Albano notes: Revamped Godinez unveils winning look
Godinez first-year football coach Michael Echaves counted the element of surprise as an advantage going into the Grizzlies’ season opener.
But as it turned out, that wasn’t the only factor working for Godinez as it defeated Los Amigos, 29-7, in one of the surprising results from Week 1.
Coming off a winless 2014 campaign, the Grizzlies showed changes that run deeper than the adoption of the power spread offense and La Habra’s defensive scheme.
Their victory against Los Amigos, a quarterfinalist in the Southern Division last season and ranked eighth last week, signaled the successful assembly of a coaching staff and the potential emergence of a program.
“We were ecstatic,” said Echaves, a former Fullerton quarterback who arrived at Godinez from Segerstrom in March.
“Did we think we were going to win by what we won by? No. … We kind of didn’t know what to expect because we had so many new players in key roles.”
Echaves, 31, believes the victory showcased the positives and promise in Godinez, a fundamental school in Santa Ana. Last season, Los Amigos beat the Grizzlies, 31-8.
Assembling a strong coaching staff topped Echaves’ initial priorities. He said the additions of on-campus coaches Kevin Pola and Emilio Espinoza were early successes.
Echaves’ staff includes character development coach, Cooper C’de Baca.
Defensive coordinator Tom Heathington is running a scheme modeled after La Habra, a unit Echaves grew to admire while playing and coaching at Fullerton.
Echaves also credits the attitude of his players, who swelled the program’s size to almost 170 students this season.
“When I got there, the kids were extremely excited and hungry,” he said.
“I knew we had some tough kids. It just needed to be brought out of them.”
Godinez has found playmakers in that large cast. First-year quarterback Bryan Ibarra (6-2, 190) and middle linebacker Richy Tochihuitl (5-10, 220) – both juniors - have quickly emerged. Ibarra rushed for 240 yards against Los Amigos.
“He’s an amazing athlete,” Echaves said of Ibarra, who also plays soccer. “(Tochihuitl) led us in tackles last week with 14 and a sack.”
Godinez’s victory contributed to a fast start by the Orange Coast League. The league is 8-1 through the first two weeks.
The Grizzlies play another resurgent program, Sunny Hills (1-1), at Buena Park on Friday.
Los Amigos, part of the 1-6 Garden Grove League, hopes to bounce back against Cypress (0-2) at Western on Friday.
"We had a lot of issues the week leading up to the game," Los Amigos coach Carl Agnew said. "We hope to have those fixed."
Orange Lutheran coach Chuck Petersen believes the maturation and experience of his players have contributed heavily to the Lancers’ 2-0 start.
He pointed to the work in the weight room by defensive tackles Scean Mustin (6-2, 294) and Josh Witherspoon (5-9, 275), defensive end Travis Yates (6-3, 260) and offensive linemen Adam Heigis (6-6, 280), Logan Bathke (6-5, 270), Alex Dalpe (6-4, 240) and Lino Vaccher (6-4, 300).
“If you look at us getting off the bus, we look like a different football team,” Petersen said. “The weight room and commitment there has been tremendous.”
Petersen also believes the experience gained by six juniors who started last season is showing. The players are Witherspoon, Yates, rising safety Brandon McKinney, cornerback Lance Dravis, fullback Dominik Austin and wide receiver Austin Liles.
“They’ve been in a battle,” Petersen said.
The Lancers' maturation and experience should help them this Friday when they take on defending Pac-5 Division champion Centennial of Corona at Orange Coast College.
Click below to view a preview of Orange Lutheran's game against Centennial at the 5:45 mark.
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