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Loren Kopff’s 2023 Football Preview – La Mirada Hopes to Put Last Season in the Past With New Head Coach, Same Challenges

August 7, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


4-6 overall last season, 2-3 in the Gateway League, fourth place

22-27 overall last five seasons

Head coach: Lucas Mealy (first season)

Lost 24 seniors out of 54 players from 2022 opening day roster                              

Last time made the playoffs: 2021

2023 schedule

Aug. 18           Cypress (13-1 overall last season)             

Aug. 25           Yorba Linda (14-1)                                        

Sept. 1            @ Servite (1-9)

Sept. 8            Long Beach Jordan (6-4)

Sept. 15          @ Baldwin Park (10-3)                                  

Sept. 22          BYE

Sept. 28          Dominguez (4-6)

Oct. 6              Mayfair (8-5)                                                   

Oct. 13            @ Norwalk (10-2)                                           

Oct. 20            @ Warren (9-2)                                              

Oct. 27            @ Downey (12-3)                                           

It was not the campaign La Mirada High or its followers expected as the Matadores were part of a new, tougher Gateway League, which was in its first season. The Matadores finished in fourth place, then were left out of the CIF-Southern Southern playoffs for the first time in over 40 years. To add insult to injury, former head coach Mike Moschetti left to take the same position at St. Paul High.

But it doesn’t stop there as at least 30 players either graduated or transferred out and the team will have to play another season off campus as La Mirada’s new stadium won’t be completed for several months. With all that going on, former Orange High offensive coordinator of the past two seasons Lucas Mealy takes over knowing there is going to be a big challenge for the 2023 season. This will be his first head coaching job anywhere.

“Obviously, it’s a dream come true in the sense of the program that I’m at,” said Mealy. “I don’t think very many people will get an opportunity to be part of such a very special program like La Mirada High School. The community that’s involved in it, in my opinion, is second to none. You look at all these teams that come into place when they talk about high school football like Texas or down south, and it’s one school, one city, one community, one town-type feel. I really do believe La Mirada is that same way.”

Before that, Mealy was at Fountain Valley High and St. John Bosco High and had a brief stint at Cerritos College. He admitted that becoming a head coach was something he wasn’t looking for right away. He loved being an offensive coordinator but over the past couple of years, he saw some things that made him believe he might be ready to become a head coach.

The history of La Mirada’s program played a part in Mealy coming to the corner of Adelfa Dr. and Foster Rd. But he said the biggest thing was the school and the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District administration support and the community support. Mealy grew up in the city of Norwalk, which has two high schools, and where he coached the last two seasons, that city has three high schools.

“I think having one high school in one city is a huge, huge thing, at least from my perspective with the support that you get from the community with the rallying of the community,” said Mealy. “People care about this; everything about the school, whether it’s football or another sport or an activity or the school itself. People care about it and to me, that was the biggest selling point.”

Mealy, who was hired in April, which is somewhat late if a school is making a head coaching change, and especially for a successful program like La Mirada’s, said when he got here, the numbers and morale were a little bit down. To him, the biggest thing was to try to get the kids excited and to promote the team to the school. By doing that, there are three or four players from the basketball team, about half a dozen from the baseball team and some from the track and field team. One bright spot for the program as it looks towards the next few seasons is that there are 16 seniors on a roster of 55 as of early August. Also, the only leftover from last season’s coaching staff is Mike Ramirez, who was La Mirada’s freshman head coach last season.

“I know the talent in La Mirada is great,” said Mealy. “I know that if we can get to the point where we can keep the kids from La Mirada in La Mirada, we’re going to have a lot of success. But ultimately what I was trying to do is get kids to want to be a part of the program again, and I started that by going out and getting kids who were already on campus. We kind of used the motto ‘it’s a new era’. So, a lot of kids came out and I think the kids are having fun and flying around.”

He later went on to say that he loves a challenge and that a lot of programs use the word compete, but at La Mirada, it strives to win in everything it does. 

“We want to win on the field; we want to win in the weightroom,” he added. “Obviously, I think those two go hand in hand with football. But we teach our kids that we want to win every day. We want to win in the classroom, we want to win with our relationships, we want to win in the community…whatever we’re doing, we want to have the mindset of winning and overcoming that obstacle.”


The Matadores scored 200 points last season, but 74 came in non-league games. And this season will certainly look like a new team as a ton of last season’s offense is no longer around. La Mirada is going to go with an air raid, spread style offense, which means up tempo and no huddle with three wide receivers, a tight end, one running back, and play as fast as they can, according to Mealy. Followers of the program may recognize the last name of the projected starting quarterback as sophomore Santino Garcia is the younger brother of Nehuel Garcia, who graduated this past May. Mealy says Santino Garcia has a very bright future and is a natural leader who has to get bigger in the weightroom. His backup will be senior Martin Aguilera, who is also a slot receiver. Mealy said nearly 100 percent of Garcia’s or Aguilar’s job will be done from the shotgun formation.

The top returning running back is sophomore Jordan Lauago, who touched the ball just five times last season, gaining three years. He also caught nine passes for 142 yards and Mealy calls him a ‘very special football player for us’. Mealy also believes Lauago will be a really dynamic player for the Matadores who has a lot of explosion with great hands and has a natural ability for finding the hole with great acceleration. Other running backs expected to get some touches will be juniors Gavin Dionne and Max Rankin.

