IT’S GAME TIME: 2009 Prep Football Previews

The 2009 prep football season is here, and will once again be your go-to source for all the action. Our team of football writers has nearly a century of combined local sportswriting experience, and along with the reports we are proud to feature extensive photo galleries of many of the games.

Let’s take a quick look at what to expect from local teams.



Head Coach: Tom Crawford

2008 Record: 1-8, 0-4 Tri-Valley League

Things didn’t start out well at all for the Cardinals, who were trounced 49-6 down at Salesian (1-9 in 2008) on Friday. After making the CIF title game two years ago, the Cardinals have cooled off and roster size has been a big issue.

“Coming off a poor season by recent standards, and despite a young squad that may have only 5 or 6 seniors, we’re looking for significant improvement in a lot of areas,” said coach Tom Crawford. “But, as with the past season, much of our ability to have success will be dependent on our ability to stay healthy.”

Junior quarterback Kyle Holland will be under center in his first full season of football, and the offense features talented inexperience. Only three returning seniors — tight end Garrett Garcia, lineman Paul Ortega and wideout Alex Robitaille — are expected to be on the offensive side of the ball. The running game will be handled by a platoon including sophomore Brandon Gonzalez, senior Henry Bongiovi and Jesus Valle.

Crawford has a key addition to his coaching staff in John Hazelton, the former head coach at Carpinteria High. The Tri-Valley League, of course, will be daunting once again.

“Obviously, I don’t know that much about other teams in the league right now, particularly with the coaching changes at Oak Park and Carp,” said Crawford. “I do know that Oaks Christian is in a league by itself with its talent level and great coaching. I sense that the rest of the league will be very competitive and I know we’re looking forward to the season.”



Head Coach: Ben Hallock

2008 Record: 4-7, 2-3 Tri-Valley League

They’re already 0-1 after Friday’s 23-14 loss to Santa Ynez, but in that game the Warriors proved to themselves that they’ve got what it takes to take down teams with bigger players and bigger rosters.

Twenty-four of Carpinteria’s 35 players are underclassmen, and there are a total of 11 seniors back from last year — four of whom were starters as the Warriors went to the playoffs and lost to Verbum Dei 31-21 in the first round. The 35-man roster is bigger than last year’s one by 13 players.

Taking the place of star quarterback RJ Rosborough, who transferred to Santa Barbara High, is junior Paul Aguilar, who took the snaps for the JV team last year.

“He’s done a great job and he’s proven to be a good decision-maker,” said coach Ben Hallock of the 5-11, 150-pound Aguilar.

Hallock moved into the head-coaching spot after John Hazelton resigned after last season. Hallock had been Hazelton’s offensive coordinator and has been at the Warrior helm before, from 1990-96.

John Bustillos is a returning senior who will anchor the small-but-quick line on both sides of the ball. Nick Razo returns at running back and linebacker, while All-CIF punter Jeremy Stein, who blasted a 59-yarder in the season opener, will also play tight end and linebacker.

Hallock knows just how hard it is to make the postseason out of the Tri-Valley League nowadays, with the likes of Oaks Christian, Oak Park and Santa Clara on the schedule.

“The league is extremely tough and there are going to be a bunch of us fighting for those spots behind Oaks Christian,” he said. “Our goal is simply to try and get better every week and hopefully be in a position to go to the playoffs.”


Head Coach: Ben Soto

2008 Record: 6-4, 3-1 Condor League

The numbers are once again healthy for Cate’s 8-man program, as an estimated 45 players will fill out the varsity and JV rosters. As far as returners go, 18 Rams with varsity experience come back. While quarterback/defensive end/kicker Michael McMahon leaves a big hole after graduating, there should be a solid core of young talent to step in.

“I’m excited about what we have coming back. We have a group of nine or 10 juniors that will be playing together for their third year that have already learned a lot,” said coach Ben Soto.

Tailback Randy Person will be back for his senior season and will get plenty of touches in the backfield considering he scored six touchdowns in a close game against Montclair Prep last year.

While no one has officially won the starting quarterback spot, the front-runner is currently MacKie Greason, who backed up McMahon last year and did a nice job, according to Soto.

The trenches should include a decent amount of size with the likes of Ugo Nwasike and Jeremy Miller leading the way.

“With private schools, sometimes you just don’t know who’s coming in for the competition,” said Soto. “We’re just going to go out there and do all that we can to get better every week.”



Head Coach: Jeff Uyesaka

2008 Record: 3-7, 1-4 Channel League

After going 3-7 in 2008 and losing both crosstown games, the Chargers enter this year with some more experience and plenty to prove.

“We’re going to try and be the team that surprises everybody this year. We have the depth and a good amount of experience,” said coach Jeff Uyesaka.

Quarterback Zack Boytis has a sturdy line in front of him, including returners Nick Okpysh, Leo Garcia ad Carlos Moya. In the backfield, track star Anthony Houtson will play running back while Shane Taylor will block at fullback in the I formation.

