By Matt Lechuga
Signal Staff Writer
Saugus head football coach Jason Bornn isn’t worried about stopping the high-powered offenses in the Foothill League.
For now, he wants to get his defense some game-time experience.
“I think that’s the biggest thing. We have don’t have a lot of guys who have in-game experience,” he said. “We work hard to make sure that they know what they’re doing on the field and that their fundamentals are right.”
The Centurions are bringing back only two pieces from last season’s stout defense that led them to the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division Semifinals.
Senior linebacker Zach Gragas will head up a group of linebackers with the unenviable task of trying to match the production of last year’s corps.
Gragas had 47 tackles, three forced fumbles and one pass deflection as part of a group that featured three All-SCV performers.
Blake Austin, Austin Davenport and Alberto Portillo combined for 293 tackles and 21 sacks last season for the Centurions. It’s easy to say their production will be missed.
“Losing nine starters on any side of the ball is tough, but it’s a pretty tall order to try and replace those guys,” said Bornn, who is also the team’s defensive coordinator. “But I’m excited to see what this group can do. They have the talent, it’s just a matter of getting everyone in the right place and executing the fundamentals.”
Another big loss for the Centurions came on the defensive line in Chase Madrigal.
He was second in the Foothill League with 12 sacks.
This season Bornn will be looking at nose guard Phillip Deicher to take up space and free his linebackers up.
Cornerback Michael Parker is Saugus’ other returning starter on defense.
He racked up 38 tackles and five pass deflections last season as a junior.
And while this group may not be experienced, Bornn is still confident in their ability to make plays.
“All our guys can get to the ball and create turnovers,” said Bornn. “We drill it every day and it is something we pride ourselves on.”
Bornn’s defense will get a good test on Friday when they face off against Simi Valley in the team’s season opener.
The Pioneers’ quarterback Davis Pinkston passed for 2,211 yards and 18 touchdowns last season as well as rushed for 875 yards and another 11 touchdowns.
“I’m really excited about our preseason schedule because we have a good mix of talented and strong teams,” Bornn said. “Simi’s quarterback is arguably one of the most talented we’ll see all season. In all our preseason matchups we’ll see athletes on the same level as the kids in league.”
The Centurions defense will welcome any good test to prepare them for the offenses in the Foothill League.
“We want to treat every game like a playoff game,” Bornn said. “And these games will do a lot in preparing us for league. We still have work to do but we’re getting better.”