Hartnell Poised to Defend Conference Championship



2001 Hartnell College Panthers
Salinas, California


Head Coach:
Larry Souza, 2nd Season (8-3)

2001 Record:
8-3

2001 Bowl Game:
Defeated American River in Santa Cruz Lions Bowl (34-21)

 

On a recent visit to Hartnell College, I had a chance to look at some of the Panthers' football trophies from days of old.  I saw their bowl from the 1952 Junior Rose Bowl in which the Panthers tied Bacone College from Oklahoma for the National Championship. I saw several trophies from the Lettuce Bowl, held in Salinas from 1961 to 1966 and I saw a number of trophies chronicling the age old rivalry between Hartnell and nearby Monterey Peninsula College.  It was clear to me that this was a program with some great history to it, and if 2000 was any indication, the Panthers appear to be returning to the success they enjoyed in days past 

Since taking over the Hartnell College football program prior to last season, Panther head coach Larry Souza has enjoyed success.  The Panthers won the Coast Conference in 2000 and went on to a convincing win over American River College in the Santa Cruz Lions Bowl.  It appears that the Panthers are ready to pick up right where they left off at the end of the 2000 season.

Back to lead the offense at quarterback is 2000 Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year Mike Souza #5 (6-0, 180, N. Monetery Cty. H.S.).  Souza had a great season in 2000, 95 of 219 passes for 1,383 yards and 13 touchdowns.  In addition, Souza rushed for 278 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Souza proved throughout the season that he could hurt teams with his arm and with his legs.  When teams would stack players in the box to try to defend Coast Conference MVP Loliki Bongo-Wanga (Texas Tech), Souza would exploit their secondary.  His ability to scramble and make things happen made Souza a constant threat and will likely continue in 2001.

It certainly won't be easy to replace Bongo-Wanga, but Souza feels that a real sleeper is tailback Oscar Mendoza #22 (5-11, 175, King City H.S.).  Despite playing in the shadow of Bongo-Wanga in 2000, Mendoza was a productive back for the Panthers.  He has close to 4.5-forty speed and catches well out of the backfield.  Souza describes Mendoza as an "Awesome runner," and expects him to make a big impact in 2001.



Leading the way for Mendoza and the entire Panther running game will be Juan Leyva #61 (6-6, 285, Gonzales H.S.), one of the state's top offensive linemen in 2000.  Leyva was an great student and football player in high school, but schools many universities had reservations about Leyva.  Some felt he was too skinny.  Some felt he was clumsy.  And Leyva believed he was a defensive lineman at the next level.  After a season at Hartnell in which Leyva was arguably the best lineman in the


conference while clearing the way for a Panther running game that averaged 283 yards rushing per game, Leyva has accepted that he is an offensive tackle.  At 6-6, 285, he has a great frame for the position.  He runs very well and is a smart player, adding to his assets.  As he get bigger and adds weight to his frame, he will only become more dominant.  He was an All-State Region II offensive lineman in 2000 and will certainly be highly recruited in 2001 with grades to boot.


Lining up next to Leyva will be one of the top undersized linemen in the conference in guard Travis Pridmore #67 (5-11, 245, Palma H.S.).  Pridmore earned first team All-Coast Conference honors a a freshman and is working hard to prepare for 2001.  Coach Souza describes Pridmore as "smart" and "tough" and will join Leyva in clearing holes for the Panthers' misdirection offense.  Big tackle Micajah Hopkins #77 (6-3, 350) returns opposite Leyva to give the Panthers a good core of players returning on the offensive line.

Receiver Nick LaFountain #19 returns after earning first team All-Conference honors in 2000. 

Not to be outdone, the Panthers defense returns a lot of talent in 2001, led by defensive linemen Jason Gustus and Patrice Monamba-Majondo and safety Wade Pestoni.

 
Defensive lineman Jason Gustus #91 (6-0, 300, Salinas H.S) was an impact player for the Panthers throughout the 2000 season.  Gustus is strong and also quick for his size.  He can play nose guard or a three technique on the D-line.  He was a first team All-Coast Conference defensive lineman as a freshman and is projected to be a major recruit for the Panthers in 2001.

 

Joining Gustus on the defensive line will be sophomore Patrice Monamba-Majondo #72 (6-4, 275, Waterloo H.S., Begium).  Patrice, a cousin of 2000 teammates Loliki Bongo-Wanga and Eric Indenge, is a native of the Congo and went to high school in Belgium.  He came to Hartnell before the 2000 season speaking almost exclusively French and having never played football before.  Although it took Patrice a while to get going with the barriers he had to overcome from learning the language to learning the sport, he gradually adapted to life at Hartnell.  He has worked hard in the classroom to keep his grades up and has worked hard on the field to improve his skills.  By the end of the 2000 season, Patrice was showing signs of a player with a lot of talent.  Following the season, he came to our NorCal combine and turned the heads of a number of scouts.  As he prepares for the 2001 season, it appears that he will be among the top defensive line recruits in the state, with his combination of size, strength, and athleticism (18 bench reps at 226 lbs, 28 inch vertical, 5.2-forty). 


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