Last Thursday night we got our first glance of Chaminade football, as the Eagles took on Narbonne in a friendly scrimmage in West Hills. Narbonne, who according to Eric Sondheimer is the City Section title favorite, won the game with ease, though an official score was not kept. Unlike Chaminade, Narbonne had plenty of starters returning from last year, and it was pretty obvious considering the Gauchos seemed to have no problems getting rolling as they scored on three of their first four possessions.
Chaminade on the other hand had a hard time reaching the end zone.
After two consecutive trips to the CIF Southern Section Final, the Eagles had a down year last year. Most of that can be contributed to the fact that they lost four Division 1 players, including last year’s ACC Freshman of the Year Brad Kaaya. Now, with offensive lineman Bar Milo heading to Miami to join Kaaya at “The U”, only two Division 1 bound players remain from the 2013 state championship team.
Although it was clear that Coach Ed Croson was simply experimenting with what he has, we were able to learn some things from the meaningless game against the Gauchos:
The quarterback battle is far from over
One of those returning Division 1 players from that state championship team is Dymond Lee, who has earned a reputation as one of the best wide receivers in the Mission League over the last two seasons. The UCLA commit however, was offered a scholarship by Coach Jim Mora as a dual-threat quarterback.
There were talks about Lee taking the snaps last year, but Ed Sias wound up with the starting job and Dymond came in every so often to run the option. After finishing fourth in the Mission League in receiving yards last season, he hopes to play quarterback in his senior season.
There are pros and cons of Lee running the offense. With Croson’s run heavy style of play, Lee’s speed should be huge when running the option with sophomore superstar running back T.J. Pledger. Also, because Chaminade’s offensive line is one of the weakest in the league, Lee will be able to scramble and avoid the pass rushers, especially Serra’s Oluwole Betiku, the fifth-best defensive end in the country who will be joining Dymond at UCLA next year.
The most obvious con of Lee at quarterback is that he is not playing his natural position: wide receiver. Although Lee was able to land an offer as a QB, he had multiple offers from schools such as Miami and Tennessee as a receiver. Lee arguably possesses the best hands in the Mission League, plus he has good size at 6-2.
Lee was heavily restricted during the scrimmage, as QB’s were not allowed to run and could barely scramble. He made some nice throws but made much more of an impact catching passes.
The other candidate for the starting job is Tommy Costello, who is also a senior. Costello is committed to the University of Washington as a pitcher, and it is pretty obvious that the kid has a strong arm. During the game he threw some absolute bullets, mostly to Lee, but he also made a few careless throws which is completely acceptable considering Costello has not started a game at quarterback since freshman year.
After his freshman season, Costello had Tommy John surgery on his left arm (his throwing arm), which kept him out for his sophomore season.
Costello taking the snaps would definitely give the Eagles an interesting look on offense. Chaminade would be absolutely loaded on the outside, led by Dymond Lee, state champion track runner Jordan Chin and Michael Wilson, who is also a standout basketball player. With Pledger in the backfield, Costello would have plenty of options to go to, but his limited mobility can be an issue given the offensive line.
Lee and Costello both received plenty of snaps in the scrimmage, and although both showed some good signs, neither really seemed to separate himself from the other.
Now, with two solid candidates with two complete different styles of running an offense, Coach Croson will definitively have a lot of thinking to do this week before Chaminade’s season opener this Friday.
The Mission League is all about running backs and Chaminade doesn’t seem ready
Narbonne running back Sean Riley, an Arizona Wildcat commit, made the Chaminade defense look silly. His speed was too much for the Chaminade defensive linemen and linebackers to stop before he got into the open field. If Chaminade can’t stop the run this year, they will have a very hard time competing in the Mission League.
Three of the top five rushers in the Mission League are returning: Leo Lambert III-Notre Dame, Jalen Starks-Crespi, and Kahlil Tate (Arizona commit)-Serra.
Although there are some talented quarterbacks in the Mission League, teams will figure out quickly that Chaminade cannot compete at the line of scrimmage, and will run the ball down the throat of Coach Davy’s defense. The Eagles however, have a pretty solid core of cornerbacks and safeties. Isiah Thomas, who is committed to play for UC Davis, has been a starter since his sophomore year, will lead the Chaminade secondary that is arguably the strength of the team. That unit also includes T.J. Brock, who ran the fastest 100-meter sprint in the state, and talented safety Jahlil Pinkett.
The weakness of this team is nothing different from the last three Chaminade football teams, the defensive line. Between Alemany, Bishop Amat, Crespi, and Serra, the Mission League is loaded with stacked offensive lines. The size of Chaminade’s D-Line simply cannot compete with the other teams, and will be the biggest issue of a defense that will struggle this year.
Chaminade is bringing back only one starter from last year’s D-Line, Oscar Madrigal. However, Chaminade does have some young talent on defensive line that can hopefully turn some heads this season. Sophomore defensive tackle Mykee Irving may be the only one of D-lineman that might be able to match up physically with a team such as Crespi, as he is listed at 6-4, 275. Junior Jackson Parks is also going to get his first chance to see if his game as a defensive end will translate to the varsity level.
Overall, the defensive line will determine what kind of defense the Eagles are this season. If it is anything close to last year, Chaminade will have to score north of 35 points weekly to just keep themselves in games.