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The San Clemente football team will hold its annual Red and Black scrimmage on May 31. Photo by Brian Miller
The San Clemente football team will hold its annual Red and Black scrimmage on May 31. Photo by Brian Miller

By Steve Breazeale

The San Clemente football team is three weeks into their spring practice schedule, which means that the team’s first game isn’t far off. As of May 28, 93 student-athletes make up the Tritons ranks and head coach Jaime Ortiz hopes to whittle that number down closer to 50 by the time San Clemente takes the field against Jordan of Long Beach for their first game on August 30.

As usual there was some offseason turnover on the Tritons roster due to graduating seniors but there were also some coaching changes too.

In one of the major changes being made to the Tritons program this offseason, head coach Jaime Ortiz is stepping aside from role of defensive coordinator in order to make way for the team’s new coordinator, Leo Barker. Ortiz has been the team’s defensive coordinator for the past 11 seasons and will remain the linebacker’s coach as well as maintain his head coaching duties.

Barker joins the Tritons coaching staff having had previous coaching stints in Georgia. Barker was a former NFL player with the Cincinnati Bengals.

“We’re similar in a lot of ways, he brings some new ideas to the table which is good,” Ortiz said of Barker. “From a scheme standpoint I think he’ll be a great addition.”

Byron Rex, who played tight end at BYU, also joins the Tritons coaching staff as receivers and tight end coach.

For the last two seasons, the Tritons had multiple players playing both sides of the ball for a majority of snaps. Standouts like Christian Bailey, Landon Cook and Sean Harlow were among the two-way players who set the tone for the team. Ortiz stated how the Tritons now have to find replacements on both sides of the ball to fill the vacancy left by those two-way players.

The way Ortiz plans to fill those voids, at least in the early going, is by implementing more of a two-platoon system where players focus on one position only, rather than playing both offense and defense.

Some players will, out of necessity, play both sides of the ball. But Ortiz feels this strategy will help shape what is a younger team.

“This year with having so many new guys I think it’s better for kids to focus on one side of the ball,” Ortiz said. “It gives the players the ability to work on their craft and really focus on that one position.”

It also enables the coaching staff to cast a wide net over the talent pool and see who will emerge as a viable option to start on the varsity roster.

Ortiz says he envisions about 85 percent of the team to play either offense or defense exclusively.

Soon to be senior Jason Wright will likely be one of the remaining 15 percent who will start both ways for the Tritons, according to Ortiz. Wright got considerable experience last season and will likely start at tight end and defensive end when the new season begins.

The Tritons fans who have been waiting all winter to get a look at the team will have the chance to do so on May 31, as the Tritons will host their annual Red and Black game at 7 p.m. Fans will get to see the Tritons offense compete against the defense for bragging rights and it will give the coaching staff the chance to see how the team will perform under the lights and in pads.

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