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GAHR FOOTBALL: Players transferring out means Gahr nearly starts all over again

2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW

By Loren Kopff

GAHR GLADIATORS

3-7 overall last season, 1-4 in the San Gabriel Valley League, fifth place, 26-25 overall last five seasons

Head coach: Greg Marshall (12th season, 61-53)

Lost 10 seniors out of 36 from 2013 opening day roster

Last time made the playoffs: 2009

2014 schedule

Aug. 29           California (4-6 overall last season)

Sept. 5Mayfair (5-6)

Sept. [email protected]       Cerritos (2-8)

Sept. 19          Artesia (6-4)

Sept. 26 @      Fullerton (10-3)

Oct. 3              BYE

Oct. 10 @       Warren (0-10)

Oct. 17 (HC)   Paramount (7-4)

Oct. 24 @       Downey (6-5)

Oct. 31            Dominguez (8-4)

Nov. 7             Lynwood (4-6)

The 2013 season was one that Gahr head coach Greg Marshall would simply not like to duplicate, for several reasons. Not only did the Gladiators win two games on the field (a third was awarded via forfeit), but the program was mired in controversy virtually the entire season. Although the roster grew close to 50 after the first four games, a truck load of players transferred out in June. Now, the Gladiators have to find a way to erase the memory of the program’s worst record since 2004 and their worst San Gabriel Valley League mark since 2006.

“It wasn’t difficult because we knew what we had,” Marshall said. “The difficult part is when you think you’re going to be something and you’re not. We were exactly who we were. We played a good first half and then we play a bad three or four minutes and it’s game over.”

Marshall indicated that the positives that came out of last season were just knowing who Gahr is and how the team is going to do [the job at hand]. But entering this season, Gahr has to figure out how to put up points and how it’s going to win games, according to the 12-year veteran coach. He did say that no matter what has happened, the kids always come to play and they keep their heads up. That has never been a problem at Gahr. But, this will be a much different team as the following players are no longer with the program- senior wide receiver/defensive back William Latham (Buena Park), junior wide receiver Keynin Charbonnet (Los Alamitos), junior defensive back Phillip Enewally (La Mirada), junior running back/defensive back Jacob Green (Narbonne), junior defensive back Hinckley Ropati (Paramount), junior outside linebacker Keanu Saleapaga (Long Beach Poly), junior running back/linebacker Taylor Williams (Cypress), sophomore wide receiver Elijah Hicks (St. John Bosco) and sophomore quarterback Kobee Lagarde (Downey). From Aug. of last year to now, Lagarde has transferred from Gahr to Narbonne, back to Gahr, then to Los Alamitos and Salesian before coming back to Gahr. Once school ended, he went back to Los Alamitos before ending up at Downey. Of Gahr’s first 18 touchdowns last season, Lagarde threw 11 of them with all but one going for at least 20 yards.

“It’s a major impact,” Marshall said of the loss of the aforementioned players. “Like I told the guys last year, we were going to take our lumps last year for this year. We should have been really good this year. But life changes and things happen, so we’re right back where we were. We’re not as young as we were last year. I think we’ll be better offensively this year but not as good defensively as we were last year.”

OFFENSE

Gahr scored 152 points last season and was shutout in the first two games and three times overall while scoring less than eight points two other times. A familiar face returns to take over the quarterbacking duties as senior Malik Smith, who transfers in from St. Anthony but didn’t play football last season, was at Gahr for two years. He will be backed up by junior Justin Garrett and sophomore Latrell Stearns.

“The good thing is he’s about the same level as everyone else because we totally changed the offense to more of an Auburn [University] offense where the quarterback is running the football a little bit more,” Marshall said of Smith. “We put our fly game back in, trying to stretch the field with our speed.”

The backfield will consist of senior Leotis Johnson III, who figures to get the ball a lot as the most experienced running back, and whoever isn’t under center at that time. Junior De’Jah Pickett is the team’s leading wide receiver coming back. He will be joined by sophomores Alonzo Davis and Erik Renfroe Spurlin. Garrett could also find himself catching some balls.

Up on the line will be junior left tackle Julian Dawson, sophomore left guard, DeCarlos Frazier, veteran senior center Troy Orozco, sophomore right guard Joshua Paul and senior right tackle Marcus Kelly.

Gahr will definitely lack depth this year but Marshall believes the execution level should be a lot better as there will be a little more deception on this side of the ball.

“It does concern me because we’ve had injury problems for the last three or four years,” Marshall said. “Every time I try to evaluate the program, I can’t evaluate it because I go back and [say], ‘he’s not there, he’s not there’. When you don’t have [injuries], you have a good year. When you have them, you’re just trying to get by.”

DEFENSE

The defense gave up 49 more points than previous season and allowed more than 25 points eight times, including 42 points in consecutive games to Downey and Dominguez late in the season. Senior Christopher Rodriguez and juniors Michael Partida and Kyle Pickard will occupy the line while the secondary will be led by senior Mark Dominguez, junior Eric Rhodes, sophomore Isiah Mays, Garrett, Johnson and Pickett while Orozco, Stearns and maybe Rodriguez will spearhead the linebacker position.

“We played pretty good people last year, so I thought defensively we were really good,” Marshall said. “We just got stuck out there again and gave up some points at the end. When I evaluated the defense, the defense was right on.”

SCHEDULE

Gahr will open the season against California, an opponent it hasn’t faced since 1999, a 43-3 loss on the road. That will be followed by three straight games against teams from the Suburban League. The Gladiators and Mayfair will meet for the first time since 2005 and Gahr has lost at least the last four games against the Monsoons. Cerritos is much improved despite the record while Artesia’s 29-27 win over the Gladiators last season snapped a four-game Gahr winning streak in the series. Gahr will wrap up its non league portion with a meeting against Fullerton, a semifinalist out of the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section’s Southwest Division. These two teams haven’t met since 2003, a 45-21 Fullerton win.

“We scheduled the Cal High game because they were like us,” Marshall said. “They’re very young and had a lot of guys coming back. But now, we’re back to where we were [last year], so it’s going to be a challenge. We’re going to have to score fast and move the ball early to combat their size. That game can go either way.”

Once league begins, it won’t get easy for the Gladiators, who have had just three winning league marks (2007-2009) this century. Gahr’s last trip to Warren resulted in a rare victory in the city of Downey. Since 1998, Gahr is a combined 1-11 on the road against both Downey and Warren. However, the Gladiators have knocked off Lynwood three straight times at Hanford Rants Stadium.

Marshall concluded that the key to this season will be staying healthy and staying the course without changing just to stay alive in games.

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