May 29, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

OC Sports Zone Kickoff 2019: Western Pioneers aiming for another CIF championship

Caine Savage and his Western teammates are looking for another big season. (File photo Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone)

It was a season to remember for Western High’s football team which captured the CIF Division 11 title, the first CIF crown in school history. The Pioneers, who were 12-3 overall, shared the Pac-4 League title with Ocean View and Laguna Beach.

To see the slide show, please click on the first photo

The prospects for this year appear bright too for the team with six returning starters on defense and nine on offense for Coach Dan Davidson, who enters his sixth season.

The Pioneers move up to Division 10 for the CIF playoffs. Western’s first game is Friday, Aug. 23, on the road against Muir.

“Team expectations are very high,” said Davidson. “We believe if you work hard every day that game day will take care of itself. We have a lot of team speed, play makers on both offense and defense and like to play a fast and exciting brand of football. We lost some great talent.

“Obviously losing Anthony Munoz, the county record holder in yards and touchdowns who also led the nation last season is not easy to replace, but we have confidence in Isiah Del Toro to keep the high powered offense firing on all cylinders. Losing the man in the middle Jacob Domino on defense is not all small task to replace either, but he did such a great job breaking down the defense for the other members of our team it will lesson the blow. He was such a leader and had respect for the game that he made our defense so solid and we know that will help make our defense that much better. 

“We will be successful like every team would say, stay healthy. Del Toro needs to keep getting the ball out to playmakers, The line needs to protect our quarterback and we need to create turnovers on defense. Last year during our playoff run we gave up 0, 3, 6 and 7 points in the second half and we are returning nine defensive starters. We must bring that intensity for all 48 minutes.”

Tentative offensive starters:

Isiah Del Toro, senior, QB; Isreal Cruz, junior, RB; Marquis Johnson, sophomore, FB; Caine Savage, senior, WR all-county, All-CIF defensive MVP, all-league offensive MVP Committed to Arizona State,  125 catches, 2,105 yards, 32 touchdowns; Cassius Savage, senior, WR, all-county, All CIF, all-league, committed to San Diego State, 78 catches 1,139 yards, 15 touchdowns; Jaden Hagan, senior, tight end,  12 catches, 124 yards; Danny Walters III, senior, LT, All-CIF,  MVP, all-league; Soane Motuliki, junior, LG; Frankie Sanchez, senior, C; Omaha Sue Sue, junior, G; Ellis Nguyen Jr., senior, All CIF, all-league, T.

Tentative defensive starters

DT Danny Walters III All-CIF,  20 sacks 67 tackles; NT, Tyrone Johnson , 33 tackles; DT, Ellis Nguyen, All CIF,  18 sacks 58 tackles; LB Simi Ahloe, all- league,  16 sacks, 48 tackles; LB, Soane Motuliki, four sacks, 37 tackles; LB, Bryce Jackson, transfer; LB, Jaden Hagan,  29 tackles; CB, Caine Savage, all CIF, 8 interceptions, 88 tackles; FS, Isiah Del Toro, all-league, 34 tackles, one interception; SS Cassius Savage, All-CIF, four interceptions, 113 tackles; CB: Marcus Mora, one interception, 26 tackles.

Special teams

Caine Savage has returned multiple touchdowns on both punt and kickoff returns. Cassius Savage has returned three touchdowns on kick returns.

A closer look at the Pioneer standouts

—-“Caine (Savage) is such a leader on and off the field,” Davidson said. “His work ethic and desire to succeed is fun to watch everyday. I am so proud of his work in the classroom 2.96 GPA and on the field. Arizona State is getting a special young man and not just in football. He holds the Orange County record for catches, yards and touchdowns. He was first team all-county last year.”

—“Cassius (Savage) is our leader on defense,” Davidson said. “His knowledge of the game and his ability to compete is infectious and makes others around him want to work harder. He is a triple threat guy for sure: offense at wide receiver, defense at safety and special teams, You better not blink or he will be gone. Cassius was third team all county last year as a junior and I expect even bigger things this year.”

—-“Danny Walters on both lines is an outstanding threat. His speed of the line and ability to get to the ball on defense separates him from others. His is fast, strong and loves the game. The combination will make him a great player to watch on where he ends up in college. His engine sparks us on the line.”

—“Ellis Nguyen Jr. is a smooth linemen that uses his talents and skill sets to make plays,” Davidson said. “He holds the edge, wins his gap and disrupts any offense we face. On offense he is a tremendous pass protector and a great pulling lead blocker.”

—-“Simi Ah-Loe is the spoken leader of our team,” Davidson said. “He goes 100 percent on every play. He’s a great running back that gives it his all on every run and a weakside linebacker that can cover, tackle in the open field, put his nose in the run game and get to the quarterback with his outstanding quickness.”

—“Isiah Del Toro is an all-league safety and an amazing wide receiver,” Davidson said. “We have a few good ones on the outside so after losing our quarterback (Munoz, now at Wisconsin Lutheran) he took on the challenge to follow the nation’s leading quarterback in yards (5,103) and touchdowns (67) and step up to be the leader of our offense. He is so unselfish that it helps mold our team concepts. He has the talent at the next level to play wide receiver yet he has worked every day this off-season to play quarterback to help our team. On defense he has natural instincts and can cover for days and puts his nose in to make plays in the run game. I am so thankful he is on my team.” 

RELATED: Western High’s 2019 schedule

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com