Hartnell Panthers Look Towards Another Bowl Visit

Hartnell ended the 2002 regular season with a .500 record and a bowl invitation. The Salinas, Ca. program looks to remain competitive and compete for a conference crown in 2003. Will the Panthers remain in the middle of the pack or could this be their breakout year to finish in the upper division?


Head Coach: Larry Souza (4th season)

2002 Recap: Hartnell finished the season with a 5-6 record, losing to Los Medanos, 35-20, in the East County Bowl. Their offensive philosophy was to establish the run in order to open up opportunities downfield. The Panthers stayed competitive by churning out yardage on the ground, as RB Willie Bongo-Boloweti averaged 174.2 yards per contest. The West Texas A&M recruit gained 1,045 yards while hitting pay dirt 14 times on 121 attempts.  Helping spring Bongo-Boloweti loose was a strong line featuring 6-5, 320-pound Sam Vegas (Arkansas St.). Vegas was a Cal-Hi Wire 1st team All-State selection as selected by StudentSports.com.

2003 Outlook: Hartnell returns four starters on offense and the Panthers again will be running a "fly" offense, according to coach Souza. RB Nick Torres (5-8, 190) leads a group of runners looking to replace the production of Bongo-Boloweti while freshman RB Chris Brown (6-1, 185) from Carmel HS and freshman FB John Hoffman (6-0, 230) provide depth. "Chris has great acceleration and speed while John has good hands, speed and is a devastating blocker," Souza added. Up front the Panthers are a young group led by C Martin Ayon (6-0, 265). WR Manuel Alvarez (6-0, 170) leads the receiving corps and although TE John Pestoni (6-0, 185) is similar in size to Alvarez, coach Souza stated, "John is a very tenacious competitor as well as a good receiver."     

Like many teams trying to establish the run and milk the clock, Hartnell is strong defensively with five returning starters. Their strength is in the secondary with three returning all-conference DB's. S David Gibson (6-0, 190) returns as do twin cornerbacks Art Berlanga and Frankie Berlanga (both 5-9, 175). "The brothers are both team captains, have a good work ethic and are great competitors. On the field, they know what each other is going to do before the other does it. They definitely have that twin thing working," Souza remarked.  DE Ray Magdelano (6-3, 245) switches over from OT, having shed a few pounds and is a versatile athlete, according to Souza. A returnee from 2001, DE Justin Rogers (6-1, 220), has gained an inch and 35 pounds in his time off and will strengthen the D-line along with Magdelano. Adam Beltran (6-0, 230) is another honors candidate who returns at middle linebacker.           

First Game: Friday night at Laney College, 7 p.m.


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