If enthusiasm and 20 years of coaching youth football translate into victories, Mar Vista High should have a highly successful season in 2022.
New head coach David Moore — Coach Mo to everyone who knows him — was hired in early March and nothing that he has seen since then has dampened his spirits. If anything, he’s even more excited about the Mariners’ prospects after spending last year as the team’s offensive coordinator.
“One of the things I learned coaching youth football with new players every year is you have to adjust,” said Moore, 45. “I’ve heard coaches say they plan to use this offense or defense and then if something happens, they aren’t ‘t prepared.
“I learned first-hand a couple of those lessons last year.”
The Mariners were 5-4 and headed into the Division IV playoffs with high hopes. But when report cards came out, 11 of the 26 varsity players had not made grades.
“I learned a huge lesson,” he said. “Suddenly, we needed a lot of ironman players, with linebackers playing guard and tackle. We scored early but then the players got tired and before you knew it, they had 50 points.”
The 50-18 setback to Rancho Buena Vista, the Mariners’ first trip to the playoffs since 2018, obviously, is still embedded in his mind.
“One of the first things I did as head coach was getting progress reports on every player,” he said. “While a 2.0 is all you need to be eligible, I impressed on the players that there is really no reason to not have a 2.5 or better. I don’t want that to happen again.”
Something opponents will not get is a program that isn’t adaptable, even though one of the section’s top quarterbacks, Alexandr Wojcik, returns.
Moore has an entire library at home offering virtually every offense and defense invented and he’s read all the books. Another thing he changed was his number of assistants, going from six last year to more than double that, including new offensive line coach Joey Fejaran from Eastlake.
Although the school is on its fourth head coach in four years, he plans to be around a while.
“I’m all in,” said coach Mo. “I dreamed of doing this while I was coaching youth football. I’m used to doing more with less and this is a blessing. I have a lot of assistants who have a say and I listen. It’s like I’m hanging a picture and they’re letting me know if it’s crooked.
“This is a very unique situation. Imperial Beach is a great city and the first thing I did was contact the mayor, Serge Dedina, and then Councilman Matthew Leyba-Gonzalez and we created a Career Fair. We had between 20 and 30 trades, and the gym was filled. It’s what you do after high school that really matters, and I think we saved lives.”
With the senior Wojcik, Moore has a rare nugget in a key position.
The 6-foot, 195-pounder completed 57.7 percent of his passes (173 of 300) for 2,860 yards with 26 touchdowns against only four interceptions. He also rushed for 205 yards on a team that as a whole rushed for less than 400.
So, you figure the Mariners will continue the air attack since several experienced receivers also return.
“No, we’ll take whatever the other team gives us,” Moore said. “Alek is like a big fullback, and it’s difficult for linebackers to bring him down. If they load up for the pass and give us the run, we’ll run. When they adjust, we’ll adjust.
“This is a senior-heavy team (15 seniors return), and those parents went in and stood up for me when there was a head coaching opening. Immediately we opened the weight room, and I believe we can be very competitive since we moved from the bottom of Division IV to the top of Division V.”
Steve Brand is a freelance writer.