OCVarsity’s 2017 Orange Coast League team previews: Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, Estancia, Godinez, Laguna Beach, Saddleback

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 much more, including 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: 3-7 overall, 3-2 league
OCVarsity rating: Hard team to read; likely to struggle
Scouting report: Austin James Smith was hired as the new football coach in February. Smith replaces Chris Cox, who resigned after the 2016 season ended. The Eagles are young and Smith said he can’t gauge the team until they compete in a game. Seniors Johnny Carnevale (SB/LB) and Daniel Nava (RB/SS) will be the leaders. Carnevale had 34 receptions for 500 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Last season: 1-9 overall, 1-4 league
OCVarsity rating: Hard team to read; likely to struggle
Scouting report: The Mustangs look to improve on last season’s 4 points per game scoring average. The team is young, with only seven seniors on the 45-man roster. Quarterback Ben Swanson will be the centerpiece for the Mustangs, Coach Glen Fisher said. Swanson led the Mustangs to a 5-1 start as a sophomore before being sidelined with an injury for the remainder of the season. The Mustangs running game will be “by committee,” with about five different backs carrying the ball, the coach said. Tight end Jack Perez will be a target for Swanson and will do double duty as linebacker. Costa Mesa’s strength will be its defense, Fisher said. Kicker Walter Olmedo is also a weapon. Olmedo can field goals of 40-plus yards.

Last season: 2-8 overall, 1-4 league
OCVarsity rating: Hard team to read; could surprise
Scouting report: Estancia has two players competing for the starting quarterback job. One is senior Vincent Duarte, who has not played much on varsity and the other is 6-foot-2 sophomore Jason Cash, who will likely play free safety, even if he doesn’t start at quarterback, Coach Mike Bargas said. Running back Travis Pachecko, who returns after missing all last season with an injury, should provide an offensive boost. Three of six offensive linemen and three linebackers return. The Eagles lost some close games last year and Bargas hopes to turn that around.

Last season: 7-5 overall, 5-0 league
OCVarsity rating: Team to beat
Scouting report: With the departure of Coach Michael Echaves, former defensive coordinator Tom Heathington steps into the role as head coach. With 32 seniors on the roster, nine returning starters on offense, six on defense and virtually the entire coaching staff intact, the Grizzlies, who lost to eventual champion Rancho Christian in the second round of the Division 13 playoffs last year, are the favorite to repeat as league champions. League MVP Patrick McMorris (RB) returns and will anchor the Grizzlies’ run-oriented offense. Godinez opens league play against Laguna Beach on Oct. 6, a game which could decide the eventual league champion

Last season: 8-5 overall, 4-1 league
OCVarsity rating: Should earn playoff spot
Scouting report: Laguna Beach coach John Shanahan said this year’s squad might be better than the 2016 team that reached the CIF semifinals, but whether they can make the big plays in the clutch remains to be seen. The loss of two starting running backs left the biggest void Shanahan said. The Breakers return six offensive and seven defensive starters. Quarterback Curtis Harrison returns and having a second-year quarterback is always a plus, Shanahan said. Jack Raffi (OL/DL) and Robert Tyler (OL/DL) return to anchor the line on both sides of the ball. The Breakers’ experienced defensive secondary should keep them in games, the coach said.

Last season: 4-6 overall, 1-4 league
OCVarsity rating: Hard team to read; likely to struggle
Scouting report: Coach Jerry Witte, who coached Saddleback from 1974 to 2003, comes back to serve as interim head coach for this season. Witte guided the Roadrunners to their only CIF-Southern Section football championship in 1985. Witte is also brought several members of his former staff with him. Twenty-two players return, including seven who started both ways.


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