By Ryan Menzie
Signal Staff Writer
After a very late start and a shortened season for spring football last year, the Friday night lights are officially back for the fall in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Schools are returning to their regular 10-game schedules, which, of course, is subject to change — if anything can be learned from 2020.
As for now, precautions are being taken and with kickoff on the way, here are the matchups to watch this week.
Saugus at Santa Barbara
The reigning Foothill League champions are set to start their season on the road against the Santa Barbara Dons at 7 p.m. at Santa Barbara High School. Head coach Jason Bornn and the Saugus Centurions last played the Dons during the 2018 season, when the Centurions came out on top, 25-21.
The Dons are coming off a 3-2 2020 campaign, and the Centurions are looking to keep their six-game win streak alive dating back to the 2019 season. Senior wide receiver and defensive back Sebastian Dallaire, junior running back and safety Vinny Gallagher, senior running back and defensive back Jake Viger and junior linebacker Dylan Hampston — all returners from last year’s league champion squad — are a big part of the game plan again this year for the Centurions.
Hart vs. Camarillo
The Hart Indians open their season at home against the Camarillo Scorpion at 7 p.m. at College of the Canyons, looking to carry their own end-of-season momentum into 2021. While a young team in a lot of areas had a big learning curve last year, the Indians’ returners include a full-time quarterback in sophomore Tim Larkins, who now lines up under center with a season of experience under his belt. The Scorpions are coming off a 3-2 season and are looking to win their fourth season opener in a row.
Larkins will be an important part of the offense, but Hart will also rely on senior running back Chase Depaco, junior running back Donovan Dunn, second-team all-league senior linebacker Zach Stothers, senior defensive end Cole Spivey and senior defensive back Daniel Larkins. As with previous seasons, the defense is expected to be a strong point for the Indians, and with a number of young players returning, the Indians have their first real test of their lessons from last year on Friday at College of the Canyons.
West Ranch vs. Glendora
The West Ranch Wildcats will also be opening up their season at home against the Glendora Tartans at 7 p.m. at Valencia High School, who have only five combined losses in the previous three seasons and made it to the CIF-Southern Section semifinals in two of those campaigns. Despite the Tartans’ impressive streak, they face a group of Wildcats who are poised to make noise this season with a full offseason under their belts.
The Wildcats’ previous season is one to learn from, but having had 17 sophomores start last season, there is plenty of experience to be shown coming into this season. It was only two seasons ago that the Wildcats finished 10-3 overall, so they know what they need to do to make a playoff run. Look for second-team all-defense senior defensive lineman and offensive lineman Thomas Wunsch, senior wide receiver Dylan Cotti and senior running back, slot receiver and safety Derek Miranda to be involved heavily for the Wildcats this season.
Canyon vs. Canoga Park
The Canyon Cowboys are set to open up their season at home against the Canoga Park Hunters at 7 p.m. at Canyon High School, who are coming off of a 12-win season from the 2019 campaign. The Hunters finished 3-1 during the shortened 2020 campaign. The Cowboys are looking for a fresh start this season after a winless Foothill League run in the spring.
The Cowboys’ mentality has been to come back stronger than ever and learn from their mistakes, according to head coach Joe Maiale, who’s entering his second full season as coach. With the return of senior wide receiver and cornerback Dominic Burton, senior wide receiver and safety JJ Fechtelkotter and senior linebacker and running back Derek Gonzalez, the Cowboys are confident they can change the narrative moving forward. That effort begins 7 p.m. Friday at Canyon.
Trinity vs Campbell Hall
The Trinity Classical Academy Knights are going up against the Campbell Hall Vikings at 7 p.m. at Campbell Hall, who are coming off a 3-1 season. Who did the Vikings lose to last season? None other than the Knights, with a final score of 22-20. The Vikings will be no doubt looking to return the favor in their rematch in Santa Clarita.
Look for senior quarterback and running back AJ Horning, senior wide receiver and linebacker Lucas Mendoza and senior defensive back Nick Parrinello to make an immediate impact for the Knights this season. Horning made plays with his arms and legs as quarterback, and even made plays as a receiver for the Knights while Mendoza and Parrinello led the defense with tackles, sacks and interceptions.
Valencia, Golden Valley and Castaic will play their first games Friday, Aug. 27. Santa Clarita Christian School is scheduled to kick off its season Thursday, Sept. 2.