The Capistrano Dispatch’s annual high school football preview is out now. To read more San Juan Capistrano prep season previews, visit www.thecapistranodispatch.com.
By Steve Breazeale
The Saddleback Valley Christian football team looks positioned to make another deep playoff run, thanks to a large group of returning starters from last year’s squad, which reached the CIF-SS East Valley Division semifinals, suiting up for another run.
Last year was a landmark campaign for the Warriors and then-first-year head coach Brian Pearsall, as the team won 12 games for the first time since 2007 and claimed its eighth consecutive San Joaquin League title.
Brendan Chambers, a Saddleback Valley Christian alum, takes over as the Warriors new head coach in 2015.
Seven starters return to both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, although several Warriors will be starting both ways.
Chambers said this year’s offensive line is the largest in school history and believes his starting five up front are also among the quickest units in the East Valley Division. Returning seniors Jonathan Bunnel, Miguel Gonzalez, Craig Hill, Luc Audet and Sean Carpenter have played alongside each other for several years and have impressed their coach in training camp.
“They are the hardest working group on our team … At any level of football you can win a lot of games with a good offensive line and I think that the success of our season will have a lot to do with how those big guys up front play,” Chambers said.
The Warriors return their quarterback from last season, junior Cade Henjum, and will surround him with a dynamic senior running back tandem of David Molina and Dalton Lohman. Molina displayed his offensive versatility last season, rushing for 852 yards and six touchdowns while catching 25 passes for 581 yards and five touchdowns. Chambers said Molina will again be a dual threat to score out of the backfield or out on the field running routes. Lohman ran for 234 yards and five touchdowns and will return to his role of racking up tough yards as the team’s up-the-middle rusher.
Henjum had a solid sophomore season under center. After splitting time with former senior Jake Markum, Henjum took control of the offense, throwing for 1,432 yards and completing just over 57 percent of his passes. He also kept turnovers to a minimum, throwing 15 touchdowns to six interceptions. Henjum also showed off his running ability, carrying the ball 91 times for 384 yards and eight scores. Chambers, who is also the team’s offensive coordinator, believes Henjum has carried over the success from a strong 7-on-7 passing league season into pads.
Saddleback Valley Christian lost several impact receivers and will rely on junior wideout Savaii Cravens to be one of Henjum’s go-to options. Cravens is the younger brother of Su’a Cravens, a standout three-year starter for the USC football team.
The Warriors defensive line punished opposing offenses last season and returns two of their strongest players in Bunnel and Hill. Bunnel and Hill accounted for 50 and 69 tackles last season, respectively, and had a knack for getting to the quarterback. Bunnel recorded a team-high 11.5 sacks and Griffin tallied 8.5 sacks last season.
“I think 20 sacks combined is a goal they (Bunnel and Craig) should achieve with ease. Although I know both those guys can care less about personal stats and care more about doing their job defensively,” Chambers said. “In practice they are constantly wreaking havoc on our offense.”
In 10 regular season games last year, the Warriors defense held opponents to 14 points or less eight times. In five of those games, Saddleback Valley Christian held their opponents to seven points or less. The defense also returns All-CIF defensive back Marc Audet, the Warriors top lockdown defender. Molina will also double as a defensive back.
Saddleback Valley Christian dropped three opponents from last year’s schedule and replaced them with Crean Lutheran, out of the larger Academy League, California Military Academy and the Orange Coast League’s Calvary Chapel. The Warriors biggest regular season game will likely be their San Joaquin League opener against Capistrano Valley Christian on Oct. 10. The Eagles threatened the Warriors last season but Saddleback Valley Christian held on for a 14-10 win.
Date Opponent Location, Time
9/4 Crean Lutheran Irvine High, 7 p.m.
9/11 Malibu Malibu High, 7 p.m.
9/18 Garey Garey High, 7 p.m.
9/25 California Military Institute Tesoro High, 7 p.m.
10/2 Calvary Chapel San Juan Hills, 7 p.m.
10/10* Capistrano Valley Christian Capo Valley High, 7 p.m.
10/16* Southlands Christian Rowland, 7 p.m.
10/24* Fairmont Prep Yorba Linda High, 7 p.m.
10/30* Santa Clarita Christian Tesoro, 7 p.m.
11/6* The Webb Schools San Juan Hills, 7 p.m.
*–denotes league game
Editor’s Note: This article initially stated that Brian Pearsall was the head coach of Saddleback Valley Christian. It is Brendan Chambers.