SB Football Preview: Dons have plenty of offensive weapons

The first thing you need to know about Santa Barbara High?s football team in 2013 is it has a stable of big playmakers on the roster.

With the versatile Eli Hale, sure-handed receivers Jonah Iwanaga and Jordan Guzman, gifted running back Cherokee Cunningham, rifle-armed sophomore quarterback Brent Peus, the Dons have a full arsenal of weapons to throw at opposing defenses.

?It?s going to be hard to stop our offense. We got a lot of athletes who work really hard,? said Iwanaga, a returning All-Channel League player.


?The offense is very high tempo,? said Hale, who quarterbacked the Dons to a win at Dos Pueblos in the regular-season final last season that gave them a share of the league title. ?We have a lot of athletic guys, including myself. The line is very athletic, too. It should be a good one.?

Second-year coach Doug Caines said the players returning from last season?s Channel League championship team are eager to make their own history.

?They know nothing is going to be given to them,? he said. ?Everything that was last year was exactly that, last year. They?re excited to put their stamp on their senior year.?

Seniors Iwanaga, lineman Josh Kass, Guzman and Cunningham have stepped forward to take on leadership roles, Caines noted.

Cunningham, who had a breakout season as a sophomore (1,153 yards rushing, 16 touchdowns) but was sidelined most of his junior year with a knee injury, is healthy and ready to go hard.

?With ?Rokee? coming back for his senior year, we?re expecting big things from him,? said Iwanaga.

?These guys are eager to prove that they?re worth something, too,? said Caines about the senior skill players. ?They hear it around town, ?You guys don?t have anything,? and they?re sick of it, honestly. They?re ready to prove they work hard, they have talent and they?re ready to showcase that talent.?

There?s loads of talent at the quarterback position. Hale is dangerous as a runner and passer. Peus can also run, but his strength is in his big right arm. He threw a touchdown pass in the playoff game against Cathedral last season.

?With Brent, we?ll switch off,? said Hale. ?I can do other positions like receiver and running back. I?m not really concerned who starts. As long as I get my reps at quarterback everything is fine.?

Caines said he and offensive coordinator Ryan Pooran have installed an offense that suits both quarterbacks.

?We have an offense that fits both of them now. We?re excited to roll it out this year.
Eli is such an athlete. We?re going to find a way to get him on the field, either way.?

Santa Barbara will being going with a new offensive line. The unit is led by seniors Ivan Lazaro, Kass and Juan ?June Bug? Castro.

?All these guys had some crucial reps last year. They want to prove they work hard and deserve a bit of notoriety,? said Caines.

The coach is excited about the defensive unit. He calls Ramon Harper and Canyon Gutierrez two of the best inside linebackers he?s coached. The outside backers are also solid. They include Gabe Murrillo, Daniel Podratz and Skyler Payovich.

?I think we got some great weapons. And, with me as defensive coordinator, with a year of head coaching under my belt, I have been able to install the defensive thoroughly,? said Caines. ?I think we?re better defensively, which is hard to imagine because we had a lot of good players last year.?

The defensive front is untested, but competition for positions has been spirited.

The secondary has experience with Iwanaga, Guzman and Andrew Solis. Newcomer Ray Solis made a good impression during summer passing leagues.

With so many holes to fill, Caines said the players ?definitely pushed each other hard? in training camp.

?With exception of Jonah, nobody else played or started more than six games last year,? he noted. ?Everybody is new and everybody knows that have chance to have their application checked, as we call it.?

Caines said the season is being dedicated to Michael Jimenez and Khalid Hurst, two members of the Dons football family who passed away this summer. The players will adorn on their helmets the initials of both men and they?ll be recognized in the game program.