Mira Costa's Don Morrow, in his 26th season, finds himself in a rare spot for high school football coach. He has two experienced quarterbacks who both bring enough talent to lead a team.
Nick Carpino came off the bench last year and developed enough skills to win the starting job from incumbent Reed Vabrey, who also returns. The duo spell relief and hope their play will keep the Mustangs in position to win most of their games.
“He has a had a good camp,” said Morrow of Carpino.
“I feel like I am a lot more confident after my experience last year because I had to learn how to perform under pressure,” Carpino said. “I learned a lot about myself as a player because of that and I am ready for a very successful season with the team.”
Asked what his goals are this season, Carpino replied, “I want to play well, hard and contribute however I can to ultimately help the team win.”
Last year Mira Costa finished with a 6-7 record overall and third in the Bay League with a 3-2 mark. They also lost to rival Redondo Union.
This season Carpino begins as the starter after spending last season as a bench player. He said the team is off to good start with a strong bond.
“I think our team will be better, not because of our size, but because of our heart and how bad we want it as well as knowledge and smarts for the game.”
No doubt Morrow is in a good position at quarterback.
“We’ve got two guys with a lot of experience—Nick and Reed Vabrey—so I got to think that is an advantage having those guys with experience going into the year.”
They will get their first shot in a game tomorrow when they host St. Francis in their first game at Waller Stadium.
One area that Mira Costa needs to come together is the offensive line, according to Morrow. They are not the biggest.
“I believe our lineman our obviously smaller than other schools, but I think that our overall athleticism and endurance will give us an edge over other schools in the third and fourth quarters of the game,” said lineman Hank Dunlap.
“Even though we are undersized, our line’s speed and aggressiveness make up for it,” said Mira Costa’s Eddie Donovan.
Morrow said that overall he would like his offense to have some balance and the line will have to do its part.
Donovan will be helping out Carpino as much as possible from the tight end position.
“We switched up the offense this year to a much more effective scheme with our personnel,” Donovan said. “We all know all of the offense really well so we should have no problems.”
If the offense can score, it will take pressure off the defense.
“The rest of the offense is starting to click,” said senior wide receiver and running back Cole Trejo. “I think we’re going to do really well.”
One thing this year’s team will not have is Jonah Tavai. He did it all for the team last year, but was especially a beast on the defensive line. Few teams had a comparable player.
“Although Jonah will be hard to replace, I think we’re going to have to be smarter than other teams and maybe blitz more to get the pressure Jonah brought us so effortlessly,” Carpino said.
The defense is more unknown without Tavai, but have some players who will contribute in his absence.
“We’ve been introducing schemes to our defense for maximum effectiveness against particular teams,” Donovan said. “We are still trying to figure out the personnel to play certain positions but we have some depth to switch people around which is nice to have this year.”
On defense, Mira Costa will have some experience, especially in the secondary. One player who is gaining respect is junior Jackson Fischer, who started as a sophomore.
“Jackson has worked hard all year in the weight room and really all summer and all camp-they really haven’t completed many balls to his side in camp,” said Mira Costa secondary coach Cameron Chow, who is in his fourth year with the team. “He is a real football kid. In high school, it’s a plus if you have a kid where the game comes naturally to. He just has a great feel for where he is supposed to be and putting himself in the right spots to make plays.”
Chow said Fischer is also a straight A student.
“He is a terrific corner for us,” Morrow said.
On special teams, Jack Austin is expected to bring consistency to the kicking as well as the punting duties.
“I think if we practice a lot and put a lot of work we can definitely have a chance (to win league),” said Mira Costa senior Aidan Thomasson. “Our team is looking great right now.”