Hopes high for local squads
After the way they finished last season, Cathedral Catholic has every reason to be brimming with confidence. The Dons won their last seven games culminating with a 41-3 thrashing of Point Loma in the San Diego Section Div. III title game at Qualcomm Stadium.
But there's a thin line between confidence and overconfidence that Dons coach Sean Doyle and his staff are determined their players not cross.
To drive home that point, he is pointing to the team's low point of the season - a 21-9 Week 5 non-league loss to Otay Ranch of Chula Vista - not the late-season surge.
The Otay Ranch game followed one of the team's best-played games of the season at the time - albeit in defeat, 27-24 to then nationally ranked Carlsbad, which at the time had a 25-game winning streak that went back to 2005.
"Everyone was telling us how great we were and next week we practiced like everybody was telling them how great they were," Doyle said. "Then we walked out on the field and we got beat."
The early returns suggest the Dons are taking nothing for granted, Doyle said, noting intense practices indicate no signs of complacency.
"They learned something last year and I think that's carried over into this year," Doyle said. "They have big goals and they've been working hard for it. They're not coming in too arrogant."
But they are coming in with an abundance of talent.
Standout senior running back Tyler Gaffney is among the county's most coveted Div. I prospects. His presence in the backfield should help makes senior quarterback Parker Hipp transition from slot receiver seamless.
The Dons boast a dominant offensive line led by senior tackle Everett Benyard, a 6-foot-325-pounder, and junior tackle Alex Crosthwaite (6-4, 240).
Standout flanker Matt Moynihan has decided to skip his senior year to concentrate on baseball. Among those filling his shoes is senior receiver/tight end Brad Harrington.
Newcomers Alex Pasqual and Chance Early are both talented receivers with great upside, Doyle said. Early is the son of former NFL wide receiver Quinn Early, who played for the Chargers in the late 1980s.
The Dons return several key defenders including junior cornerback Josh Jacko, senior inside linebacker Ryan Downing, junior linebacker Jordan Lance and senior defensive end Kyle Boyce.
A talented but inexperienced defensive backfield features senior Brian Van Deventer and juniors Brien Moynihan and Brian McLaughlin.
Other newcomers to watch are senior linebacker Andrew Haupt senior and defensive lineman Mouse Jalil (6-4, 285).
Senior place kicker/punter Roman Scirrera replaces Brian Stahovich, who's now at San Diego State.
Santa Fe Christian
The Eagles have in recent years thrown the ball so infrequently they hardly ever compete in summer league passing tournaments. There was no need.
So their entry in San Diego State and North County tournaments this summer is a clear signal of change.
A progressively more challenging schedule that's followed the small-school program's move up from Div. V to Div. IV necessitated Santa Fe Christian adapt to teams that are more athletic, more physical and have greater depth, coach Brian Sipe said.
"We're trying to expand our Wing-T package to incorporate more passing," Sipe said.
"We're adapting to the depth and talent of the teams we're playing."
The Eagles are coming off what is only a down year because of the program's lofty standards. SFC went 3-6-1 overall and made what for them was an early playoff exit, losing to Valley Center 38-21 in the quarterfinals. Before last season, the Eagles had reached the San Diego Section finals five of the previous six years and won four titles along the way.
They return several key skilled players along with what figures to be one of the more physical lines on both sides of the ball the Eagles have fielded in years.
Senior fullback/linebacker Brice Heers and junior quarterback Keaton Gianotti are among the team's most exciting playmakers. Junior halfback/cornerback Sam Hoekstra is expected to make an impact on both sides of the ball.
Standout senior linemen Ben Burke, Taylor Wurdemar Mason Butts bring size and athleticism to lines on both sides of the ball that average 230 pounds.
Others to watch include sophomore quarterback/outside linebacker Ryan Moore.
"The most encouraging development is our size," Sipe said. "We're bigger and stronger than we've been in years."
The perennial Palomar League power looks to rebound from a 2-7 record last season. The Falcons get a fresh start in the Avocado League, where their new league rivals are Fallbrook, Escondido, Mission Hills of San Marcos and San Pasqual of Escondido. Former Palomar League rival La Costa Canyon of Carlsbad joins Torrey Pines in the transition to the new league.
Senior running back Brock Ringo figures to lead the way for the Falcons. A powerful and swift runner, Ringo emerged as the team's player to watch in summer passing league tournaments.
Senior quarterbacks Matt Neault and Lenny Magill are the two leading contenders to replace former standout Casey Allred, lost to graduation.
Other key players are senior linebacker/fullback Robert Murray, senior receiver/defensive back Colin Shrake, and senior defensive back/rubbing back Josh Brown.
San Diego Jewish Academy
The Lions have nowhere to go but up after a going 0-5 in their 11-man foray.
The good news for SDJA is an increase in numbers, up to the low 20s after fielding just 15 players most of last season.
The Lions' return seven seniors including quarterback Bobby Jackson-Santel, tight end/defensive lineman Hunter Spiegel, wide receiver Illan Biestas and two-way lineman Asher Whittenberg.
Others to watch include sophomore two-way lineman Ricky Pimensky and sophomore receiver Rafi Laure.
Second-year coach Pawen Dhokal is nevertheless hopeful the Lions can grow from
"We really grew by leaps and bounds, especially considering 60 percent of our players had never put on pads before last year," Dhokal said. "I'm hoping this will be a breakthrough year for us."