2012-08-23 / Sports

Newbury Park

Panthers look to play spoiler in the East
By Eliav Appelbaum


RISE—Max Quiroz leaps to catch a pass during practice for Newbury Park High. Quiroz, a senior, is a tenacious outside linebacker/strong safety/wide receiver. The Panther is also a CIF champion wrestler. 
IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers RISE—Max Quiroz leaps to catch a pass during practice for Newbury Park High. Quiroz, a senior, is a tenacious outside linebacker/strong safety/wide receiver. The Panther is also a CIF champion wrestler. IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers Head coach: Gary Fabricius (third season)

2011 results: 3-7 (2-7 in league); eighth in Marmonte

The Newbury Park High football team is ready to take the next step forward in its rebuilding process, and that starts with players putting last season behind them.

“We’re not a young team like last year—we don’t have that excuse,” said senior quarterback Ben Okun. “We just have to put in extra work and get better.”

As the Panthers’ unquestioned leader, Okun wants to prove his teammates can achieve greatness.

“We look forward to being at the top of the league. I believe we can do it this year,” he said. “There’s no doubt we can finish at the top of the league and shock everyone.”

There’s no denying NEWBURY it would be a major surprise to see TOHS the Panthers in the @ Newbury Marmone League’s August first-ever championship game.

Newbury Park resides in the Marmonte’s new East division with Westlake (defending CIFSouthern Section Northern Division champs), St. Bonaventure (nine section crowns since 1996), Simi Valley (6-4 last season) and Royal (4-6).

There are no cupcakes in that group.

Fortunately, the Panthers return 16 of 22 starters, including Okun at quarterback, senior running back Austin de Maille, sophomore right tackle Zach Okun, senior center Mayson Pashley-Brooks and senior left tackle Tyler Thompson.

In hopes of rekindling an offense that struggled in 2011, NPHS head coach Gary Fabricius shuffled his coaching staff.

Joe Smigiel and Keith Smith now share offensive coordinator duties. Smigiel and Smith each starred at NPHS before playing at the University of Arizona.

Smiegiel and Anthony Foli work with the offensive line while

Smith is quarterbacks coach. Jason

Klein replaces Jack Willard as defensive coordinator. Willard is now the defensive coordinator at

Camarillo.

With all of the changes, Fabricius said, the Panthers are feeling pressure to produce positive results.

“We do have high expectations,” he said.

“We’re excited, but obviously it has to translate to wins and losses. . . . We’ve got to measure success on

PARK Friday nights.”

If Newbury Park is going to play the

Park High role of spoiler, Ben 31 - 7 PM Okun has to keep the Panthers’ runfi rst offense moving the chains. The southpaw scrambler, who is considering playing Ivy League football, has picked up his game, especially in the weight room.

He’s bulked up 25 pounds since last season and has put more time into his preparation.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound passer said he relied too much on natural talent in 2011. Now he’s spending hours in the film room.

“You can’t achieve anything without focus and hard work,” Ben

Okun said.

His younger brother, Zach, has already been offered a scholarship by UCLA. The sophomore lineman has nimble feet, ox strength and intimidating size.

Kurt McCormack, a 6- 3, 245- pound senior tight end/ linebacker, honed his speed and strength in the offseason. He also said he improved his attitude.

“Last year it was more about myself,” McCormack said. “It’s about the team this year.”

A physical bruiser at tailback, de Maille also suits up at outside linebacker. If the Panthers want to play a little nasty, they’ll look to the 5-11, 175-pound back for inspiration.

“I think we’ll be more physical,” said de Maille, a track sprinter and honors student who is considering studying engineering and playing football at Carnegie Mellon, MIT or Cornell.

“As our coaches say, we want to put it down (other teams’) throats.”

Clearly, Newbury Park is ready to rebound.

“We’re not the same team we were last year,” Ben Okun said. “We’ll give you a game.”

PLAYER TO WATCH

Zach Okun

Despite his youth, the softspoken sophomore is known as one of the best offensive linemen in Ventura County. UCLA has already noticed, offering the right tackle a scholarship. Okun, who will likely share snaps at defensive nose tackle with center Mayson Pashley-Brooks, has great footwork, strength and size while protecting the blind side of his brother, Ben, the Panthers’ southpaw quarterback. Zach Okun worked on his technique and agility this summer, and he even shed a few pounds. Head coach Gary Fabricius called the Panther “a gentle giant.” But once he puts on the pads, Okun flips the switch to beast mode.

TOP RETURNERS

Ben Okun, senior
QB/DB/P
Kurt McCormack, senior
TE/LB
Jake Wuesthoff, senior
S/WR
Max Quiroz, senior
OLB/WR
Devin Duarte, senior
OLB/SS
Austin de Maille, senior
RB/LB
Mayson Pashley-Brooks,
senior
C/DL

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