Not that the Frontier League isn't happy to have Santa Ynez as a new member. It's just that the red carpet isn't long enough to stretch the 90 miles from Calabasas to Solvang.
You can bet the first thing league coaches did upon receiving their schedules was check for an "a," indicating an away game, next to the date they play the Pirates. Sure enough, Calabasas must travel to Santa Ynez. Agoura and Santa Clara get the Pirates at home. Nordhoff visits Santa Ynez, but Calabasas will have no sympathy--the schools are only 40 miles apart.
Joining the Frontier League, a member of Division 8 in the Southern Section's new alignment, is a promotion for Santa Ynez. The Pirates had been in the Division 9 Tri-Valley League, where they usually defeated everybody but Carpinteria. Last season Carpinteria, the Tri-Valley League and Inland Conference champion, defeated Santa Ynez, 21-10. Santa Ynez won its other five league games and finished 8-4.
Carpinteria, which remains in the Tri-Valley, has outscored league opponents other than Santa Ynez, 404-6, the past two years.
So, while mulling over why Carpinteria--which incidentally is 60 miles from Calabasas--was not promoted instead of Santa Ynez, here is a look at the Frontier League:
Santa Clara--The word "junior" is best associated with the Saints this year, but despite a large group of players in their third year of school, the tag doesn't quite fit. It's like the 6-4, 240-pound kid whose is called "junior" as a joke. Santa Clara is talented and should improve on last year's 7-4 record and second-place league finish.
The offensive backfield is full of experienced juniors. Quarterback Tim Gutierrez (6-1, 180) was promoted to varsity after one game last season and proceeded to pass for 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns. "Tim stands tall in the pocket," Coach Steve Dann said. "He is able to see downfield real well, has a very quick release and has a lot on the ball."
Tailback Quinn Knight (5-10, 165), an all-league safety last year, is another junior who has impressed Dann. "Quinn is real instinctive, reads blocks well and has great moves," he said. Junior Leo Berry (6-2, 215) will play fullback or tackle. Seniors Jim McCoy (5-11, 195) and Matt Pearson (5-10, 205), an all-league middle linebacker, may also play fullback.
Gutierrez has seasoned receivers in Matt Young (37 catches for 649 yards) and Kasha Clemons (20 for 268). John Weich, an all-county kicker who had nine field goals last year, will play tight end.
Dann says UCLA is very high on senior offensive linemen Jim Caballero (6-4, 270) and Robert Perez Jr. (6-4 1/2, 255). Junior Ted Lawrence (6-1, 220) is another solid lineman.
Pearson and Clemons head the linebacking corp, and Young, Weich and Knight are the defensive backs.
Dann admits depth is a problem--as many as seven players will play both ways. "That's a normal thing at Santa Clara," he said. "You put your best players on the field and go for it."
Agoura--The Chargers, defending league champions and owner of a 7-4 record, figure to meet Santa Clara again for the title. Coach Frank Greminger, in his 19th year, won't change from the first 18. In other words, Agoura will try to ram the ball down opponents' throats.
Only one starter--tight end Shane Geringer--returns, but the Charger sophomore team also won the league title. Brian Jauch, Danny Jaffee and Josh Smaler are competing at quarterback, and Carrick O'Quinn, Zac Miller, Todd Cribari and David Caramanis are fighting it out at tailback.
O'Quinn, Geringer, Miller and juniors Chris Oswald and Billy Osborne give Agoura a strong set of linebackers.
Santa Paula--The Cardinals made the playoffs and posted a record of 5-5-1 last year behind the strong play of seniors at the skill positions.
Senior Rick Carpenter (6-2, 185), an exceptional athlete who played wide receiver and defensive back, has the unenviable task of replacing Will McInerney at quarterback. McInerney led the county by completing 64.3% of his passes for 1,972 yards and 23 touchdowns. "Rick is physically bigger, stronger and faster than McInerney. Yet it is to be seen how good he is," Coach Mike Tsoutsouvas said. He is starting to read defense better and I'm really pleased with his progress."
Carpenter will throw to Chris Cole, Everett Corona, Danny McCarthy (5-11, 175) and Robert McCord. "Cole and McCord outran a few cornerbacks during passing league," Tsoutsouvas said.
Mario Gonzalez moves from strong safety to tailback. Mark Marcus will be the fullback. Junior Will Reeder (6-2, 220) and senior Reuben Gonzales (6-1, 190) are the top linemen.
Calabasas--It will be tough for Calabasas to improve upon last year's 3-7 record. Besides all-league runing back Mike Webb (6-1, 180), who rushed for 1,040 yards last year, the Coyotes are largely inexperienced.
Sophomore Damen Riggins will play fullback and senior Dave Kalman is the quarterback. Bennett Fisher, who had 24 receptions last year, gives Kalman an experienced target.
Nordhoff--The Rangers were 4-6 last season, but lost all four league games. And Santa Ynez defeated Nordhoff, 16-7, in a nonleague game. The prospects aren't much better this year because few starters return.
Brian Baldwin (5-11, 180), an all-league guard, and Steve Blundell, who led team in receptions with 22, are back. Tackle Chad Starnes (6-4, 235) is strong and will lead interference for three-year starter Rob Lasby, who moves from wingback to tailback.
Senior Jeremy Anthony, who broke his left ankle last year, is competing at quarterback against junior Rob Fournier.
Santa Ynez--If form prevails, the Pirates should be extremely difficult to beat at home, and not so tough on the road.
The Pirates are a hard-hitting group led by All-Southern Section linebacker Rod Smalley, who will also play fullback. Nose guard Brent Messer must be double-teamed or he will spend most of his time in the opposing backfield.