A capsule lookat how the teams stack up this season:
» LAST YEAR: 4-6 (3-4 PAL Ocean)
» COACH: Chris Chaika (first year)
» RETURNING LETTERMEN: FB-LB Nick Faamausili, G-LB Dustin Gregory, TE Elijah Woolard, OT-DL Ghassan Shamieh
» KEY NEWCOMERS: QB Anthony Guiterrez, RB-FS Mike McWilliams, WR Jonothan Ott
» OUTLOOK: Cap is boasting an enthusiastic turnout, with upwards of 40 players in varsity camp. Lack of experience may be an issue, though, with only 11 returnees.
The offense will be geared around the running game and 6-2 senior FB Faamausili, who runs behind returning linemen G Gregory and OT Shamieh.
Still, junior QB Guiterrez will have proven targets to establish the passing game. TE Woolard had a reception in every game last year, while 6-4 senior WR Joey Matekel will make his varsity debut after a two-year layoff, not having played since frosh-soph ball in his freshman year at Mills.
“We had a good team this year, so I wanted to get out there,” Matekel said. “I know we’re going to CCS.”
First-year coach Chaika points to the success of Cap’s approach over the past two years under former coach Adam Hyndman, who accumulated a 11-9 record.
“First year, considering we’ve only had two months together, why would I want to change something?” Chaika said. “Of course I’m going to add stuff, but I thought everything worked well last year.”
» KEY GAME: Nov. 9 vs. Mills, 7 p.m. Battle Of The Strip rivalry game always one of the most anticipated matchups of the year for both teams.
— Terry Bernal
EL CAMINO COLTS
» LAST YEAR: 3-7 (1-6 in PAL Ocean)
» COACH: Eric Jacobson (eighth year)
» RETURNING LETTERMEN: Eight, including WR Antoine Turner, QB Gerald Maranan, RB Charles Truong, OL-DL Maurice Metoier, CB John Truong, OT Rustin Mayorga.
» KEY NEWCOMERS: OL-DL Brandon Wong, ILB Carlos Caceras.
» OUTLOOK: El Camino will be led by a trio of returning seniors at the key skill positions — Maranan at quarterback, Turner at wide receiver and Truong at running back.
Turner is a big, possession-type receiver who can bring down balls in traffic and pick up plenty of yards after the catch. He will be the No. 1 target for Maranan, a mobile QB who can get out of the pocket and create things with his feet as well as his arm. Truong was the Colts’ workhorse running back last year before suffering a season-ending injury with three games left, but the senior is healthy this season and will receive the bulk of the carries once again in the backfield.
The talent is there for El Camino, but as has been the problem with other teams in the PAL Ocean, a lack of overall numbers means the Colts will have very little depth.
“I am very happy with the quality of our top players, but we only have 28-30 guys,” Jacobson said. “Even though we don’t have a lot of players, I was telling my coaching staff the other day that is one of the best groups of guys I’ve ever coached.”
» KEY GAME: Nov. 10 vs. South San Francisco, 2 p.m. These two city rivals have been staging fierce contests since 1962.
— Will Reisman
HALF MOON BAY COUGARS
» LAST YEAR: 4-6 (2-5 PAL Bay)
» COACH: Matt Ballard (fifth year, 25-16-1)
» RETURNING LETTERMEN: Five, including RB-LB Alex Rodriguez, OL Charles Custer, OL Zach Myers.
» KEY NEWCOMERS: QB Nick France, RB-DB Jake Meyer, FB-DE Matt Secrest, OL-DL Matt Freels.
» OUTLOOK: Despite a strong football tradition, a lack of players will once again hurt the Cougars, who finished a respectable 4-6 last year while competing in the tough PAL Bay with just 18 varsity regulars.
This year, Half Moon Bay will move back down to the PAL Ocean, but Ballard is expecting only 20 players to suit up, with the bulk of the squad consisting of sophomores.
Expect senior RB-LB Rodriguez to shoulder the burden offensively for the Cougars to help take some of the pressure off of varsity neophyte France, who is expected to start at QB as a sophomore. Ballard thinks his team has a chance to compete for the Ocean title, although he concedes it is frustrating to line up and play with such a small team.
