2002 Foothill Conference Predictions and Overview

Few conferences may be as tough to predict as the Foothill in 2002. Despite the parity, however, JC Grid-Wire and JCFootball.com have broken down each team and provided pre-season prognostications. Could this be the year of the darkhorse contender in the Foothill?

2001 Final Regular Season Standings
Standings
Conference
Overall
School
W
L
T
W
L
T
Chaffey
8
0
0
10
0
0
Grossmont
7
1
0
9
1
0
Antelope Valley
5
3
0
7
3
0
Mt. San Jacinto
5
3
0
6
4
0
San Diego Mesa
3
5
0
5
5
0
Southwestern
3
5
0
4
6
0
San Bernardino
3
5
0
4
6
0
Victor Valley
2
6
0
4
6
0
Desert
0
8
0
2
8
0

ANTELOPE VALLEY 
Veteran coach Brent Carder, starting his 33rd year at AVC, has a number of offensive weapons to challenge the Foothill Conference elite.  He also has to replace two great tailbacks (DeAndre Cobb & Jason Anderson) and a shifty quarterback (Cory Allred) from his 2001 squad that finished 7-4. Although the defense returns no starters, Carder believes the unit should be improved over 2001.

A possible replacement at quarterback is Jamar Culver (6-3, 215), who is back after a year off and runs a 4.7 forty. He backed up now-departed Allred two season ago. If not Culver, then it'll be Jerad Romo (6-1, 215), a physical athlete with a 4.6 forty. Whoever wins the job will have a pair of excellent targets in Jerome Wright (6-0, 175) and James Laurence (6-5, 230). The latter bench presses 345, hauled in 28 balls last season, and is an accomplished hurdler, triple- and long-jumper. Wright, who runs a sub-4.5 forty, is returning after a year away from Antelope Valley. In 2000, he was AVC's leading receiver with approximately 45 catches.

Player to watch – Laurence. He will play a little tight end in addition to wide out. Creates mismatches with linebackers and DBs.

CHAFFEY
Carl Beach knows the importance of a veteran QB in JC football.  He loses Jeff Disney, but feels that San Bernardino Valley transfer, Nick Fotia, will handle the job nicely.

The Panthers have gone 10-1, 9-2 and 8-3 the last three years.  RB John Bogarin returns and the 5-9, 200-pounder tallied 14 TDs last year, scoring on runs and returns.  The defense should be solid with several very talented freshmen incoming, especially in the defensive backfield. The overall feeling is that the Panthers may have trouble getting to the seven or eight win plateau.

Player to watch – OG Nik Sorenson (6-3, 280) returns after a very solid freshman campaign.

COLLEGE OF DESERT
Fred Fimbres left Cerritos after eight seasons to take over as head coach for Reed Benjamin, who had held an interim HC title since through last season.  Is it an impossible task to win at COD? Fimbres doesn't think so, especially if he can get the right kind of athletes into his program. "Can it be turned around? Yes. We're far enough away that people going here will get a real college experience. There's only seven high schools in the area. It affords an opportunity for young men to mature being away from home," said Fimbres, who pointed out that COD won the conference back in the mid-nineties.

The Roadrunners have a lot of work to do to even match the 5-5 record of 1999, the best mark in five years. It looked like last year's quarterback, Mike Wegener, would be back to lead the offense. But he has left the program. In his place will be San Diego State bounceback, Danny Armstrong (6-1, 195), a very athletic, well-rounded quarterback. His main target will probably be sophomore Shavargo Hayes (6-2, 210), who redshirted in 2001 with a hand injury. "He's not a blazer but can play outside. A Shannon Sharpe type...an H-Back type. Physical and fast enough," said Fimbres. Sophomore Running back Miles Bunch (5-11, 195) is a burner with 4.4 speed. The offensive line should be steady with freshman offensive guard Dustin Mitchell (6-3, 280) and returning sophomore Antoine Battle (6-3, 310) leading the way. Fimbres believes that Mitchell, an East Tennessee St. signee out of Palm Desert HS, could be one to watch.

The unquestioned leader on defense is linebacker Josh Lealofi (6-2, 255) from Barstow HS. He's a returning starter who is tough off the corner and very explosive. He's also a star in the classroom, which helps explain why Utah State, Oregon, and Oregon State are among those showing early interest.

Fimbres should bring a lot of lessons with him from Cerritos, one of the nation's finer programs. He'll probably need a few years, though, for any new magic to kick in.

Player to watch – Freshman defensive tackle Donald Craft (6-2, 300) from Houston, Texas. He's a converted tight end who redshirted with a hand injury last season.

GROSSMONT
The bad news is that heralded DB Josh Golden jumped ship and signed with Arizona State.  The good news is the Griffins seem to have plenty of talent to overcome the loss.  Dave Jordan has three QBs to choose from: Mike Clark (5-11, 175; returning soph.), Tanner Engstrang (6-2, 185; returning soph.) and Neal Sharma (6-2, 200; transfer). And then there's one of the nation's finest running back prospects in Michael Yancy, a former professional baseball player (NY Mets; 3 years) and high school All-American football player who signed with Oregon just before the baseball draft. New Mexico offered Yancy last year and Oregon State, Arizona State, USC, and others are interested now. Last year at Grossmont he averaged 6.0 yard per carry on 78 carries.  Terrance Hibbler (6-5, 255) and Kyle Bacheler (6-4, 255) are outstanding tight ends. 

On defense keep an eye on ILB John Castillo (6-0, 230) and cornerback Eric Peterman (5-9, 175). Both are returning starters who bring a lot to the table.

The team seems to be loaded and looking for No. 1. Other coaches in the conference seem to think that Grossmont is the team to beat, too.

