Calabasas might contend for the Frontier League football championship if its players would just stop injuring themselves in practice.
The team has been victimized by its own defensive secondary, which has ripped up teammates in preseason drills.
First, linebacker Peter Piedrahita was lost for the season with torn knee ligaments after a collision involving defensive back Darin McCoy.
Next, running back Ari Berman caught his right hand on the chin-strap buckle of defensive back Spencer Siegel and sliced the hand down to the bone.
Last week, an ambulance was called to the field when Siegel tripped over another player and kneed flanker Tony Sirkin in the back. Sirkin's injury, which was thought to be serious, turned out to be just a bad bruise.
"If we can just get rid of that dark cloud, or whatever it is that's plaguing us, to go away, we'll be OK," said Coach Larry Edwards.
As long as the Calabasas defense directs its energies at opponents, the Coyotes should do well. Besides Siegel, who was all-league last season, four other all-league defenders return.
Defensive end John Vargas, linebackers Roger Valdovinos and Greg Spaulding and defensive back Marty Garron, who led the Valley area with eight interceptions, all are back for the Coyotes.
"We have a lot of players returning in key positions, so on paper we look great," Edwards said. "But we still have a lot of positions to be filled by people that are untested."
Agoura, which has won two championships and finished second during the past three seasons, is ranked seventh in the Desert-Mountain Conference in the Southern Section preseason poll.
Last season, the Chargers averaged 321.5 yards a game on offense--second best in the Valley area behind Westlake. Agoura, however, will have a hard time replacing quarterback Jon DeGennaro, who helped lead the Chargers reach the playoff quarterfinals, where they lost to Leuzinger.
Agoura, Calabasas and the rest of the league have a difficult task ahead if they hope to unseat Santa Clara as league champion. The Saints swept undefeated through league play last season and any personnel losses suffered by graduation should be filled by members of last year's junior varsity, which also was undefeated in league play.
Three all-league players return for Santa Clara, including tailback Sam Petrucci, defensive back Roy Rodriguez and running back Tony Pinedo.
"Last year, we were picked to win the league and the year before it was Agoura because everyone knew we had strong teams," Santa Clara Coach Steve Dann said. "This year, I don't think there is an overriding favorite."
Mike Tsoutsouvas begins his second year as coach of Santa Paula and he appears to be on his way to getting the program on the winning track.
The year before he took over, the Cardinals were 2-8. Last season under Tsoutsouvas, the team improved to 5-6 and made the playoffs, losing to powerful Santa Ynez, 21-20.
Nordhoff, which finished 3-7 last season, may be the spoiler this season. Otherwise, it figures that Agoura, Calabasas and Santa Clara will fight it out for the title.