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ROSE PALMISANO, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Santa Margarita's KJ Costello, right, is preparing to replace Kyle Sweet as the team's quarterback.

Santa Margarita making handoff at quarterback

OCVARSITY.COM

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA – To Kyle Sweet, KJ Costello has always been the rival on the other team. Sweet and Costello have been playing against each other since their Pop Warner days.

This fall, however, Sweet will probably know his former opponent, Costello, as the guy throwing passes to him.

Costello is expected to take the reins at quarterback as a part of a transition Santa Margarita had always planned on.

The way the Eagles arrived here wasn't in the original plans, though.

The blueprint had the Eagles contending for a CIF title behind Nebraska-bound quarterback Johnny Stanton during his senior season in 2012 and then finding his replacement for the coming season.

But after Stanton was injured – a torn ACL, torn meniscus, and a sprained MCL in his left knee – in a victory against St. Bonaventure on Sept. 21 last season, the process was fast-tracked.

Josh Canty immediately took over at quarterback before Sweet became the team's signal-caller down the road.

Now Sweet is making a transition of his own, from quarterback to wide receiver, making room for the rising sophomore, Costello, to handle quarterbacking duties for a 2013 season that gained added significance Monday when Coach Harry Welch announced that it will be his last as the team's coach.

"With (Kyle) on the field and KJ on the field, we might be a little bit stronger," Welch said about why he made the switch. "I know Kyle can play quarterback, I have to find out if KJ can on the varsity level. I know he will be able to really well, eventually. I have to find out if he can this year."

The transition of Sweet from quarterback to receiver seems to make sense after Welch explains it.

He said Sweet was one the most impressive receivers on the field at each of the three 16-team passing tournaments Santa Margarita participated in during May and June.

And the prospect of Costello realizing a hint of his potential this season, with Sweet making plays on the perimeter, makes the Eagles' offense more formidable.

The duo helped the Eagles win a seven-on-seven passing tournament in May.

The switch of positions won't be any hassle to Sweet.

"I kind of feel more natural at receiver, but I don't really have a preference," he said. "Whatever the coaches want me to do, I'm always happy to do that."

Costello is currently taking the majority of the reps at quarterback, with Sweet and Canty also in the mix.

According to Welch, there's a chance all three players will see the field, with Canty starting at free safety, Sweet at receiver, and Costello at quarterback.

Standing at 6-foot-4, Costello was described as a "young thoroughbred colt" by Welch.

He may have prototypical size, but he's the youngest of the three quarterback candidates.

But that hasn't stopped Costello from taking an upperclassman-like approach as his team prepares for this season.

"I'm treating this year like a senior," Costello said. "I don't want to come out like a young, inexperienced quarterback. I have great coaches around me, great receivers and I'm confident."

Costello played on Santa Margarita's freshman team last season, so there might be obvious concerns about him catching up to the speed of the game at the varsity level.

A midseason call-up to varsity dismissed those notions, according to Costello. He was brought up at the beginning of Trinity League play in 2012 and said the experience helped him become more comfortable with things he'll see on Friday nights this fall.

And the Eagles will hope Costello can adapt quickly, especially with Mater Dei and St. John Bosco of Bellflower poised to field strong teams this season.

Those two, along with Santa Margarita, will participate Saturday in Edison High's passing tournament, known as the Battle at the Beach. The tournament begins at 9 a.m. at Edison.

With Mater Dei and St. John Bosco getting most of the preseason hype, the Eagles are eager to show they remain a contender for the league title.

"That's what (Santa Margarita) football is all about," Sweet said. "We like being the underdog. It just gives us more of an opportunity to impress other people, and that's what fires up everybody."

It's the type of opportunity that could even turn former rivals into the most confident of teammates.

Contact the writer: amorales@ocregister.com


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