Charlie Wegher, in his 19th season as head coach for the Agoura Chargers, predicted the new-look Marmonte League, with it's two five-team divisions, would have more competitive non-league games this year.
He was certainly right regarding the season opener last Friday night when Agoura fought back with a late touchdown and 2-point conversion to tie the score and win in overtime, 27-20, against new-found crosstown rival Oak Park.
"I was really impressed and proud of our kids for completely fighting until the end of the game," Wegher said, "... it looked a little bleak there towards the end of the fourth quarter. And they never gave up. And that was very encouraging."
Wegher said there were aspects of his team's performance that were encouraging and others that would need improvement for this coming Friday's road game at Ventura High School.
"There were some positive things in all three aspects of the game, but there's also areas where we've got to get better," Wegher said. "I think defensively, at times, we did really well against the run.
"We attacked the gaps and our tackling was solid. And we played very physical. So I thought defensively we did a very good job."
Although Oak Park running back Kyle Espinoza ran for over 100 yards, he was held to about 3.5 yards per carry. The Eagles quarterback Jack Gerstenberger completed 12 of 18 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns for Oak Park. Devan MacKey caught seven passes for 78 yards for the Eagles.
"Offensively, our passing game, at times, looked really sharp and we did things well," said Wegher.
Agoura Quarterback Richard Poutier completed 23-44 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. Bryan Hochberg led the Chargers receivers with seven receptions for 62 yards. Andrew Costin, who caught the game-winner in overtime, had six receptions for 64 yards.
Hochberg was injured late in the game and will miss four to six weeks with a broken ankle, Wegher said.
The Charger coach said his team needs to become more efficient in the red zone.
"We got down at their end of the field two or three times when we couldn't convert on fourth down," Wegher said.
It was usually a missed assignment by one or two players that caused the problem, something the team will work on while preparing for Ventura.
"If we could have done those things, we could have pulled away," Wegher said. "But we kept shooting ourselves in the foot in critical situations."
But for a first game, especially because of the early start–games don't usually begin until September–Wegher was pleased.
"For an opening game, I thought it wasn't all that bad, overall," Wegher said. "We blocked a punt, so that was nice. We definitely won the kicking game, and I think that was the telling difference in that game–the kicking game."
Sean Bar scored Agoura's first touchdown when he blocked an Oak Park punt, recovered it and then ran 26 yards for a score in the first quarter. In the overtime, Pedram Razaee kicked the extra point for the Chargers to give them a seven-point lead. It was the only successful kick for a PAT all game.
Wegher watched film of Ventura, the Chargers next opponent, all day Sunday.
"They're big and they're physical and it's going to be a challenge," he said. "So we're going to have to get some of the things we didn't do well [against Oak Park] straightened out and get ready for a tough ball game."