THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — The Cal Lutheran football team was on the doorstep of a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Championship in 2017 and are looking to take it to the next step in 2018 and claim the title.
The Kingsmen have been hard at work for the past few weeks preparing for their 2018 campaign. The main components that stand out from this group are maturity, athleticism and depth, with the most important goal being a championship mindset.
"I like the chemistry of this team," said head coach Ben McEnroe. "This group has been fairly astute with things that were stumbling blocks for past teams. They came into camp with a mission to not repeat the mistakes of the past.
"The upperclassmen are very eager to show the new guys how we practice, how we do things and how we hold each other accountable. The team has set a standard of excellence. We talk a lot about the process of being champions and that has carried over to the practice field."
The team has shown real promise, with many Kingsmen thriving at their positions. When it comes to games though, experience can be the biggest decider. The most experience on the offense comes on the offensive line.
"Most games started is with the offensive line, and they're all juniors and underclassmen," said McEnroe. "Andrew Reyes (First Team All-SCIAC) can athletically play all positions; tackle, guard and center. He brings a lot to the table. Frank Molina, Daniel Avila, David Pardini have played a lot of football and started a lot for us. They're fully capable of being one of the best units in the conference."
The running back group is as deep as the Kingsmen have ever been and a lot of different guys will get a shot at running the ball. They all bring something different to the table. The Violet and Gold are also talented at wide receiver. The big thing is finding balance with all the skill players. The starting quarterback position is still ongoing with McEnroe saying they just need to get Eli Peters and Hayden Smith more snaps.
The defense has its returners at some positions and has really seen some young guys step up. The defensive backs are led by two-time First Team All-SCIAC Obasi Dees. Also showing great poise at the corner and safety spots are Cameron James, JD Lang and Jordan Burrell.
The linebacker core is a strength and welcomes back Ty Lozano and Ethan Pulley. Both bring a lot of experience to the position. Another guy looking for more playing time this year is Anthony Rios-Carlsen
"Lozano is a dynamic playmaker who comes of the edge," said McEnroe. "He is just a good old fashioned football player. Pulley is an inside linebacker that can run sideline to sideline. He brings a lot speed. Carlsen is a big physical inside backer. He brings maturity and leadership."
The defensive front lost a lot, but is better than the coaching staff anticipated.
"The addition of JW Windsor gives us a big presence," said McEnroe. Windsor and Thomas Flanigan are two, big, strong, older guys that will hold down the middle. Caleb Casimere is going to be special here. He is big, long and explosive. Tecoy Porter is coming off an injury, but he's bigger, faster and stronger than ever. I really like our defense."
The Kingsmen are ready for a 10-game schedule, which features five home games. This is the first time since 1991 that Cal Lutheran will play 10 games.
"We need to come out and fight everyone week and focus on championship behavior," said McEnroe. "We want to set a standard and then exceed that standard every week. It'll be a challenge, but that's college football.
"I love the fact that I get to spend time with this team and these coaches and we just need to go out there and get after it."
The Kingsmen open the season this Saturday as they host Pacific Lutheran at 1 p.m. in William Rolland Stadium.
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Release by Ryan Jorgenson, Sports Information Director