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SCCS football preview: Out to leave no doubt

Posted: August 28, 2013 8:14 p.m.
Updated: August 28, 2013 8:14 p.m.

Santa Clarita Christian teammates from left, Jonathan Saavedra, Danny Blake, Derek Lewis, Jacob Nogle and Shephard Smith will play pivotal roles in the Cardinals' 2013 season. SCCS is looking to rebound after missing out on the 2012 CIF-Southern Section Northern postseason last year.

There’s still a bitter taste in the mouths of the Santa Clarita Christian Cardinals this season.

A taste that has been lingering through an entire offseason of weight lifting, conditioning and on the field action to prepare them for 2013.

In 2012, the Cardinals were set on making a run in the CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division playoffs in their second season of 11-man football.

Instead, they missed out on the playoffs — failing to pick up an at-large berth SCCS felt it deserved after finishing 7-3 and third place in the San Joaquin League.

“We felt we were kind of robbed a little bit,” said SCCS head coach Garrick Moss. “Last season ended with a pretty bad taste in our mouths. We felt if we got into the playoffs, we could go up against whoever we got up against. The guys doing the rankings just didn’t believe. That’s been our motto, ‘Leave no doubt.’ Don’t leave anyone doubting if you’re good enough.”

The Cardinals feel like this year they’re positioned to make not only a run at a San Joaquin title, but also to make the run they never got the chance to make last year in the CIF postseason.

They begin the season ranked No. 10 in CIF-SS Northeast Division preseason rankings.

“We’re going for that league title, but not only that, the state championship,” quarterback Jonathan Saavedra said.

After moving up from 8-man to 11-man two seasons ago with a roster heavy on sophomores, the Cardinals are now a senior-heavy group with one very important junior in third-year quarterback Saavedra.

“Last year, he was a sophomore and we made a lot of mistakes in games and we feel us coaches made mistakes by giving him too many responsibilities,” Moss said. “Quarterback takes the blame, but us coaches realized some of that was he wasn’t ready and we should have known that. He’s worked really hard, and it’s going to come down to making good decisions on the field. We’re going to rely on Jonathan.”

Saavedra certainly won’t be alone, though, as senior running back Derek Lewis returns as the Cardinals’ top offensive threat in the team’s spread-offense attack.

Lewis is a powerful runner who amassed 1,060 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground last year and also led the team with 106 tackles from an inside linebacker position.

“Derek Lewis is our guy,” Moss said. “Leading tackler, rusher, heart and soul of the team. He’s going to get the ball a lot but this year we have more depth. We have guys ready to spell Derek.”

One of those guys is D.J. King, a junior running back who has hit the weight room hard during the offseason.

“It should be really nice. I should especially get some rest on offense so I can play better on defense. It will still be hard (to take me out of the game),” Lewis joked.

The duo will be running behind an experienced offensive line of Richard Min, Johnny Costello, Danny Blake, Aaron Marcelline and Jake Harer.

“It’s very nice. Very nice knowing I can have faith in them, and knowing they’re not going to miss their blocks,” Lewis said. “When you have a line, you don’t have to do as much.”

On defense, the Cardinals return almost all of their starters, losing only one to graduation in defensive back Larue Nixon.

Lewis will again lead the defensive unit as an inside linebacker, with Blake lining up next to him.

“(Blake) plays very physical, extremely physical. He starts at left guard. Anchor of the offensive line, and with Derek, he’s our enforcer on defense. He’s very physical,” Moss said.

The Cardinals won’t waste any time getting into the thick of their schedule, as they open up with perhaps their two most difficult preleague games in Chadwick and Windward.

They’ll host both schools, starting with Chadwick on Saturday, before playing Windward at Canyon High School on Sept. 6.

“It’s going to let us know where we are as a team and let us make our adjustments early,” Lewis said. “Those are games we’re fired up about, coming off two loses from Windward in the past (34-13 in 2012 and 40-26 in 2011). If — when — we win those games, we’ll be fired up for the season.”




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