Football teams looking for a fresh start in league

By Blake Dorfman,

It’s no secret that our local high school football teams have struggled this year. The seven high schools have a combined record of 6-26, including Cate’s 3-0 mark in 8-man football.

The good news?

The “real season” starts right now, as league-openers are set for this week.

“We’re all 0-0 in league,” said Santa Barbara High coach Jaime Melgoza at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table luncheon.

Melgoza’s Dons are 0-5 after falling to Pacifica on Friday.

The first-year coach continued to emphasize that his team is improving every single week, and he said that his players have been battling on every play.

“These kids are out there playing four quarters of football… Every week there’s something new we’re getting better at,” he said.

The Dons face a road game against a 2-3 Ventura squad that is coming off of an impressive 31-21 win over previously undefeated Oxnard.

Melgoza brought along two players whom he said epitomizes the idea of playing with heart — Brayden Stuva and Skye Dane. At the end of the luncheon, Stuva was presented with the Big Friday Player of the Week trophy for rushing for 115 yards and a touchdown against Pacifica.

SAN MARCOS: At 1-4, the Royals are also glad to be hitting the reset button and starting anew in Channel League play. The only problem is that they’re hosting St. Bonaventure, which hasn’t lost a conference game since joining the league in 2002.

Coach Jeff Hesselmeyer joked that he was hoping to work something out with Bishop Diego — which plays at Oak Christian (the No. 1 team in the state, including all divisions) Friday — where the Cardinals and Royals could play each other and Oaks Christian and the Seraphs could square off.

Both Oaks Christian and St. Bonaventure appealed after a re-leaguing vote was to send them into different leagues, and another vote will be held at the end of this month.

Hesselmeyer echoed the common sentiment that playing teams like St. Bonaventure and Oaks Christian is all but pointless.

“Although recruiting’s illegal they do it and we all know it,” he said of St. Bonaventure. “Something’s wrong there and the CIF needs to do something about it.”

Along with Hesselmeyer was lineman/linebacker Vashon Harvey and the team’s leading receiver, Bennie Kirkwood.

DOS PUEBLOS: The late Scott O’Leary is officially the namesake of Dos Pueblos’ football stadium after a dedication ceremony before Friday’s game. The Chargers fell to 2-3 after losing to visiting Rio Mesa 21-7.

“Once we have that under us we can start paying tribute every week to this great man,” said coach Jeff Uyesaka of the ceremony, which included O’Leary’s wife and son.

The Chargers are battling numerous injuries heading into league play. Their opener is on Friday at Buena. The Bulldogs are a much-improved team from last year, according to Uyesaka.

He introduced Brandon Tangel, who leads the team with five touchdowns, and captain Leo Garcia, who plays on the offensive line.

CATE: The Rams are ranked No. 6 in CIF Division I 8-man football, and head into Condor League play trying to dethrone the Thacher Toads, who have won the title the last three years. Cate plays the Dunn Earwigs in Los Olivos on Saturday to open conference play.

Athletic Director and assistant coach Wade Ransom brought three key players. Junior Jackson Mauze is a 6-3, 215-pound tight end and defensive end who is also a star third baseman. Ugo Nwasike is a team captain and standout lineman who also teaches a class to freshman at the school and is the co-head of the Cate Black Student Union.

Running back Randy Person is a touchdown artist on the field and also one of the best artists at the school off of it, according to Ransom. He mixed things up and even threw for a touchdown last week.

LAGUNA BLANCA: Coach Ray Robitaille remarked that the Owls will be rooting for archrival Cate to beat Thacher this year. Laguna Blanca has yet to pick up a win this year as the team features mostly underclassmen and is in a rebuilding mode.

The Owls had their first home game on Saturday, a 38-7 loss to Rolling Hills Prep.

“There was a little silver lining — we did some good things, and I’m pleased with the way my sophomores have responded,” said Robitaille.

One of those sophomores is receiver Logan Edler, who made a highlight-reel catch in Saturday’s game. This week, the Owls have their homecoming game against Ojai Valley School.

SBCC: The Vaqueros are a much-improved program from last season. On the men’s side, Male Athlete of the Week Mark Moreno is a big reason for the team’s success. The sophomore won the 91-man Bakersfield Invitational two Fridays ago and then the Western State Conference Preview Meet last Friday.

Male Athlete of the Week Mark Moreno

Male Athlete of the Week Mark Moreno

The Vaqueros were 12th in the conference last year and are currently in fourth. With just seven male runners, coach Scott Fickerson said that the men’s team will need to stay healthy to stay near the top.

Seanie Rigney has been the Vaqueros’ top female runner, finishing second overall in Bakersfield as the Vaqueros won the meet. It was Fickerson’s first win as the team’s head coach.

