Last year, the Falcons
went 8-3 overall and captured their third straight Cerritos Strawberry Bowl
victory, a 31-17 win over Orange Coast. After losing 20 players to scholarship,
and another few who decided not to come back, head coach Frank Mazzotta
and his staff have apparently done a great job of bringing in new talent. His
incoming players are not only stocking the shelves, they are flying off of them.
"This might be the fastest group
of players I have ever had here," stated Mazzotta. That, in itself, is quite a
comment, considering the personable Mazzotta is beginning his 24th
season with the Falcons. "I'm not sure how we are going to play yet, but
this group has the potential to be one of the best ever."
Strong words from a coach has to
replace seven starters on offense and five starters on defense, including the
state's Defensive Player of the Year Demetrin Veal, a defensive end who
signed with the University of Tennessee.
"You can never replace a guy like
Demetrin, who comes along once in a great while," added Mazzotta. "But I
think we have some returning guys who will do a fine job for us and we have a
great group of new players. We are stocked in several positions."
Here is a look at the 2001 Falcons
QUARTERBACK –The Falcons may have found a credible replacement for record-breaking Doug
Baughman, who has moved on to Idaho State University. Baughman set four
career passing marks, including most yards passing with 3,449. Last year he
became just the second quarterback in Cerritos history to throw for over 2,000
yards in a season when he threw for 2,007. His replacement will be University of
Hawaii bounce-back Mike Harrison (Mayfair). After starting for the
Rainbows as a freshman, Harrison was a red-shirt last season and deciding to
come back to school closer to home.
"Mike Harrison can really get the
job done," stated Mazzotta. "He's a third-year guy who is really mature.
He is a winner and he brings experience to the table."
Red-shirt freshman Glenn DeBerg
(the nephew of former NFL quarterback Steve DeBerg) is projected as the back-up,
unless freshman Mike Keeling from La Habra High does not
"I have a lot of confidence in
Glenn, but Mike Keeling is a really exciting player," adds Mazzotta. "He has
been clocked at a legitimate 4.5 in the 40 and he can make things happen. He
only played quarterback one year in high school, so he might sit out this
season. But if we need to make a change, he can come in a get the job done."
RUNNING BACKS – The
Falcons were a potent team last year running the ball, as they finished third in
the Mission Conference with 1,796 yards and 21 touchdowns. But the only player
returning who saw any action last year was fullback Jeremy Bulrice (Buena
Park), who rushed eight times for 37 yards. Cerritos must replace the
effective trio of Manny Murillo (UNLV, 740 yards, 10 TD's), Darnell
Pugh (511 yards, five TD's) and Justin Anderson (499 yards, 6
"I know we lost a lot from last
year, but this year we are awesome," said Mazzotta. In addition to Bulrice,
the team welcomes back red-shirt freshman Josh Herrera (La Habra),
a bounce-back from the University of Oregon. Although he was with the team last
year, he dropped out and was not charged with a year of eligibility. Mazzotta
stated he has had a great spring and should be one of the best running backs in
the conference. A pair of freshmen will also vie for playing time, with Jermaine
Whitten (Cerritos) coming in with a slight advantage over converted
defensive back Kevin Dennis, who was a red-shirt last year.
RECEIVERS – Sophomore
tight end Javier Martinez (St. Paul) and wide receiver Chris
Chatman (Tustin) are being recruited by quite a few universities.
Schools such as Michigan State and just about every school in the PAC-10 are
excited about Martinez (6-4, 240), who caught 10 passes for 160 yards last year.
Chatman, with his Randy Moss-like frame (6-5, 205), was a 1st Team
All-Conference pick as a kick returner (13-for-425) and 2nd team as a
punt returner (17-for-197). He also pulled in 18 passes for 210 yards and five
"Right now, Javier is our most
recruited player," said Mazzotta. "He has gained so much muscle over the
year, which has made him bigger and stronger. Not only does he run great routes,
he is also a good blocker. Chris Chatman and Jason McMillan (Fremont)
will add a lot to our offensive punch, but we also have about five other guys
who we will need to find snaps for."
Red-shirt freshman Andrew Harris
(LB Poly) has impressed the coaching staff so far, while freshman Danny
Kirkpatrick (Dominguez) could be a big play receiver. In addition, Freddy
Davis and Randy Raphieo are speed demons, while converted red-shirt
tight end Scott Bajza (Cerritos) is another big body to contend
Sophomore Jaron Rimson (South
Bay Lutheran) at 6-5, 280, moved to tight end after playing last season at
offensive tackle, while freshman Brian Maudaugh (Mayfair) will
also see some playing time.
