Pirates look strong for fall

Quarterback Pete Mitchell rushes in a game in LeBard Stadium. Mitchell is committed to Cal Lutheran in the fall.

In Joel “Bubba” Gonzalez’s first year as the full-time football head coach, he is determined to bring a winning culture back to Orange Coast College after several years of sub-par performances in the fall.

In Gonzalez’s interim season, the Pirates went 1-9, losing several close, well-fought games at home.

One key issue being addressed this offseason is the departure of key players in every facet of the game.

After the departures of quarterbacks Nathan West and Pete Mitchell, running back Ahmad Lewis and multiple two-year starters on the offensive line, it is imperative that returners bring the newcomers up to speed quickly to pick up for an offense that severely struggled in 2018.

A bright spot of the 2018 season was a stout defense lead by sophomores Roman Ayala, Isaiah Dunston and roadblock nose tackle Nicholas Cid. With the departure of these defensive leaders, returning players and new faces need to step up in order to prepare for the difficult schedule of 2019.

“My job is to motivate these young men. My job is to work with them, and hopefully get them in the right direction to meet whatever goals they have,” Gonzalez said at a recent press conference. “Although I make the decisions, and sometimes I tell them what to do, they’re not working for me, we are working together.”

Coast will have two new faces controlling the offense and defense this year, with former defensive back coach Twin Fernandes taking over for Jan Jorgenson as defensive coordinator who left for Snow College in Utah.

Coach Penetito Aniva Niumata fills in for the departing Dan Urbanos as offensive coordinator. Niumata spent multiple years at community college powerhouse Mt. San Antonio College. He looks to bring new elements into the offense and establish more of an offensive presence on the field.

Several players look to bolster the offense this upcoming season.

Reese Perez, a transfer from Santa Barbara City College, brings a new dynamic to a passing game that seemed to stumble at points last year.

 Transfer quarterback Adam Carr has impressed throughout spring practice, being the favorite to win the position after former grayshirt quarterback Jacob Munro made the transition to tight end.

The offensive line is anchored by returners John Lamas and Riden Leong. Leong has recently been very active in the recruiting scene picking up several Division One scholarship offers within the span of a week.

Lamas will also fill in as the long snapper for the Pirates, replacing recent Texas State commit Alex Lipps.

Defensively, the Pirates return a strong secondary with Isaac Soto returning as well as Kyrie Adams and Corey Sampson Jr., who both are coming off a medical redshirt year and look to be immediate impact makers on the defense.

Zeke Alleman and Chris Castillo are the key returners out of last season’s linebackers, with Adrian Rosales rounding out the returning front seven. Rosales is a high caliber end who plays the game with good technique and great game sense often finding himself in the right place at the right time.

“We’re trying to build a culture of competiveness,” Gonzalez said.

Orange Coast will play the same schedule as last year, except with home and away games flipped. The Pirates will open against defending southern California champions and state runner-up Ventura College.

Coast lost a close game on opening night last season to Ventura after a questionable safety call by the seemingly uninterested referee cost the Pirates a chance to take the lead along with possession of the ball.

Expect serious progress to be made in the rebuilding phase for the Pirates this season behind new coach Gonzalez.

With one year of experience under his belt and a few veteran players in key positions, the Pirates are ready for the task of taking on some of the best community college has to offer in 2019.

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