GHS hopes to build on success despite youth

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Last season, Gardena High’s football team showed some promise by winning all five non-league games and went 2-3 for a fourth place finish in the always rugged Marine League.

Gone for the Panthers, though, are standouts, all-round player Tyree Simmons (Colorado State), wide receiver Dominic Toliver (Idaho State) and quarterback Phil Johnson Jr. (Arizona State).

It appears to be rebuilding time and the Panthers are also small in numbers with just 28 players on their varsity roster, coached by Deon Toliver.

Last season, Gardena High’s football team showed some promise by winning all five non-league games and went 2-3 for a fourth place finish in the always rugged Marine League.

Gone for the Panthers, though, are standouts, all-round player Tyree Simmons (Colorado State), wide receiver Dominic Toliver (Idaho State) and quarterback Phil Johnson Jr. (Arizona State).

It appears to be rebuilding time and the Panthers are also small in numbers with just 28 players on their varsity roster, coached by Deon Toliver.

Gardena has 10 returning overall players, including only three starters, and will bring back first team all-Marine League cornerback-wide receiver Justin Cater.

The Panthers should get good production from two other experienced seniors in offensive guard Shamemarr Tucker and slot receiver Preshay Houston.

Toliver plans to use a spread offense, behind junior quarterback Jonathan Reed, junior wide receiver Michael Thompson and senior wide receiver Joshua Thomas.

Junior Isaac Lewis is expected to be Gardena’s top running back.

The Panthers’ line will be bolstered by senior offensive guard-defensive tackle Sebastian Bright, who is six feet and weighs 285 pounds.

Toliver says that Gardena’s defense will be young but physical, behind Cater and safety Dante Fuqua.

The Panthers’ linebacker positions will be led by juniors Marlin Beroit and Christopher Plunkett.

Senior defensive end Andre Flynn should also help Gardena.

“We have good athletes,” Toliver said. “Our weakness is our offensive line and our strength is our skilled positions. Our quarterback is questionable.”

According to Maxpreps, Gardena is currently ranked 11th in the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division I with defending two-time champion and Marine League power  Narbonne, again, top ranked in the City. The Panthers will again have to contend with other Marine powers Carson and San Pedro, and Banning, under first year head coach John Aponte, appears to be improved.

The Panthers begin non-league play at always-tough Taft High in Woodland Hills Friday at 7 p.m.