TEAM & PROSPECT PREVIEW: Orange Coast College

The Orange Coast Pirates will be looking to rebound this season after a poor 3-7 record a year ago. It wasn't just that they finished 4 games below .500 but that they had Nick Higgs returning at quarterback along with many of their other weapons from a 2000 team that tied for the Central Division crown.

Head coach Mike Taylor, entering his 4th season as the headman, was just as baffled as many others when trying to figure out what happened. "I don't know how you explain those things. It was a Cinderella season for (Higgs) in 2000 and when 2001 rolled around he was the guy running the show. And he had some hard times as far as interceptions and decision-making. I, just, I don't know," said Taylor.

The Pirates have a lot of talent coming in this season. They are the deepest and most experienced on the offensive line. The team is full of talented freshmen that, despite this being their first year, are experienced in that they have sat out one or two years. Here are the players that will try to make the difference this season:

T Pat Afif (6-8, 320) SO Temecula Valley HS
Second team All-Mission Conference Central Division. Highly recruited. Has gotten a lot of letters from Boston College and Arizona. Graduates in Dec ‘02.

T Stephen Herring (6-5, 270) SO Sonora HS
Notes: Started 9 games last season. Very athletic. Dec ‘02 grad.

G Keola Loo (6-1, 295) SO St. Louis HS
Notes: Bounce back from University of Hawaii. "Physically he's probably as good as we've ever had here since I've been in here in 1986." Quick, strong, aggressive. Spring ‘03 graduate. Performed very well at the SoCal Combine last May and caught the eye of many four-year colleges.

G Donnie Garcia (5-11, 300) RS-SO Calvary Chapel HS
Started on the 2000 team. Athletic, great feet. Can play C or G. Dec ‘02 grad.

C Ed Fane (6-1, 275) SO Fountain Valley HS
Similar to Loo in style. Nasty, quick, tough. All-Mission Conference Central Division last year. Dec ‘02 grad.

TE Justin Rose (6-2, 225) SO Douglas HS (Juneau, AK)
Backup last year to Brandon Hall, who signed with Cal-Berkeley. Featured in the offense.

TE Zach Nillson (6-4, 230) FR Edison HS
Will get playing time in two tight end sets.

WR Coleman Menke (6-1, 190) FR Great Falls, MT|
Notes: Bounceback from University of Mary in SD last year but didn't like the weather. Good possession receiver. Runs good routes.

WR Andrew Taylor (5-10, 175) FR Centennial HS
Quick. Will be used as a KR as well.

QB Jason Kripavicius (6-2, 215) SO Edison HS
Backup to Higgs last year. Got injured in second half of the season. Has a strong arm. May ‘03 grad.

QB Derek Aspinwall (6-0, 175) FR Great Falls, MT
Notes: He and Menke were also HS teammates.

FB/HB Tim Ribich (5-10, 190) FR San Luis Obispo HS
Notes: All-CIF Defensive lineman and fullback. Will be more of a blocking back than carrying than carrying the football.

FB/HB Billy Battle (5-8, 215) SO Woodbridge HS
Notes: Played for OCC in '97 as D-lineman. Was in the military for the last 5 years. One of the strongest players on the team.

FB/HB Grant Malton (6-2 230) FR Mater Dei HS
Notes: Played LB in HS. Bounceback from Northern Arizona. More athletic than the other FB/HBs.

TB Niles Mittasch (6-0, 205) SO Churchill HS (OR)
Returning starter. Stats last season: 153-774 yds., 5.1 ypc., 4 TD's. Rushed for 160 yards vs. Pasadena last year. All-Mission Conference Central Division.

TB Dan Hawkey (6-0, 185) FR Maria Carrillo HS
Notes: Good runner and can also catch out of the backfield.

TB Stephen Mahelona (5-11, 210) SO Kona Waena HS (HI)
Bounceback from University of Hawaii. Lettered at U of H last year.

P Nick Ross (6-0, 180) SO Sonora HS
Notes: Returning starter. Stats last season: 48-1831 38.1 ypp long of 56. Was placekicker last season as well. PATs: 14-17, FGs: 0-1. Dec ‘02 grad.

DE Bill Haley (6-3, 280) SO Edison HS

DE Ryan Miller (6-1, 220) FR Churchill HS (OR)
Teammate of Mittasch in HS. Played FB and DE in HS.

DT James Canetti (6-4, 295) SO Torrance HS
Notes: Converted from OL mid-season last year. Can play offense or defense equally well. Dec ‘02 grad.

DT Jesse Mahelona (6-2, 285) FR Kealakehe HS (HI)
Brother of Stephen. Has starred so far in practices and scrimmages.

DT Russ Chemberlen (6-2, 260) SO Huntington Beach HS
Notes: Returning player. 14 tackles last season. Good motor can play DT or DE. Dec ‘02 grad.

OLB Dan Steinau (6-0, 205) SO El Toro HS
Notes: All-Mission Conference Central Division last year. Led conference with 118 tackles. Dec ‘02 grad.

MLB Fahad Jahid (6-0, 240) RS FR Estancia HS
Notes: All-CIF two years ago.

MLB Ricky Tovar (6-2, 235) SO Los Altos HS
73 tackles last season. Had 23 tackles vs Saddleback last season. Will back up Jahid to start this season. Dec ‘02 grad.

OLB Matt Pettit (6-2, 215) SO Ft. Zumwalt HS (MO)
Can cover TE's or in space. Dec ‘02 grad.

About the secondary Coach Taylor says, "We're really pleased with our secondary. I think we've got a chance to be better than we've been in maybe ten years or so."

CB Kelvin Beatty (5-11, 175) FR Kennedy HS
Notes: Transfer from Cerritos College. Team's best cover corner. Runs 4.4-4.5 in the 40.

CB Jason Brooks (6-0, 185) FR Churchill HS (OR)
Will play in nickel package. Runs 4.5 in 40.

CB Brian Cristol (5-9, 200) FR
Notes: Is also long snapper. USC has already contacted him about walking as their long snapper.

S Adrian Calloway (6-1, 190) SO Murietta Valley HS
Notes: Returning starter. 53 tackles last season 1 INT as CB. Dec ‘02 grad.

S Josh Gonzalez (6-0, 185) RS-SO
Notes: Played in 2000. Had 35 tackles. He's quick and a good hitter. Spring ‘03 grad.

S Andrew Bergsetter (6-0, 195) SO Edison HS
Backup last year. Good hitter with a nose for the football. Dec ‘02 grad.

S Una Latu (5-10, 185) FR St. Louis HS
Notes: Bounceback from University of Hawaii. Top defensive player in high school on top 5 ranked team in nation.

Mike Taylor is happy to have Doug Smith take over as the new offensive coordinator. Smith played center for the Rams for 16 years and coached under John Robinson at USC. The offense will feature more 2-back sets than before but it will be a more conservative game plan than in the past.

"I think we'd like to run the football and control the clock more than we have," said Taylor.

Coach Taylor still sees Palomar as the team to beat in the Central Division. The goals for his team are to stay competitive and improve.

"We're going to have to take it one game at a time. All of those clichés are true. We just have to stay healthy and grow as an offensive team and play solid defense those first few weeks to have a chance."

The regular season begins on Saturday, September 14th when the Pirates host the East L.A. Huskies.

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