At several skill positions, the Morro Bay High football team is going to be counting on first-time starters, newcomers or underclassmen — and in some cases, all of the above.
That’s far from the case with the Pirates’ offensive line, though.
Morro Bay tied for second place in the Los Padres League at 4-2 a year ago before advancing to the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division playoffs, finishing 6-6 overall.
The top running back and the three leading receivers from that team graduated. Even more impactful, so too did the Pirates’ workhorse, Sam Crizer, an Occidental College recruit who rushed for more yards as a quarterback (1,951) than anyone else in California playing at the 11-man level in 2010.
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In the trenches, though, Morro Bay didn’t lose anyone.
“We think this may be one of the best lines we’ve ever had,” 15th-year coach John Andree said. “With them kind of leading the way, it’ll give some time to those young (skill-position) kids to blossom.
“We’re a little young in some places, but we’re hoping they can catch up quickly.”
All five of the Pirates’ offensive linemen — Jonathan Miller and Carl Coates at strong and quick tackle, respectively, Matt Patton and Ray Garcia at strong and quick guard, and Nick Settevendemie at center — are seniors who started last season.
“We’re really going to be relying on them to open up holes for us,” said Jake Beavers, an outside linebacker who should also get some carries as a backup running back.
The 6-foot-3, 290-pound Miller won the LPL’s Lineman of the Year award as a junior, while Coates earned first-team all-league honors.
“I feel like we have a lot of potential,” Coates said. “We’re all seniors. We all already know what we’re doing. We just started training camp and are putting in the playbook (early on), and our offensive line already knows what we’re doing.”
Along with Templeton’s Ross Berry and Casey Dakin, Miller was part of a three-man Central Coast contingent that took first place at the Passing Down Northern California Elite Linemen Challenge in Rocklin in May. That regional competition’s drills test traits like strength and explosiveness.
“I feel like we’ve got a pretty good, physical O-line,” Miller said. “We’ve got some good returners in good spots.”
Bryce Owens, a 6-2, 195-pound senior, is expected to take over at quarterback.
After contributing at the varsity level during his sophomore year as a safety, Owens focused solely on basketball last year.
Meanwhile, Tristan Collins, a sophomore, is penciled in to start at running back, while senior Dolin Mininni, who made it to the state championship meet in wrestling last year at 135 pounds, has taken on fullback duties.
“He brings that edge of toughness,” Andree said of Mininni.
Juan Acuna, a senior, is expected to provide speed outside at receiver.
Defensively, one of the Pirates’ leaders figures to be Beavers, a 6-1, 190-pound junior.
He was an all-league second-team selection as a sophomore after making 58 tackles, the most of any returning player on the team.
“He’s a coach’s dream,” Andree said of Beavers. “He works exceptionally hard. He’s not only our emotional leader, but he’s a lead-by-example type guy.”
The Pirates have a bye week to start the season before opening at home against Carpinteria on Sept. 9.