicks off the 2021-22 season Aug. 20 with a non-league home game against Rancho Buena Vista (7 p.m. kickoff).

 

2021-22 METRO CONFERENCE FOOTBALL SCHEDULES

Mesa League

Bonita Vista Barons
20: Bonita Vista vs. Morse, 6:30 p.m. at Southwestern College

27: Bonita Vista vs. San Ysidro, 6:30 p.m. at Southwestern College

September

3: Bonita Vista at Sweetwater, 6:30 p.m.

10: Bonita Vista at John Glenn (Norwalk), 7 p.m.

17: Bonita Vita vs. Patrick Henry, 6:30 p.m. at Southwestern College (homecoming)

24: Bye

October

1: Bonita Vista vs. Mater Dei Catholic, 6:30 p.m. at Southwestern College

8: Bonita Vista at Olympian, 6:30 p.m.

15: Bonita Vista vs. Otay Ranch, 6:30 p.m. at Southwestern College

22: Bonita Vista at Eastlake, 6:30 p.m.

29: Bonita Vista vs. Hilltop, 6:30 p.m. at Southwestern College (senior night)

 

Eastlake Titans

August
20: Steele Canyon at Eastlake, 6:30 p.m.

27: Eastlake at Poway, 7 p.m.

September

3: Eastlake at La Habra, 7 p.m.

10: Eastlake at Granite Hills, 7 p.m.

17: Bye

24: Eastlake at El Camino, 7:15 p.m.

October

1: Olympian at Eastlake, 6:30 p.m.

8: Eastlake at Hilltop, 6:30 p.m.

15: Eastlake at Mater Dei Catholic, 6:30 p.m.

22: Bonita Vista at Eastlake, 6:30 p.m.

29: Otay Ranch at Eastlake, 6:30 p.m.

 

Hilltop Lancers

August
20:  Hilltop at Valhalla, 7 p.m.

26: Hilltop at El Capitan, 7 p.m.

September

3: Chula Vista at Hilltop, 6:30 p.m. (Kiwanis Bowl)

10: Bye

17: Hilltop at Morse, 7 p.m.

24: Escondido at Hilltop, 7 p.m.

October

1: Otay Ranch at Hilltop, 6:30 p.m.

8: Eastlake at Hilltop, 6:30 p.m.

15: Olympian at Hilltop, 6:30 p.m.

22: Hilltop at Mater Dei Catholic, 7 p.m.

29: Hilltop vs. Bonita Vista, 6:30 p.m. at Southwestern College

 

Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders

August
20: Brawley at Mater Dei Catholic, 6:30 p.m.

27: Mater Dei Catholic at Westview, 7 p.m.

September

3: Helix Charter at Mater Dei Catholic, 7 p.m.

17: La Jolla at Mater Dei Catholic, 7 p.m.

24: St. Augustine at Mater Dei Catholic, 6:30 p.m.

October

1: Mater Dei Catholic at Bonita Vista, 6:30 p.m.

8: Mater Dei Catholic at Otay Ranch, 6:30 p.m.

15: Eastlake at Mater Dei Catholic, 6:30 p.m.

22: Hilltop at Mater Dei Catholic, 7 p.m.

29: Olympian at Mater Dei Catholic, 6:30 p.m.

 

Olympian Eagles

August
20: Westview at Olympian, 7 p.m.

27: San Pasqual at Olympian, 6:30 p.m.

September

3: West Hills at Olympian, 6:30 p.m.

10: Bye

17: Point Loma at Olympian, 7 p.m.

24: Olympian at Oceanside, 7 p.m.

October

1: Olympian at Eastlake, 6:30 p.m.

8: Bonita Vista at Olympian, 6:30 p.m.

15: Olympian at Hilltop, 6:30 p.m.

22: Otay Ranch at Olympian, 6:30 p.m. (Battle of the O’s)

29: Olympian at Mater Dei Catholic, 6:30 p.m.

 

Otay Ranch Mustangs

August
20: Otay Ranch at Madison, 7 p.m.

27: Helix Charter at Otay Ranch, 7 p.m.

September

3: Mira Mesa at Otay Ranch, 7 p.m.

10: Bye

17: Granite Hills at Otay Ranch, 7 p.m.

24: Otay Ranch at Lincoln, 7 p.m.

October

1: Otay Ranch at Hilltop, 6:30 p.m.

8: Mater Dei Catholic at Otay Ranch, 6:30 p.m.

