Experienced University team hoping to contend for a CIF playoff berth – Orange County Register

University’s football team is making progress and appears to be ready for its season opener on Friday, Sept. 1, when it meets Laguna Hills in a non-league road game.

“We’re still patching some things up but I think we’re going to be OK by the time we get to league,” said University Coach Mark Cunningham.

University was 7-3 overall and 2-3 in the Pacific Coast League, just missing the CIF playoffs last year. University returns six starters on offense and seven on defense.

“We’re very pleased,” Cunningham said. “All those guys who are coming back, except for one, have been junior starters, so they started as sophomores.”

Cunningham knows what it will take for his team to be successful.

“We have to effectively run the ball,” he said. “I think we’re going to be able to throw the ball well but we have some inexperience on our offensive line and it will depend on how they come along. I think that will be the determining factor of how well we do.

“Defensively, I feel comfortable about the athleticism that we have.”
Cunningham hopes his team can be competitive in the Pacific Coast League and contend for a CIF playoff berth.

“It’s going to be balanced; I’m hoping we’re going to be in the hunt for a playoff spot,” Cunningham said. “That’s what our goal is; barring injuries, I feel we have a good shot of being able to do that.”

The Trojans will be led by talented junior quarterback Thomas Keeling (5-11, 170). Cunningham is expecting a big season from him.

“He’s matured quite a bit over the off-season,” Cunningham said. “He’s gotten bigger and stronger and quicker so he’s going to be much better.

The Trojans will also be looking for a big season out of senior Daniel Dolan (5-10, 175). Dolan will be a running back and strong safety.

“He brings great leadership,” Cunningham said. “He’s worked really, really hard and has improved his speed quite a bit and gotten a lot stronger. It’s a big benefit, especially when you have someone who played as much as he did last year, starting two ways.”

Keeling, the quarterback, and Dolan lead the offense. Other backs besides Dolan include sophomore Branton Lucas, junior Zach Goodfriend and senior Claudell Martinez.

Junior Austin White and senior Tristan Lucas will be the back-ups to Keeling at quarterback.

The receivers will include seniors Farbod Memarian, Lucas and tight end Jack Hausam.

The line will include junior Andre Le, senior Ariyan Golbad, junior Logan Niemann and seniors Parker Selbo and Sky Roberts.

The defensive secondary will include senior Josiah Henry, senior Jackson Muniz, Dolan, senior Ethan Vo, junior Daniel Fernandez and Martinez.

The linebackers will include senior Max Haughey, junior Ethan Bell, senior Parker Golden and Hausam.

The defensive line will include senior Onyexx Chukwumerije, junior Eddie Castillo, senior Cortland Dorsett and Hausam and seniors Nick Nejad, Golbad and David Nguyen.

On special teams, the punter is scheduled to be Goodfriend while it hasn’t been determined yet who the placekicker will be.

The punt returners and kickoff returners will be Dolan and Martinez while Vo will return kickoffs.

University lost two key players, Alex Pourdanesh, a running back and outside linebacker and Julian Pourdanesh, a guard and defensive lineman, who both transferred to Corona del Mar over the off-season.