After enduring a six-month delay to begin the pandemic-abbreviated high school football season this past spring, the Titans and new head coach Ray Torres are chomping at the bit to finally see the pigskin fly through the Friday night sky.
San Marino had a four-game appetizer in March and April for the 2020-21 school year’s season, but are looking forward to the main course and a full 10-game slate.
Torres hopes that his presence will pump new life into a squad that was forced to play the waiting game as the 2020 high school football campaign was delayed time and time again. To further complicate matters, former head coach Justin Mesa departed immediately after the Titans’ season-ending victory over Glendale to return to the college ranks at Washington State University. Torres — who served as an assistant under Mesa — was soon hired, putting the wheels in motion for the current campaign.
One of the first tasks is to hold the annual Blue & White Game, an intrasquad scrimmage, which the boys did with some aplomb on Aug. 14 in front of family, fans and friends at Titan Stadium.
“I thought it went really well,” said Torres. “Considering our numbers, the fact that the kids have not been able to have much game experience and with referees on the field for the first time, I thought there were a lot of good things out there. I was really impressed with what we saw from some of the younger guys. We still made some mistakes, but that is why we scrimmage. It helped that we had the officials on the field so we could have a learning experience.”
The “numbers” to which Torres refers is a matter of some concern. The program numbers are in the mid-40s, which means that the Titans will field only two teams — varsity and frosh-soph — again this year. But Torres was too busy counting the number of big plays, not the number of players.
“The players we expected to play big, did,” said Torres. “But there were a lot of pleasant surprises. Because of the low numbers, we have to find the starters and then sort of rest them. We are hoping to take them off the special teams and give them a rest when we can.”
Torres will be counting on Ryan Singhal, a junior who plays running back and inside linebacker. With his size, speed and intensity, it would be better said that Singhal plays “wherever he wants.”
“Ryan is going to be a big part of the offense,” said Torres. “He is a smart kid and he is going to be huge for us. One of our main priorities is to keep him healthy.”
Singhal made some key plays earlier this spring but Torres kept him under wraps on Saturday, giving his bell cow only about five carries. Expect a lot more on Friday.
When Singhal isn’t running the ball, senior quarterback Niko Mavridis most likely will be throwing it. Mavridis temporarily left the program, but returned to the fold earlier this summer.
“We are really excited to have him back,” said Torres. “He is a kid that I definitely get along with. He obviously played last year and that makes it easy for me that I don’t have to say the same thing over and over. Even coming back a little late, he has grasped it all. He knows how to read the defense and that has been huge. I consider him to be like having a coach on the field.”
Mavridis also plays safety for the Titan defense, prompting Torres to add that it will be a challenge to keep his quarterback “fresh.”
Senior Michael Prappas, who plays slot receiver on offense and inside linebacker on the other side of the ball, developed a reputation last season for his hard hitting.
“Michael has played really well so far this year,” Torres said. “We were expecting a lot from him and he will be key because he is also a two-way player. He played really well Saturday.”
Senior Andrew Hornberger also impressed his coaches. Hornberger will start at one of the wide receiver positions and also at rover back — a hybrid linebacker and defensive back.
“Andrew played really well,” Torres said. “He ran the ball very well after the catch and looks very strong. He has impressed us just from last year, and that was only a few months ago.”
Sophomore Nick Escamilla had a fine scrimmage, playing at wide receiver and free safety.
“From watching him play last season, he has already improved so much it is mind-boggling,” Torres exclaimed. “It is really impressive how much he has progressed.”
Preston Montano, also a sophomore, has impressed the coaching squad with his effort. At 5-5 and 130 pounds, Montano made several tackles during Saturday’s scrimmage.
“He does a lot of things that you don’t expect from someone his size,” Torres added. “He is a tough kid and he has impressed the coaching staff.”
The same can be said of his classmate, Clement Chung, who is tuning heads at inside linebacker.
“He is going to get significant playing time,” Torres said. “He has matured and that has helped out a lot. Clem is a smart player who pays attention to to detail. He is going to get a lot of playing time.”
After wowing fans of the frosh-soph team this spring as the squad’s quarterback, sophomore Coleman Morning will move to wide receiver for the Titans.
