East County Sports

Veteran Vaqueros “yoked” for 2018

El Capitan receiver YAPHET YOKLEY. / photo by Don De Mars Photography




EastCountySports.com staff report


LAKESIDE – In sweltering heat on Monday, the El Capitan Vaqueros ran up and down Main Street for their traditional downtown run three minutes faster than usual.

Needless to say, coach RON BURNER’s squad is in a hurry to get the school’s 60th football season underway.

And so is every other team, for that matter, as the regular season starts this year on Aug. 17.

The Vaqueros’ schedule will not make it easy as they try for their first winning season since 2014.

El Capitan has won just nine games over the last three years, but 13 starters return from last season’s 3-7 outfit.

Burner, in his 14th year at the helm, has his slogan for this year’s group, “Effort Magnifies Talent”

“Give your maximum effort and it will get everything out of your talent,” Burner said last week.

New El Capitan helmet design for 2018.

That talent will be challenged by a non-conference schedule that includes Madison, Mater Dei, Christian (home opener) and Patrick Henry. The game on Aug. 31 against the Warhawks, one of the top teams in the county, will be the National Football Federation’s Game of the Week.

Topping the list of returnees is junior quarterback WICK HAUSER, who has overcome both a broken collarbone and a shoulder injury over the past two seasons.

“We are going to try and get the most amount of wins possible,” Hauser said. “Our team, especially our defense, learned a lot this offseason in 7-on-7 and in practice.”

Hauser, who performed well at the Battle at the Shores passing tournament on July 1, passed for a little over 500 yards last season in just three games with five touchdowns and just one interception. The highly-touted QB threw for over 900 yards in five games as a freshman.

“I think we will get it going this year,” Hauser said. “We lost a few seniors but we have the same line. I think we will be fine.”

Hauser’s protection is still young, but experienced, with all five O-line starters returning, led by junior CARSON FIEL. Johnson tagged the crew with a “Steel Curtain” moniker leading up to the season.

“The hardest working guys on my team are the offensive linemen,” Burner said. “They work out with (renown local trainer) ALEX JOHNSON on their own three times a week.

“The O-line has worked so hard this off-season with Alex and in our weight room and are ready to prove they are tough. I like to think we have a successful program because we turn out great young men.”

The team’s big-play threat is YAPHET YOKLEY, a two-way captain who also missed time because of an injury last season.

Yokley played in just five games, but he caught 14 passes for 264 yards (18.9 ypc) and four touchdowns. The track athlete is also a big-time breakaway threat on special teams.

“We have a lot of younger guys but I think our quarterback is definitely is in his prime now,” Yokley said. “I think a lot of guys are ready to have their breakthrough year.”

Junior DONNY GREEN is the top returning back, but Burner indicated guys for different roles in the backfield.

Green also will likely receive targets out of the backfield after averaging 17 yards per catch on four receptions last season.

“We will mix it up with our backs this year as each has their own specialty,” Burner added.

El Cap’s secondary took a hit in graduation, but Yokley and senior cornerback JEFTE REYES, a three-year starter, help lead the defensive backfield.

Yokley timed out very fast in a summer camp 40-yard test, finishing in the top ten clockings at a popular new showcase.

“I feel like the defense will be solid,” Yokley said. “It was a solid defense last year, but we had guys that were young. I think we will be better (defensively) than last year.”

El Capitan senior lineman DREW DELIA

El Capitan’s defensive front is led by defensive tackle ANDREW DELIA, a three-year starter. The linebacking corps are headed up by senior vet RUDY MEDINA.

“I think this team has a lot more communication and heart compared to last year, Delia said. “Everybody wants to play. Everybody wants to have their piece and glory that comes with this.”

Burner’s coaching staff is among as deep as they come in the East County.

Defensive coordinator and assistant head coach ANTWAN APPLEWHITE is joined by veteran mentors HOWARD COY and CHRIS TOCKSTEIN.

Joining the staff this season at running backs coach is former Chargers Pro Bowl running back RYAN MATHEWS.

The Vaqueros may be in for another tough battle in the Grossmont Hills League after finishing 1-4 last season, but that tough end of the schedule could still help prepare El Cap for the postseason.

Despite their underdog status heading into the season, El Capitan is a sure top contender for the San Diego CIF Division III title, a division which includes fellow East County contenders Monte Vista, West Hills and Christian.

“We play three teams in the top ten so at least we know where we stand early on,” Burner said. “That is the kind of games we like to play.

“There are a lot of great teams in the Grossmont Conference. I want to come out 8-2, 10-0 like everyone else does. It’s a tough schedule, but we welcome it. It tells us where we are heading going into league.”

The Vaqueros will play in the SDFNL Kickoff Classic on Aug. 11 against the Morse Tigers in a scrimmage played under game-like conditions using 10-minute quarters at Mira Mesa High School.

“It’s going to be a challenge all year as not only is our league tough with Helix, Steele and Grossmont, but now Granite Hills is in the (Grossmont Hills League),” Burner said. I think we will be in every game and battle. As long as we stay healthy we will be competitive.”

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