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St. Monica's varsity football squad practices earlier this week at Airport Park in Santa Monica. Coach Muno believes his squad will be better on defense this season. (photo by Brandon Wise)

ST. MONICA — Sure, the Mariners can score the ball. That’s obvious. The real question is, can they stop somebody on defense?

St. Monica Head Coach Larry Muno thinks so.

Last season saw the Mariners turn to then-junior quarterback Matthew Partyka to turn around a program that hadn’t won a game in nearly three years. He didn’t disappoint as he threw for 2,372 yards and 20 touchdowns. St. Monica finished the season 3-6, but it proved that Muno was on to something in his first season.

This time around, Muno is confident that his Mariners can score, now it’s the defense that needs to improve if St. Monica is going to compete in the Santa Fe League.

“Our defense is vastly improved,” Muno said.

While Muno wouldn’t divulge which defensive formation he would use, he did say it would differ from last year’s four-three alignment that includes four down-lineman and three linebackers. He said that he would like to generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, which should come from a front seven that returns a number of players that he said have put in the work to make this season different.

Last season, the Mariners give up 372 points on defense, 10 more than they scored. Muno points to returners Justin Kennedy, a junior defensive lineman, and junior linebacker Chris Corbally as two of the main players who will have to step up this season. Their playing experience from last year coupled with their work during the offseason should see them make that jump, Muno added.

A major factor making it difficult to field a quality team is the size of St. Monica’s enrollment. There are just 500 students at the high school, making fielding a deep team that much more difficult.

“We have a typical St. Monica team,” Muno said. “We have just 22 guys on varsity.”

The school does field a junior varsity team, but Muno said that he would hold off on mining that squad for varsity players. For now, he’s happy with what he has.

“I would put us against any team in SoCal,” he said.

The Mariners open the season on the road against Animo Leadership on Sept. 4.

daniela@smdp.com

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