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2017 Prep Football Preview: A Culture Shift is Taking Place at San Marcos

Royals out to prove they're not the same program as last year

San Marcos senior center David Kesablyan and quarterback Jacob Villarreal are team leaders. Click to view larger
San Marcos senior center David Kesablyan and quarterback Jacob Villarreal are team leaders.  (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

This is one in a series of  previews on high school football teams on the South Coast. 

Jason Fowle has settled in as head football coach at San Marcos High and it’s made a difference in the way the Royals have been preparing for the 2017 season.

There’s a positive attitude, a good work ethic and a commitment to do your best.

“It’s been a good offseason,” said senior running back Steven Corona (5-foot-7, 200 pounds), who is noticeably bigger and stronger from the offseason weight-lifting workouts. “I see a culture shift. Everyone wants to work and work hard to succeed. Everyone is on the same page. We want to prove to everyone that we’re not the same program as last year. We’re much improved.”

The Royals went 0-10 in 2016 after Fowle was named head coach in June of that year. 

Coach Jason Fowle says the Royals have been working hard and building confidence. Click to view larger
Coach Jason Fowle says the Royals have been working hard and building confidence. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Now having a full year to work with the team, Fowle likes the progress he’s seen from the players.

“Last year, I came in on a short time, everything was on the run,” he said. “In the offseason, from the very get-go, we asked (the players) to make a commitment to do the best they can do every day, committing to the weight room, the classroom and setting goals. It wasn’t an easy thing to do for these kids after a tough season. I give them credit. They made the commitment early on and they decided it was an important thing to build this program.

“It started with building this year’s team,” he added. “That is something we’ve emphasized quite often: You got to build a team before you can build a program. That’s what we’re working on.”

Center and linebacker David Kesablyan (5-11, 195) is excited about his senior season. 

“I feel like we’re improving,” he said. “During the offseason, everyone was working hard. We’ve got a lot of guys back from last year and most of our defense is back. On offense, our main guys are back. We have a different mindset. We’re putting in the work to improve as a team. One of the keys is our team bonding. We’re closer, we’re like brothers.”

Fowle has noticed it.

“We’re confident we’re headed in the right direction and that message has shown through,” he said. “It starts with hard work. In January, we wanted to get the taste (of last season) out of our mouth and we wanted to get working toward the future. (The players) slowly started to see the progress and achieve some of their goals and build confidence again. That’s part of that culture, focusing on daily, incremental improvements. We’re not trying to bite off the whole season in one chunk. I think that’s very important as well.”

San Marcos has experienced players on both sides of the ball. The offense is led by senior quarterback Jacob Villarreal. He has a strong arm and is a good scrambler.

“Jacob is an important player,” said Fowle. “We’re not asking him to do everything for us. We just want him to do his job, like everybody else. He has to be a game manager, a leader, a general out there on the field.”

Corona runs hard and is a good blocker. “He’s a guy we can mix and match with a guy like Tommy Schaeffer, a junior who got a lot of playing time toward the end of the year,” Fowle said.  "He’s got some big-play ability. He’s also versatile, he can go in the slot and run routes out of the backfield.”

Mark Herrera and Dane Sterndahl are also be in the mix at running back. 

“We’re hoping to mix it up and not have one guy carry the load,” said Fowle.

Luis Mesino returns at wide receiver. “He’s a skilled, talented, explosive athlete,” said Fowle.

Paul Ingram (6-6, 200) moves from tight end to wide receiver and Andrew Aragon (5-11, 175) takes the tight end job. 

Kesablyan is the leader on the offensive line. At 6-4, 260 pounds, tackle Miguel Alaniz brings size and experience to the line. Javier Castillo (5-10, 176) returns at guard. Fowle calls him "pound for pound one of the strongest guys on the team."

On defense, Aragon, transfer Jafet Gomez, Tony Sanabia and Herrera are key members on the line. Kesablyan leads the linebacking corps in the middle, with Sterndahl and Cris Velasquez playing on the outside.

In the secondary Fowle has experienced players in Mesino and Emmanuel Acevedo and newcomer junior Tristan Wallace. A cornerback spot remains up for grabs.

Aragon will handle the punting chores. He was a second team all-Channel League selection last year. Corona and Aragon can both kick field goals and extra points.

Fowle said the players have put in the work and are looking forward to the season. The Royals open Friday, Aug. 25 at Santa Ynez.

“We’re in good place right now. We’ve put so much into this," the coach said. "(The players) built so much trust in one another. We’re learning from our success and failures and moving forward day by day and week by week. We definitely have a better foundation.”

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Senior center and middle linebacker David Kesablyan says the Royals are a closer group. “We’re like brothers.” Click to view larger
Senior center and middle linebacker David Kesablyan says the Royals are a closer group. “We’re like brothers.” (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

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