Anyone for a four-peat? Don't bet against El Camino Coach Herb Meyer, who has won six Section championships in 16 years at the school. Meyer uses the Lou Holtz approach, always downplaying his talent and building up the other guy's.
His biggest concerns this year are replacing 15 starters and three potential starters who moved out of the area. One of them was Junior Seau's little brother, sophomore Tony Seau, who would have started at nose guard had he not moved to Stockton.
League coaches, however, have heard it all before and aren't sharing Meyer's concern.
So maybe he is only returning seven starters, but when two of those starters, Bryant Westbrook and Mike Booker, are two of the better high school athletes in the state, the losses are easier to take.
League newcomer Torrey Pines gets the honor of opening the league season with El Camino. Torrey Pines Coach Ed Burke, who spent 12 years in the Palomar League, was asked if he was looking forward to playing the Wildcats.
"Nobody ever looks forward to playing El Camino, unless they're losing a few brain cells," Burke said.
A year ago, Burke said he would have liked his chances of dethroning El Camino. But he returns only one starter from his massive offensive line and seven overall.
"I wish we'd have joined the league last year," Burke said. "This is a black and blue league, but we were black and blue last year."
San Pasqual appears to have the best chance of matching up with El Camino. Coach Mike Dolan returns 15 starters from last year's team, which lost to La Jolla 50-49 in the 2-A semifinals. Nine of the returnees are on defense, the Eagles' weakness last year.
Escondido, under new Coach Bruce Ward, figures to contend with Torrey Pines for third. The Cougars have one of the better all-around athletes in the county, Mike Frank, running the offense.
Coach: Herb Meyer, 17th year
1991 Record: 13-1, 7-0
Starters Returning: 7
Meyer's biggest problem will be replacing Noel Prefontaine, who kicked 18 field goals over the past two seasons, kicked off, punted, played quarterback and occasionally filled in at safety. Other trouble areas could be the offensive and defensive lines where only All-League center Brian Chapman and defensive tackle John Moore return.
But somehow, Meyer usually finds ways to compensate for his losses. In 1990, El Camino returned only two starters and began the season with three losses, before winning 10 of its last 11 games.
Westbrook and Booker are rated by most scouting services as the two best cornerbacks in the state. Meyer said Westbrook, who averaged 18 yards a carry last year, will also see time at wingback, receiver and kick returner. "If we don't put the ball in his hands, we're not real smart," Meyer said.
The Wildcats also return their leading receiver, Herman Gordon, safety Mike Flanagan who also will start at tailback, and linebacker Alex Munoz. Meyer still hasn't decided who will run his offense, junior Trey Crayton or senior Brian Rose. But he is leaning toward Crayton, who had a better summer throwing the ball.
Coach: Mike Dolan, 7th year
1991 Record: 8-5, 4-3
Starters Returning: 15
The same defense that might have kept the Eagles from winning the Section last year could carry them this year. "The (defense) got real frustrated not being able to contribute like they wanted," Dolan said. "The offense carried us. They felt like they weren't holding up their end. That has inspired them this year."
The top returnee on defense is defensive tackle Tom Callahan (6-3, 230), who has run 4.87 in the 40 and is being recruited by many Division I schools. Three-year starting outside linebacker Brian Sandoval, end Josh Trowbridge (6-5, 205) and inside linebacker Dave Mick will also key the defense. Fullback Jamon Buggs and halfback DeSale Wallace were two of five players who ran for more than 700 yards last year. Option quarterback Billy Geddes will be difficult to replace, but senior Mike Haag and junior Ryan Hill will try.
Coach: Ed Burke, 2nd year
1991 Record: 8-3, 6-1
Starters Returning: 7
The Falcons were one of the bigger teams in the county last year, but almost all of their big people have departed. What remains is a small, quick group led by linebacker/guard Brian Batson, whom Burke calls one of state's premier linebackers. All-Palomar League safety Ryan Lynch will play quarterback for the first time. His supporting cast will also be inexperienced--Batson is the only returning starter from last year's mammoth offensive line.
Burke said he is also worried about playing in a new league.
"You're facing people that are strangers," he said. "It's already taking more preparation time than I would like. I can already tell I'm going to be staying up late at night."
Coach: Bruce Ward, 1st year
1991 Record: 6-6, 4-3
Starters Returning: 7