New Golden Valley football coach Andy Campbell, Saugus coach Jason Bornn, Hart quarterback C.J. Reyes and Canyon assistant coach Richard Gutierrez were guests on the football preview show on KHTS AM 1220 Monday night.
Valencia is the clear-cut favorite to win the Foothill League championship. Saugus is the reigning league champs. Hart has a new quarterback. Golden Valley and West Ranch have new coaches. Canyon, three years removed from a state championship, is looking re-establish itself as a powerhouse in league and the Southern Section.
Campbell talked about building a program at Golden Valley and how interest is growing. He said he has had to order more uniforms and his rosters at the junior varsity and freshman levels are increasing. That’s good news for a program that has struggled in its first few years of existence. Of course, playing in the Foothill League is a tall order for any program, let alone one starting from scratch.
One of the more interesting things Campbell said was that he doesn’t have a playbook, per se, for either offense or defense. He has a basic set of plays he coaches to his players and runs different formations from those plays. That’s an interesting way to prepare his players for games.
Bornn has the reigning Foothill League champions at Saugus, but two of his top players graduated. Bornn will have to get a new quarterback up to speed and find a running back who can pile up some yards and eat up minutes on the clock.
Quarterback Desi Rodriguez and running back Ryan Zirbel graduated last year leaving two gaping holes on the offensive side of the ball.
Senior Zack Gauthier will be the team’s quarterback to start the season. Bornn said he has a trio of running backs his is looking at. Sophomore Tyler Watt might be the best of the bunch, but he is making the jump from the freshman team to varsity.
Even though Saugus won the Foothill League championship last year, Valencia has been getting most of the attention as the favorite to win the league title this year. When asked about Valencia, Bornn said the Vikings deserve all the attention because of the talent level of the players on the team.
Still, the league championship is for Saugus to lose. The two teams play on Nov. 6 at College of the Canyons. That should be the game of the year in the Foothill League.
Hart has produced top quarterbacks for decades. Reyes is next in line to follow a group that includes Kyle Boller, Matt Moore, David Neill, B.R. Holbrook and Kyle Matter in recent years.
Reyes might have some unique challenges at Hart, however. Hart is rebuilding its offensive line, and doesn’t quite have the experience in the trenches that the other quarterbacks enjoyed. Plus Hart will be tested by Saugus, Valencia and Canyon in Foothill League play. There are some tough games facing Reyes and the Indians before league even starts. Palmdale and Westlake, two of the top teams in the state, are on Hart’s preseason schedule. Hart opens Foothill League play at Canyon on Oct. 23. That is never an easy game for Hart, especially at Canyon.
It was three years ago when Canyon won a state championship. That was under coach Harry Welch. Chris Varner is the coach now, but echoes of that championship season still exist.
Few expect Varner to take this Canyon team to another state championship game, but his team is expected to be competitive. Gutierrez said players from that 2006 team that won a state championship return to campus for practices and scrimmages. It’s part of the tradition that Canyon has established and Gutierrez said he welcomes the visits and reminders of the team’s past success.
Valencia is rated as the 25th team in the state by MaxPreps.com and is clearly the top-rated team in the Foothill League. The Vikings have a tough first half schedule with games against Thousand Oaks, Palmdale and Loyola. It won’t be easy for Valencia to go undefeated. But it looks like the team will get tested early and should be well-prepared when playoffs start.
West Ranch, like Golden Valley, has a new coach. Sean O’Brien takes over a team with only two returning starters from last year. It looks like running back Zack Snell will be asked to lead the team on offense. Senior lineman Garrett Lander will anchor an inexperienced defensive squad. West Ranch opens against Hueneme on Sept. 4, its first of three games on the road to start the season.
Hart also has a game on Sept. 4, a week before the rest of the teams in the Foothill League begin. Hart plays El Camino Real from the City Section at College of the Canyons.