The MSJC football team is looking to the 2010 season with optimism as the Eagles get set to take on College of the Desert Saturday night in the Palms to Pines Trophy game at Vista Murrieta High School.
The game, which will kick off at 6 pm, will mark the beginning of head coach Casey Mazzotta's fourth season at MSJC. "We have a more experienced team than we've had in my previous three seasons," said Mazzotta. "We hope that will translate onto the field."
Offensively, the Eagles will surround freshman quarterback Nigel Barksdale (San Jacinto HS) with experience at all other positions. MSJC will have their leading rushers from both the 2008 and 2009 seasons together this year as Franex Dort (Lake Worth, FL) and Butch Tuvale (Ewa Beach, HI) both return. In 2008 Tuvale led the team with 596 yards on the ground and last season Dort ran for 781 yards. They will run behind a sophomore heavy offensive line led by returning all conference tackle Eric Varela (Great Oak HS). Also returning on the offensive line are Anthony Moxley (Valley View HS) and Hunter Hollowed (Redlands HS). MSJC also has experience returning at the wide receiver position led by Tyrone Richardson (West Valley HS) who caught 21 passes last season and scored 2 touchdowns. Others who return at receiver who have seen significant action in Eagle uniforms include Jermey Rykard (O'Fallon, IL) and Justin Laureano (Great Oak).
On the defensive side of the ball the Eagles also have a number of returnees who Coach Mazzotta will rely on. Kyle Patterson (West Valley HS) will anchor the defensive line after recording 29 tackles as a freshman. Fontayne Fuga (Chaparral HS) and Wesley Walker (Lake Worth, FL) both return after starting at linebacker most of last season. Fuga led the team in sacks with 5.5 last season and Walker contributed 29 tackles a year ago. The secondary will be led by cornerback Cejay Ceniza (Las Vegas, NV) who had two interceptions last season.
The kicking game also has experience as place kicker Jameson Schultz (Yucaipa HS) and punter Dominic Knight (Chaparral HS) both return. Schultz was third on the team in scoring last season with 25 points and Knight averaged 42.5 yards per punt in 2009.
As for Saturday's game with College of the Desert, Coach Mazzotta feels like the teams have some similarities; "We both have young quarterbacks, but experienced running backs and offensive lines, so a lot of the offensive things will probably be the same for both teams." "That makes this a big game for our defensive line to try and counter their power up front," said Mazzotta. The annual game between MSCJ and COD is played for the Palms to Pines Trophy which is awarded to the winning team each year. Going into Saturday's game MSJC holds a slight 22-19 lead all time for the trophy. "This game is exciting on a lot of levels," said Mazzotta "It's the first game of the year, it's a rivalry game, and it's for a trophy it should be a lot of fun."