The winds of change that flow through every high school football program from season to season are expected. But at Morro Bay this offseason, the winds that blew through this offseason were hurricane force.
The coaching staff for the school by the rock is brand new, top to bottom. Most of the players on defense never saw the field last season. A new triple option offense and stack defense have been installed by new head coach David Kelley. It seems the only thing that is the same are the team colors and logo.
New Look Pirates
Kelley, a former head coach at San Luis Obispo High. takes over a program that was run by Jack Greer for the past three seasons.
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“The biggest difference is I don’t ride my bike to work everyday,” said Kelley, who resides in San Luis Obispo. “Sometimes I ride to work with my top down listening to worship (music).”
Kelley, who took the job in January, brings with him a new 5-2 defense, a new triple option offense and an infectious energy. During one practice earlier in the month, Kelley even took a handoff on a jet sweep during an offensive drill.
“He’s really enthusiastic,” junior defensive lineman Anthony Mandella said. “He brings a good tempo to practice. He makes me and probably everyone else do way better, go way harder in practice than last year.”
The players knew this change was coming (Greer announced he was leaving after the 2013 season but returned when a replacement couldn’t be found), but that doesn’t make the change and easier for the student athletes.
“We don’t have any returning coaches that we had last year. That’s been the biggest change for me,” quarterback Isaac Manaputy said. “Coaches that I’ve developed a solid relationship with in the past, I miss them, but things change and things happen.”
Manaputy will be one of the only familiar faces from last year’s team that was 3-1 in Northern League play (5-6 overall) and lost 7-0 in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Playoffs to Pasadena Poly. And much of the Pirates’ success will fall on his shoulders, and legs.
Captain of the Ship
There isn’t much that Isaac Manaputy can’t do. His passing skills still need developing, but the 5-foot-10, 175-pound senior is a solid rushing option, plays free safety and handles all the kicking duties for the team. And he will need all that, and more, for Morro Bay to have success this season in the Northern League.
That means taking command of a new offense after running a spread scheme last season.
“What we ran most in spread is essentially what we’re running now,” Manaputy said, adding the team has become more offensive-minded this offseason. “It’s pretty much the same thing, just a different formation with a pitch option.” As with most triple option offenses, passes will likely be few and far between, which suits the soft-spoken quarterback just fine. Manaputy, whose legs resemble small redwoods, rushed for 559 yards (3.2 average yards per carry) and seven touchdowns last season for an offense that averaged 170 yards per game.
But Kelley will likely look to throw more than the Pirates did last season. At San Luis Obispo High in 2014, the Kelley-led Tigers averaged 83 yards per game, almost double the number of yards Morro Bay threw for last season (43 ypg).
“I feel like for some of our players, it’s been a big change from Greer who’s been here for so long. A lot of kids really trusted him and I’ve been preaching just trust the system, trust in the team,” Manaputy said. “(Kelley) is the only coach I’ve ever had that says he loves you at the end of every practice and that’s pretty awesome.”
Who’s it gonna D?
The Morro Bay defense is extremely young and inexperienced.
The 10 leading tacklers from last season’s team graduated. The defensive backfield may struggle to stop the pass, but thanks to two big bodies up the middle, the Pirates may be able to hold teams in check on the ground. Senior defensive lineman Santiago Diaz, all 6-feet, 275 pounds of him, will be a key run stopper.
“We got more strength this year,” Diaz said. “We got more big kids on the defensive line. That’s going to be one of our strengths this year.” Playing next to Diaz will be the equally large 6-foot-3, 285-pound junior nose tackle Frankie Mitchell.
Kelley is also high on senior Anthony Mandella, though he is much smaller than Diaz and Mitchell at about 5-foot-9. One X-factor on offense could be No. 24, a fast running back/defensive back, according to Manaputy.
“We got a new kid coming up, Brandon McGinley. He brings some serious speed and he’s one of the better athletes on our team,” Manaputy said.
The Pirates will have a stiff test right in the second game of the season when they travel to nearby Atascadero High to take on the power running game of the Greyhouds on September 4.
“Yeah, we did lose a lot of other players, but we still have a bunch of players here that are hungry and we’re ready to rebuild and just continue to play Morro Bay football,” Torres said.