“It’s hard to play against schools with 2,500 people when you’ve only got 18 guys on your team,” Ballard said. “We’ve had a real rigorous offseason workout, though, so hopefully our guys will be ready to play both ways.”
» KEY GAME: Nov. 9 at Terra Nova, 7 p.m. The Cougars ended an eight-year losing streak in the Skull Game last year with an 8-6 upset in the season finale.
— Will Reisman
» LAST YEAR: 1-9 (1-6, PAL Ocean)
» COACH: Brad Zucker (first year)
» RETURNING LETTERMEN: QB-K Alec Espin, LT-DT Jeremy Galten, HB-CB Tony Luzzi, RB Evan Thodos, C-MLB Kyle Vance, LG-LB Wade Vance
» KEY NEWCOMERS: WR-S Marcus Dunlap-Almo, QB Kyle Lau, WR-CB Jason Lieu, RB Drake Rodriguez
» OUTLOOK: With new line coach John Gilmore and asizable group on the offensive line, the Knights will look to improve on a disheartening ’06 campaign.
The Vance twins shore up the offensive line to lead the way for Hillsdale to establish a balanced attack.
“We want to be a higher-percentage offense and we want to keep it simple,” said Zucker, in his first year at the helm. “We’re going to look to throw and we want to have balance, but we’re going to be a team that is going to run the ball pretty physically.”
Senior RB Luzzi is the only starting back set in stone, but senior Thodos and junior Rodriguez will aid the running attack. Two 5-10 QBs are currently competing for the first-string job: senior Lau and junior Alec Espin.
Defensively, most of the experience is in the front eight, led by 270-pound DT Jeremy Galten.
“We want to play with intensity,” Zucker said. “Instead of being focused on winning, we want to focus on turning around the program.”
» KEY GAME: Oct. 26 at San Mateo, 3 p.m. Zucker, a San Mateo alum, says he looks forward to taking on his friend and former Hillsdale player and coach Jeff Scheller, who is now the Bearcats’ coach.
— Terry Bernal
» LAST YEAR: 2-8 (1-6 PAL Ocean)
» COACH: George DeBono (second year, 2-8)
» RETURNING LETTERMEN: FB-LB Basil Bondoc, OL-DL Yvez Galvez, QB J.P. Ortega, OL-DL Carlos Portela
» KEY NEWCOMERS: OL Orlando Baltazar, OL-LB-K Eric Franco, TE-LB Robert Flescher
» OUTLOOK: DeBono and assistant Rick Huertas lead a coaching staff of Jefferson alums that had success in their playing careers at the school, winning a league title in 1981. They have used their stories of success to motivate this year’s groupand the Indians seem to have some of the pieces in place to create some positive memories of their own.
A defensive turnaround will be key for Jeff, which was 2-0 last season when it held opponents to less than 28 points. The linebackers — specifically, Bondoc, Franco and Flescher — will be counted on to keep big plays to a minimum.
The offense will once again take its cues from QB Ortega, a good leader with solid arm strength. Bondoc should get most of the carries out of the backfield, while Flescher could emerge as a threat in the passing game.
“The kids believe in themselves,” DeBono said. “They’re ready to play Jefferson football.”
» KEY GAME: Sept. 28 vs. El Camino, 7 p.m. Jefferson edged the Colts 15-14 last year to secure their lone league win.
— Matt Elliser
» LAST YEAR: 7-4 (6-1, PAL Ocean)
» COACH: Packy Moss (first year)
» RETURNING LETTERMEN: FB-LB Jonathan Castillo, CB Justin Chueng, FB-OLB Ivan Gutierrez, QB Jimmy Knecht, RB-LB Josh Uikilifi, C Gerald Zepata
» KEY NEWCOMERS: RB Patrick DeGuzman, FB-SS Tevila Lataimoava
» OUTLOOK: Last year as Mills’ line coach, Moss was successful in employing a philosophy of saving linemen from two-way detail. In taking over the head-coaching job this year, he is determined to do the same.
