Previewing the Top 50 high school football teams in California: No. 43 Vista Murrieta Broncos

SBLive California is previewing the Top 50 high school football teams in the state ahead of the 2020-2021 season, which is scheduled to kick off the first week of January. Here’s an inside look at the Vista Murrieta Broncos of the CIF Southern Section, the No. 43 team in our countdown.



Eric Peterson, 3rd season (16-7)


  • Overall record: 8-4
  • League record: 4-1 tied for first in Southwestern League
  • Beat Sherman Oaks Notre Dame 24-21 in the first round of the Division 2 Southern Section playoffs
  • Lost to Sierra Canyon 42-28 in the second round of the Division 2 playoffs


  • Tyreese Shakir – DB

2020-21 SCHEDULE

(All kickoffs scheduled for 7 p.m.)

  • Jan. 7 vs. Rancho Verde
  • Jan. 15 at Tesoro
  • Jan. 22 vs.  Norco
  • Jan. 29 at Orange Lutheran
  • Feb. 5 vs. Villa Park
  • Feb. 12 vs. Chaparral
  • Feb. 19 at Temecula Valley
  • Feb. 26 vs. Great Oak
  • Mar. 5 at Murrieta Valley
  • Mar. 11 at Murrieta Mesa


  • 7 on offense
  • 4 on defense


Jack Pedersen (Junior-TE) (6-4, 235)

Coach Peterson: “He’s going to be a big-time difference maker. He’s one of the top tight ends in the country. He’s the heart and soul of that (offensive) group, he’s just as physical a blocker as he is a dynamic pass-catcher, a big tight end that can run. His character is probably the best thing about him, even though he’s a tremendous athlete, he’s a kid that you just want to be around.”

Brady Jones – (Junior-QB) (6-3, 185)

Coach Peterson: “He’s gonna be exceptional for us. We’re excited about him. He started games for us last year, so he’s proven he can win, and he can sling it.”

Marcus Nguyen (Senior-LB/FB/RB) (5-11, 220)

Coach Peterson: “Marcus is kind of the heart and soul of who we are. He’s an inside linebacker but he’s one of our elite 11 guys, which are our special teams’ guys. If you can play on special teams, you can play anywhere. He epitomizes who we are, just a glue guy. Tough as nails, toughest guy pound for pound on our team. He’ll also play some fullback, some running back, he’ll play special teams, and he’ll be a team captain.”

Jordan Little – (Senior-DB) (Air Force commit) (6-0, 165)

Coach Peterson: “Returning starter who’s very physical, very competitive and a guy who’s a leader. He’ll be a captain too.”

Landon Gallagher – (Senior-DL) (6-0, 265)

Coach Peterson: “He’s a wrecking ball. He’s six foot, 265 and there’s not an ounce of fat on him. He’s just a big, physical, quick guy. He’s another no-nonsense, go to work kind of guy.”

Jack D’Ambra – (Junior-OL) (6-3, 305)

Coach Peterson: “It always starts with the big uglies up front.”


Vista Murrieta got a significant pick-up when two-way athlete Jalani Jefferson (6-1, 205) transferred in from Linfield Christian. Playing on both sides of the ball in 2019, Jefferson had eight touchdown receptions and intercepted three passes.

Coach Peterson: “He’s a big, tall, rangy sucker. Very, very athletic. He’ll be the other corner or safety and play some wide receiver for us.”


COVID-19 has affected each high school football team in different ways around the country. Coach Peterson shares how it’s impacted Vista Murrieta:

“They’re a pretty tight knit group. We have 116 guys on the varsity. They’ve been pretty good about being smart. We’ve been able to see them every day through Zoom; we’ve been doing that since March. But we’ve really focused on character development more than anything else.”

“I think the biggest issue we’ve faced is the lack of accountability you would normally have because of circumstances out of the kids’ control. We have some good kids that have gotten lost in the shuffle just because of dynamics. They would normally make it, do great and really thrive but they’ve either fallen through the cracks of not showing up anymore or struggling academically or just been pseudo-depressed. It’s been hard to watch … making an impact with young people, you have to be in front of them.”


A CIF Championship. If the Broncos can get a favorable seed in the section playoffs then a championship run is certainly on the table.

A third consecutive league title is definitely on the minds of those at Vista Murrieta, but yearly goals reach beyond that.

Coach Peterson: “League for us, I think you have to focus on it, but it’s not necessarily where we’re shooting for. I think what we’re shooting for is constant improvement, which is the semifinals or better. And that’s hard to do because in our division, you’re going to play some of the best teams in the country.”


The Broncos look to be the favorites in a competitive Southwestern League and face a strong non-conference schedule that should have them prepared to compete in one of the Southern Section’s higher playoff divisions.

With a team that returns experience at quarterback and four starters on the offensive line, the Broncos look to be ahead of the curve.


“I think we’re going to be very balanced and I think we’re going be very good up front. We’ve got a really good quarterback coming up into the system and I think we’ve got a really good group of kids that work hard.”

“You’ve got to have an attitude of anyone, anytime, anyplace, especially now. And we’re used to playing with the big boys.”

– Eric Peterson

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