Teams listed in predicted order of finish by Times staff writers. Thousand Oaks
COACH: Bob Richards, fifth year
LAST SEASON: 10-2; 1st in league, 6-0
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Thousand Oaks may repeat as champion if the team's reconstructed offensive line opens holes for the league's best pair of running backs. Marc Monestime, a three-year starter, and Mike Moore combined for 1,877 yards last season. Richards concentrated on the line in the off-season and hit on the nucleus of Greg Banks (6-0, 250), the only returning starter, Eric Dennis (6-1, 195) and Rich McCathron (6-4, 230). Quarterback Steve Sisco started six games last season, completing 22 of 50 passes. He'll throw to another returning starter, slot back Lance Alverson, who caught 14 passes. Three starters return on defense, led by defensive back and kick returner Chris Gann (5-10, 170), who returned a fumble and an interception for touchdowns last season. Also back are linebacker Mack Humphrey (5-11, 207) and defensive end Ben Catlin (6-0, 185).
OUTLOOK: If the Lancers' offensive line is as good as it was last season, Simi Valley Coach Dave Murphy says: "Then go ahead and mail them their championship patches."
COACH: Joel Gershon, 15th year
LAST SEASON: 7-3-1; 2nd in league, 4-1-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Only three players return to the Channel Islands offense, but because one of them is Johnny Johnson (5-11, 180), Gershon has reason to smile. Johnson, a junior running back, was a first-team all-league selection last season. "He's very gifted," Gershon said. "Last year Johnny averaged 10 1/2 yards per carry. He's one of the premier backs in Southern California." Johnson is the free safety on a defensive unit that includes eight returning starters. Defensive ends Pili Lualemana (6-2, 195) and Bill Hall (6-0, 198), and defensive tackle Manuel Camarillo (6-2, 235) form the defensive core. At linebacker is first-team all-league selection Ray Mosones (6-1, 210) and E.J. Miller (5-8, 170). Three-year starter John Sunia (5-10, 195) is the strong safety and Dale Fallejo (5-6, 150) is a cornerback.
OUTLOOK: If this truly is the year of the running back in the Marmonte League, then Channel Islands may be the best equipped to stand up to the onslaught. "A synopsis of our team indicates that we should be strong defensively," Gershon said.
COACH: Ken Cook, 13th year
LAST SEASON: 5-5-1; 3rd in league, 3-2-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Panthers have only four starters returning from last season's third-place team, but one is fullback Darrin Jelly (6-1, 205), who ran for 482 yards. Cook will move Jelly to tailback if he can find another fullback. Linebacker Shane Watkins (6-1, 212) is being considered. If Jelly remains at fullback, junior Geoff Black (5-11, 165) is projected as the starting tailback. Replacing quarterback Jayson Merrill's 1,454 yards passing will be difficult, but perhaps not as difficult as living up to the expectations placed on junior quarterback Wayne Cook (6-3, 170). Ken's son, Wayne, has no varsity experience but was effective in summer passing leagues. "He is potentially the best quarterback we've ever had here," the coach said. "And I know potential is a lousy word. We're hoping he continues what he did as a freshman and sophomore." Steven Wade and David Angulo are Newbury Park's best prospects at wide receiver. Only Greg Goulart (6-2, 230) returns to the offensive line which, like the defensive line, is waiting to be shaped. "Greg is going to be an all-leaguer," Cook said. The secondary seems more sound. A starting cornerback last season, Angulo has been moved to strong safety. Wade and junior Kelly Carmack are the corners and senior Steve Allison is the free safety.
OUTLOOK: Cook has the attitude of a man who knows something no one else does. Despite having an untested quarterback, questions along both lines and only four returning players, Cook predicts his team will challenge for the league title. "I think we will give Thousand Oaks all they want," he said. "If we get a kid hurt here or a kid hurt there, we can go from a good team to a mediocre one."
COACH: Dave Murphy, fourth year
LAST SEASON: 3-7; 7th in league, 0-6