Last year, Granite Hills High surprised the rest of the Grossmont League 3-A teams. In its second game, the Eagles went to a wishbone offense. This season, the league probably won't see too many surprises from the Eagles. They don't need any.
The Eagles return their entire backfield, all seniors. Granite Hills utilized a wishbone attack, enabling Coach Paul Wargo to utilize four solid players.
But this Eagles team may be even better than last year's team that went 11-0 before losing in the semifinals of the San Diego Section playoffs.
"They know what it's about," said Wargo. "And they're bigger, stronger and faster than last year."
Said Tom Vardell, a returning running back: "As juniors we were the underdogs and weren't sure what varsity football was all about."
Wargo said quarterback Donnie Carroll will use more play-action passes this season. "I think he's one of the best quarterbacks we've ever had," said Wargo.
Also expect a more wide-open offense from the Eagles. Wargo has installed the option as part of the wishbone attack this season.
Defensively, linebackers Scott Weber, a second team all-league selection, and Aaron Crecy are back. Both had said they were transferring out of the district."They really solidified the defense," said Wargo. "We were trying to move people around to cover the linebackers."
Last season's record: 4-0, 11-1
Finish: First Coach: Paul Wargo
Key Personnel: Tom Vardell (6-2, 205), RB; Robert Padillo (6-0, 187), RB; Donnie Carroll (5-11, 175), QB, and Donovan Delmare (6-4, 251), T.
Top Newcomer: None
Outlook: Granite Hills returns the entire backfield that led the Eagles to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons last year. Leading the way are running backs Robert Padillo, tops in the league in rushing, and Tom Vardell, the league's No. 2 rusher. Padillo gained 1,162 yards and scored nine touchdowns on 201 carries and Vardell had 1,125 yards and 12 touchdowns on 168 carries. The Eagles gained 2,938 yards on the ground. Also returning to the backfield are senior fullback Rick Stauffer and quarterback Donnie Carroll, a left-hander who threw for 979 yards on just 41 completions. The outlook is not as bright on defense after losing two all-leaguers, including Player of the Year Mike Garrow. A potent wishbone attack will give the Eagles a solid chance at repeating as conference champions. But an unproven offensive line and lack of a quality wide receiver, such as the graduated Todd Parker, may make it a tougher road than last year.
Last season's record: 3-1, 11-2
Finish: Second Coach: Jim Arnaiz
Top Personnel: Kerry Barr (6-0, 193), RB; Sidney Baxter (5-10, 175), TB; Mark Raab (6-4, 225), T, and Derek Lobbins (6-1, 180), CB.
Top Newcomers: Tim Zeddies (6-0, 180), QB, and Danny Tiumalu (6-0, 170), RB/DB.
Outlook: It may be a rare rebuilding year for the Highlanders with only five starters returning from last year's team that reached the San Diego Section championship game. Coach Jim Arnaiz has one of the youngest teams in the league and no quarterback the caliber of former Helix quarterbacks Jim Plum or Jeff Hammerschmidt. In fact, Helix does not have a quarterback who has thrown a varsity pass. The Highlanders' strength is in the backfield with Kerry Barr, 984 yards and 14 touchdowns on 201 carries, and Sidney Baxter, who had 39 carries for 288 yards rushing and 18 catches for 195 yards. The offensive line returns just one player, tackle Mark Raab. On defense, the secondary should be solid with all-league selection Derek Lobbins at cornerback. With untested arms at quarterback and strength in the backfield, the Highlanders may stay on the ground more this year. But if the Highlanders can hang in until the offensive and defensive lines jell, they could reach the playoffs.
Last season's record: 2-2, 7-3
Coach: Larry Shepard
Key Personnel: Thaddeus Laffitte (6-0, 175), DB/TB; Mike Asury (6-5, 205), T, and Robbie Krebs (5-10, 210), DL.
Top Newcomer: James Fraser (6-0, 165), WR/CB.
Outlook: Only one all-league player, Robbie Krebs, returns on defense. The Monarchs were probably the best team in the county to not make the playoffs last year. Monte Vista's three losses were to playoff teams--Granite Hills, Helix and Mira Mesa. The ranks are a bit thinner this season and Coach Larry Shepard will have a lot of key personnel playing on both sides of the ball. Monte Vista has solid anchors in the offensive line with Mike Asbury and Wes Morris at the tackles, but it will have to find some quality backs. Tailback Thaddeus Laffitte will be counted on to provide some of that quality. The Monarchs have a major rebuilding task ahead, but Shepard always manages to put together a well-disciplined team that keeps itself in games.
Last season's record: 1-3, 4-6
Coach: Gary Cooper
Key Personnel: Anthony Rivera (5-11, 175), QB, and Gus Lopez (5-10, 185) LB/OL.
Top Newcomer: Alvin Duncan (6-4, 185), TE.