WESTMONT: Russell Smelley began by announcing that this is his 31st year of speaking at SBART luncheons. The Ranchero Room veteran recently took his Warrior men’s and women’s squads to the Vanguard Invitational in Costa Mesa, where the men finished 23rd and beat the host Lions.

The Golden State Athletic Conference is incredibly tough this year, featuring teams such as Azusa who thankfully “only have one Kenyan instead of two,” according to Smelley.

The women are ranked sixth in the conference and will likely need to break into the top three to earn an at-large bid into NAIA Nationals.

UCSB: The Gauchos have had one meet in the past month, and it was at the Stanford Invitational. Both the men’s and women’s teams finished in sixth place, which was a disappointment according to coach Avery Blackwell.

“Physically we’re there, but we haven’t put together the mental part yet,” said Blackwell, who added that the team will do some “soul-searching” as it continues to train for the home stretch of the season.

DOS PUEBLOS: Last Friday’s Dos Pueblos Invitational was the largest ever cross-country meet to be held in Santa Barbara according to coach Leslie Wiggins-Roth. A total of 28 teams came to compete in the event, held at Shoreline Park.

“A huge thank you goes out to the neighbors for tolerating us,” said Wiggins-Roth.

She brought a whopping seven athletes to the luncheon. Alfred Scott has worked his way up to the No. 3 spot on the boys team. Freshman sensation Bryan Fernandez broke a 4-year freshman record by 30 seconds in Friday’s meet. Former Athlete of the Week Sergey Sushchikh won the senior race at the meet and has yet to lose this season. Sophomore Lauren Guthrie has been outstanding and is also the county champ in the frosh/soph 3200-meter race.

Lauren Van Valkenburgh is currently No.4 on the girls team, while Kelly Kosmo and Erin Campbell continue to hold the fastest two spots, respectively.

SAN MARCOS: Forty of the 48 San Marcos runners at the DP Invitational recorded personal bests on the course, including Evan Bradford, who broke the meet record at 16:02. His split times displayed nearly perfect consistency at 5:20, 5:20 and 5:19.

The only hitch was that Bradford finished second to Oxnard’s Gustavo Mena, who won in 15:53.

Bridget Gioello had a personal-best by a full two minutes, and Alex and Adrian Simes also recorded personal bests.

CATE: Rams star Mackenzie Walsh finished fourth in the senior race at the DP Invitational and is “easily the best girl in the Condor League” according to coach Karl Weis.

The Rams are ranked seventh in CIF and are strong contenders for a league title. The boys team is led by Joe Gottwald, who has been a solid leader and the top male runner for about half of the meets, according to Weis.

SAN MARCOS: Cross-country coach Lawrence Stehmeier pinch-hit for water polo coach Jeff Ashton and did a nice job despite admitting he’s not very clear on how the game works.

“I’ve been going to those games for nine years and I still don’t know the rules. They’re great to watch, though,” he said.

The Royals are hovering at around .500 and have a big match against Buena coming up which will determine if they are eligible for an at-large bid into the playoffs. Stehmeier introduced Travis Johnson, who leads the Royals in nearly every statistical category, and junior Tyler Lisea. Both players have GPAs over 4.3.

SANTA BARBARA: The Dons have a big match against Dos Pueblos this week. Although the Chargers are considered a clear favorite, the Dons have played very well against solid teams, including an overtime loss to Ventura last week.

At 10-7 they’ve played a tough schedule, with six of their seven losses coming against teams ranked sixth or higher in their CIF divisions.

Coach Mark Walsh introduced senior Sam Foley, who is a varsity starter despite just picking up the sport as a sophomore. James Stilwell was also at Harry’s, and Walsh said that the goalie is his team’s most improved player this year.

DOS PUEBLOS: The Chargers are 15-4 overall and 3-0 in league play. Assistant coach Travis Elaine said that one of the season’s biggest highlights thus far was placing a best-ever fourth at the South Coast Tournament in Newport Beach.

He introduced a pair of juniors, Christian Terpening and Max Silva. The Chargers will be competing in the prestigious North/South Tournament for the first time later this season.

CARPINTERIA: First-year head coach Brian Swarm said that the Warriors’ program is in a building mode.

“To say we’re in a rebuilding year would be an understatement,” he said.

The Warriors start five freshmen and have just two returners from last season, but Swarm said there is a solid base to develop the program upon.

Along with Swarm at Harry’s was junior Zippy Connell and freshman Cole Gill.

Female Athlete of the Week Kailyn Kugler

Female Athlete of the Week Kailyn Kugler

FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: UCSB soccer standout Kailyn Kugler has been stellar during the Gauchos’ current 3-game Big West winning streak. She has scored four goals over the three matches, including two game-winners. On Sunday night at Harder Stadium, she scored both goals in a 2-1 double-overtime win over UC Riverside. The clinching goal came off of a controversial penalty kick with less than a minute remaining in the second overtime.

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