East County Sports

Patriots have new, old targets in 2018

The Christian High Patriots at training camp last week.

2018 EAST COUNTY PREP FOOTBALL PREVIEW

CHRISTIAN PATRIOTS

 

EastCountySports.com staff report

 

EL CAJON – It shouldn’t be hard for head coach MATT OLIVER and staff to motivate this year’s group of Christian Patriots.

Painted as .500 ball club by the computer rankings coming into the 2018 season, the Patriots are expected to be underdogs in half of their games. That usually isn’t the case.

Sure, a challenging schedule that includes Cathedral Catholic, Monte Vista and sectional rival Santa Fe Christian will help test this team, but the Pats, despite losing a few key seniors, return 16 members of last year’s 8-3 squad.

Christian High’s Bryce Riepl

This season, the Eastern League has been revamped, and moving in are Mira Mesa and University City, which are both rated higher than Christian. La Jolla also joins CHS and Morse in this year’s circuit.

While algorithms may think Christian High is a break-even club, it wouldn’t take a few breaks to change the Patriots’ fortunes. This program is historically strong enough to beat several of their new opponents this year – both in and out of league.

The Patriots ran thin in the trenches in their toughest games last season, but this year’s offensive line boasts more experience than that group.

“Most of our line is back,” said new Christian High signal caller, senior OWEN EASLEY. “We’re big and smart up front.”

Easley, a two-year varsity understudy, has looked sharp.

“We like Owen,” Oliver said. “We think he’s going to be special, he’s got a great arm and is going to fit right in.”

Up front, seniors DUNCAN HUNTER, CODY BOSTIAN, BLAKE TOFFLEMIRE and, junior ISAIAH OWENS, joins senior captain NATHAN LEE, the center.

BLAKE TOFFLEMIRE

“We feel solid about the running game but more as a committee than one person,” Oliver said.

Christian High has a pair of experienced backs in two-way guys ALEXANDER GONZALEZ and rugged JAVIER JIMENEZ, who scored six touchdowns last season.

“I think we’re going to be a great team this year,” Gonzalez said. “We have almost all of the same guys coming back. I can’t wait to see what the season has for us.”

The Patriots have been known of late for their shifting, record-setting passing offense, but these two, along with junior CHRISTIAN SALACUP make for an interesting balance.

“They are guys who run the ball with instinct and find the hole,” Easley said.

Christian is getting a younger receiving corps up to speed, but have a sure target in veteran tight end BRYCE RIEPL, who had 31 receptions last year, including three for scores.

Gonzalez, a true slotback, is actually more receiver than runner. He caught 65 passes last season and had over 850 yards of offense from the line of scrimmage and scored 14 receiving touchdowns.

Christian’s ALEX GONZALEZ / photo by Ramon Scott

“We don’t have the guy whos going to beat everyone down the sidelines,” Easley said. “As long as they do their job and catch the ball, we’ll be good.”

The Patriots have been on the right and wrong end of some shootouts, but this year’s defensive squad boasts eight returnees, including three-year starting defensive end GARRET ROSENTHAL, and Riepl, one of the area’s best returning linebackers.

The duo combined for over 140 total tackles last season and six sacks. Bostian is another top tackler from last year’s unit, while Gonzalez, a safety who is all over the place with return duties, as well, had three sacks and two interceptions in 2017.

Bostian is another top tackler from last year’s unit, while Gonzalez, a safety who is all over the place with return duties, as well, had three sacks and two interceptions in 2017.

“It a pretty experienced group, so we are going to be pretty good defensively,” Oliver said. “The linebackers are also senior for the most part. And we have a good group of defensive backs that are experienced.”

Christian High’s JAVIER JIMENEZ

The Patriots shift down to the San Diego Section’s Division III places them squarely in championship contention with the likes of East County clubs, West Hills, El Capitan and Monte Vista.

Also in D3 contention are all four of the Patriots’ league rivals, as well as, SFC, setting up some great matchups in the postseason.

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