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2017 Prep Football Preview: Linemen Lead the Way at Dos Pueblos

Chargers have size, experience and the talent to achieve their goals this season

Dos Pueblos has size and experience on the offensive and defensive lines with, from left: Nathan Beveridge, Mathew Molina, Justin Padilla, Erick Nisich and Angel Flores. They helped the Chargers win a share of the Channel League title and reach the quarterfinals of the CIF playoffs last season. Click to view larger
Dos Pueblos has size and experience on the offensive and defensive lines with, from left: Nathan Beveridge, Mathew Molina, Justin Padilla, Erick Nisich and Angel Flores. They helped the Chargers win a share of the Channel League title and reach the quarterfinals of the CIF playoffs last season. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

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

They’re big, strong, physical, experienced and hungry to improve on last year’s quarterfinal appearance in the playoffs.

The linemen are the focal point of the 2017 Dos Pueblos football team.

Erick Nisich, a three-year starter and a returning first-team All-Channel League selection, is a 6-foot-4, 275-pound tackle; senior Justin Padilla, 6-2, 210 pounds, is a tackle and defensive end and a 2016 all-league first-team honoree; senior Nathan Beveridge is a 6-6, 285-pound tackle and a returning all-league second-team player; senior tackle/defensive end Matt Molina is 6-3, 215 pounds, and junior guard Angel Flores is 6-5, 325 pounds.

Their play in the trenches was instrumental in the Chargers claiming a share of the Channel League title, winning a playoff game and advancing to the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 10 playoffs. They lost to eventual champion St. Anthony.

The taste of success in 2016 has DP setting its sights higher this year.

“We’re looking to capitalize on the success we had last year,” said Nisich. “We’re all hungry to go past where we got last year.”

Nisich, who also is a standout wrestler and carries a grade point average of 4.1, is being recruited by West Point; Ivy League schools including Yale, Princeton and Columbia; San Jose State University; UC Davis, and Adams State in Colorado.

“One thing I was always told since I started playing: you’re a student first and an athlete second,” he said.

He noted that in addition to size, the line has great chemistry.

“I’ve known these guys for years,” Nisich said. “We’re all good friends off the field as well, so having that chemistry with your brothers just makes things a lot easier. When you’re friends, it’s easier to hold each other accountable.”

There’s good competition for the center position and right guard. Matt Coulson, Sonny Graybill, Ian Young and Samuel McGolpin are battling at center, while Graybill and Francisco Guillermo are competing for the right guard spot.

Jake Ramirez will take his varsity snap in the season opener against San Juan Hills Friday. Click to view larger
Jake Ramirez will take his varsity snap in the season opener against San Juan Hills Friday.  (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

The size and experience on the offensive line will be a comfort to new quarterback Jake Ramirez (6-3, 190 pounds, senior), who will be taking his first varsity snap when the Chargers open the season on Friday against San Juan Hills at Scott O’Leary Stadium.

“We got a lot of confidence in Jake,” DP coach Nate Mendoza said of the senior.

Junior Mason Boelter and senior Will Yamasaki also are ready to go at quarterback.

At receiver, the Chargers will start the season without senior all-league player Cyrus Wallace. He’s recovering from a knee injury suffered during summer passing league. Wallace caught a CIF-Southern Section-best 91 passes last season for 1,192 yards and 12 touchdowns. 

“He’s rehabbing and we’re not expecting him to play the first few games,” Mendoza said. “We're going to take our time. He’s got a great future in two sports (all league in basketball), so we’ll play that one by ear and we’ll just keep hoping for the best for him to get a full recovery.”

There is still plenty of talent at the position.

Senior Michael Elbert (6-1, 178 pounds), an all-league safety, caught six TD passes as a wide receiver last season; senior Daniel Arzate (5-9, 135 pounds) is exciting every time he touches the ball; junior Dillon Roberts (5-11, 150 pounds), the brother of graduated standout quarterback Kellen Roberts, and junior David Leon (5-8, 150 pounds) were impact players on the JV team and sophomore Baylor Huyck is a big target at 6-5.

The running backs include Eric Lopez, the younger brother of former star middle linebacker Isaac Lopez; Rob Alfaro, a transfer from San Marcos; Nico Martinez; Daniel Villalpando; Arzate and Yamasaki.

“He’s going to be real busy,” Mendoza said of Arzate, who also will return kicks and play cornerback. “He’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached. We’re excited to get him the ball.”

The defensive front four of tackles Nisich and Beveridge and Padilla and Molina at the ends is “the strongest area on this team,” said Mendoza. “Those guys are going to be a force on the D line.”

The coach expects Jacob Velasquez to provide strong contributions at nose tackle.

The strength of the defensive front will benefit the linebacking corps, Mendoza said. “I remember playing linebacker with a really good D line like that. It allows you to flow around and make plays.”

At middle linebacker, Yamasaki is expected to be involved in lot plays this season.

“He’s really the heartbeat of the team,” Mendoza said of the second-team all-league player and Channel League wrestling champion at 170 pounds. “He’ll do about anything for this team. He’s a linebacker, fullback and backup quarterback. We love the way he competes.”

Anthony Meyers (5-8, 190 pounds) and Alfaro will rotate at middle linebacker. Andrew Roggero (6-2, 184 pounds) and Daniel Nwosu are outside linebackers.  

Elbert leads the secondary at free safety. Other players in the defensive backfield include Eric Lopez, Connor Lee, Zack Guttentag, Leon, Arzate, Elijah Grant and Channel League wrestling champion Diego Cruz.

Alfaro will handle the punting and Guttentag returns as the place kicker. 

The DP football program got a big boost this year with $25,000 in donations to upgrade their weight room.

“It gets the kids excited to lift,” said Mendoza of the improvements.

The team also picked up some experienced assistant coaches in Udy Loza, Herb Welch and Rob Allen. 

Mendoza said the experience of last season has the players motivated to do better.

“They made their goals, they got that taste and they want to go farther,” he said.

“We believe we can compete for that Division 10 championship. We’ve been stressing non-stop that we don’t have a (CIF championship) banner in the gym that says football on it. We’ve never hung one up. We’d like to be the first team.”

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.

The offensive line is one of the strengths of this year’s Dos Pueblos football team. Click to view larger
The offensive line is one of the strengths of this year’s Dos Pueblos football team. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)
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