15: Bonita Vista at Otay Ranch, 6:30 p.m. at Southwestern College

22: Otay Ranch at Olympian, 6:30 p.m.

29: Otay Ranch at Eastlake, 6:30 p.m.

Note: home games TBA

 

South Bay League

Castle Park Trojans

August
20: Rancho Buena Vista at Castle Park, 7 p.m.

27: Castle Park at Calexico, 7 p.m.

September

3: Orange Glen at Castle Park, 7 p.m.

10: Vincent Memorial at Castle Park, 6:30 p.m.

17: San Ysidro at Castle Park, 6:30 p.m.

24: Castle Park at Montgomery, 6:30 p.m.

October

1: Chula Vista at Castle Park, 6:30 p.m.

8: Castle Park at Mar Vista, 6:30 p.m.

15: Bye

22: Bye

29: Sweetwater at Castle Park, 6:30 p.m.

 

Chula Vista Spartans

August
20:  La Jolla Country Day at Chula Vista, 7 p.m.

27: Chula Vista at Mount Miguel, 7 p.m.

September

3: Chula Vista at Hilltop, 6:30 p.m. (Kiwanis Bowl)

10: Canyon Hills at Chula Vista, 6:30 p.m.

17: Mar Vista at Chula Vista, 6:30 p.m.

24: Chula Vista at San Ysidro, 6:30 p.m.

October

1: Chula Vista at Castle Park, 6:30 p.m.

8: Bye

15: Chula Vista at Sweetwater, 6:30 p.m. (Legacy of Pride)

22: Bye

29: Montgomery at Chula Vista, 6:30 p.m.

 

Mar Vista Mariners

August
20:  Crawford at Mar Vista, 6:30 p.m.

27: Mar Vista at Clairemont, 6:30 p.m.

September

3: Mar Vista at Santana, 7 p.m.

10: Coronado at Mar Vista, 7 p.m.

17: Mar Vista at Chula Vista, 6:30 p.m.

24: Army-Navy Academy at Mar Vista, 6:30 p.m.

October

1: Bye

8: Castle Park at Mar Vista, 6:30 p.m.

15: Mar Vista at Montgomery, 6:30 p.m.

22: Sweetwater at Mar Vista, 6:30 p.m.

29: San Ysidro at Mar Vista, 6:30 p.m.

 

Montgomery Aztecs

August
20:  Montgomery at Scripps Ranch, 6:30 p.m.

27: Montgomery at Santana, 7 p.m.

September

3: Crawford at Montgomery, 7 p.m.

10: Kearny at Montgomery, 7 p.m.

17: Montgomery at Mission Bay, 7 p.m.

24: Castle Park at Montgomery, 6:30 p.m.

October

1: Bye

8: Sweetwater at Montgomery, 6:30 p.m.

15: Mar Vista at Montgomery, 6:30 p.m.

22: Montgomery at San Ysidro, 6:30 p.m.

29: Montgomery at Chula Vista, 6:30 p.m.

 

San Ysidro Cougars

August
20: Clairemont at San Ysidro, 6:30 p.m.

27: San Ysidro vs. Bonita Vista, 6:30 p.m. at Southwestern College

September

3: Fallbrook at San Ysidro, 6:30 p.m.

10: San Ysidro at Hoover, 7 p.m.

17: San Ysidro at Castle Park, 6:30 p.m.

24: Chula Vista at San Ysdiro, 6:30 p.m.

October

1: San Ysidro at Sweetwater, 6:30 p.m.

8: Bye

15: San Ysidro at Foothills Christian, 7 p.m.

22: Montgomery at San Ysidro, 6:30 p.m.

29: San Ysidro at Mar Vista, 6:30 p.m.

 

Sweetwater

August
19:  Sweetwater at Grossmont, 6:30 p.m.

27: Sweetwater at Coronado, 6:30 p.m.

September

3: Bonita Vista at Sweetwater, 6:30 p.m.

10: Santana at Sweetwater, 6:30 p.m.

17: Scripps Ranch at Sweetwater, 6:30 p.m.

24: Bye

October

1: San Ysidro at Sweetwater, 6:30 p.m.

8: Sweetwater at Montgomery, 6:30 p.m.

15: Chula Vista at Sweetwater, 6:30 p.m.

22: Sweetwater at Mar Vista, 6:30 p.m.

29: Sweetwater at Castle Park, 6:30 p.m.

 

 

 

 

South County pigskin teams gearing up for a full fall season