Thousand Oaks High enters the football season ranked No. 3 in the Southern Section's Coastal Conference preseason poll, higher than any other Marmonte League team. But Thousand Oaks Coach Bob Richards doesn't take the poll seriously.
"Most preseason polls really aren't that accurate," he said.
OK, so who are the other Marmonte coaches choosing as the No. 1 team?
Said Channel Islands Coach Joel Gershon: "Thousand Oaks."
Westlake's George Contreras: "Thousand Oaks."
Camarillo's Carl Thompson:"Thousand Oaks."
Newbury Park's Ken Cook: "Thousand Oaks."
Get the picture? In the Coastal Conference, only Muir, ranked No. 1, and Canyon are ranked higher.
"We play Canyon every year," Richards said, "And they have done a lot of good things out there in the last three years to warrant that they belong up there. And Muir was our Coastal Conference champion last season. So, it's nice to be mentioned in the same breath with those guys.
"But right now they're just saying that Thousand Oaks has potential."
Potential for the Lancers, who finished with a 5-1 league record and shared the league championship with Simi Valley last season, begins with junior running back Marc Monestime, who rushed for more than 1,200 yards and scored nine touchdowns last season.
"He has the good instincts," Richards said. "A lot of kids will be faster than him. He's not a blazer, but he is quick, has excellent balance and he's very strong. He's also a very good blocker."
Beyond potential is Spencer Smith, a senior tackle and returning Times' All-Valley selection.
"Spencer, for a boy his size, runs very well," Richards said. "He's a great blocker."
His size, 6-3, 220, helps.
The Lancers have seven returning starters on defense, including four all-league performers.
League coaches expect the race to be tight, but most agree that Channel Islands is best equipped to challenge the Lancers. Channel Islands is experienced; 48 lettermen return, more than any other team in the Southern Section and more than any team in the school's history.
Among the returners is Scott Matautia, a 6-3, 240-pound senior defensive tackle. Last season, Matautia was the Marmonte League's most valuable defensive player, was named to the All-Southern Section first team, and was a Cal-Hi Sports All-State selection.
Lineman Fernando Hernandez (6-3, 275) and quarterback Junior Ortiz are two of 10 offensive starters returning on offense for Channel Islands. Channel Islands, 5-4-1 last season, is ranked No. 6 in the Coastal Conference and has the potential to dethrone Thousand Oaks.
Camarillo, which won the Southern Section title two years ago, is ranked in the top 15 in the poll, but will need to shore up its defense if it is to improve on last season's 2-8 record.
Simi Valley may make a run for another share of the league title. First, Coach Dave Murphy will have to decide on a quarterback. Senior Mark Bustamante started 12 games last season, but Todd Studer, a transfer from Redmond, Wash., has challenged for the job.
Newbury Park, traditionally a strong defensive team, should have a reliable--if unspectacular--offense this season with senior Jayson Merrill returning at quarterback.
Inexperience and lack of size figure to keep Westlake and Royal near the bottom of the pack.