May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Sunny Hills football team lines up rematch with Tustin and coach excited about starting up

11/30/19: Teammates, including Alex Solis (51) congratulate Vince Silva after his TD on a pass from Luke Duxbury (58 yards) proved to be the winning score in Sunny Hills' 24-21 victory over Santa Barbara in the CIF Division 8football title game Saturday night. (Photo courtesy Jim McCormack for OC Sports Zone)

Vince Silva of Sunny Hills is congratulated after his TD on a 58-yard pass from Luke Duxbury proved to be the winning score in the CIF finals last season. (Photo courtesy Jim McCormack, For OC Sports Zone)

Soon after CIF officials announced a new plan Monday that would have high school football starting on Jan. 8, 2021 Sunny Hills Coach Peter Karavedas was among those looking to fill out the Lancers schedule.

The new-look CIF plan, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, moved the scheduled start of football from August to January with no week zero games, so coaches had to make adjustments and went to Twitter to find out who was looking for games.

“Obviously all the coaches in Orange County and everywhere are scrambling,” said Karavedas, who led the Lancers to the CIF Division 8 title last season.

Sunny Hills was scheduled to open with Canyon during the zero week but moving the game to a different week was not possible so the Lancers had to line up another opponent.

“Our first hope was just to move that game to week five,” Karavedas said. “That way we could keep the same opponents and everything goes nice and smooth. But ….. it just wasn’t going to work out, so we said we didn’t want to play nine games. We needed 10 games in for our kids and I saw Tustin post and we had the tight game last year in the first round, but I’ve got a ton of respect for that program and a ton of respect for the way they play football and their head coach Anthony Lopez.”

So after further discussions, officials from both schools agreed to the game.

Sunny Hills defeated Tustin, 21-14, in the opening round of the CIF playoffs last season.

“We knew since it was a tight ball game last year and they would be excited to play us and we would be excited to play them, so we’re really glad it worked out,” Karavedas said.

The two teams will play at Sunny Hills in week five this coming season and then at Tustin in 2022.

If the CIF plan can be implemented, Sunny Hills will open with Capo Valley on the road, then face El Modena at home, Brea Olinda at home, play at Gahr and then host Tustin.

“We’re just really excited about the season in general and provided we play, we have four or five months to figure this thing out, I hope that happens,” the Lancers coach said. “We were hearing all this stuff about five games or six games and league only and for the schedule to come out and for us to have 10 games potentially, especially for our seniors and for our kids, we’re really excited.

“I’m hoping it all works out. We have a tough schedule ahead of us, but our boys have been working hard and they’re excited, so let’s hope we can do all the right things here in the fall to get back here after the first of the year.”

Sunny Hills was able to get in two weeks of work during an athletic camp using physical distancing and all other guidelines in June before the camp and all others throughout the state had to shut down after orders from health officials.

“Our kids looked great and they were ready to go and it was a lot of fun, so we did a kind of check-in mode with the guys, we had somewhere between 115 and 120 kids show up, including our freshmen, so we were really excited we were at least able to at least get that initial contact,” Karavedas said.

Players won’t be able to have practices until December, so they will be on their own until then and senior leaders will play a big role, Karavedas said. He held a Zoom meeting with players Wednesday.

“We’ve got a plan in place with workouts and nutrition and accountability,” he said. “We’ve just got great kids; they’re motivated and they want to be great, so they’re going to continue to work. We were excited with the way our guys looked when they showed up in June and we really felt like a lot of them had made huge progress so that was great to see.”

Among the top returning players for the Lancers are outside linebacker/tight end Carson Irons, running back/linebacker Vince Silva, tight end linebacker Noah Brown and running back/defensive back Brandon Roberts.

“All of those guys were first team all-league, Carson was the CIF defensive player of the year, Vince was an All-CIF player, Kenny Lathrum was an All-CIF player, Brandon Roberts was an All-CIF player and Noah Brown was a first team all-leaguer.”

All-league players David Harris and Kevin Hu also return.

“And we’ve got a couple good linemen returning in Brian Chang and Aaron Hong, so we’ve got some guys,” the coach said. “We feel really good about the group that’s coming up. Our JV went 9-1 the last two years.

“We feel really good about the program, it’s just a weird time for everybody. We’re hoping our guys continue to do what they’ve been doing which is work hard when no one is watching. That’s really when you find what kind of a person you are. Our guys have done that and we saw the evidence in June.

“And one of the the things too, playing quality opponents like Tustin, we open now with Capo Valley, playing really good opponents motivates you as a young man because you know come January, there is going to be a pretty good player trying to punch you in the mouth who has been working hard.”

Karavedas knows there will be questions on whether the Lancers can repeat as CIF champions after going 9-3 last year.

“For us, it’s an interesting time, because not only do you have Covid you have this new CIF structure,” he said. “You just have to focus knowing you’re going to play really good teams so you have to be prepared as possible and on the week where you play those really good teams, you got to work your tail off to beat them.

“After week 10, we will see where the chips fall. It’s certainly a different time.”

The coach also realizes that conditions related to the coronavirus need to improve and athletes and all students be allowed to return to on-campus instruction in order for the season to happen.

“I’m not a doctor, I’m not an expert so I hope everyone wears a mask and do what they tell you to do,” he said. “I just got to hope by the time December rolls around, when we’re supposed to put the helmet and shoulder pads on …. the initial shutdown was March, so we’re talking nine months.

“I got to believe this thing is figured out by then but again I’m not a doctor, I’m not an expert. But that’s just my hope because I love our kids, I love our senior class, it might be the best group we ever had. I would hate to see them not get to play a full season. It would really break my heart so I got to believe we will have this thing figured out by then.”

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