However, much is up in the air on the line. Senior C Zepata looks a solid starter after serving as the utility lineman last year. Otherwise, a mix of returning seniors with little varsity exposure — including Chris Holmes, Jonathan Flores and Cole Wellman — are in the mix.
“It’s a young team,” Moss said. “Some of these seniors were kids that were on the team but didn’tplay very much. We were a senior-laden team last year.”
The Vikings will once again be a run-intensive squad, with senior RB Uikilifi looking to be the centerpiece of a four-man rotation that includes a pair of frosh-soph call-ups in DeGuzman and Lataimoava. Senior QB Knecht will be relied upon to engineer the run-and-shoot offense.
» KEY GAME: Nov. 9 at Capuchino, 2:45 p.m. This year, of the three classic rivalry games, The Battle Of The Strip is the only one that will feature two teams from the same division.
— Terry Bernal
SAN MATEO BEARCATS
» LAST YEAR: 0-10 (0-7 PAL Bay)
» COACH: Jeff Scheller (second year, 0-10)
» RETURNING LETTERMEN: QB-WR-S Marc Barraza, QB Nate Davidson, RB-LB Anthony Ponce De Leon, LT Devin Ramsey, WR Sean Lal
» KEY NEWCOMERS: C-DL Moses Latu, TE Tu’u Lau, RB-ILB James Vaihola, WR Don Washington
» OUTLOOK: The Bearcats drop to the Ocean Division after getting battered in the Bay last season and will be content to improve by simply getting in the win column.
“The future looks good,” Scheller said, “but right now, we’re inexperienced. So we’re just looking to gain some confidence.”
San Mateo will be forced to rely on more guts than girth, with last year’s team Defensive Player of the Year De Leon standing as the epitome of this year’s squad. De Leon stands at a gritty 5-6 and 150 pounds. And with his transition from the secondary to linebacker last season, he was the Bearcats’ biggest impact player.
“I wanted to go to linebacker because I wanted to hit,” said De Leon, a third-year varsity senior. “I wanted to be where the action is.”
With just LT Ramsey returning to the offensive line, San Mateo may be pressed to protect senior QB Davidson, who took over the helm midway through last season. If Davidson finds time in the pocket, he has some new big targets to shoot for in 6-4 WR Washington and 6-4 TE Lau.
» KEY GAME: Sept. 26 vs. Hillsdale, 3 p.m. The final league home game with their rival to the south may be a more winnable battle for the Bearcats than their traditional season-ending rivalry game against Burlingame on Nov. 10.
— Terry Bernal
» LAST YEAR: 5-5 (5-2 PAL Ocean)
» COACH: Sam Lopez (second year, 5-5)
» RETURNING LETTERMEN: QB Gustavo Moreno, OL-DL Matt Masarie, WR Ruben Ramirez, RB Miguel Flores, TE Tim Rivera, FB George Holland, OL-DL Sifa Lauese
» KEY NEWCOMERS: “Some good hard workers,” Lopez said.
» OUTLOOK: Last season’s PAL Ocean surprise is back, led again by QB Moreno, who brings three years of varsity experience to his senior year. Moreno, Lopez says, is responsible in great part for the Cherokees’ 2006 second-half success.
“He took on a leadership role and started to understand the game better,” Lopez said. “The second half, he threw zero interceptions.”
Also playing a key role will be RB Flores, converted from receiver late last year. “I’m looking for him to carry the load,” says Lopez. “He’s got a long stride and hits the hole well.”
Sequoia will once again have to do more with less. It has 26 players on the roster, which means almost everyone has to play both ways, including O-line anchors Maserie and Lauese. Lopez’s team is measured by its guts and intensity, however, not its size. “Last year left a good taste,” Lopez says. “This year, we’ve come out more intense. If anyone’s screwing around, thekids get on them.”
» KEY GAME: Sept. 21 at San Mateo, 3:15 p.m. Though Sequoia also has an Oct. 19 grudge match with Mills, the last team to beat them in ’06, Lopez wants to see how his team comes out in its league opener.
— Larry Rosen