The run-and-shoot offense has come to the Tri-Valley League, as Oak Park replaces the run-and-hide attack that earned it a 1-9 record last season.
Ron Veres, the offensive coordinator at Cal State Northridge last season, has joined the coaching staff at Oak Park and has installed the multiple-option offense. The Eagles aren't expected to challenge for the Tri-Valley League title, but the new approach will almost surely improve the team's 126.6 yards per game average of last season, which was the worst in the Valley.
Players are apparently excited at Oak Park. Thirty-five went out for the varsity this year--15 more than were on the Eagle roster last season.
"Last year was rough, but a lot of the kids who went through it are back this season and anxious to get after some people," Oak Park Coach Mark Jacobs said.
"The attitude has been great. This team has a chance to surprise some people."
Several league teams may be capable of unseating defending champion Santa Ynez.
Carpinteria, ranked sixth in the Inland Conference in the Southern Section preseason poll, was picked by league coaches as the team most likely to succeed.
Fifteen experienced players, including two good running backs, John Keiser and Chris Ames, return for the Warriors.
Last season, Carpinteria tied for second with St. Bonaventure.
Santa Ynez, ranked 10th in the Southern Section preseason poll, features new coach Larry Popkin. He replaces Dick McBride, who moved to the UC Santa Barbara coaching staff.
Popkin foresees balance in the league.
"It's no fun to have it too easy," Popkin said. "It's really nice to be in a good league and have a tough schedule."
One opponent that Popkin is looking forward to meeting is Bishop Diego. The Cardinals were 3-7 last season, but under Sam Cathcart and Paul Huebner, who have more than 50 years of coaching experience between them, they figure to be more than just a sparring partner for the league powers.
Cathcart, who last coached 10 years ago at Santa Barbara High, and Huebner, who was co-coach at Carson High until retiring in 1981, are both 62.
"We're a little bit more easygoing than some coaches," said Cathcart, who will have 20 returning players.
"We don't pretend to know everything there is to know about football. But we've got some ideas on how to turn things around here and the kids seem to be responding."
St. Bonaventure tied for second place last season, but the Seraphs lost most of the players that helped them get there, notably quarterback Larry Gonzalez, who passed for more than 1,400 yards. The Seraphs are still a team that will contend for a position in the league hierarchy.
Moorpark is looking to improve on its 5-5 record of last season, but the Musketeers must first improve a defense that allowed an average of 229 yards a game.
Fillmore is back in the Tri-Valley League after a two-year stay in the Frontier League. The Flashes will run the wing-T on offense in hopes of improving upon last season's 0-10 record.