Preseason Recap: SJHHS Football Motivated By Last Season


Taylor Rocha

READY FOR THE RIDE: Kolton McClusky (12) looks to coaches for the play call during the Stallions’ first league game against El Toro. The boys set out to fill the large shoes of last year’s team and are hopeful in their pursuit of greatness in the South Coast League. SJHHS plays their last league game at home against Tesoro this Friday, Nov. 7. Photo by Taylor Rocha

San Juan Hills High School football had something to prove coming into their 2014 season.

The Stallions came off of a high after their 2013 football season in which they dominated the Sea View League with an undefeated record. The team obtained the first league title in SJHHS football history.

Last year’s team was largely composed of a tenacious group of  seniors who had played alongside one another since freshman year. As a result of their strength and the vast accomplishments of their season, SJHHS advanced from the Sea View League to the South Coast League.

Their success this season is solely a measure of their ability to respond to the success of their elders.

This year, the South Coast League is composed of dominant football threats including El Toro, Mission Viejo, Dana Hills, and Tesoro. The league is difficult, but the Stallions believe in their abilities.

Over the summer, the team experienced a period of rebuilding in which the open spots on the field would be filled by new players.

“We were looking for people to make plays for us. We lost a lot of our playmakers and were just seeing who could step up and lead the team,” said Varsity Offensive Line Coach, Charlie Briggs.

The Stallions faced Thousand Oaks High School for their preseason opener. With a final score of 37-29, SJHHS walked away with a loss but were not discouraged.

SJHHS excelled at their first home game, when they played against Canyon High School. “RFTB” echoed throughout the Badlands, and the Stallions dominated Canyon with a final score of 23-6.

“It was nice to get that first win at home,” said varsity Captain, Griffin Grutz (12).

Patrick O’Brien (12) and Devin Wegis (11) were standout components on offense, totaling 201 yards. Grutz excelled defensively with a total of 7 tackles and 2 interceptions.

“It’s always an awesome experience to win football games. We have to fill in those shoes of the seniors that left,” said Kolton McCluskey (12).

Capistrano Valley High School is one of the Stallions’ greatest rivals. The team set out to defeat the Cougars for the second consecutive year in their first away game of the season.

The Stallions and Cougars both scored in the first half, but Stallions were unable to score again in the second. Capo scored twice to secure a win.

Despite their will to win, the Stallions fell to the Cougars with a final score of 34-12.

In 2013’s Homecoming game, the Stallions lost to Fullerton 28-21. This year, it was vital for SJHHS to redeem themselves against their opponents, Marina High School. Not only did they confirm their ability to win their Homecoming game, but they destroyed Marina with a final score of 48-0.

O’Brien had an exceptional game, completing 9 of 12 passes for a total of 148 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Upon Mike Miscione’s (12) return from a concussion, he proved his clout on the field and ran the ball a total of 68 yards.

“I’m stoked about Mike’s recovery. He’s had some injuries but he’s back as a dominant force on offense. He’s going to make some big plays for us this season,” said Grutz.

The Stallions struggled against Los Alamitos High School, their toughest competition to date, ranked 9th in the league. The final score was 42-7 but this did not hinder SJHHS motivation.

In the final preseason game, the Stallions coveted a victory in order to set them up for league. Despite a slow start in which the Stallions gave up 2 touchdowns to Beckman, they were able to pick up momentum in the latter end of the game, scoring 35 straight points to secure a win.

O’Brien proved that he is a force to be reckoned with, despite his inexperience. He completed touchdown passes to Jacob Huff (10), Haydn Gilman (12), and Miscione. The final score was 35-14.

Heading into league, the Stallions are hopeful.

“We’ve been working really hard. We’ve been on a roll ever since we played Beckman. We’re starting to believe in ourselves that we can move the ball but we just need to tackle a little better and make sure that we are consistent in our execution,” said Briggs.

“We’re going to play hard and we’ll see what happens,” said Grutz.

The Stallions take on El Toro High School for their league opener on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m in the Badlands.