St. Monica's football team marches off the field after last week's season-opening win over Animo Leadership at Corsair Field. (photo by Daniel Archuleta)

WEST COVINA — St. Monica’s new football coach seems like the type who isn’t afraid of a fight.

During the off-season, when Adam Guerra was making his schedule, he decided to setup an early game against a bigger school to see what his team is capable of. He figured why wait to see how the Mariners stand against the kind of competition they’ll face in Salesian and St. Genevieve once the Santa Fe League season rolls around. Not to be too confident, but he was already thinking about the playoffs and its inherent elevated level of play.

That philosophy will be tested Friday when St. Monica travels to West Covina to take on South Hills, a major public school in a tougher division.

For Guerra, he considers it a risk worth tackling and he’s taking the steps necessary to prep his team.

“It’s the first time [the team] got a 15-page scouting report on an opponent,” he said. “They’ve adapted well to that.”

While he does expect a rumble on Friday, he’s not exactly shaking in his boots.

“We have some players that are better than they are,” he said. “We’ll be fine.”

Coming off of last week’s big 43-14 win over Animo Leadership, Guerra is happy to see where his team stacks against a tougher opponent. He didn’t disparage Animo, but he knows South Hills poses a much greater threat.

What he isn’t doing is changing his team’s approach to the game on both sides of the ball. He’s content with letting his team’s running game and defense lead the way while junior quarterback Lukas Dretzka learns to manage the team’s new pro-style offense.

“I’m not ready to open up the offense yet,” Guerra said. “I want Dretzka to develop slowly. A big loss is something that can ruin a quarterback’s psyche.”

Running back Sean Martinez, who ran for 152 yards and three touchdowns against Animo in the opener, again will be handed the rock with regularity. Guerra added that Nick Pegnato and Kevin Holubowski will also see plenty of action against a South Hills defense that Guerra considers to be deeper than his squad.

On defense, Guerra expects to see a run-first offense that relies heavily on running back Jamel Hart. After watching tape of South Hills’ season opening loss to Colony, Guerra noted that Hart isn’t the type of back that runs away from defenders, but he does show ability to pound it between the tackles at the heart of the defense. He doesn’t plan on changing his defense too much to handle Hart, but won’t be afraid to change his play calling mid-game.

“He’s a pretty complete back,” Guerra said. “We’ll see a lot of him on Friday. We’ll be ready.”

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