ST. BERNARD — St. Monica Head Coach Larry Muno can do without the dramatics. He just wants a win.
After falling behind 26-0, the Mariners mounted a late-game comeback against Mary Star of the Sea during last week’s season debut only to fall 53-46.
Saturday against Animo Leadership, Muno hopes his offense eliminates mental mistakes that resulted in six turnovers leading to easy points for Mary Star.
“You take [the turnovers] out of the picture and we might have won the game,” he said.
To combat those early miscues, Muno has stressed ball security to his team all week.
“Just don’t turn the ball over,” Muno told his team during daily practices.
If St. Monica does maintain possession of the ball, Muno believes that his offense has what it takes to ring up big numbers. Led by junior quarterback Matthew Partyka, the Mariners’ passing game appears to be poised to be the team’s bright spot this season.
“That’s what we’re hanging our hats on,” he said. “If you want to throw and catch the football, come to St. Monica.”
The fact that Partyka is even on the team is noteworthy.
“I found him on the playground,” Muno said. “I asked everybody to come out for football and I saw him throw the ball around.”
He was impressed by his arm strength and convinced him to try out for the team. He battled Sam Holguin all summer for the starting spot and won the competition outright.
It appears that the experiment is working.
Partyka completed 21 of 42 passes for 324 yards last week and tossed five touchdowns. He did throw three interceptions, but Muno believes that another week of practice should smooth out that one wrinkle from an otherwise stellar performance.
Assisting Partyka on offense is a talented receiver corps that includes Jamal Young, a junior Muno called a “pleasant surprise” last week.
He caught a pair of touchdowns and amassed 129 yards in the losing effort.
“It was nice to see him break tackles,” Muno said.
In addition to Young, Muno said he expects wide receivers Danny White, Kyle Farber and Holguin to be popular targets all season.
“We have many weapons,” Muno said. “We have guys who can catch the ball.”
St. Monica’s offense is also turning opponents’ heads.
Animo Head Coach Jamar Hamilton said he is well aware of St. Monica’s newfound ability to rack up points, which gives him reason for concern. He didn’t get a chance to see tape of last week’s game, but a simple scan of the stat sheet is all it took to convince him that this is a different team than the one his Aztec Eagles faced last season. Animo won the game, 14-7.
With both teams looking to rebound from a loss last week, the game could be decided based on who starts fast on offense.
For Animo, it’s junior quarterback Manny Gaxiola who will be called on to lead the offense. While Hamilton said he has yet to develop an identity behind center, he is a multi-talented athlete who can make plays on the ground and with his arm.
As a counter balance on offense, Hamilton will look to running back Dwayne West to pound the ball inside. He called him a “bruiser” who makes things happen regardless of contact.
Hamilton, whose team was blanked last week by Sage Hill, is confident that his team can “put up some points,” but knows that his defense will have to do its share to slow St. Monica down.
“We were rusty last week,” Hamilton said. “We had a few injuries, but we’re finally getting healthy.”
The game against Animo is scheduled to take place at St. Bernard High School in Playa del Rey on Saturday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m. This is the first of two games the Mariners will play on that field. The other three home games will be at Santa Monica College’s Corsair Field.