Chargers enter season with a chip on their shoulder


The bad taste of a season-ending loss against Buena still sits in the mouth of the Dos Pueblos football team.

The 14-7 Channel League defeat knocked the Chargers out of a CIF playoff spot.

“They’re hungry,” DP coach Nate Mendoza said of the attitude this year’s team brings into the season. “We got a sour taste in our mouth the way we ended last year, losing at Buena. We missed the playoffs by losing that game. It was heartbreaking for a lot of the kids, so they remember the feeling. They’re hungry, they’ve been hungry since December and they’ve been grinding it out since December.”

The addition of a zero period in the class schedule gave DP football players the opportunity to get in more work in the weight room. This Charger team is bigger and stronger.

“Guys were waking up and getting to the gym at 6:30 every morning,” Mendoza said. “They worked on work ethic and got their strength and conditioning.”

“We worked really hard in the weight room in the off-season,” senior offensive guard Dylan Darga said. “I love it. All the players are dedicated and it’s made us a close team.”

Junior Austen Pearce, a returning all-league defensive end, agreed. “We have a lot of chemistry. We put in a lot of work in the weight room – blood, sweat and tears. That’s what makes us so good and give us good chemistry,” he said.

Even quarterback Barrett Burnes has bulked up.

“He was there every morning, grinding it out in the weight room, improving on his strength,” Mendoza said of his returning signal-caller. “We’re real proud of him. He’s not your average quarterback, where he wants maybe special treatment or anything like that. We’re doing hitting drills and we had to kick him out of them because he wants to be a part of it. We love Barrett. He’s a really tough kid. He proved that last year, and the guys want to rally around him.”

“I’m excited, I’m ready,” said Burnes about the season. “We’ve been working hard, it should be fun. Now we just got to play football at this point.”

Burnes started nine games and played efficiently in his first varsity season. He threw for 956 yards and nine touchdowns, and completed 57 percent of his passes, with only four interceptions.

“Barrett did a tremendous job stepping into the starting position last year,” said Mendoza. “He’s a great leader, has amazing composure and is a great manager of the game.”

Burnes has plenty of weapons at his disposal.

Returnees Angel Davison and Alfonso Ponce de Leon lead a deep backfield. The speedy Davison was the team’s leading rusher last season.

“He’s a tremendous leader by the way he plays on the field and he’s a vocal leader,” Mendoza said of Davison. “He’s stronger, faster and has more confidence this year.”

Malik Harris and Manny Nwosu, a standout on the soccer team, will also see action at running back.

“I’m comfortable with all four of those guys carrying the rock,” said Burnes.

“We’re excited about our backfield, and we feel we can throw the ball as well,” said Mendoza.

The receiving corps includes returnees Pearce at tight end and wide receiver Connor Kanen. Promising newcomers are Kyle Yee and Josh Flora.

“We have a nice well-rounded receiving corps,” said Burnes.

The offensive line is bigger, stronger and experienced with players like Darga, Pearce and Erik Botello. Botello, a junior, is in his third year on the varsity. He’ll be a force at 6-1, 252 pounds.

Defensively, linemen Botello and Pearce, middle linebacker Daniel Hernandez and safety Caesar Flores are the leaders. Davison returns at cornerback and Ponce de Leon has experience at safety.

The Chargers face a demanding non-league schedule. The slate includes games against Newbury Park, Lompoc and Sierra Canyon in consecutive weeks before meeting Buena in the league opener.

“We truly believe we want to be tested before league starts,” Mendoza said. “We feel like Newbury Park, Lompoc and Sierra Canyon right before league is really going to give us that look that we need to be successful in the Channel League this year.”

2014 Dos Pueblos Football Schedule

Aug. 29 Pacifica 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 at Cabrillo (Lompoc High) 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 Santa Ynez 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 Newbury Park 7 p.m.

Sept. 25 at Lompoc 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 at Sierra Canyon (Granada Hills High), 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 Buena* 7 p.m.
Oct. 17 Santa Barbara* 7 p.m.

Oct. 24 at San Marcos* 7 p.m.
Oct. 31 at Ventura* 7 p.m.
Nov. 7 —-Bye —-

Home games in bold
* Channel League game