MONTEREY PARK — A rebuilding East Los Angeles College football team will be put to the test early as the Huskies open the 2014 season on the road Saturday against experienced and talented Glendale College. Kickoff for the opener for both teams will be at 1 p.m.
ELAC is looking to do much better this year and at the very least reverse last season’s frustrating 3-7 finish.Glendale was 6-4 in 2013.
“Glendale is going to be one of the tougher teams we’ll face this season,” Coach Steve Mojarro said. “They have a lot of returning and talented players. We’re going to need to rise to their level and compete hard to have any chance to win the game.”
Unlike last season when they were riddled with injuries, the Huskies head into their season opener healthy.
“We lost the player who was going to be our starting right tackle to a season-ending injury in a high school all-star game,” Mojarro recalled. “We lost our starting quarterback the first day of pads and then we lost our running back just before the first game. We had a lot of adversity from the very start.”
Mojarro and his assistants are working with a solid core of veteran players that has been complemented by the addition of a promising group of recruits.
“We have a lot of good freshman players from the area high schools who decided to be a part of our program,” Mojarro said. “Together we’re working hard to have a good season.”
The Huskies open the season with consecutive road games and will have a long bus ride to face another formidable opponent in Santa Barbara City College. Sept. 13. Santa Barbara was 7-3 in 2013.
ELAC plays its first home game of the season Sept. 20 against Compton College. Kickoff will be at 6 p.m.
Leading the Huskies’ offense this season will be newcomer Joey Sanchez, a sophomore quarterback who transferred to ELAC from El Camino College.
“He’s a 6-foot-2, talented and strong-armed quarterback who can run,” Mojarro said.
Pressing Sanchez for playing time will be Michael Ladino, a talented and promising freshman from Contreras High School.
Big, fast and agile Joshua Taylor (6-3, 200), a returning all-conference player, leads a talented unit of wide receivers. Taylor had 35 receptions in 2013. Jonathan Major (6-0, 200) is elusive and sure-handed and speedster Alex Alvarez is another ELAC player to watch.
Sophomore running back Naaman Young and explosive Estuardo Marcos, a prize recruit from Los Altos High School, will handle the bulk of the rushing for the Huskies. Young rushed for 141 and 135 yards to lead ELAC to wins over West Los Angeles and Compton last season.
The Huskies have size and experience up front on the offensive line. Sophomore German Ponce (6-0, 280) is the center and sophomore Mark Moreno (6-0, 240) is the left tackle. Freshmen Carlos Betancourt (6-3, 280) and Israel Lorenzo (6-2, 280) are the starting guards. Freshman Alberto Pino (6-6, 290) will start at right tackle.
Defensively, the Huskies are experienced and deep in the secondary. Sophomore Anthony Smith is a returnee at strong safety and free safety Danny Robinson is a transfer from Glendale. Freshman Terry Ford will be starting at one of the cornerback positions, and freshman Randy Portillo and sophomore Tyrell Chance are fighting for the other starting cornerback spot.
The linebacker unit is led by sophomore Deandre Nelson in the middle. Sophomore Gael Esparza and freshmen Jose Arguello, Jose Bautista and Chris Mendoza are starting candidates.
Sophomore tackle Rigo Verdin (6-1, 300) anchors the defensive line, which was bolstered by the addition of tackle Anthony Cheatum (6-2, 300), a transfer from San Bernardino Valley College. Cheatum’s brother, Aaron, was an all-state player on the ELAC basketball team. Aaron Cheatum received a scholarship from Washington State.
Defensive ends James Basham (6-2, 290) and Mark Avila (6-2, 280) are returning starters. Conrado Simpson (6-4, 380) is a top newcomer.
Sophomore placekicker Gustavo Ornelas gives the Huskies another scoring weapon. Ornelas made 80 percent of his field goal attempts in 2013, including a 38-yarder.
Freshman Eddie Gamboa will handle the punting duties.