In high school football, rebuilding and replacing graduating seniors is an annual hurdle.
It’s no different at Balboa High School entering the 2011 season, as coach Alvaro Carvajal has the task of replacing Academic Athletic Association Player of the Year Christian Pulusian, All-City quarterback Kerati Apilakvanichakit and standout running back Greg Warren, a trio that led Balboa to a Turkey Bowl appearance.
“When talking about replacing those cornerstone players in Christian, Kerati and Greg, it’s pretty simple — we do it with character,” Carvajal said. “We do it with character and discipline at this program. With any type of talent, we’ll always work with what we got, and go from there.”
Carvajal knows the production of those three players will be hard to replicate, but with his offensive line being the strength of this year’s squad, making another run at a championship could be attainable.
Center Alonzo Sweets, left tackle Gabriel Davis, left guard Jesus Pleitez, right guard Kendrick Martin and right tackle Matthew Dabit form the wall protecting senior quarterback David Lantow in Balboa’s spread offense, which averaged 38 points in league play.
“We have a lot of new faces, but we have a lot of willing workers,” said Sweets, a senior and captain for the Buccaneers. “We have the guys that we need, and that’s our biggest thing. We need guys that will work hard no matter what.”
As Lantow steps in under center replacing Apilakvanichakit at quarterback, Antoine Crecy and Lewis Moran will compete for carries at running back.
Seniors Andres Arellano and Keene Roque will look to help Balboa’s spread offense as the lead receivers, and help defensively at free safety and cornerback.
Pulusian, who played nearly every down at linebacker, running back, receiver and kick returner, will be irreplaceable. However, Balboa feels just fine coming into the season due to the work they’ve put in this offseason.
On top of weight training and conditioning, Balboa took part in a slew of football camps this summer, participating at programs hosted by Cal, Stanford, San Jose State and San Diego State.
Carvajal hopes it will be a springboard to a better nonleague, as Balboa finished 5-8 last season and lost all of its nonleague games before making its run in the AAA to the Turkey Bowl.
“Before I got here, there was a culture of coming up short in this program,” Carvajal said. “The mind-set was like, ‘We’re not going to win any nonleague games, but we’ll turn it up in league and win those games.’ Now it’s more of a sense of we can win no matter if its preseason or league and that victory can come in any given week.”
Although last season’s 36-6 Turkey Bowl loss to Washington stung the program, that memory has been washed away. Coaches and players at Balboa insist it’s a distant memory, as 2011 is the only thing they’re worried about.
“Last year, we did have great players, but this year’s team is ready to step up and work just as hard,” Arellano said. “It’s a process every day to get better, and we’re going to work hard and take this season week by week.”
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