"This might be the deepest we have
been at wide receiver ever," added Mazzotta. "We have a solid mixture of
running backs, receivers and tight ends. Our toughest assignment might be
spreading the offense out enough to satisfy everyone."
OFFENSIVE LINE –
Anchoring an offensive line that has three returning starters is left tackle Jake
Chavira (Western). At 6-3, 290, Chavira is the smallest of this huge
line, which also includes center Lloyd Wilson (6-2, 310, Granada Hills
Kennedy) and guard Jason Lehman (6-4, 330, Ribet Academy). Ray
Kelso (Temple City, 6-6, 305) started every game last season, and has
improved a great deal and can play either guard or tackle. Red-shirt freshman Clint
Dato (La Habra), who pushed almost 400 pounds at one point last
season, has dropped over 60 pounds, and is expected to play right tackle.
"I think we have a great group of
guys on the line," added Mazzotta. "We have gotten much bigger, but I
don't think we have lost a step with our speed. I think the left side, with
Jake and incoming freshman Anthony Guerrero (Downey, 6-2, 300),
will really help our quarterbacks with time in the pocket."
The team will have to replace
starters Aric Galliano (Utah State) and Luis Nunez (Arkansas
State), along with Paul Le'au (Midwestern, TX State University).
Freshman bounce-back Tom Robinson (La Mirada, 6-3, 315), red-shirt
freshman Jamaal Todd (LB Poly, 6-0, 300) and freshman Darryl
Kaskie will all rotate on the line for the Falcons this season.
DEFENSIVE ENDS –How do you replace a guy like Veal? Well, you don't really replace him with
one person – you find several. And that's what the Falcons have done.
Sophomore Christopher Eagen (Pacifica), who was second among
linemen last year with 48 tackles, also added 10 hurries and 5 ½ sacks, returns
to anchor the line. He will be joined by gifted red-shirt freshman Shalom
Tuimalealiifano (Waipahu, HI, 6-5, 270), who suffered a broken hand
last season. Red-shirt freshman Ricardo Fletes (Downey), as well
as Vince Gallindo, Armando Calderon (Cerritos, 6-3, 245)
and Alex Loza will also rotate.
"We have to fill a huge hole in
our defensive line with the loss of Demetrin," said Mazzotta. "He was truly
a special player, but I think we have a good corps of guys to help us be solid
up front this season. I think Chris was one of our most consistent players last
year. He had a great year but was overshadowed by the publicity Demetrin
received. He and Tui will do a fine job for us."
DEFENSIVE TACKLES –Sophomore Joseph Oniwar (Bellflower) was a pleasant surprise last
season, as he appeared in every game and started three. He finished with 16
tackles, two hurries and two tackles for loss. He is expected to play a much
larger role on defense this year. Massive red-shirt freshman Loata Toliniu
(Farrington, HI), who is nicknamed "Big Nasty", will help plug up the
middle with his 6-5, 320-pound frame. He has all the tools to be a great player,
but lacks experience.
"This is another position that I
feel we have gotten better at," said Mazzotta. "We pick up a little size
with Big Nasty and I'll tell you what, Joe has really turned it on in the
spring. He will impress some people."
Incoming freshmen Chris Berg (Artesia, 6-3, 300), Mark Teo
(John Glenn) and James Castillon will all add depth to the
defensive line. Berg was a highly-sought after player who has impressed the
coaching staff with his physical play. Mazzotta feels he could be a
break-through player for the team this year, while Teo has followed his two
older brothers to Cerritos, where they excelled in years past.
LINEBACKERS –Departed Jason Lowe (Oregon State) may have been one of the best
linebackers to ever play at Cerritos, but the Falcons do not drop off in the way
of talent or depth. According to Mazzotta, the team has six solid linebackers,
with all three starters returning. Lowe, who was knocked out for the rest of the
season in the fifth game, was replaced by Philip Perry (Lakewood),
who registered 59 stops in basically five games. Middle linebacker John Lopez
(St. Paul) may be considered undersized at 6-0, 230, but he plays big. He
was named 1st Team All-Conference after recording 95 tackles, two
fumble recoveries, two sacks, two hurries and two knock downs. Rounding out the
trio is Rajaee Barnett (Downey), who may be the best of the bunch.