Those three players also figure to catch some passes from Garcia as will seniors Ernie Ortiz and 6’4” Christopher Cuevas, a tight end from the basketball team, junior Isaiah Robbins, sophomore Aaron Castro and Aguilar, when he’s not playing quarterback.  

Protecting those skill players on the line will be junior left tackle Ryan Molina, sophomore Genisis Afu or Noah Marquez at left guard, senior center Zachary Stein, senior Adrian Otero, who stands at 6’6”, 305 or junior Mark Galindo at right guard and junior right tackle Elan Gomez with junior James Scott backing him up.

“What I like is these kids have done a great job of understanding what we’re trying to do,” said Mealy. “It was a complete change schematically. Not only did they buy in and accept it, but they also have proved to be able to do it on the field. I think that’s a big thing. We’re going to have some explosive plays this year [and] we’re also going to have some mistakes. That’s part of running this type of offense; is when you run as many plays as possible, there are more opportunities for big plays and there’s also more opportunities for mistakes.”


La Mirada allowed 247 points last season and had three games in which opponents put up over 30 points on the Matadores. The top four players leading the charge to be a starter on the defensive line will be seniors John Bynum and Pedro Gomez-Magallanes, junior Noah Duran and sophomore Donavan Davis. Also in the mix are senior Lorenzo Luttich and junior Charlie Dowlin. 

Mealy says the secondary is one of the strengths of the team with seniors Gregory Leon and Frank Torres and Aguilera at safety. Mealy says Leon and Torres are the vocal leaders on defense and Torres can also be a linebacker. Other players who figure to be in the secondary are junior Chris Perez, sophomore Levi Reyes, Lauago and Rankin while the linebackers will be seniors Sean Gomez and Ary Montes, a transfer from Perris High where he had 103 tackles last season, Dionne and Torres at times.

“We attack; our defense plays with an attitude, and I firmly love it,” said Mealy. “Don’t get me wrong, but in practice, it makes it difficult because the offense is going against a real good defense day in and day out. But they fly around, they attack, and they play with an attitude. They swarm the ball and try to make as many plays on defense as possible. We don’t just sit back and let things come to us. They go take the things they want, and I love that about our defense.”


La Mirada will once again have one of the toughest schedules around, not just outside of the Gateway League, but overall. Seven opponents went to the playoffs last season and two of them are defending division champions-Yorba Linda High from Division 3 and Downey High from Division 4. Yorba Linda defeated the Matadores 28-13 in the second game last season and that was followed by Servite High’s lone victory last season, a 10-7 decision with the game-winning touchdown coming in the fourth quarter. Those two opponents are repeats for La Mirada and after being home four times in 2022, the last three to end the season, four of the five home games this season will be played at Norwalk High with the other one at John Glenn High. Mealy added that the first two opponents are well-established programs who di what they do and do it well. There will be no rest for the weary for La Mirada before it gets to its bye, then hit another gauntlet that is the Gateway League.

“Cypress has a returning quarterback who is special,” said Mealy. “They have a linebacker who is coming back who is really special and a couple other key pieces. We know Cypress is going to be a huge challenge, no doubt about it. They have some unique stuff offensively and I think our coaches will have a gameplan for them. But with that being said, we know that they are really well-coached.”

Mealy coached against Yorba Linda the past two seasons and saw his team lose by a combined score of 86-50. He says that those players are a physical group of kids and when they get off the bus, they’re ready to ‘rock and roll’. He also said the bye comes at the right time as it will help the Matadores get an opportunity to rest and to prepare themselves for what will be a tougher Gateway League than last season. 

Norwalk, the tri-champions of the Mid-Cities League, comes over to the Gateway League to replace Paramount High for at least this season and will be a reunion as the two were longtime Suburban League rivals. Since at least 1998, La Mirada has lost twice to Norwalk with those defeats coming in 2008 (41-24) and 2013 (42-35). 

“You look at Dominguez and they will always be a talented football team,” said Mealy. “Norwalk runs some unique stuff, which takes a lot of time preparing for. They do similar to what Yorba Linda and Cypress do and they do it really well. And they’re going to make you, from a defensive perspective, make you consistently beat them over and over again. As soon as you don’t, they’ll take that big play.”


It’s rare to find someone’s last home game of the regular season the same as its homecoming game, but that’s what will happen when the Matadores host longtime nemesis Mayfair High. Last season, La Mirada lost a heartbreaking 16-14 decision to the Monsoons when a last second field goal was missed. Mayfair has won six straight in the series and since 2004, own a 12-7 advantage. In fact, three of the last four losses to the Monsoons have been decided by a combined eight points. Last season, La Mirada defeated Paramount 40-20 for its homecoming game.


“The fortunate thing is we have the juniors from last year who have become seniors and we have a great group of seniors,” said Mealy. “They stuck around and gave me their trust that I will lead them to doing great things their senior year. I know a lot of kids over the years just haven’t come here because of the stadium situation. Kids don’t want to take the bus to John Glenn every day. I don’t blame them. Kids don’t want to be a part of what they think might be a rebuild, which we don’t think it’s going to be a rebuild. But from the outside looking in, there’s no doubt about it, It looks like it’s going to be a rebuild. We know what the expectations are for this program and we know what we have to do to accomplish them.”