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ANA VENEGAS, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Myron Miller, center, who is returning this season as Tustin's head coach, poses with six of the team's top players. They are, from left, Gregory Kimble, Shaquille Alacati, KC Carr III, Sagel Simon II, Marwin Alacati and Sai Mikaio.

OCVarsity Kickoff '16: Empire League preview

STAFF WRITER

OCVarsity’s scouting report for the Empire League:

OC VARSITY PREDICTS

1. Tustin: Everybody in the league knows what to expect from a Myron Miller coached team. That’s the easy part. The difficulty comes when you have to find a way to slow down the bruising Tillers.

2. Pacifica: The Mariners are the team to watch this season with 14 returning starters, including four on the offensive line and some key transfers slated to contribute. Getting some inexperiecnced players up to speed quickly will benefit the Mariners by the start of league.

3. Valencia: Mike Marrujo is no longer coaching the team, but no one should count out the Tigers when it comes to competing for the league title. The Tigers have to replace some valuable players from last year’s league championship team, and they figure to be a better team at the end of the year.

4. Cypress: The Centurions struggled following the graduation of a large senior class. The coaching staff is hoping this year’s group takes a step upward in the league standings, thanks to a strong group of skill position players returning.

5. Kennedy: The Fighting Irish took advantage of strong senior leadership to finish third and qualify for the CIF playoffs last season. This year, Kennedy will need a strong effort from the upperclassmen to pull off the feat again.

6. Western: The Pioneers went out on a strong note last year with its vicotry over Cypress. The development of their young players will be the big key if they’re able to stay competitive this season.

LEAGUE COACHES POLL

1. Tustin, 35 poll points (5)

2. Valencia, 29 (1)

3T. Cypress, 21

3T. Pacifica, 21

5. Kennedy, 14

6. Western, 7

How the poll works: The coaches do the voting. First-place votes (shown in parentheses) are worth 6 points, second are worth 5, etc.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT

Isaac Togia, Pacifica: Togia (6-1, 215) is entering his third year as a starter. He’s likely to see time at running back, but middle linebacker will be where he makes his biggest impact. Coach Vinnie Lopez said Togia caught the eye of many college recruiters during the summer and is receiving interest from several Division I schools. Lopez said he expects Togia to be the leader on defense and set the tone for the Mariners.

OTHER IMPACT PLAYERS

Jordan Hawkins, Western, WR: Two-way starter last year, Hawkins will be a key to the Pioneers’ passing game and also on defense at corner.

Jahquon Speed, Valencia, RB: Speed nearly went over 1,000 yards last year, but only topped 100 yards in one league game.

Marwin Zaragoza, Tustin, FB/MLB: The returning first-team All-Empire League linebacker is also expected to contribute on offense this year.

Ben Jefferson, Pacifica, QB: The Mariners are looking for big things from their junior quarterback. Coach Vinnie Lopez describes him as a smart football player and the fastest player on the team.

Dominique Thompson, Cypress, WR: Thompson is a key returning player for the Centurions. He earned first-team all-league honors last year and will see time on defense.

Arthur Perales, Kennedy, SS: The junior is a fixture on the Kennedy defense. He earned first-team all-league honors last year and will be looking to do the same this season.

MUST-SEE GAMES

Tustin vs. Foothill, Sept. 2: Tustin and Foothill. What else needs to be said?

Tustin vs. Valencia, Oct. 28: The Tigers have won consecutive league titles and the Tillers are the favorites to dethrone them.

Pacifica vs. Tustin, Oct. 14: The Mariners have a tough start to open league, facing Valencia and then this game against Tustin.

Cypress vs. Western, Oct. 14: The Pioneers closed the regular season with a victory over Cypress last season.

RELATED LINKS

Contact the writer: dcalhoun@scng.com


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