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2018 FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Gahr anticipating rough season, nearly starting over with young and inexperienced team

 

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

 

GAHR GLADIATORS

8-4 overall last season, 3-2 in the San Gabriel Valley League, third place, lost to Dos Pueblos High 35-28 in the Division 10 quarterfinals

25-28 overall last five seasons

Head coach: Greg Marshall (16thseason, 83-74)

Lost 27 seniors out of 47 players from 2017 opening day roster

Last time missed the playoffs: 2015

2018 schedule

Aug. 17           @ Jefferson (7-4 overall last season)

Aug. 24           Millikan (9-3)

Aug. 31           BYE

Sept. 7            @ North Torrance (8-3)

Sept. 14          @ St. Anthony (8-4)

Sept. 21          Mayfair (11-2)

Sept. 28          Dominguez (2-8)

Oct. 5              Lynwood (4-6)

Oct. 12            @ Warren (6-4)

Oct. 19            Paramount (11-2)

Oct. 25            @ Downey (11-3)

After going 3-7 for three straight seasons, Gahr High won eight games in back to back seasons. It was the program’s best two-year span since at least 1998. But as head coach Greg Marshall enters his 16thseason at the helm of the Gladiator’s program, this one will certainly remind him of the one less than five seasons ago.

“Last season went pretty much the way it was supposed to go,” Marshall said. “We got a new quarterback, so we didn’t know what he could do. [But], everything went as scheduled once we figured what we could do offensively. We knew, defensively, we were going to be pretty good because of the kids coming back.”

For the Gladiators to have the same success of the past two seasons, they will have to do so with a relatively young and inexperienced team. Gahr had close to 30 seniors on the 2017 squad and will begin this season with 19 seniors, 12 juniors and nine sophomores.

OFFENSE

Gahr scored 383 points last season with most of those coming from the legs of running back Micah Bernard, now a senior. He is just one of three returning players on offense and it will take a lot for Gahr to scoring in bunches as it did the past few seasons. Gahr scored over 40 points four times and over 30 points three other times.

Bernard rushed for over 2,300 yards and found the endzone 25 times last season for a team that finished with over 2,800 yards on the ground and 30 touchdowns. Senior Evan Smith, junior Cochese Bradshaw and sophomore Andrew Simpson will join Bernard in the backfield. Marshall says the team will be more of a bubble and I-power team with Bernard in the backfield and will have to pass more than they did the past few seasons. He doesn’t plan on running Bernard as much as last season, thus making it imperative for other players to step up if teams are going to key in on Bernard. Of the team’s 371 carries in 2017, Bernard had 240 of them.

“He’s picked it up; it’s a new a system for him,” Marshall said of Bernard. “We had to put a new system in because we don’t have the line. We can’t run what we ran last year, so, we have to install another offense.”

 

The Gladiators will have a new signal caller as senior Jordan Simpson gets the job with senior Nathan Rhodes as the backup. Last season, Rhodes was three of right for 14 yards and an interception. The top wide receivers will be junior Aaron Okoro along with Bradshaw and Andrew Simpson.

Going from left to right on the line will be junior tackle Devan Coleman, senior guard Nathan Grande, junior center David Versteeg, senior guards Jason Blom or Danny Chinchilla and senior tackle Esteban Perez. Sophomore Anakin Larrabee could also play either right tackle or right guard. Marshall added that the offense will be more balanced passing to running.

“Pass protection is easy; it’s the easiest thing you can do. If we can throw it, then we can teach our guys to protect against bigger guy,” Marshall said.

DEFENSE

Last season, Gahr had three straight games in which it allowed no more than eight points. But, the defense tailed off towards the end of the campaign, allowing at least 28 points in the final five contests. Marshall, who is also the defensive coordinator, describes this season’s defensive unit much like the one in a few seasons ago when Gahr won three games and had some players transfer out. There will be a lot of two-way players, so, with that said, the same offensive lineman will be the same on the defensive line with Grande playing nose and Coleman or Perez at one of the ends. The secondary will feature only one returning player from 2017-senior Kyle Veazie, who had 21 tackles. The cornerbacks will be junior Joaquin Camouche and one of the Nixon bothers, either Chandler or Chase, both sophomores, with the other one at safety. Junior Shane White and sophomore Kyle Nwosu will be outside linebackers while Smith is situated in the inside along with senior Justin Holland-Phillips.

SCHEDULE

Could this be the end of an era as it relates to the ABC Unified School District? Gone from Gahr’s schedule are the yearly rivalry games with Artesia High and Cerritos High. The Gladiators had gone a combined 27-12 against those two since 1998, including the last 13 in a row against Cerritos.

“I don’t like it,” Marshall said. “I don’t think it’s good for the community, I don’t think it’s good for football, I don’t think it’s good for either of the programs. I don’t see what the benefit of that is at all. But, that wasn’t my choice; no one talked to me about it.

“I will never question someone trying to do something better for their program,” he continued. “But I just don’t see how not playing Gahr is bettering their programs. I don’t get it. It makes for interesting football. What games do we have where people will come out just for the heck to go watch Gahr or Artesia or Cerritos? What games are there? Those are the games. No one cares if we play Downey. No one cares if we play Paramount. The stands are empty; their people don’t even come [to Gahr]. There’s no connection, even though we’ve been in the league forever.”

Marshall said this will be the toughest schedule he has ever faced, and that Millikan High will be like a San Gabriel Valley League game while the game against North Torrance High can go either way. He added that he thinks his team can compete with St. Anthony High. Either way, Gahr plays seven teams that advanced to the CIF-Southern Section playoffs last season. In addition, Gahr’s two road league games are in the city of Downey, which has not been to hospitable for the Gladiators. Since 1998, Gahr is a combined 2-14 against Downey High and Warren High on the road.

“The league situation is just what it is,” Marshall said. “You can come into the [league] season 4-1 or 5-0 and for Gahr High School to go into the San Gabriel Valley League and think you’re going to win four or five more games is…I just don’t think it’s going to happen.”

HOMECOMING

Gahr survived a 46-42 homecoming affair against Warren last season and is 5-9 in such games against San Gabriel Valley League foes since 1998. At time of press, Marshall wasn’t sure if Gahr plays Dominguez High or Lynwood High for its homecoming game. Since at least 1998, Gahr has never played Dominguez for its homecoming game, but is 2-0 against Lynwood in such games and 11-5 against the Knights since 1998.

DIVISION 6

The Gladiators make a huge jump from Division 10 to Division 6 and go from 29 schools this season in Division 10 fighting it out for the 16 playoff spots to 22 schools in Division 6. Even with a young and inexperienced team, Marshall still likes his chances of making it to the playoffs. In fact, the Gladiators are barely out of Division 5, which also has 22 schools. Mayfair is the only opponent from the same division and the Gladiators are 1-5 against the Monsoons since 2000.

“That’s a good thing, that it’s only 22 teams in the bracket,” Marshall said. “Because last year, with 37 [teams], even though we were third, a lot of third place teams didn’t get in because there were so many first and second [place teams]. But we had a higher ranking.”

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