The Pirates will be cruising South Coast waters a bit more this season.
In 2018, Santa Ynez High School’s football team is playing its first season as a member of the Channel League as part of the huge shakeup that saw most Central Coast teams abandon the CIF Southern Section (CIF-SS) for what they hope will be the greener pastures of the CIF Central Section.
But the Pirates, along with fellow former Los Padres League members Lompoc and Cabrillo, stayed put with all three joining the new-look Channel League.
“I call it the New Channel League,” said Santa Ynez’s seventh-year head coach Josh McClurg. “Of the six teams, half of us are moving from the old LPL, joining Channel League holdovers Dos Pueblos, San Marcos and Santa Barbara.”
Former LPL rivals St. Joseph and Pioneer Valley are off the schedule and the Pirates are happy to see them go.
Over the past three seasons, McClurg’s Pirates have posted a 23-7 record.
Despite going 7-3 in 2015 and 8-2 in both 2016 and 2017, Santa Ynez was left out of the playoff party in each of those seasons.
“If the LPL had been a six-team league, then we would have made the playoffs the last three years,” said McClurg.
But losses to Pioneer Valley in 2015 and to both St. Joseph and Lompoc all three years, kept the Pirates out of the post season.
“We played close games against both of them,” said McClurg. “If we made just a couple more plays against them, we would have been in the playoffs.”
Lompoc is still on the Pirates schedule. So is Cabrillo. And Dos Pueblos remains a powerhouse after going 12-2 in 2017 with a run to the CIF-SS Division 10 championship game.
“We’re fairly familiar with the old Channel League teams. We’ve been playing San Marcos the last few years and before that, we played against Dos Pueblos for four years. The only team we haven’t seen is Santa Barbara and we played them in this summer’s 7-on-7 passing league.”
But with six teams and three playoff spots up for grabs, McClurg likes the Pirates’ chances.
“Lompoc is Lompoc. No matter how many seniors the Braves graduate, (head coach) Andrew Jones just re-loads. Cabrillo is improving under (second-year head coach) AJ Pateras. Dos Pueblos will be strong, as always. Santa Barbara always fields good teams and San Marcos, despite last year’s (1-9) record has a good offense with a strong passing attack. I think we’ll stack up favorably with all of them.”
Like the Braves, the Pirates will have to re-load.
Santa Ynez graduated 23 seniors, including All-League stars quarterback Dustin Gregg, wide receiver Gabe Prendergast, linebackers AJ Reynoso and Travis Vreeland, and defensive lineman Nick Tipolt, Gabe Palato and Isaiah Smith.
But 27 juniors are back for their senior seasons and 16 former sophomores are entering their junior years.
“Wide receiver Jasper Kadlec was All-League last year and he’ll be back. Cash Transeth was All-League and he’s back at running back and defensive back. Vinnie Vacca (running back/linebacker), Marco Lazarit (offensive and defensive line) and Juan Sanchez (tight end/defensive end/backup quarterback) are back and they were all All-League, too.”
The Pirates offense will feature multiple formations but will basically operate out of the spread formation. The Santa Ynez defense will continue to play the same 3-4 scheme it’s run for the last five years.
“We’ll have junior Anthony Gills starting at quarterback. He was our backup last year but he saw a lot of action in a lot of games and he really impressed in the 7-on-7 league,” said McClurg. “And several important starters from last year will be seniors this year; Alex Lammers at outside linebacker, tight end and strong safety Nathan Crandall and wide receiver and cornerback Dylan Hamilton.
And while former All-League wide receiver Gabe Prendergast is gone. McClurg is excited about his replacement.
“We’ll have (sophomore) Camron Prendergast filling his older brother’s slot,” said McClurg. “Just like his brother, he’ll start at wide receiver and corner. We’ll also feature an exciting receiver (junior) Jacob Davies.”
While McClurg expects another strong season, he is cautious in his prediction for 2018.
“I’ve always been one of those guys who feels we really won’t know what to expect until we play the game. We won’t know what to expect until we put the pads on Week Zero versus Nipomo. They’re going to be tough. (Nipomo head coach) Tony Dodge always has those kids ready to play,” said McClurg. “I do know this. The Channel League is going to be a good league. It’s going to be a fun season.”