Head Coach Adam Guerra huddles St. Monica's football team before last week's game against Blair at Corsair Field. (photo by Daniel Archuleta)

SANTA CLARITA — Mid-way through his first season as St. Monica’s head football coach, Adam Guerra seems to be finding his stride.

Guerra, who took over the program last spring, is starting to find what works, and, of course, what doesn’t work for his team on the field as they prepare to take on Santa Clarita Christian Saturday on the road.

“We’ve been able to figure out what our kids do well,” he said. “We’re just focusing on that.”

Even without starting running back Sean Martinez, who will miss this week’s game with a mild concussion, Guerra is confident with his team’s ability to run the ball.

He found out during last week’s 33-7 victory over Blair that his stable of running backs is more than capable of holding down the position in Martinez’ absence.

Juniors Kevin Holubowski, Nick Pegnato and Laurance Major were able to rip Blair for long runs all night with Holubowski leading the way. The burly fullback ran in for a pair of touchdowns and even added a fumble recovery for a score for good measure.

That performance helped cement Guerra’s belief that his team is of the ground-and-pound variety despite who lines up in the offensive backfield.

That formula has worked all season as the Mariners have built a 3-2 record. It’s a formula Guerra hopes to replicate on Saturday against Santa Clarita.

“Sometimes we’re sitting in the film room after a game and I can’t help but think ‘man, we’re getting it,’” he said. “I think the kids are embracing our system.”

When Guerra first came to St. Monica, he knew that he wanted to focus on fundamentals. Coming from the vaunted Loyola program, his approach is grounded in execution.

He didn’t initially think his team would be one way or another, he just wanted to see what worked. Once in the thick of summer practices, Guerra started to come to the realization that his team is solid at running the ball and playing tough defense against the run — both things that make the young coach hopeful that he can return the Mariners to the playoffs this season.

“I just want our guys to do what they do well,” he said. “And if it’s running the ball, so be it.”

The Mariners have struggled with the passing game for much of the season, evidenced by the move to replace initial starter Lukas Dretzka with Luke Cain at quarterback. Since the move, Guerra said that Cain is settling in behind center and only expects improvement as the Mariners prepare for Santa Fe League play, a league they won last season.

The one facet of the passing game that Guerra would like to see improvement in is the play of his receivers, a group that now includes Dretzka. That group has had a tendency of dropping passes, many on the money. He’s worked with that group the past few weeks and hopes that translates into more consistent play. In particular, he’d like to see tight end Chris Corbally become more a part of the offense.

“I think once we get that going, we’ll be fine,” Guerra said. “It’s just a matter of getting it down.”

daniela@www.smdp.com

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