Barnett led the team with 105 tackles (50 solo stops), six hurries and four
"We are very deep at linebacker
and will be so for the next few years," said Mazzotta. "Having all three
starters back really helps anchor our defense. All three are mobile, can make
the big hit and can cover guys real well. John Lopez may not get a lot of
recruits coming after him, but he can really get the job done. Philip is just a
stud and Rajaee is a tackling machine. We have sent guys to Ohio State (Jack
Tucker) and Oregon State (Lowe) the last few years. This group might be
Red-shirt freshman Marcus Miller
(Artesia) brings more speed to the group, while freshman Amir Jesse
(Paramount) and University of New Mexico bounce-back Justin Burks
(Bellflower) are both outstanding players. Jesse was a running back in
high school, but is being converted to linebacker due to his physical attributes.
DEFENSIVE BACKS –Admittedly the weakness of the team last year, the Falcons appear to have shored
up at this position. Gone are leading tacklers Joe McGill (Weber State)
and Hendrick Robertson (Midwestern, TX State University), while
All-Conference choice Rashad Long did not return. Despite their losses,
Mazzotta has been pleased with his incoming class, along with three sophomores
and a red-shirt. Speedster Charles Allgood (Washington) will be
moved from cornerback to free safety and is expected to play a lot more relaxed
this season. Jermaine Lee (Ramapo, NY) and Antonio Knox (Paramount)
combined for 61 tackles last season and will see time. Red-shirt freshman Michael
Bragg (Mayfair) will open the season at one of the cornerback
positions and has impressed the coaches in spring practice.
"We made a lot of young mistakes
last year," said Mazzotta. "But I believe, even though we are young again,
we are smarter and deeper. I really like this group of guys. We are moving a few
guys around, but I believe that they can get the job done. Because we are so big
up front and our linebackers are so quick, teams may try to throw on us more. I
really think our defensive backs this season will be up to the challenge."
Super-quick Burnell Jordan, a converted wide receiver who was a
red-shirt two years ago, has really impressed the coaching staff with his
ability to learn the position. Mazzotta feels that freshman Doug Stewart
(LB Millikan) will make an immediate impact, while Colorado State
bounce-back Londell Ramsey (Muir), Jaiya Howza (Kennedy),
Ray Washington (LB Poly), Ethan Allen and red-shirt Carchell
Wright will all be looked upon to make contributions this season.
All-Conference place-kicker Ezequiel Arevalo has moved on to St. Mary's
College to play both football and soccer, while punter Dana Pino-Dempsey
has transferred to another community college. Freshman kicker Adam Sonntal
(LB Millikan), who has played in several all-star games during the
summer, is expected to win the job. As for the punting job, it appears to have
been won by freshman Scott Mackay (Kennedy).
"We feel very fortunate to have
Adam come here," said Mazzotta. "We were kind of surprised he was still
around, but he told us he was going to be coming and we are very excited about
having him. Scott is also another find addition to our club and we like what he
has shown us so far."
For years, the coaches from the Mission Conference have stated that in order to
compile a true power rating, teams from other conferences would have to cross
over and play each other. A system has been adopted, starting this year, where
the first two games of the season would be played against teams from outside the
conference. The Falcons drew defending Southern California Champion Bakersfield,
who went 10-2 last season, to host as their season-opening opponent. The team
will then travel to Valencia to face College of the Canyons, a team that went
9-2 last season and is considered a very difficult opponent.
Following those two games, the
Falcons will open Mission Conference play against Central Division opponents
Fullerton, Golden West and Santa Ana. The final five games will be Northern
Division rivals El Camino, Mt. San Antonio, Long Beach City, Pasadena City and
"I think we might have the toughest schedule in the state this season,"
stated Mazzotta. "I was a little surprised that we picked up two really tough
teams. But I'm not complaining. I believe that if we are to contend for the
state championship, we have the play the best teams. I'll tell you what,
though. I would rather open up with Bakersfield than Palomar. Not to take
anything way from Bakersfield, but we had a really hard time preparing for
Palomar in the first game of the year. At least with Bakersfield, you know they
are going to come at you with size, strength and solid execution. I am really
looking forward to playing them."
The last time the two teams faced each other was back in 1985, when the Falcons posted a 24-2 win. However, the Renegades lead the overall series, 13-9. It will be the first meeting ever against College of the Canyons.