Familiarity – the word that describes this year’s Cabrillo football team.
Last year, AJ Pateras came to Vandenberg Village as someone who didn’t have any previous tie-in to CHS or the surrounding community. The 2017-18 Conquistadores weren’t familiar with him or his methods either.
But times are different – as Pateras is more acquainted with his surroundings, plus more acclimated with his players. In return, his players have gotten used to his plays and approach.
“When we are talking terminology and football stuff, it’s less teaching now,” Pateras said during the Lee Central Coast Newspapers media day on July 28.
Cabrillo is aiming to shed the memories of its 1-9 season from a year ago, which included three games that saw the Conquistadores surrender more than 70 points.
But CHS didn’t wait until the summer or spring to shed those memories. Pateras said from the moment the season ended, the Conqs were immediately grinding for next year.
“We’ve been working. As soon as the season ended, we were in the weight room. Then installing some passing plays at 6 a.m,” Pateras said. “We’ve been chomping at the bit.”
And last year’s CHS team was also considered young, with only 12 seniors in the first season of the Pateras area. Now, this CHS team brings back 25 seniors – including the ones who earned All-Los Padres League second team honors one season ago.
“It helps," Pateras says of the experience coming back. "They set the standard in the weight room. These guys provide a lot of leadership and a lot mentoring. Whether it was success or not, they learned."
One of those weight room and field leaders during the offseason is Jackson Anderson, who was thrust into the quarterback fire one season ago after the Conqs’ original starter Sean Wood parted ways with the team.
Anderson had to learn on the fly, but now says he’s more familiar with Pateras’ offensive input and the skill players around him.
“Coming in last year, it was totally new and a different perspective on how to play football. But this year it’s been a lot better, understanding wise,” Anderson said. “Personally, I had a good rushing season but this year. I’m working to get better on passing. We can always improve.”
He’s equally energetic to see names like Mason Townes, Jordan Green, Cody Forbes and H-back/tight end Eddy Little – as all four help replace last year’s top wideout Ben Dixon.
“Ben was one guy, but I feel like all these guys are equal to Ben,” Anderson said.
Pateras adds he likes the depth and experience back on the perimeter.
“We’re more dynamic in our skill positions this year,” Pateras said. “Last year, we had Ben and other guys fill in who were either too young or were banged up. Now we have more options to throw to. We’ve got guys who can spread the field now. It’s not just Jackson this year and not just Ben. We’re going to have other pieces that you are going to have to honor. We’re going to make guys work.”
Also back on offense is Tito Miza, who was CHS’s second leading rusher last season with 465 yards. The offensive line will have to replace All-LPL performer Brenton Staunton, who has since graduated. Projected to pave the way on offense are Deontae George, Michael Macias, Jameson Broduer, Ruben Ponce and Blake Settje.
Defensively, Pateras and CHS is going with a base 3-4 look that will have three new faces anchoring the line in Cade McNamee, Carlos Garcia and Abraham Perez.
But the linebacker core brings back this duo who earned All-LPL honors one year ago: Lead pass rusher Danan Pacheco (6.5 sacks) and Patrick Durham (team-high 67 tackles). Pateras raves about the incoming junior Durham.
“He’s a smart young man who works his butt off,” Pateras said.
Kurt Newberry (outside linebacker) and Spencer Cothran (inside linebacker) fill out the rest of the linebacker unit. Both were limited to eight and six games, respectively, last season due to injuries. The secondary features safeties Justin Palato and Tyler Williams while the cornerbacks are Alex Bourne and Ty Hernandez.
Overall, Pateras knows that this time, he’s no longer a stranger to his team and his players are past the point of trying to get used to him.
“Football-wise, from stuff we were doing last year versus this year, the guys know what to expect now,” Pateras said.