I spoke with Oceanside cornerback/wide receiver Jace Whittaker, who locked up every Saints receiver he was put up against and caught a touchdown pass for the the Pirates.
Top story lines for 2013 football season…
- Poway starting frosh QB. The Titans are expected to start freshman Tate Martell at quarterback. He has already given a verbal commitment to the University of Washington. They will rely a lot on Lance Mudd, following the departure of Derek Babiash (Arizona), Alec Moreno (Nevada), and Nehemiah Gross (Southwest Baptist).
- Madison reloading after state title. The Warhawks won the Division 3 state title last year but have lost stars Pierre Cormier and Lee Walker. Can Michael Garner, Kareem Coles, and the Vermillion twins lead Madison back to another CIF Title?
- Royce Freeman rushing record… Freeman, a senior running back at Imperial High School, has created some buzz over the past year but not nearly enough of how much he’s deserving of. This offseason he picked up several scholarships from schools like USC, Florida, and Alabama before deciding on Oregon. He enters his senior year with 4,782 rushing yards and 70 rushing touchdowns. He trails Ricky Seale by 1,608 yards for the all-time rushing record in the county and is 36 rushing touchdowns behind Heisman Trophy Winner Rashaan Salaam for that record. He’s 13th on the rushing record, just ahead of Ricky Williams and behind Salaam, Seale, Reggie Bush, Tyler Gaffney, and Dillon Baxter. Needless to say, he’s one of the best ever to come out of San Diego.
- Oceanside continues dynasty… The Pirates have built a dynasty in San Diego for the past 20+ seasons, including winnings seven straight CIF Titles from 2004-10. The Pirates won the title again last season, but with the new Open Division beginning this season can someone stop them?
Preseason Top 10 in San Diego…
- Oceanside– The defending D2 champions have four players committed to division one schools. Mikah Holder (SDSU), Alijah Holder (Stanford), Jace Whittaker (Arizona), and Thai Cottrell (San Jose State).
- Mission Hills– The D1 runners-up from last year return talented defensive players Fred Warner (BYU), Ricky Liuchan, and Dechaun Holiday along with returning quarterback Connor Wynn.
- St. Augustine– The Saints will benefit from playing several underclassmen last season. The defense will be led by junior cornerback Frank Buncom.
- Madison– Michael Garner and Kareem Coles will carry the load following the departure of Pierre Cormier and Lee Walker.
- Carlsbad– The Lancers have stars at quarterback with Christian Chapman (SDSU) and linebacker with Jordan Perez (Stanford), but questions surround the other positions.
- Helix– Linebacker Reuben Leasau leads the defense, but quarterback Josh Harris has transferred to Oceanside.
- Poway– Running Back Lance Mudd (Cal Poly) must help take the load off of freshman quarterback Tate Martell (Washington)
- Eastlake– The Titans can’t replace Aaron Baltazar, but they always have athletes to rebuild with.
- Cathedral Catholic– Xavier Ulutu leads the defense, but who will step up for the Dons offense?
- Westview– Junior quarterback Nate Ketteringham is talented, but how will the defense handle the new 3-3-5 formation.
Last year the Madison Warhawks completed their best football season in school history, capped off by winning the Division 3 State Championship. It’ll be tough to repeat, but senior running back and wide receiver Michael Garner is ready for the challenge. Garner finished his junior season with 827 all-purpose yards and 9 touchdowns.
Garner has offers from Arizona and Idaho, along with interest from Boise State, New Mexico and UCLA, but doesn’t plan on focusing on his recruitment during the season.
“I’m focused more on the season, but we are thinking about taking a visit to Idaho during the bye week,” Garner told me. “Keeping my options open throughout the season.”
Garner will have to step up with the Warhawks not having the services of Pierre Cormier (Arizona) and Lee Walker on the offensive side of the ball this season. The loss of Cormier, who ran for 2,233 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior, is huge. He’s likely to see playing time as a true freshman for Arizona.
With Garner having an increased role during his senior year, he spent time during the offseason to prepare, “I’ve been doing agility drills on my own, and staying in the weight room because I need to get bigger.”
Junior quarterback Kareem Coles is back after a sophomore campaign in which he threw 23 touchdowns to only 7 interceptions. Coles and Garner will be helped by the return of a very strong offensive line led by Sam and Jake Vermillion.
Garner isn’t close to choosing a school, but he does know what he’s looking for, “Looking for my major, which is kinesiology. How good the football program is, and I don’t want to go too far from home.”