Lakewood was already in reloading mode last spring when popular coach Thadd MacNeal left town to take the same position at Carlsbad. Suddenly, the Lancers weren't just looking to replace their two leading rushers, their quarterback and an entire defensive line, but also scrambling for a new coach.
As it turns out, Lakewood didn't have to search far, hiring Vince Lobendahn, who had served as MacNeal's defensive line coach for two years. Replacing MacNeal from within made sense, if only for the fact that the Lancers were 45-15 in MacNeal's five years at the helm. Continuity and familiarity figure to be important for a team that, in recent years, has raised expectations.
Big Red might not be as publicized, or feared, as it has been but there is enough talent coming up from the lower levels for Lakewood to be a dark horse pick in the Pac-5 Division.
Coach: Vince Lobendahn, first season.
2010 Record: 10-2, lost in the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division quarterfinals.
Returning starters: Seven total. Three on offense, four on defense.
Key players on offense: WR Darius Powe, WR Malik Gilmore (Oregon State commit), WR X'avier Shepherd, K Alex Boy
Key players on defense: DB Darius Powe, DB Daylon Cason, DL Anthony Davis
Difference maker: The spotlight figures to shine bright on Powe after the Lancers' loss of tailback Rashad Wadood (Arizona State) and tight end/defensive tackle Todd Barr (California) to graduation. Powe, the No. 13-ranked receiver in the 2012 class according to ESPNU, caught 43 passes for 822 yards and six touchdowns last season, garnering first-team All-Moore League honors.
Newcomers: QB Brock Dale (transfer from Peninsula), DL Anthony Davis (up from junior varsity), RB Kendall Rodgers (up from junior varsity), DB Jaleel Wadood (up from freshmen team)
Not to be missed: vs. St. John Bosco, Friday, Sept. 9. Matching up against a highly-regarded Trinity League contender might allow us to gauge the Lancers' 2011 capabilities. In fact, you could make the case that even a small-margin defeat would be viewed in a positive light, given the Braves' potent offensive attack and deep stable of returning players. Either way, Lakewood's John Ford Stadium promises to be electric on this night, as Bosco looks to avenge last season's loss.
Coach’s comment: "We want to show everybody that we didn't just drop off the map. We want to capture that Moore League and work our way through the CIF playoffs."
Final analysis: A running game that lost more than 60 percent of yardage gained will rely on the inexperienced duo of Keith Franklin and Rodgers, a 5-foot-10 tailback who averaged 10 yards on 32 carries as a sophomore last year. If opposing defenses concentrate on stopping the two-headed monster that is Powe and Gilmore, then it isn't too farfetched to think that the Lancers can have success on the ground. The big key will be line play, both defensively and offensively. And as far as Moore League aspirations go, Lobendahn thought his squad held its own against defending champion Long Beach Poly during the summer 7-on-7 passing circuit. The Lancers would like nothing more than to take back what they captured in 2009.
Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.