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St. Monica's football team prepares for the season at Airport Park on Monday. (photo by Daniel Archuleta)

AIRPORT PARK — “New” is the buzz word swirling around St. Monica’s football program this summer.

The Mariners have a new coach in Adam Guerra, a new pro-style offense, a new innovative defense, new places to host games and a new guy behind center. It may be a tall order for Guerra to fill as St. Monica attempts to make the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since early last decade, but the young coach is confident in his master plan.

“I’m excited,” Guerra said. “But it’s going to take a lot of work to do it well.”

Guerra comes to St. Monica on the heels of the team’s most successful season in recent memory. The Mariners were 8-3 last year, winning the Santa Fe League greatly on the legs — and arm — of quarterback Matthew Partyka, who graduated in the spring.

The Mariners also lost Larry Muno, who in two years with the school helped the Mariners regain a little swagger following years of losing football. Muno departed for Marina del Rey’s St. Bernards, the site of St. Monica’s home games for the past few years. Ironically, one of Guerra’s first orders of business was to move home games to Santa Monica College and Palisades High School come the fall.

Guerra said that the move should come as a relief for the St. Monica faithful, who have had to schlep to Marina del Rey to see their Mariners in action.

St. Monica is slated to play three of their five home games at SMC’s Corsair Field, with the remaining two contests scheduled for Pali. Ideally, Guerra would like all home games at SMC, but said scheduling has been difficult. He hopes to add a fourth game at SMC, even if it means moving a game from Friday to Saturday.

“We need to play at SMC,” Guerra said. “In the future, we’ll play every game there.”

Once the games begin, the Mariners will get a chance to see what Guerra’s new pro-style offense can do. Junior Lukas Dretzka will get the first crack at leading the offense as he tries to replace Partyka at quarterback. He has some competition for the position, but Guerra and quarterback coach Rafeal Padilla see potential in the young signal caller.

“He’s a dynamic player, especially when he throws on the run,” Padilla said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

Dretzka will have a little stability in the backfield in senior running back Sean Martinez, a player Guerra is high on. He expects the crafty Martinez to be his work horse. Although he stands just 5-foot-7, Guerra is happy to have seen him bulk-up in the offseason.

“He’s a tough little back,” Guerra said. “He’s going to be fine.”

With the Sept. 3 season opener against Animo Leadership looming and a slew of newness to break in, it seems that the new-look Mariners are a work in progress.

“I can’t give a qualified assessment until we play a game and see what we’re going against,” he said.

daniela@www.smdp.com

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