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Garden Grove League football preview: What to expect this season

Orange County Register 8/12/2022 Michael Huntley, The Orange County Register

The top players and season outlook for all six teams in the Garden Grove League:

GARDEN GROVE LEAGUE

BOLSA GRANDE

Top players: Phu Nguyen, WR/DB, Sr.; Ethan Nguyen, QB/DB, Jr.; Eddie Zarate, RB/DB, Soph.; David Nguyen, WR/DB, Jr.; Landon Gonzalez, OL/K, Sr.; Teddy Argy, OL/DL, Soph.

What to expect: It’s difficult to find positives about a team that finished in last place in the league last season, but Bolsa Grande showed signs of progress. The Matadors had a 14-point lead over league champion Rancho Alamitos at halftime and almost beat Los Amigos. Phu Nguyen returns after leading the team in rushing and receiving yards with eight touchdowns. He also led the returning players in tackles with 44 and had an interception. The coaches are high on sophomore running back Eddie Zarate and junior receiver Oscar Rodriguez. Bolsa Grande is a young team that has playoff aspirations but most of the teams in the league have also improved, so the Matadors have a difficult path to get there.

LA QUINTA

Top players: Ivan Acenas, DL, Sr.; Erick Gonzalez, DB, Sr.; Loc Do, LB, Jr.; Jose Nolasco, DL, Soph.; Margarito Guzman, OL, Sr.

What to expect: La Quinta has been on the doorstep of the playoffs three of the last four seasons, but lost its Week 10 game and turned in the pads the following Monday. Ivan Acenas is a short but strong defensive lineman at 5-foot-7 and 210 pounds, and he might also see some time at running back. Sophomore Charles Grover can play multiple positions and earned high praise from coach James Stewart. The defense allowed over 31 points per game last season and needs to improve if La Quinta hopes to make the playoffs this season. They lost one-score games to Saddleback and Costa Mesa and had a 10-point lead over Loara at halftime before losing. “I think this team can win the close games that we couldn’t close out last year,” Stewart said.

LOARA

Top players: Andre Sanchez, QB, Sr.; Remy Ybarra, WR/DB, Sr.; Isaac Malaga, RB/LB, Sr.; Adrian Lopez, OL/DL, Sr.; Ezra Tafilele, RB/DB, Jr.

What to expect: Loara won the CIF-SS Division 14 championship last season, the first for the school since 1979. The Saxons have five returning All-CIF players including Isaac Malaga who had the game-winning interception in the championship game. Remy Ybarra is a talented two-way player who was also first team all-league last season. Ezra Tafilele had a touchdown run and an interception in the CIF SoCal Regional final against Morro Bay. Despite the postseason success, Loara finished in fourth place in the league standings last season and struggled offensively in the regular season. The championship experience and the amount of returning starters could give Loara a leg up on the other teams competing for playoff spots in this league.

LOS AMIGOS

Top players: Maysen Navarro, QB, Jr.; Juan Hermosillo, DE/OL, Sr.; Adrian Ramirez, WR/DB, Soph.; Erubey Bermudez, WR/LB, Soph.; Miguel Aguilera, LB/TE, Sr.

What to expect: Los Amigos is a very young team but also an experienced one. The Lobos played a good amount of freshmen and sophomores last season and they are returning. Maysen Navarro is a junior quarterback who has been a varsity starter since his freshman year. Adrian Ramirez and Erubey Bermudez both played varsity as freshmen last season and coach Romel Guess says they are arguably the two best players on the team. Juan Hermosillo and Miguel Aguilera will provide much-needed senior leadership for this young team and will both likely play both ways. Los Amigos played well against the top teams in the league last season and with its young players getting a full offseason to develop, they might make the jump into the playoff picture.

RANCHO ALAMITOS

Top players: Carlos Acosta, RB/LB, Sr.; Chris Hurley, QB, Sr.; Angel Diaz, RB/DB, Sr.; Gabe Vu, OL/DL, Sr.; Frank Candelario, TE/DB, Sr.

What to expect: Rancho Alamitos has won four consecutive league championships and should once again be in the mix for another league title. Chris Hurley returns at quarterback after getting significant playing time as a junior. Rancho Alamitos graduated a running back who had over 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns, but coach Mike Enright says Carlos Acosta and Angel Diaz are looking good at running back during camp. Frank Candelario got some red zone targets last season and is expected to be a bigger part of the offense this year. The Vaqueros are young and will start five sophomores who, according to Enright, could be a big factor. The week 10 game against Santiago is a game to circle on your calendar because it will likely decide who wins the Garden Grove League.

SANTIAGO

Top players: Art Martinez, RB, Sr.; Daniel Padilla, WR, Sr.; Sera Villalobos, OL/DL, Sr.; Roman Cruz, LB, Sr.; Daniel Rubio, OL/DL, Sr.; Joseph Cruz, OL/DL, Sr.

What to expect: Santiago was the second-place team from this league last season and surprised some people after struggling during the COVID spring season. “I think we were able to catch a lot of teams off-guard last season and this year we won’t be able to do that,” Santiago coach Doug Ozsvath said. “We know we have a target on our back and this season our theme has been to ‘level up.’” Art Martinez returns at running back after rushing for nearly 900 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Daniel Padilla had a team-high six touchdown receptions last year and is back this season. Roman Cruz will lead the defense after having 52 tackles last season. Junior center Daniel Granados is 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds and the Garden Grove League typically does not feature linemen that big. Santiago is a strong contender for the league championship this season.

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