“Coleman will turn into one of the best players on the team,” said Torres. “He has so much athletic ability and he is a very consistent player. Coleman understands football very well. He is going to be helping us out a lot. Coleman is a very quiet young man, but he plays very loudly.”
For the first time in memory, the Titans will be starting a freshman on the varsity squad when San Marino travels to Norwalk tomorrow night. Mitch Mooney is slated to start at the right guard position, a spot he has earned through hard work.
“Mitch is another kid that I have real high expectations for,” Torres said. “Every year he is going to improve. He is only a freshman but he gets it right away. He will definitely grow into his body. This will be his first experience and I believe he is going to do well.”
Mooney will be joined on the offensive line by right tackle Tim Irie, center Gannon Gill, guard Owen Grannis and tackle Brendan Gill, a senior.
“This group hasn’t had a lot of time to play together but they are getting very comfortable with one another,” Torres said. “Their performance will be one of the keys to our success.” Junior Julian Navarette will also get playing time on the offensive line.
“He is a big, active kid,” Torres said. “He is a very good football player.’
Seniors Brendan Long and James Bell are expected to get a lot of playing time at the defensive end spots.
Sophomore Jayan Anvekar has grown in size and ability and will get some playing time at inside receiver and defensive end.
“Jayan is a really good-sized kid,” said Torres. “He is part of that sophomore class that has us excited. Jayan is a hard worker. He is also aggressive and strong and will be a big part of our defense.”
Junior Riley Short will back up Mavridis at both quarterback and defensive back.
“His intensity is what I want for our football team,” said Torres. “Riley gets everyone involved and makes the team that much better. I am expecting Riley to play some significant minutes because Niko plays both ways.”
Just a freshman, Brady Beck threw some solid passes at the scrimmage.
“Brady played really well,” said Torres. “He is one of those ‘I want to know’ kind of kids who asks a lot of questions, which I love. Brady has a bright future.”
Torres was also impressed with sophomores Ryder Yoshitake, Nathan Yarahmadi, Ryan Park, Trevor Anton, Tomas Bilvado and Carson Herren, who had an interception during the scrimmage.
Park is the son of Dr. Steve Park, a San Marino alum who once held the career record for pass receptions.
Julian Solis made an immediate impression on followers of Titan football with several dynamic plays. Just a freshman, Solis is a rugby player by trade and is just now learning football.
“I expect him to be a big-time player,” Torres said. “He will learn by getting a lot of playing experience. Julian is already fast and has good size.”
Sophomore Mikey Yessaian made waves this past spring as a freshman.
“It’s crazy how athletic he is,” said Torres of the receiver and defensive back. “He is relatively new to football and I hope we can continue to coach him up. Mikey is comfortable and natural catching and running the ball.”
Meanwhile, senior Jayden Hollomand, a fixture on the basketball court, has decided to try his hand at football.
“He has been on the football team for only three weeks and the first thing we noticed is how athletic he is,” Torres said. “He is a natural catcher of the football. We expect him to play receiver and cornerback and I think he is going to be huge for us. But he is still learning.”
Junior Alexander Parwar underwent knee surgery and is done for the year, but his brother Chris, a freshman, is hoping to make a name for himself.
“Chris is really fast,” Torres added of the wide receiver and cornerback.
Others vying for playing time are J.J. Wilson, Toby Pedroza, Mohanan Vasu, Felix Steinberger, Jason Stallworth, Chris Zhang, Caleb Newton, Joseph Wong, Kevin Wong and Ryan Gulick. Sophomore linebacker Liam Van Fossan played well earlier this year for the frosh-soph.
“The more he plays, the better he will get,” said Torres.
Torres hopes that experience will also prove beneficial to his coaching staff, which includes David Torres (his brother), who will work with the offensive line; Will Torres (of no relation), who coached with him at Los Angeles Cathedral High School and works with backs and receivers; Alex Madrigal, the offensive line coach; Raul Solis, the defensive line coach and David Bravo, the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
“I really like this group,” said the head man. “They are all good communicators and are solution-oriented leaders.”