It was a resurgent start to the 2016 season for the Morro Bay High School football team. After going 0-10 the season before, the Pirates started last season on a four-game winning streak.
Spirits were high.
Then tragedy hit.
Just as Morro Bay was preparing for its Northern League season, assistant coach Jim Atchison died at 47 following complications from neck surgery.
“He was kind of like a father figure to me, so it is really hard to talk about. I think about him every day,” Morro Bay senior Myles Minnis said. “It all hit us pretty hard. We obviously didn’t recover from it because we didn’t win any more games. But it was good for us to all work through it together.”
The 0-4 Northern League record last season and the loss of a beloved coach knocked a little bit of wind out of the sails of the program. Only 18 players showed up at the start of camp this summer, one player estimated. But with a new, pass-heavy offense, a few more late additions to the roster and a quarterback with star-potential, Morro Bay wants to continue to trend in the right direction and improve its record this season.
Morro Bay at a glance
2016 record: 4-6 overall, 0-4 Northern League
Danny Koval (RB/DB), Brandon McGinley (RB/DB), Luis Alvarez (RB/LB), Jared Bueno (OL/DL)
Koval was the heart and soul of the team last season as a running back and cornerback. McGinley was an explosive athlete with home-run capability, while Alvarez was a bull at linebacker and running back. Bueno is one of a few linemen to graduate.
Aidan Moriarty (QB, Jr.), Myles Minnis (RB/TE/LB, Sr.), Mike Unks (WR/LB, Sr.), Luke Buentiempo (OL/DL, Sr.)
Koval started the year at quarterback before Moriarty came on. This season, head coach David Kelley — who is taking back over as the offensive coordinator — will look to throw the ball a lot more than in year’s past to feature the young passer. Minnis and Unks will both be heavily involved in the passing game, along with playing linebacker. Buentiempo will play guard and defensive end as the leader on an inexperienced offensive line.
Under The Radar
Nico Calanchini (LB/WR, Sr.) Ricky Maize (OL/DT, Sr.)
Calanchini will be one of the speedy slot receivers getting plenty of run in the new offense, and Maize has been impressing so far at left tackle, a key position this season with more passes flying.
SLO High (Sept. 15), Templeton (Nov. 3)
CIF-Southern Section Power Ranking
Division 12, No. 297
The Tribune 2017 prep football preview
Over the coming days, The Tribune will roll out its 2017 high school football preview looking at teams, top players and story lines from San Luis Obispo County schools leading to the opening of the season Friday. Find new daily content online at sanluisobispo.com/sports and in the Sports section.