Player to watch – Prince Milton, DL, 6-3, 252.

MT. SAN JACINTO
Mt. San Jacinto
usually ends up on the plus side of the ledger and this year shouldn't be any different. Their modified Wing-T offense causes problems for opposing defenses and the players are usually very disciplined in their approach.

Coach Greg Shaw is high on returning QB Daniel DeNardo (6-2, 190), who threw for 1,500 yards and 14 TDs last year.  He works behind a solid and huge offensive line featuring 6-4, 350-pound center, Robert Stover. Tight end Tyler Johnson (6-3, 260), whose brother Brett graduated from Mt. San Jacinto last year, is a great blocker too. By the way, Brett walked on at Washington State and is enjoying an excellent fall camp.

The defense should be steady, especially if inside 'backer Reuben Martinez (6-2, 240) plays up to his potential.

Player to watch – Sophomore DE Ryan Forrest (6-3, 235). Very swift rusher who will get D1 offers.

SAN BERNARDINO VALLEY
Ron Smedley's Indians have had three straight losing seasons and the recent departures of two key assistants, Bob Stangel, Jr. and Skip Fazio,  won't help right the ship.  "Those were quality guys and are hard to replace," said Smedley.

No doubt there is talent lurking at SBVC, especially at the skill positions. Opposing defenses will be looking for a way to stop Donta Jackson, a fast, athletic WR/RB who also returns kicks. The guy to watch on the O-line is Jimmy Stewart (6-5, 310). It sounds like the quarterback position will be in the hands of either Cody Fisher (6-0, 175) or Sergio Oliver (6-3, 200), both of whom enter their third year with the program (gray shirts in 2000).

The defensive front features several guys with playing experience as does the secondary.

SBVC will need some breaks and the freshman must come through. Getting new coordinators hired wouldn't hurt any either.

Player to watch – Defensive tackle Jameel James (6-6, 310), who played basketball in high school.

SAN DIEGO MESA
This could be the year for Martin Moss and his Olympians. His team has a nice blend of talent, including slick QB Mike Rathe (6-2, 210) who is coming back from a hand injury suffered after the first game of 2001. Rathe had a great showing at the JCFootball.com SoCal Combine last May and seems poised for a great season.  Center Cary Nagel transferred from DeAnza up north and is doing a nice job thus far in camp.  High school flash, Justin Green, will take the place of Jimmy Green (Colorado St. signee) who accounted for 864 yards last year. Justin was San Diego State's number two tailback last season and was a prep phenom in high school. Apparently, he has not disappointed so far.

The defense should be solid but will need to replace last year's starting inside linebacker Ryan Clark (6-2, 235), who left the team.

Moss also needs to replace talented kicker Todd Gohsler.

Player to watch – Defensive end Paul Howse (6-2, 270). He's got good quickness and strength.

SOUTHWESTERN
Walt Justice hand selected eight new coaches for his staff, six of whom are former Apaches players. All of them want to improve upon last year's 4-6 record, which came on the heels of a 9-2 season in 2000.

Look for David Bellinger (6-1, 195) to secure the starting quarterback position. He redshirted last season and really knows the offense. The guy to watch in the backfield is freshman Vernon Jones (6-0, 195) from Hendersonville, North Carolina. Justice really likes his receiving corps, which is led by Isa Abdul-Aziz (6-5, 205) and Chad Donaldson (5-8, 155). The latter was an All-Conference return specialist last season and is a former Marine. Tight end Matt Gravette (6-3, 235) has soft hands and will be a team captain. If the offensive line comes together then watch out for this offense.

Justice has a nice front seven on defense but the secondary will be all freshmen.

At least seven D1 prospects dot the roster.

Player to watch – Outside linebacker Marcel Lagrone (6-2, 200). A team captain who runs like a deer; 95 tackles and an INT for a touchdown in 2001. He's also a great student.

VICTOR VALLEY
One of the sweetest passing attacks in JC football lays in California's upper desert weeds. Dave Hoover's Rams rate at least a darkhorse tab with the likes of QB Dylan Lockwood (6-5, 190) who threw for 2,754 yards and 21 TDs and WR Jamel Richardson (6-2, 205), a J.C. Grid-Wire All-American as a freshman after catching 53 passes for a whopping 1,081 yards and 15 scores.  Unfortunately for Hoover, running back Zeke Buckhalter didn't make it academically and won't be on the squad. Talented freshman Derek Gooden (5-10, 215) might be faster and will take over for Buckhalter. The offensive line has been a problem spot for VVC in the past, but maybe less so in '02. Offensive guard Richard Medina (6-2, 290) is a potential D1 guy and there are several out-of-staters poised to make an impact. The deepest position on the team is wide receiver, where Richardson and "Ozzy" Mathis (6-4, 210) will make their presences felt.

VVC has one of southern California's better linebackers in John McCoy (6-2, 255). He registered 19 sacks as a defensive end in 2001 and plays with great discipline and intensity. Many D1 schools are showing a high level of interest.

Player to watch – Freshman quarterback Scott Jeffries (6-4, 225) from Ohio. He will definitely play this year behind Lockwood and will be one to watch next year per Hoover.

Predictions: 
Hank Ives, JC Grid-Wire

  1. San Diego Mesa
  2. Grossmont
  3. Victor Valley
  4. Chaffey
  5. Mt. San Jacinto
  6. Antelope Valley
  7. Southwestern
  8. San Bernardino
  9. College of Desert

Predictions:
Kevin Lustgarten, JCFootball.com

  1. Victor Valley
  2. Grossmont
  3. S.D. Mesa
  4. Southwestern
  5. Chaffey
  6. Mt. San Jacinto
  7. Antelope Valley
  8. College of the Desert
  9. San Bernardino Valley

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