AIRPORT PARK — It’s ironic that St. Monica football practices at Airport Park.
As planes screech and motor into the sky overhead from Santa Monica Airport, the Mariner’s second-year head coach Adam Guerra would rather stay grounded.
“Oh yeah, we’re run-first,” Guerra said. “It’s going to be hard to beat us.”
St. Monica, ranked No. 10 in the first CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division poll, is coming off a 7-4 season last year that ended in the first round of the Northeast Division playoffs.
It was the Mariners’ second consecutive playoff appearance and Guerra would like to see that streak continue on the shoulders of his running backs led by senior Kevin Holubowski, who emerged last season as the team’s primary ball carrier.
Keeping with his offensive philosophy, Guerra has developed a stable of backs who’ll be counted on for a change of pace and to spell Holubowski, who figures to carry the ball nearly 20 times a game.
Holubowski finished last season with 11 rushing touchdowns, 1 receiving and added one on defense. He amassed 600-plus yards and averaged a robust 8 yards a carry.
He didn’t begin the season as the main guy, but once Guerra and Co. saw what he could do, he was handed the rock more often as the year progressed.
Seniors Nick Pegnato and Laurence Major will be Holubowski’s primary back-ups, but Pegnato is nursing a broken wrist that will keep him out of the opener against Village Christian on the road this Saturday.
Pegnato figures to return to the field against Malibu in St. Monica’s home debut. He’ll be fitted with a cast that allows more mobility. Pegnato said he expects to be fine once he carries the ball a few times.
The combination of Holubowski’s power game, Pegnato’s speed and overall quickness and Major’s more traditional make-up will be what Guerra will depend on to move the ball, but this year’s edition of the Mariners should be more comfortable in the passing game.
Senior Luke Cain returns at quarterback with his favorite receiver Lukas Dretzka slated to recover from a leg injury for the Malibu game, which will be played at Santa Monica College’s Corsair Field.
While Guerra waits for some of the Mariners’ top play makers to heal, he expects a lot out of Holubowski and an improved offensive line anchored by junior Angel Galdamez.
Guerra thinks his burly running back is ready for the challenge.
“He’s even bigger and stronger,” Guerra said. “He’s just hard to bring down.”
As for this week’s opponent — Village Christian — Guerra isn’t sure what to expect. He’s seen game film from last year and noted that Village Christian plays a bit of the spread offense, but aren’t afraid to line it up in the I-formation with a full backfield.
“They are an historically strong program,” Guerra said of Village Christian, a team that finished 5-5 last season without a playoff appearance. “They are one of our toughest non-league opponents, which is a different tact for us. We usually don’t open with a team this strong.”