Dos Pueblos football may be in a rebuilding mode, but it does have some huge building blocks for the job.
The Chargers’ hopes may hinge on a line that is short in experience but big in stature.
“We’ve been blessed to send three linemen to college football the last two-and-a-half years,” coach Doug Caines said. “This year, we’ve got a nice stable of backs and two or three 300-pounders up front.
“We are young on the line — most of them weren’t featured last year because we had special guys there — but we won’t be small.”
And that will help DP, which came within a few inches of winning a CIF championship in 2017, continue a physical running game in which it sends waves of blockers into the line of scrimmage on most plays.
“We’re definitely not the team we were two years ago, but the cupboard is not bare and we definitely have a shot to go deep in our second year with this unique kind of offense,” Caines said. “We’ve also tweaked the defense a little bit to fit our personnel.
“We’re excited about the options.”
Senior Roberto Vargas, a 6-foot-1 and 306-pounder, is a returning starter at tackle.
“He’ll be our Angel this year,” said Caines, referring to 6-5, 345-pound Angel Flores, a lineman who is now playing for Northern Arizona University. “Berto was kind of our mauler tackle last year.”
Filling the other spots are several “no-names,” said Caines, who figure to make their own presence known this fall. They include senior center Jesus “Chucho” Aguilar (6-1, 285), junior Alex Randle (6-0, 235), and senior Nathan Abrajan (6-1, 235).
“We’re young and untested up front, but we’re going to gear it up for league and gauge them as we go,” Caines said.
They’ll pave the way for a pair of returning All-Channel League backs in seniors Conner Lee (5-11, 155), an all-purpose player who gained second-team honors, and Udy Loza (5-8, 165), an ultra-quick runner who received honorable mention.
“Everything starts at the line,” Loza said. “The big boys don’t get as much praise as they should.”
Senior Albert Alvarado (5-9, 182), who backed up David Leon at quarterback last year, is competing with junior Josiah Severson (6-0, 181) for this year’s starting job. Alvarado made his starting debut in last year’s first-round playoff loss to state champion Lawndale after Leon was lost to an injury.
“We couldn’t have been more proud of that effort,” Caines said. “I can’t imagine that he’d have a scarier game than that one right there.
“Josiah was the JV quarterback last year … They’re both kind of battling it out. Berto is a real athletic runner whereas Josiah is more of a pure passer. Both of these guys are going to have to be dual threats, and they can both kind of answer that bell.”
Alvarado does approach the position like a prize fighter.
“I love to hit,” he said. “I can deliver the ball down field, but I do love running and hitting. I feel comfortable with that.
“We play smash-mouth football, we run the ball a lot, and most teams don’t know how to handle that. I feel we have a huge advantage there. After a while, they get exhausted and aren’t able to keep up.”
Alvarado and Severson do have some big receivers in seniors Baylor Huyck (6-5, 180) and Evan Steinberger (6-1, 180). Huyck received All-Channel League honorable mention last year while Steinberger, a star catcher in baseball and goalkeeper in soccer, is coming out for his first season of football.
Steinberger will also play defensive safety, joining returning starters Lee and Nehemiah Verhoef (6-3, 185) in the secondary.
“Nehemiah is a pretty special kid,” Caines said. “He’s an absolute monster for us at safety.”
Recent DP teams set a pretty high bar for this year’s club. The Chargers won back-to-back Channel League championships in 2016 and 2017 before tying for second place last season. DP’s cumulative record the last three years is 27-10.
But Caines likes his group of players this year, even if they aren’t as star-studded as the CIF runnerup team of 2017.
“We definitely don’t have that type of talent, but we have more than enough in the tank,” he said. “These kids like each other a little more, as weird as that sounds.
“So the question is, ‘Can we synergize fast enough to make a run in league? … Will they figure it out and shake off the young jitters and the inexperience fast enough?’
“That’s my job, to get them there as quick as we can.”