After playing a couple of home games for the first time in school history last year, the Chargers’ field is ready for a full slate of home games this season.

“There’s going to be some pressure on us, and we’re excited to be playing on our own field. There are a lot of alumni that will be back to see us play,” said Uyesaka, who’s in his sixth season with the program.

Brandon Tangle will be one of the top receiving threats while the secondary while Shane Taylor and Cory Micheel will provide senior leadership for the linebacking corps.

Successive games against Santa Barbara and San Marcos in October will no doubt have the Chargers hungry. The city title is truly up in the air.


Head Coach: Ray Robitaille

2008 Record: 3-4, 1-2 Condor League

It’s always a numbers game for Laguna Blanca, as turnout and health have been the biggest issues for the past couple of years.

One number that’s encouraging is seven — that’s Luther Tarver-Burks’ number. The do-it-all athlete with blazing speed will be handling the ball a lot this season after proving himself as a touchdown machine last season.

The Owls have six seniors on the roster this year and will not be deep, as some freshmen may get significant playing time.

German exchange student Hans Steenstrup, described by coach Ray Robitaille as “a maniac,” was solid for the JV team last year and will look to make an impact at the varsity level this season. Sophomore Troy Ritter will likely start at quarterback, although Tarver-Burks’ sheer speed and athleticism may have him taking some snaps and running with the ball.

Senior Freddy Williamson will be the running back and classmates Chris Bremner and Austin Patrick return to the line. Big junior Chase McAdams will give the Owls some much-needed size in the trenches.

“Last year we played five teams that went deep into the playoffs, which we won’t do this year,” said coach Ray Robitaille. “I think the Condor League will be very competitive.”



Head Coach: Jeff Hesselmeyer

2008 Record: 3-7, 1-4 Channel League

Ask Jeff Hesselmeyer about the key players returning for this year’s Royals squad and you’re in for a long answer.

San Marcos returns nearly every starting lineman from last year as well as starting quarterback James Crook. First-team All-Channel League running back Cody Clark will look to improve on last year’s eight touchdowns while Bennie Kirkwood will be a main receiving threat at tight end, as will Anthony Patolo at wideout.

“The seniors are doing a nice job leading the way and the juniors are doing a nice job of pushing them,” said Hesslemeyer, who was a coach for Dos Pueblos for nearly three decades. He was on coach Dare Holdren’s staff at San Marcos last year and took the reins after Holdren stepped down.

“We’d like to try and be balanced, but our line is certainly our strength,” said the coach, who noted that returning All-Channel League First-teamer Louis Giroux will be someone to watch in the trenches.

Last year’s 3-7 mark was an improvement on 2007’s winless campaign, and a 24-17 overtime win over Dos Pueblos in October was undoubtedly the team’s shining moment.

“I think all of the Channel League teams are going to be competitive with eachother and then there’s always one ‘super team’ at St. Bonaventure,” said Hesselmeyer.

He also stressed the importance of local coaches, pinting out that 18 of the 19 football coaches at San Marcos are walk-ons.

“I hope people realize how important these people are to our kids and our community. Without them, there wouldn’t be football in this town,” he said.



Head Coach: Jaime Melgoza

2008 Record: 4-7, 3-2 Channel League

The big stories in the offseason for Santa Barbara High were the transfer of bruising quarterback RJ Rosborough from Carpinteria as well as Jaime Melgoza’s ascension to the head coaching position after Will Gonzales stepped down.

The big issue, meanwhile, is experience.

“We have two linemen that are returners, and we have no experience in our rushing or receiving,” said Melgoza, who was the defensive coordinator on Gonzales’ staff.

Last year’s offense was as unorthodox as they come — the Dons threw the ball 537 times while rushing just 198 times. Of those rushes, 75 were by quarterback John Uribe.

Uribe used the opportunity to set county passing records for completions (341), yards (4,164) and touchdowns (41) while tossing the pigskin to standout receivers such as tight end Bryson Lloyd and Roberto Nelson.

The arsenal is completely different for the defending city champs this time around.

Rosborough, a 6-foot-4 senior who weighs in at about 225 pounds, will take the reins with few proven targets around him. Considered by many to be a Division I-level prospect, Rosborough threw for 15 scores and rushed for seven more in his sophomore season at Carpinteria, but injuries kept him off the field for a large chunk of last year.

“He’s been fitting in nicely and has really worked hard,” said Melgoza of Rosborough. “I think the line should be okay in front of him, and we’re trying to develop some receivers.”

One of the main receiving targets is Chase Chandler, who was the team’s kicker last year. Now he has to prove that his golden toe also comes with golden hands.

Mark “Buster” Perez played some fullback last year and should get some carries along with Brayden Stuva, but the ground game is one of the many question marks coming in.

With just four total starters (Chandler, Stephen Pena and linebackers Mark Perez and Skye Dane) returning, Melgoza expects to start three sophomores on each side of the ball.

“It’s going to be a challenging year, but I think we’ll be up for the challenge,” said Melgoza. “We just have to find the right chemistry.”