Several of St. Monica High’s best football players are considering bypassing the upcoming season in order to concentrate on baseball year-around.
“Until we find out we don’t know who we are,’’ said Jason Strouse, the Mariners’ head football coach.
Strouse is dealing with uncertainty in his life, too. His wife is four months pregnant and he’s wondering if the couple will have a son or daughter.
“I’m thinking about a son or daughter and who my best running back is going to be,’’ he said.
Among the players in question is Vince Valdez, the Mariners’ only returning all-league player. He’s a star running back but also a speedy and productive leadoff man on the baseball team.
“He’s flat out the best football player I’ve coached,’’ said Strouse.
Strouse has made one important decision. He has named Taylor Watson as starting quarterback over Juliano Lepe, another of the baseball players. Lepe, a pitcher, missed spring football practice while focusing on baseball. He seemed the heir apparent at quarterback after being brought up from the junior varsity to the varsity late last season. He played one varsity game.
“I’m going to go with the guys who have been practicing,’’ Strouse said.
Taylor Gelbrecht, another highly regarded football player, is also a catcher. With two years of high school eligibility remaining he’s also in the undecided category.
Despite a small enrollment, St. Monica has racked up impressive successes in sports over the years. Many of the school’s premier athletes have played more than one sport.
But in recent years off-season programs in several sports have accelerated, forcing athletes to make choices. Those who divide their time feel they may fall behind others who give one sport their whole attention.
That philosophy hurts the smaller schools that don’t have a large pool of athletes.
Although St. Monica’s football team may be weakened by defections, Strouse said he still expects to field a competitive team.
Among players who did well in spring practice, a few stood out, Strouse said, mentioning 6-foot-4 Matt McGee, a two-way starter who plays tight end and defensive end and can be called upon at quarterback, if necessary.
John Parks was the team’s leading tackle last season. Juniors David Najera and Anthony Flores have made an impression and Tommy Marone is doing well after recovering from injuries.
Strouse coached the St. Monica track team to the Camino Real League championship. He has the football team in some summer passing league competition but isn’t a big fan of the concept.
“I’m not sure how much experience a quarterback can gain when the rules don’t allow a pass rush,’’ he said.
He isn’t disregarding passing league games entirely but has scheduled far less than Santa Monica High, which will play 35 this summer.St. Monica has split two games with Santa Monica High and the city rivals will meet again in a non-league game Sept. 30 at Corsair Field.