Estancia will be battle-tested

Nonleague games against bigger Irvine schools part of Bargas' strategy for fourth year at helm.

August 28, 2010|By Matt Szabo,
  • Omar Gutierrez (83) and Santiago Cervantes (9) both return for the Estancia High football team.
Omar Gutierrez (83) and Santiago Cervantes (9) both return… (FILE PHOTO, Daily…)

Coach Mike Bargas is entering his fourth year as head coach of the Estancia High football team, making this year's senior class the first he has had each year.

The reward for the players? Repeated games against Irvine schools.

Estancia will face them three weeks in a row, playing University at Irvine High on Sept. 23, Northwood at the same venue on Sept. 30 and Beckman at Tustin High on Oct. 8. Only Beckman made the CIF Southern Section playoffs last year, but those teams promise better competition than the Magnolia and La Quinta teams that the Eagles rolled over in 2009.

Playing teams from the master-planned city fits into Bargas' master plan just fine. He wants to continue improvement this year, which starts with a home scrimmage against Segerstrom Friday. The regular-season opener is also at home, against Bolsa Grande on Sept. 9.

"We want to play those Irvine schools," Bargas said. "We raise the bar every year. I came here with a mission to get a ring, eventually."


The Eagles can't do that without winning a playoff game, a feat they haven't accomplished since 1980. Last year they finished third in the Orange Coast League and, predictably, got a tough draw, falling at Laguna Hills in the opening round of the Southern Division playoffs.

But one way Estancia can get a better draw is by winning league, which it hasn't done since sharing the title with cross-town rival Costa Mesa in 2007. This year, for the first time in Bargas' tenure, the rivals play each other in the final regular-season game.

The Eagles players already look forward to that game. They are confident about their chances against Mesa, who they haven't beat since that 2007 season. Quarterback John Diego, though, remembers a different game from that year.

It was the freshman game against Mesa, when Diego's 51-yard touchdown run helped the Eagles edge the Mustangs, 16-15.

Think a one-point win three years ago didn't make an impression? Diego still remembers that game well; he said it was the first time he had ever been interviewed by a reporter. The Eagles would love it if Diego, a backup last year, gets interviewed plenty this year, because that would mean their passing game is clicking.

"We're both going to be two of the top teams in the league," said Diego, although that wasn't the case the past two years as Costa Mesa and Laguna Beach won league titles. "It really all comes down to who wants it more and who comes out harder."

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