A powerhouse in the Almont League for the last decade has brought along high aspirations for the Matador program entering every season.
“One of our defiant expectations is to compete for (the) league (title),” said Matador coach Jude Oliva. “The goal every season doesn’t change, because our (objective) is to win the league title.”
Entering two-a-days practices, which began on Aug. 16, the Matadors returned a talented squad hungry to improve from last season’s disappointing 40-14 first-round CIF Southern Section playoff defeat to West Covina High.
“Our returning starters gained lots of experience from the game,” said Oliva, referring to what his team learned from the West Covina loss. “I noticed right of the bat that our kids understood the importance of the weight room. (West Covina) overpowered us. The kids realized at that moment that in order to succeed in the playoffs it was going to take extra effort in the weight room and on the practice field to succeed.”
Heading into the 2010 season, the Matadors return plenty of talented players, including captain and wide receiver Andres Fernandez, senior running back Arthur Brown and wideout Mark Covarrubias.
The team also is returning its entire offensive line, which should make life easier for projected starting quarterback Eric Alvarez.
A 4.0 GPA student in the classroom, Oliva feels Alvarez is a perfect fit for the team’s spread-offense system.
“(Alvarez) defiantly fits the system. He’s a very big, athletic kid who’s a very good accurate passer,” said Oliva.
If given the starting job, Alvarez will have big shoes to fill.
Isaac Valdez, the former Matador quarterback who many considered the face of the program, has graduated and gone on to play football for Iowa Wesleyan College.
Although the Matadors are excited entering the fall campaign, they have some concerns heading into the season.
One of Oliva’s main concerns is the Matadors lack of depth.
Oliva hopes that his teams Aug. 27 scrimmage against Pasadena High will bring out the best in their young and inexperienced second and third string players.
Through all the bright spots and concerns, the Matadors’ objective remains to win the Almont League title.
However, the Matadors will have a tough task in dethroning league champion Schurr High.
Having last defeated Schurr in 2007, the Matadors will fight tooth-and-nail to earn one of two automatic playoff berths.
With the realignment of leagues, the Almont League teams have moved from the former Southeast Division to the Mid-Valley Division.
With six leagues in the Mid-Valley Division, Almont League teams no longer get the three automatic playoff berths they used to receive.
“It’s going to be a lot more competitive in league this year,” Oliva said. “There is no room for error and we’re taking everyone serious, because at any given week you can be beat.”
Before San Gabriel begins the regular season on Sept. 3 against John Muir High, they will hold a practice scrimmage against visiting Pasadena on Aug. 27 at 7 p.m.