Los Alamitos' football team finished as the undefeated champions of the Sunset League, but the Griffins (8-3 overall, 5-0) fell in the first round of the highly competitive CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs to Crespi of Encino, 28-14.
The Griffins will have to replace five players who received college scholarships to continue their football careers, including Sunset League MVP Kyle Zottneck, a two-way lineman (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo); the league's defensive player of the year, Andre Faraimo (Liberty-Virginia); its co-offensive lineman of the year, Andrew Main (Nevada), and first-team all-leaguers Ben Wysocki (UCLA) and Aaron Davis (Colorado State).
Also graduating were the league's offensive back of the year, Richard Turner, another co-offensive lineman of the year, Kent Collins, and first-team all-leaguers Derrick Laureano, Nick Richardson, Glenn Miller and Trey Bennett.
Despite the loss of such key players, Los Alamitos veteran coach John Barnes, who has compiled a 289-91-6 record in 33 seasons, optimistically said this year’s team might be even better than last season’s squad. The Griffins return several all-league players, including senior quarterback Dylan Lagarde, who completed 106 of 188 passes for 11 touchdowns with eight interceptions last season, senior running back Cody Paul and senior safety Daniel Tyler.
Despite retiring from his teaching position this month, Barnes will return in the fall to head up the school's football program, looking for victory No. 300. If he were to obtain that milestone, he would be only the fourth coach in the state to accomplish it. However, in order to do so next season, the Griffins must get at least one victory in the playoffs, assuming they finish undefeated in the regular season. But the last time they won a playoff game was in 2004.
Los Alamitos welcomes back five starters on both offense and defense and is looking for big things from receiver Kyle Roberts (25 receptions last season and ran the 100-yard dash in 10.8 seconds this spring), safety Terrance Brown and receiver Kendall Holmes. Another key to the Griffins' success next season will be the play of punter/kicker Brett Beighton, whom Barnes considers to be a very special player.
“Anytime you get a guy who can consistently kick the ball in the other team’s end-zone on the kickoffs, you put that team at a real disadvantage,” Barnes said of his kicker. "He is one of those X-factor type players because of all the things he can provide to the team to help them be successful.”
On offense, look for the Griffins to run a balanced attack with Paul eading the way on the ground and Lagarde being counted on to run the show from behind center. Barnes said he will try to utilize the talents of both of his stars while spreading the touches among his talented receiver corp. On defense, the Griffins will run a variation of the 5-2 and will look to get after the opposing quarterback.
"The Sunset League really puts out a good product," Barnes said. "Each team is really well-coached and there's a ton of terrific talent and a lot of tough guys. There is no easy week."
This summer, Barnes is looking to instill some confidence in his young team by signing it up to compete in the high-profile Air Strike
passing tournament -- the Griffins finished second last year -- on Saturday at Dana Hills High, along with participing in passing leagues.
Barnes said in order for his team to defend its league title, it will have to outwork its
rivals, beginning in the summer. "I think we have a chance to be good next year," he said. "But success will be predicated on how hard we work in the spring and summer."
Los Alamitos' 2011 Varsity Football Schedule
Friday, Sept. 2 vs. Norwalk at Excelsior High, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 9 vs. Mayfair at Bellflower High, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 16 at West Adams, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 22 vs. L.A. University at Veterans Stadium, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 29 vs. Santa Margarita at Veterans Stadium, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 13 vs. Edison at Huntington Beach High, 7 p.m.*
Thursday, Oct. 20 vs. Fountain Valley at Veterans Stadium, 7 p.m.*
Friday, Oct. 28 at Newport Harbor, 7 p.m.*
Friday, Nov. 4 vs. Huntington Beach at Veterans Stadium, 7 p.m.*
Thursday, Nov. 10 vs. Marina at Westminster High, 7 p.m.*
* Indicates Sunset League game