Veteran Memorial head coach Bear Calderana says that it’s always a struggle for the Tigers to put a competitive team on the field.
“Because of the numbers we have, it’s a constant fight to get kids to play,” Calderana said. “It’s not like we have a lot of starters returning from last year. But our kids always play hard. We never have to question their desire. They’re going to fight you for 48 minutes. That’s our personality as a team. We’re going to battle you. We’re going to fight the whole time.”
Leading the Tigers’ spread offense is senior quarterback Harold Estrada (6-2, 200).
“Harold started a few games for us last year,” Calderana said. “He’s matured greatly since last year. He’s a special athlete. He’s a productive player and he’s our best weapon. His size, the strength of his arm and his athleticism will carry him. There isn’t a throw that Harold can’t make.”
The Tigers will count on two seniors to handle the running back duties in Jason Donneys (5-6, 150) and Jesse Vasquez (5-7, 165).
The Tigers are deep and talented at the wide receiver position, with senior Chris Morales (5-9, 185) leading the way.
“Chris is a four-year starter,” Calderana said. “We rely on him a lot.”
Other receivers include sophomores Juan Donoso (6-1, 180) and Amauri Salters (5-10, 170).
“We’re high on Donoso,” Calderana said. “He has been playing wide receiver and tight end for us. He’s a big, physical kid with good hands. He’s a hard worker. Salters has lined up at H-back and fullback, wing back and tight end in the past. We move him all over.”
The Tigers have senior Jeffrey Martinez (5-8, 195) and senior Ruben Marte (6-1, 280) at tackle, with senior Steven Jimenez (5-9, 215) and junior Eddie Hernandez (6-1, 240) at guard and junior Kevin Romano (5-11, 190) at center.
Defensively, the Tigers play mostly a 3-4 formation, but Calderana called it a “hybrid.”
Marte is the nose tackle, with Hernandez and Romano at the defensive end.
Donoso and Salters are the outside linebackers, with Vasquez and senior Arturo Hernandez (5-9, 180) at inside linebacker.
Morales and junior Edgar Escobar (5-10, 165) are the cornerbacks, with Estrada and junior Zach Fernandez (5-10, 165) at safety.
The Tigers were set to open their season Aug. 30 against Bayonne and Columbia at home Sept. 6.
“We’re going to lean on the experience of the offensive line,” Calderana said. “We are also going to go where the quarterback [Estrada] takes us. We have to put him in position to make plays. He’s doing everything I ask of him. He’s just physically capable.”
And the Tigers are capable to be better than last year. – Jim Hague.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.