California’s Top 50 high school football teams: Matt Bechtel and No. 39 Damien welcome all challengers

SBLive is previewing the Top 50 high school football teams in California ahead of the fall 2021 season. Here’s an inside look at the Damien Spartans of the CIF Southern Section, the No. 39 team in our countdown.

MORE: PRESEASON ALL-STATE TEAM | TOP 50 COUNTDOWN

DAMIEN TEAM PAGE | 2021 FALL FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

DAMIEN HEAD COACH

Matt Bechtel – 3rd season – (10-7)

  • Coached previously at Chino Hills and South Hills

2021 SPRING AT A GLANCE

  • 5-1
  • 2-0 in Baseline League (T-1)

IMPACT DEPARTURES

  • Donovan Smith – QB – (Graduated)
  • Daymon Burns – DB – (Graduated)
  • Thomas Carroll – LB – (Graduated)
  • James Grider – LB – (Graduated)
  • Zack Camarena – LB – (Graduated)
  • Gio Russo – S – (Graduated)

2021 FALL SCHEDULE

  • Aug. 27 vs. Loyola – 7:00PM
  • Sept. 3 @ St. Francis – 7:00PM
  • Sept.. 10 vs. Orange Lutheran – 7:00PM
  • Sept. 16 vs. Oaks Christian – 7:00PM
  • Sept. 24 @ Bishop Amat – 7:00PM
  • Oct. 1 vs. Etiwanda – 7:00PM
  • Oct. 8 @ Upland -7:00PM
  • Oct. 15 vs. Aquinas – 7:00PM
  • Oct. 21 @ Chino Hills – 7:00PM
  • Oct. 29 vs. Rancho Cucamonga – 7:00PM

RETURNING STARTERS

  • 5 on offense
  • 5 on defense

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Roman Toilolo (Senior-WR/DB) (5-9, 165)

Coach Bechtel: “Roman is a three year starter and he also returns kicks. He’s our big play guy.

2021 spring stats: 16 tackles and recovered a fumble

Richard Perez (Senior-WR/DB) (5-11, 175)

Coach Bechtel: “Richard is the quarterback of the defense. He’s a big hitter type of kid.”

2021 spring stats: 34 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery

John Aragon (Senior-DE) (6-0, 210)

Coach Bechtel: “He was our sack leader last year. He’s a good athlete. He used to play running back and we converted him two years ago.”

2021 spring stats: 16 tackles, forced a fumble

Corey Davis (Junior-WR/CB) (5-9, 165)

Coach Bechtel: “Corey has been contributing for us since his freshman season. He’s very instinctual with a great nose for the football.”

2021 spring stats: 24 tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery

Ramsey Qishta (Senior-NG) (6-3, 300)

Coach Bechtel: “Ramsey has a D1 body, he’s a D1 athlete.”

2021 spring stats: 13 tackles

Tyler Palm (Senior-Tackle) (6-3, 270)

Coach Bechtel“Tyler will be a three-year starter for us. He’s an athletic kid that’s got some nastiness to him.”

Ayden Gutierrez (Sophomore-WR)

Coach Bechtel“Ayden will be one of our most gifted wide receivers.”

Steve Chavez (Freshman-RB) (6-1, 225)

Coach Bechtel“Steve is a man-child who isn’t a hold back. He’s a power runner who can also catch. He’s going to be really good.”

IMPACT TRANSFERS IN

  • Ian Bell — 2023 DB (Chino Hills)
  • Kyren Condoll — 2024 DB (Upland)
  • Rahim Wright — 2024 QB (Upland)
  • Jaiden Moss — 2024 RB (Upland)

IMPACT TRANSFERS OUT

  • None

WHAT’S THE QUARTERBACK SITUATION?

Last year’s back up Dylan Gutierrez, a junior, is in a QB battle with sophomore Upland transfer Rahim Wright. Bechtel says he’s open to playing both if it gives his team the best chance to win.

REVITALIZED RIVALRY WITH BISHOP AMAT

For years, Bishop Amat has been the premier private school in the San Gabriel Valley when it comes to football. Damien is now trying to change that. The two teams will play on September 24 at Bishop Amat. The game used to be a big rivalry but hasn’t been played since 2011. Bechtel gives his thoughts on the return of the rivalry below.

“Is it great to have them on the schedule? Absolutely,” Bechtel said. “It’s an old time rivalry that’s lost its luster a bit. That’s what has people excited now. But for me personally, there’s not a game on my schedule that I circle. We want to beat the hell out of everybody. But at the same time, it’s just one of those games. I call it the back yard brawl. It’s a game where you’re trying to capture as many middle school kids that are deciding between the two schools as you can.”

“I’m excited to bring back a relevant game in the San Gabriel Valley that people care about and alumni really care about. There are some Damien guys who really don’t like the word Amat. For those reasons, there’s a lot of hype. But you’ve got to give credit where it’s due, they’ve been the private school that’s been on top and we’re trying to work to change that.”

BEST-CASE SCENARIO FOR DAMIEN

Winning the Baseline League. Etiwanda is ahead of Damien to begin the year, but the Spartans certainly have a shot to win the Baseline League. The production they get from their starting QB and linebacking corps will be what determines how well the season goes.

MOST REALISTIC SCENARIO

Damien will be .500 or better but not by too many games. Their schedule is really challenging, especially in the non-league. The most realistic scenario for Damien is to be in a lot of games, but probably go 5-5 or 6-4, make the playoffs and get their special sophomore class geared up for a Section title push in 2022.

COACH SAID

“We feel we’re very talented in a lot of areas, we just feel that we’re young. This is a young team. We have some good upperclassmen, but we’ve got a really, really good sophomore class. We’re going to do as well as those guys do. Can our young guys step up and handle that Friday night pressure? That’s the question. We graduated all four linebackers. To me, the defense always sets the tone and having to replace those guys is going to be interesting. We have good players at those spots, but they’re ninth and tenth graders. We have solid lines, receivers and running backs. Our goal is to win our league. That’s always the number one goal.”

— Head Coach Matt Bechtel

MORE: PRESEASON ALL-STATE TEAM | TOP 50 COUNTDOWN

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