There will be high school football in Fall 2021. It is a small step towards normalcy that is good for the soul, but challenges remain as cancellations have already hit the central coast. Bishop Diego’s week zero matchup with Righetti was wiped from the schedule due to covid-19 protocols.
The one-year shift to shortened spring seasons for all high school sports was a necessary adjustment, but a standard 10-game regular season and the opportunity for teams to compete for playoff berths and championships brings renewed excitement for players, coaches, and fans alike.
No team on the central coast seized the opportunity of the shortened spring season quite like Bishop Diego. The Cardinals went 5-0 with a schedule comprised almost entirely of powerhouse programs. The graduation of a special senior class that was around to see the program claim a state championship as freshman is a big hit, but Bishop Diego is still brimming with talent.
Quarterback Michael Luckhurst is back after getting most of the snaps at the position in the spring. Luckhurst has good size (6’3”), athleticism, and experience. He is also one of the best kickers in the state with range that extends beyond 50 yards.
“When you have experience at that position it’s a big plus,” said Bishop Diego head coach Tom Crawford.
Running back/defensive back Marcus Chan is a dominant football player wherever he lines up and will spearhead what figures to be a stout defense. He’s played at safety and linebacker in his career and really came on as a ball carrier during the spring. Junior running back Quran Gossett has a rare blend of size and explosion at 5’10 210 pounds and scored 7 touchdowns in 25 carries last season. He will see a bigger role and could be one of the major breakout players in the 805. Gossett will also see time on defense as a pass rusher with tantalizing ability.
Anthony Villa will add additional depth at tailback. Gabe Martinez and Henry Benoit are slated to lead the way at full back. Along the offensive and defensive lines a few players will contribute on both sides of the ball, including senior Logo Va’a and junior Su’e Luamanu who are both returning starters on the defensive line will move to offensive guard and offensive tackle respectively. A couple more names along the offensive line is 6’5” 320-pound Filiga Mulipola and sophomore Greco Guevara. Size will not be an issue for Bishop Diego.
“When we are asking some of these guys to go both ways keeping them healthy and not burning them out will be key,” Crawford said. “We may see a bit more of a rotation along the offensive than we have the past few years.”
At receiver the absence of 6’4” Sam Mikaele, who is a three-star recruit according 247 sports is a huge loss as he recovers from a knee injury suffered in the first game of the spring season. Johnny Alvarado will play at receiver as well as safety. Basketball player Brian Trejo is also in the mix at receiver and Isaac Burquez moved from running back to receiver. Ben Boeddeker will see time at receiver as well as linebacker.
On defense Maddox Stretz is back at middle linebacker and will play some tight end. Hunter Boedekker, Sam Kitt, Garo Nahabedian and Gabe Martinez will also return to the linebacker rotation.
With the season opener against Righetti canceled Bishop Diego will likely begin its season against Oxnard on August 27th at La Playa Stadium. One thing is for sure there will be no shortage of team’s looking for revenge in the Camino League after the Cardinals mowed through all challengers in the spring.
For Carpinteria the spring season was tough as two of its four games were cancelled. Head coach Mario Robinson is looking for a bounce back season.
“Covid-19 is tough, I’m glad the spring season is over,” Robinson said. “It was hard on all the players, coaches and everyone. We are definitely looking for somewhat of a regular season if you can say that with Covid still lingering around.”
The Warriors are working on getting their numbers back up to what they are accustomed to and will not field a J.V. team. However, the varsity team of 35 players has several standouts to watch for, including new quarterback Matthew Munoz, who is in his first year playing football.
“This is his first year playing football. He was a baseball player,” Robinson said. “He is very athletic and has a big arm. It was a big surprise with him coming out because we were looking for a quarterback and he’s done a good job.”
Hunter Garcia is a senior wide receiver/defensive back and is probably the fastest player on the Carpinteria roster. Running backs Gibby Castillo and Erick Trejo are two-way players who will get the bulk of the carries.
“We’re looking forward to our first game at Morro Bay on 8/27. The team is working hard.” Robinson said. “I think Covid-19 and the home school type stuff hurt a lot of programs including ours in getting numbers back up.”
