OCVarsity’s 2017 football team previews: Buena Park, Fullerton, La Habra, Sonora, Sunny Hills, Troy
OCVarsity Kickoff 2017: The Register has put together its annual preview for the upcoming high school football season.
In the coming days we’ll have previews online of every team and league in Orange County, plus our O.C. Hot 150 rankings of the top players in the county.
(OCVarsity’s rating is based on analysis of the team’s expected showing this season.)
Last season: 10-2 overall, 5-0 league
OCVarsity rating: Hard team to read; could surprise
Scouting report: The defending champion Coyotes will look much different from a personnel standpoint because many of their top returning seniors transferred to different schools after the departure of Coach Anthony White. The top holdover for the team’s new coach, Davis Lowery, is standout wide receiver/safety AJ Allen, who Lowery says has impressed. Junior Jordan Simpson is the leader to play quarterback. Linebacker EJ Gowdy anchors the defense, which could be the Coyotes’ strength. Look for Buena Park to play with a chip on its shoulder because of the transfers and their absence from the preseason O.C. rankings.
Must-see game: Buena Park vs. La Habra, Oct. 27
Last season: 4-6 overall, 1-4 league
OCVarsity rating: Has potential to be playoff team
Scouting report: The Indians have missed the playoffs the past two seasons but have the playmakers and stability at quarterback to change their fortunes. Seniors Dylan Nicholson (athlete) and Jonoven Smith (safety) are two of the top players in the league, while quarterback Gavin Klepper has improved. “He is going to have a great year,” Indians co-coach Gus Martinez said of the junior. The Indians improved on defense last season, so if they become more explosive on offense, a bounce-back season could be possible.
Must-see game: Fullerton vs. Sunny Hills, Oct. 13
Last season: 8-5 overall, 4-1 league
OCVarsity rating: Team to beat
Scouting report: The Highlanders are loaded with size, toughness and skill for their Freeway League revenge tour. After having their nearly decade-long streak of league titles snapped last season by Buena Park, La Habra returns dual-threat quarterback Zach Fogel, an experienced offensive line and rising two-way sophomore Jacobah Fuamatu at running back/outside linebacker. Deavyn Woullard and Mitchell Anderson (track sprinter) are playmakers to watch at receiver, while Isaiah Alcocer is an emerging cornerback. La Habra also has key transfers in running back Skyler Taylor (Troy) and offensive guard Tyler Casados (La Mirada). Casados and Fuamatu give the Highlanders two potential enforcers. Yes, they’re loaded, so watch out Division 2.
Must-see game: La Habra vs. Buena Park, Oct. 27
Last season: 0-10 overall, 0-5 league
OCVarsity rating: Will struggle to win games
Scouting report: The Raiders went from 9-3 in 2015 to 0-10 in 2016. In their first season without established stars such Jacob Fimbres, they struggled the most on defense. Sonora allowed just over 47 points a game in the Freeway League. The Raiders’ unit returns elite defensive back/wide receiver/athlete Chigozie Anusiem, but the Cal commit will need help on both sides of the ball. Two top candidates are Chandler Thompson, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound junior running back, and senior RB/safety Tommy Mendrin. And there’s QB Ryan Martinez, who improved over the summer, and all-league DE/TE Troy McDonald. “I think we can get things turned around,” Sonora coach Daniel Morales said.
Must-see game: Sonora vs. Fullerton, Oct. 6
Last season: 6-5 overall, 2-3 league
OCVarsity rating: Should earn playoff spot
Scouting report: The Lancers have steadily improved the past two seasons, and if they continue that trend, Sunny Hills could capitalize in the league’s race for second place. Sunny Hills, a playoff team the past two years, has a chance with the return of Harvard commit Brandon Won at linebacker and 1,500-yard rusher Alex Jung. And the Lancers are excited about junior Cade Caffrey, a rising linebacker/fullback. “Expectations are high here,” Sunny Hills coach Pete Karavedas said. The challenge for ground-oriented Sunny Hills will be producing points against the better defenses in the Freeway. The Lancers averaged about 18 points in league last season.
Must-see game: Sunny Hills vs. Fullerton, Oct. 13
Last season: 7-4 overall, 3-2 league
OCVarsity rating: Hard team to read; could surprise
Scouting report: The Warriors are another program in transition. They lost star quarterback Josiah Norwood (Santa Margarita) and talented running back Skyler Taylor (La Habra) to transfers, and their coach, Kevin Hastin, left to take an out-of-state job. But the Warriors landed an excellent coach in Michael Echaves, a Fullerton product who helped turn around Godinez. Senior quarterback Mitchell Sima could deliver more good news. He played last season and has reportedly progressed. The Warriors also return running back Cole Thomas, who rushed for nearly 550 yards last season. Add the return of top tacklers Austin Liocadio and Matt Wann at linebacker, and it’s clear that Hastin didn’t leave the cupboard empty. And in an expected tight race for second, that might be enough. Troy’s tradition of winning also is a key factor.
Must-see game: Troy vs. Buena Park, Oct. 6
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