In a down year, Taft nevertheless managed to finish in a three-way tie for the title with Cleveland and Granada Hills last season. Replenished with talent, the Toreadors should roll through league play and deep into the City Championship playoffs. Last-place Birmingham is the only other team that appears improved.
Troy Starr, 9 years
* Coming back: RB Lee Marks is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Brothers Matt and Chad Hitt anchor both lines along with Julio Mendoza and Adam Fox. DT Octavio Flores, LB Lamar Maxie and DB Chris Morgan bring experience to the defense. Checking in: LSU-bound QB Ricky Clausen fills the void left by Brandon Hance, and speedy WRs Steve Smith and Clarence Simpson replace Greig Carlson, who transferred.
Bill Paden, 2 years
* Coming back: Matthew Clark averaged 10 yards a carry last season and will be the No. 1 ballcarrier with the graduation of James Bethea. OL Victor Gomez is one of the state's best blockers. C Leo Clark and OL-DLs James Thaemert and Andre Berkeley are seasoned as well. Checking in: QB Antoine Barfield has the tools. WR Randy Bundy and RB Ronnie Lyons have the speed. LBs Thomas Kalinowski, Chris Kiwanuka and Brian Murphy are big hitters.
Tom Harp and Darryl Stroh, 12 years
* Coming back: Only four starters return. WR Joey Rodriguez averaged 23 yards a reception and RB Robert Ortega was effective when not injured. OLB Guillermo Garcia will also play TE. DL Mark Walker is the only returning lineman. Checking in: DB-WR Bryan Wilson, a transfer from Alemany, will make a strong impact. QB Bobby Baca is a talented athlete. OL Gene Wei leads the way.
Ed Croson, 1 year
* Coming back: All-City WR-DB John Walker has committed to USC. WR-DB Ramal Porter brings more speed. RB Kevin McCleary is improved. OT Mario Palomino is one of the City's best. LB Luis Juarez is ferocious. QB Scott Jensen is small but has a knack for making plays. Checking in: RB-DB Chad Green is fast, RB-LB Dennis Keyes is tough, TE-LB Eric Ochoa is aggressive. All are sophomores.
Bill Coan, 3 years
* Coming back: The line is fine behind three-year starter David Velasquez, Brandon Kaluna, Sean Spearman and Mike Megurian. K Tom Colley is an All-City candidate. LB Chris Vasquez was the team's leading tackler. Checking in: QB Matt Cassel is gone to USC and his QB brother Justin declined to return, leaving the position in the hands of sophomore Jason Moss and freshman Brad Himes.
EL CAMINO REAL
Rick Hayashida, 4 years
* Coming back: No starters return, although senior LB-TE Andreik DeLeon played a lot and has improved. Senior WR-DB Chris Pfeiffer will punt, kick and start both ways. Checking in: Junior QB Will Savage has a strong arm and plenty of savvy. WR Jeremy Boyle could emerge as his favorite target.
DATES TO MARK
Sept. 8 Taft at Banning
Oct. 13 Granada Hills at Taft
Nov. 9 Cleveland at Taft
QBs Baca of Granada Hills and Savage of El Camino Real are top baseball players.