OUTLOOK: After winning at least a share of the league title in 1987 and 1988, Channel Islands has suffered through consecutive losing seasons. Some league coaches feel the Raiders won't be down again, but Channel Islands still has too many question marks to be considered a title contender. Devastated by injuries a year ago, the Raiders are full of unknowns this season. Channel Islands traditionally has the league's largest roster, which will help the team overcome its lack of big-name players. "The kids have worked very hard," Gershon said.
COACH: George Hurley, 3rd season
LAST SEASON: 3-7; 5th (tie) in league, 2-5
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Sophomore receiver Leodes Van Buren (6-1, 178) caught 23 passes for 437 yards last season and is one of the most talented receivers in the region. Juniors Jason Toohey (5-9, 170) and Doug Tokaric (5-7, 155) and senior Richard Arens (5-10, 170) will provide Newbury Park's passing attack with reliable hands. Senior Zack Sutton (6-0, 170), who threw for 1,310 yards last year, is recovering from a broken throwing hand. He is being pushed by sophomore Keith Smith (5-8, 180) and senior Ryan Grady (6-1, 175), a returning letterman. Senior Sean McKeown (6-4, 240), a starting center last season, will move to tackle and is one of the finest linemen in the league. "He's a tremendous athlete," Hurley said. Senior tackle Jeff Epstein (6-3, 235) and senior guard Brad Bybee (6-0, 195) are returning starters. Junior center Brad Henderson (6-3, 190) is a returning letterman. Senior running back Scott Umpleby (5-10, 180) has recovered from a broken thumb that sidelined him most of last season. Sophomore Rich Adams (5-10, 180) will alternate with Umpleby at fullback. Sophomore Jason Tucker (5-9, 170) and juniors Adam Greenberg (5-7, 165) and Matt Bovard (5-8, 160) are competing for the starting tailback slot. Senior linebacker Jeff Turner (6-2, 205) and senior free safety Deon Meshack (6-0, 165) are returning starters. Senior strong safety Vince Carpio (5-9, 165) and senior Brent Sabatini (5-10, 170) were part-time starters last season. The defensive line will include Bybee, McKeown, Epstein and senior Steve Sasala (6-0, 210).
OUTLOOK: Newbury Park should be the most improved team in the league. The Panthers counter young skill players with experienced linemen, which will make them a contender for a playoff berth. The combination of Sutton and Van Buren could be lethal in an offense that will throw more than in the past. Newbury Park's running game, devastated by injuries a year ago, should improve. Newbury Park's linemen, many of whom will play both offense and defense, must remain healthy. "I'll be very disappointed if we aren't a playoff team," Hurley said.
COACH: Gene Uebelhardt, 4th season
LAST SEASON: 8-2-1; 2nd in league, 5-1-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior quarterback Ryan Fien (6-4, 200), who has thrown for more than 3,000 yards and 32 touchdowns in two seasons, is one of the most sought-after NCAA Division I recruits on the West Coast. Senior defensive lineman Jason Evans (6-1, 255) was an All-Division II selection last season who will play several positions. Senior offensive tackle Jason Wendland (6-5, 255) is a returning starter who is receiving attention from college recruiters. Senior tight end Carlos Gonzales (6-1, 205) was an all-league selection last season. Senior inside linebackers Ryan Martinez (6-0, 205) and Richard Wilson (6-0, 205) are returning starters. The offensive line will be led by Wendland, Evans, senior left guard Richard Ellie (6-2, 240), junior center Michael Rodgriguez (6-0, 225) and junior right tackle Stuart Ae (6-2, 235). Junior David Brown (5-10, 160), the most valuable player on the sophomore team, and senior Steve Feil (5-8, 155) are Fien's primary targets. Senior fullback Damien Geib (6-0, 205) and junior tailback Michael Streeter (5-7, 165) are returning starters. Senior Eric Hambly (5-9, 170) will play strong safety and sophomore Ryan Fernandez (5-10, 170) will play free safety. Junior Derek Newcomb (6-1, 185) will play cornerback. Senior Hector Garcia (5-10, 215) will play defensive tackle.
OUTLOOK: Royal's defense, which allowed only 187 yards a game last season, was the key to the team's success. Only three starters return, but the Highlander defense was impressive in summer passing-league play. The offense, led by Fien, will carry Royal early in the season and may prove to be unstoppable if Fien gets time to throw. If Royal's defense is again strong, the Highlanders will contend for their first league championship.
COACH: Stan Quina, 2nd season
LAST SEASON: 0-10; 8th in league, 0-7