The big story on the Eastlake High School campus this season is that former head coach John McFadden has returned to resume his old position with the Titans.
Mac is back … and that can only spell good fortune for the program.
McFadden stepped down as head coach following the 2013 season, taking 127 career wins and two San Diego Section championships with him.
He returned after admitting that he missed the strategy part of the game, trying to fit all the pieces together to form a championship team.
There is no reason to believe that McFadden will not be successful in his return to the helm.
While McFadden has been absent as head coach for four years at Eastlake, he has remained on campus as a physical education teacher.
Familiarity, of course, always helps.
“The good thing is that I know all the kids from school in PE class,” McFadden said. “I’m excited. It’s all about improving. They’re here to win my trust and I have to win their trust. We’re working on that really hard.”
There isn’t too much that needs fixing on the Titans, who finished 10-3 last season en route to a runner-up finish to El Camino in the Division I championship game under then head coach Dean Tropp.
Tropp, who took over from Lee Price (who originally took over from McFadden), relinquished the position due to health issues, which facilitated McFadden’s return.
The Titans finished runner-up in last year’s Metro-Mesa League standings to Otay Ranch with a 3-1 league record.
Team goals this year include accomplishing what the team was unable to accomplish last year — that being winning a league title and CIF championship.
Eastlake should find out how it stacks up against some of the section’s projected heavyweights when it hosts Torrey Pines in a non-league encounter in Friday’s season opener. The Falcons are being touted as one of the top teams in the section this season.
“We have some good kids — we’ll surprise a few people,” McFadden assessed.
Senior linebacker/tight end Josh McCurty leads the Titans’ top returners along with seniors A.J. Hernandez (defensive back/running back), Roman Coe (running back/linebacker), Parker Merrifield (running back/linebacker), McKinley Egland-Young (cornerback), Kevin Bateman (receiver), Jordan Walker (receiver), Talon Lazio (tight end), Sebastian Scholl (receiver), Claidale Jackson (cornerback/receiver) and junior Darius De Los Reyes (running back/defensive back).
Seniors Lavonte Webb (6-4, 280), Vincent Santos (6-4, 300) and Jack Hay (5-10, 225) will lead the way in the trenches on the offensive and defensive lines.
When projected starting EHS quarterback Daniel Amon elected to transfer to Helix High School over the summer, sophomore Richard Colmonero took over the reins as the team’s top quarterback.
Ryzhon McCoy, who split time last year with Amon (1,580 passing yards, 16 touchdowns), should also be in the mix this season after rushing for 389 yards and four touchdowns while throwing for 247 yards and three TDs.
Coe led the Titans with 890 rushing yards last season while scoring eight touchdowns; Merrifield ranked second on the squad with 697 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
Bateman had three touchdown catches as a junior while De Los Reyes scored three touchdowns (two receiving, one rushing) as a sophomore.
McCurty led the Titans last season with 206 tackles while also generating six sacks. Coe ranked second on the team with 127 sacks. Hernandez and Coe each had two interceptions.
McCurty should be an asset on offense as well this season.
The Titans have already shown they are ready to compete after edging Madison, 7-0, in last Saturday’s scrimmage. The Warhawks are ranked fourth in the section to start the season.
Eastlake lost to Lincoln in a pair of passing tournaments over the summer. “They’re really a good seven-on-seven team — they have some incredible athletes,” McFadden acknowledged. “But when you put pads on, it’s a whole different story.”
The Titans host their first four regular season games — Aug. 17 against Torrey Pines, Aug. 24 against Hilltop, Aug. 31 against Santiago and Sept. 7 against Grossmont — with a chance to build some momentum for the remainder of the season.
Overall, Eastlake will have six home games this season.