COACH: Harry Welch, 7th year
LAST SEASON: 10-3; 1st in league, 5-0
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Talented skill-position players should give the Cowboys the offensive diversity they lacked last year. Senior Rod Baltau (6-2, 178), MVP of the L. A. Games, might be the most improved quarterback in the Valley area. Junior tailback Chris Peery (6-1, 236), who rushed for 1,290 yards last season, is carrying too many pounds, Welch said, but still is probably the hardest straight-ahead runner in the area. "When he's on, he's poetry in motion," Welch said. "A big poem." Canyon's receiving corps of juniors Clint Beauer and Chad Nell, and seniors Joe Wade, Jason Stanley (team-high 22 receptions last year) and Brian Schroeder might be the best in Welch's tenure. "We're definitely going to throw the ball more," Welch said. Tackles Rick McKeon (5-11, 235) and Gordon Whitter (6-1, 211) are also among Welch's best. Schroeder and Stanley, a three-year starter, head an experienced secondary. Linebacker Brian Zemojtel (6-2, 181) is the most improved player on the team. Linebackers Sean McCune (6-3, 214), a transfer from Agoura, and returning starter John Bietsch (6-0, 180) should support a defensive line that is an unknown quantity. Senior Justin Fix (6-4, 235), a three-year starter and top Division I recruit, is the anchor, and junior Eric Hanes (5-10, 185) also is a returning starter.
OUTLOOK: Last year was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Welch, yet he fashioned his fifth league title. This year "the team has a lot more potential," he said. Much depends on Baltau's improvement. "He's twice the quarterback he was last year," Welch said. If so, Canyon may be twice the team.
COACH: Dick Flaherty, 2nd year
LAST SEASON: 4-6; 4th in league, 1-4
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Replacing quarterback Jared Snyder and multi-threat tailback Lamark Allen will be difficult. Consequently, Flaherty is stressing defense. "It's going to have to carry us a little more," he said. Returning senior linebackers Greg Menta (5-10, 175), Brandon King (5-10, 180) and Jim Riggi (5-9, 175) spearhead the defense. Linemen include juniors J.B. Johnson (5-11, 200) and John Lin (6-2, 165). Returning seniors Angel Martinez, Jason Sachs, Devin Franchino and Tommy Green compose the secondary. "They all hit pretty well," Flaherty said. As for the running game, "we may go to tailback by committee," Flaherty said. King is the front-runner and Menta and Sachs are also being considered. Menta also will play fullback. Sachs (6-1, 185) and senior George Lopata (5-10, 175) might platoon at quarterback. Tight end Chad Keene (6-2, 215, 18 receptions) is a "good target," and receivers Martinez (5-9, 165, 16 receptions) and Scott Cutchell (6-0, 180) are returning starters. Senior tackles Tom Hayes (6-3 1/2, 225), Eric Marden (6-2, 210) and junior center Mike Barrett (5-10, 200) anchor the line.
OUTLOOK: Flaherty brought respectability to a team that was winless the previous year. Still, the Golden League is very tough. Last season, Saugus averaged only 96.1 yards rushing and 150.8 yards passing a game. But Flaherty is optimistic. "Looking over the films," he said, "I think we're better." Nonleague games against Hoover, Alemany, Hart and St. Francis should strengthen the Centurions for league play.