Though it must be considered to be on the young side, the Escondido Charter football team just might accomplish some rather grownup goals in 2016. “If we play up to our capabilities, we should be right there for a Pacific League title,” first-year head coach Chris Bonta says with conviction. “ And because we have the athletes to be successful, I think we’re poised to do something special.”
The 38-year-old Bonta, who came to EC after a year’s stint as the head man at Lakeside High in Lake Elsinore, is clearly a coach will a plan. Bonda’s blueprint calls for his team to be not only disciplined but aggressive to the max. Creating a physical mindset is a top priority for this gung-ho coach.
As one might assume that assertive mentality needs to start on the defensive side of the ball. Bonta will insist that his White Tigers be constantly on the prowl and looking to become man- eaters when the opposition has the rock. “I want this team to known for a really tough defense that pursues and swarms to the ball.”
And also one that will constantly bring the house. The White Tigers make no bones about the fact that it’s their intent to feature a heavy blitz package. Bonta is a big believer that if you can generate heat and continually apply pressure, opposing offenses will play hurriedly and will have great difficulty establishing a rhythm.
EC will operate out of a 3-3-5 (stack) deployment that Bonta, a defensive oriented coach, feels is the best scheme in all of prep football. Despite its inherent attacking nature, this setup can also offer deception and has as an underpinning, a bend-but-don’t- break approach.
If the “D” lives up to Bonta’s hopes and expectations, the White Tigers should definitely be in business. And it all figures to start upfront where EC has legitimate and admirable talent. Junior defensive end Tim Perez is a gamer who can run fast, loves to hit and can control the edge. Nose tackle Brendan Hansen is a 6-2, 220-pounder that has a knack for slithering through the line and stuffing the gaps. At the other end, sophomore Reese Knight is one tough kid who plays well beyond his years.
At the “Mike” linebacker spot, the White Tigers have a real rock in senior Logan Stuard. The possessor of great instincts and a football IQ that tops the charts, Stuard is quite active and is constantly found around the ball.
Two other impactful defenders should be outside linebacker Mike Boteler and safety Jake Zimmerman. Although listed at different positions, both will sometimes take on a hybrid role because of their ability to either effectively drop in coverage or come up aggressively on the run. Boteler has a real physical presence about him while the athletic Zimmerman can range far and wide.
Even though the defense is expected to lead the way, without ample production and some firepower from the offense, EC’s goal of claiming a league crown and making the playoffs becomes quite problematic.
But not to worry, because the “O” appears more than capable of holding up its end of the bargain. Operating out of the zone read, Bonta foresees his team having a 60-40 mixture of run to pass. The White Tigers don’t have a lengthy list of plays but by running them out of a lot of different sets and various looks, it appears as if they do.
At the helm, the White Tigers will showcase a promising young talent who’s expected to be the signal caller for years to come. Though sophomore Aaron Kohut will occupy a demanding position, his youth should pose no problem as he has already earned the respect and confidence of his teammates. Cool and poised and unlikely to get overly amped, Kohut can drill the out and bench routes on a line. Tough and not afraid to hang in the pocket, this 5-11, 175-pounder can also unload as far as 50 yards downfield while on the run. “We’re really excited about having the chance to build around him,” enthuses Bonta.
Kohut should feel a sense of comfort knowing that he has two splendid receivers at his disposal. The 6’2” Zimmerman presents a big target and he’s really impressive going up and chasing after the ball. Furthermore, he’s fearless and not the least bit hesitant to mix it up with enemy DB’s. His mate on the outside will be Jaelyn Williams, who will man the “Z” spot. The owner of a great pair of hands and an accomplished route-runner, Williams is a wide-out fully capable of getting open.
When Kohut turns to pitch or hand-off, look for the diminutive Tristan Macmahon to often be the recipient. At just 5-foot-4, Macmahon is adept at hiding behind his blockers and taking advantage of that stealth. With his low center of gravity and nifty cutting, Tristan has the capability of piling up plenty of yards. Offering the perfect compliment to the scatback Macmahon is Hunter Boyce, a strong downhill runner who relishes contact. When the White Tigers need that tough yardage inside, Boyce will be the runner who gets his number called.
The linchpin of the line upfront is unquestionably the aforementioned Stuard, who holds down the fort at left guard. Able to generate a good push as well as protect with distinction, Stuard is a force at the point of attack. Moreover, he’s that special gridder whose heart is manifested on every single snap. On the right side, Collin Shore and Jesse Mazariegos are penciled in to start at guard and tackle respectively. As this is being written, the other two starting spots along the line have yet to be determined.
Meanwhile, EC’s special teams have the potential to be difference making. Zimmerman (there’s that guy again), will handle all the kicking responsibilities. Considered to be highly reliable, Zimmerman is comfortable from as far out as 45 yards on his field goal attempts. Perhaps just as importantly, Jake is an effective punter who combines serviceable distance with outstanding hang time.
As far as kickoff and punt returning chores are concerned, the White Tigers will leave that up to Williams, a threat whenever he has the rock in his hands. Trustworthy as far as securing the ball, Jaelyn has a notable burst and can separate from pursuers once he gets a step on them.
Escondido Charter’s quest to bring to life Bonta’s positive vision and to improve on their 3 and 7 record of last year begins in earnest this coming Friday night with a road trip to Calipatria.
This is a team that will have a decidedly younger vibe, with juniors and sophomores taking on very prominent roles. Only six seniors are projected to be major factors this season. But Bonta likes the makeup of his squad and doesn’t shy away from ambitious expectations. He won’t be satisfied unless his White Tigers not only compete, but go on a real prowl!