The A.J. Pateras era has begun at Dos Pueblos. The former Cabrillo head coach and Santa Barbara City College assistant replaces Doug Caines and is looking to return the program to prominence.
The Chargers will open the season on 8/27 at Nordhoff. Once Channel League play starts Dos Pueblos will be up against quality programs week in and week out.
“We’ve been taking each day as a learning opportunity. Right now, our focus has been skill development and situational training,” Pateras said. “We try to go quick, have them make mistakes and then teach through those moments so that when we get in those situations later in the season the kids aren’t going to be like ‘oh no I’m learning how to do this for the first time,’ because we’ve simulated as much as we can without the game atmosphere.”
Dos Pueblos has 14 seniors, 33 juniors and 3 sophomores on the varsity roster and will rely on the offensive line and running game like many of the teams in recent years.
Merrick Foster is a leader up front on the offensive line and certainly looks the part. Osiris Fox is a 6’4 wide receiver/defensive back and Eric Roldan is a change of pace back that will also help out in the secondary.
“We’re going to mix in some spread stuff, but we’re going to run the football. We’ve got good lineman and we’re a young team so we’re going to establish the line of scrimmage because that’s where you win football games in high school.”
After stints as defensive coordinator of Bishop Diego and Santa Barbara High, Ralph Molina takes over a San Marcos program that has struggled to maintain momentum in recent years.
“It’s about getting a winning attitude. San Marcos has been in a rut for the last four or five years and 2005 was the last time they’ve been in the playoffs so it’s just a matter of getting that winning mentality back.”
The San Marcos athletic programs captured 13 Channel League titles last season and Molina is trying to get some of those winning habits to rub off on his football team. “My number one goal was to get some of these players from the other programs that have had some success so that we can spread it out on the football team and so far, it’s working.”
Two top players for San Marcos are receivers Lance Bermudes and Jackson Murrilo. Bermudes was the leading receiver last year and is electric in the return game. Joaquin Sandoval will take over at quarterback. He sat out the spring season to play baseball and was an all-Channel League catcher.
Another offensive weapon will be tight end Benji Rodriguez, who will also play defensive end. Along the offensive line San Marcos will be bolstered by two massive brother Majied Alfar Diaz and Ebrahim Alfar Diaz.
According to Molina the Pacific View League championship runs through Ventura.
“To me it’s us and Ventura. My message since day one is that we’re going to play for the Pacific View championship and get into the playoffs.”
The Deacon Hill era is over, but Santa Barbara High is back with a stockpile of proven playmakers, who are ready to build on the lumps they took during the shortened spring season.
At quarterback is sophomore Abel Renteria, the son of Alfonso “Poncho” Renteria, who led the Dona to the CIF-SS Division 2 championship in 1989. He is a dual threat who will challenge the defense in multiple ways and has been well-schooled at the position. The receiving core is headlined by Miguel Unzueta, who made the most of the opportunities he got in the spring but is banged up and will miss the season opener against Saugus. Wide receiver/defensive back Trent Williams is a two-way player, who will pick up the slack in Unzueta’s absence.
“As far as his ability and what he means to the team he is our leader,” said Santa Barbara High head coach J.T. Stone of Unzueta. “He was able to play with Deacon and those guys so he was able to see what it takes for the program to get where it needs to be.”
The Dons started five juniors on the offensive line and running backs Koa Herrera and Nathan Barrios are returning to carry the load for what should be a solid rushing attack.
Defensively Grant Gonzalez brings a wealth of experience as a three-year starter at safety and is looking to breakout as a senior. Vince Gamberdella is also a stalwart on the defensive side at linebacker.
Stone is also very high on the potential of sophomore wide receiver Winston Bartley.
The season opener against Saugus figures to be a tough test as the Centurions went 5-0 in the shortened spring season. The Channel League won’t be any easier with addition of talented programs like Oxnard and Pacifica to go along with defending league champion Lompoc which features three of the best players in Santa Barbara County in San Diego State commit Sheldon Canley, Idaho State commit Deville Dickerson and three-year starter Cavin Ross at quarterback.