It is the first season in which the Marmonte League has been split into two five team divisions. The Moorpark football team has adapted well to the new format.
“It was a little tricky to get our schedule filled,” said longtime Moorpark head coach Tim Lins. But he added: “Having a longer preseason, actually, I think, has been an advantage for us. We like it.”
The Musketeers defeated Calabasas 51-18 last Friday night in the first official Marmonte League game this season for both teams, which play in the league’s West Division along with Oaks Christian, Thousand Oaks and Agoura.
Moorpark is now 4-1 overall and 1-0 in league play.
(Read a preview of this Friday night’s home game vs. Thousand Oaks, here Friday morning).
Instead of having nine league games, Moorpark and the other league teams had to scurry to schedule five non-league games. Next year, the last in which Oaks Christian and St. Bonaventure are in the league in its current alignment, the league will remain split.
Moorpark’s first game was a 31-0 win at home over West Ranch of Valencia on August 24.
“Our defense played very well, pitching a shutout,” said Lins. “We weren’t sure what kind of team we would have. Offensively we had a rookie quarterback in Austin Cole and some young linemen and a young group of receivers. We moved the ball pretty well.”
After a bye week, the Musketeers then traveled to Bakersfield and beat Frontier, 17-7. The Moorpark defense played well again. It had now allowed only one touchdown in two games.
On the other side of the ball, Lins credited senior running back Aaron Stanton for his toughness against Frontier.
“Aaron Stanton played particularly well that game,” Lins said. “We were lucky to get out of that game. Frontier is a very physical team.”
Not a Marmonte League foe this year, but a familiar one
Moorpark improved to 3-0 with a wild 28-27 overtime win over Newbury Park, at home, on September 14. The Panthers botched the snap on a potential game-tying extra point attempt in the overtime period.
“Newbury Park’s much improved from last year and one bounce, one way or the other, and that games goes to them,” said Lins.
The game wasn’t a Marmonte League game this season, which must have felt strange to Lins and Panthers head coach Gary Fabricius, as well as the players.
Maybe stranger, though, is that Newbury Park is running the ball with authority after two decades of being known primarily as a passing team.
Agoura head coach Charlie Wegher said he told Fabricius: “You’ve gone over to the Dark Side,” after the Panthers defeated Agoura early in the season.
Moorpark’s lone loss came on September 21 when it played an overtime game for the second week in a row, this time at Palos Verdes.
Lins thought his team might be wearing down somewhat as the game was played in the afternoon heat in Palos Verdes. He decided to go for the win on a 2-point conversion after a touchdown in overtime.
The attempt failed and Palos Verdes, which had scored first and gone up by seven in the overtime, won 35-34.
“We expected to win that game and we didn’t play particularly well offensively or defensively,” said Lins, noting that the Musketeers turned the ball over twice early in the game and had to fight to come back
“Again, our guys battled and got in position to get into the overtime,” he said. Cole connected with tight end Connor Christ for a 30-yard touchdown that knotted the score with 2:01 left in regulation.
Sometimes, you learn from the losses
“We talked about it on the bus, as a team, on the way home,” said Cole, a senior, who has replaced Grant Rohach, now playing at Iowa State, as the team’s starting quarterback. “It was upsetting because we wanted the perfect season and everything.
“But we made sure to let it go on that bus and at Palos Verdes,” Cole added. “And that next week we were going to come back and take it to Calabasas and let out the frustration. And that’s exactly what we did. And we’re over it now and we’re moving on.”
Stanton, a three-year starter at running back for Moorpark agreed with his teammate. It was a tough loss. And he concurred with his coach. He had expected to win at Palos Verdes.
“I didn’t really plan on a loss,” Stanton said. “That’s normally just not one of the things I plan for. I prepare for a win. But it was a fight and we didn’t come out on top. We learned from it, though.”
Against Calabasas Cole passed for three touchdowns, Stanton rushed for over 100 yards and fellow running back Ethan Shahrokhfar – well, he was all over the field – as the Musketeers broke open a close game in the second quarter.
“Aaron Stanton has shown a toughness in every game,” said Lins. “He’s been a good spark for our offense.”
The Moorpark coach noted that because Rohach was always in the game, Cole’s learning process really took place in practice last year. But he was, it turns out, a quick study.
“Austin really didn’t get many opportunities to get involved in the games,” said Lins. “He got a lot of snaps in practice, but not many in games. So for him to go out and make good decisions like he’s been making, has been a nice thing for us.
“He’s a run threat; he’s a pass threat. He’s able to extend plays a little bit by scrambling around. He’s done well for us.”
Cole said Rohach helped him last season.
“Grant was always open to questions and I really took advantage of having a Division I quarterback in front of me,” he said. “So I feel like I really didn’t miss a beat when I started off this year.”
A talented group that the coach likes
The Musketeers have many talented players. Lins said, unequivocally, it all begins with Tony Mack, an All-County linebacker last year.
“Tony Mack is our leader – period,” Lins said. “He sets the tone for our football team. He’s our defensive captain and he’s played well for us defensively.”
Fellow senior Brigham Stoeher, the Moorpark center, is a returning starter. Lins said he is the team’s most consistent blocker on passing or running plays.
Christ, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior, is joined in the receiving corps by senior wide receivers Chad Hansen and Brendan Hodgson and junior Tyler Collet.
CJ Wilford is the other inside linebacker, a junior playing alongside the veteran, Mack. Tyler Puccio, a junior, is already a three-year starter on the defensive line. He has gotten help from Kevin Uebelhardt, a junior, and Tanner Burnett-mcgrath, a senior.
And, oh yes, Shahrokhfar, who as a junior alternates on offense at tailback and fullback and plays linebacker on defense.
“The other night (Against Calabasas) he ran down there and made a great play on defense,” said Lins. “Then he scored a touchdown (on a run); then he lined up on the kickoff team and made a tackle. So he’s playing a lot of roles for us. He’s a good football player.”
Lins said the Musketeers are a hard-working unit that gets along as a team.
“I like this group,” he said. “It’s a group that battles. It’s a group that plays hard and comes out and works hard every day.”
Stanton, who said his ankle feels 100 percent when taped up for games, agreed with his coach.
“I just love this group,” Stanton said. “We’ve gone through so much since freshmen year and we’ve grown together so much. It’s made our bond a lot stronger. I just believe in every single one of our guys.”