CASTROVILLE — Sean Gomes’ return to North Monterey County High has not gone exactly the way he thought it would.

Since taking over the football program just months before the start of the 2015 season, Gomes has not been able to recapture the same magic of his first stint with the Condors, when he led the team to a 10-2 season and the semifinals of the Central Coast Section playoffs.

Yet Gomes is far from calling it quits.

On the contrary, Gomes is as excited for the upcoming fall as he’s ever been during his coaching career.

“I feel good about this group,” Gomes said. “We’re more athletic than we’ve been in the past, we’re experienced and we’re physical on defense, something we’ve struggled with. I think going in having a little more athleticism, a little more experience, it’ll be nice.”

Also nice: having a home field.

The Condors were without a place to call home for close to two calendar years before the completion of their state-of-the-art synthetic field last fall. They were only able to play a pair of home games last season. This season, they’ll have six home games, including five straight following their season opener.

Gomes and the rest of the coaching staff have tried to keep the players’ excitement around the five-game home stand tempered, but it’s been a tough task.

“It’s just more exciting for us because the whole community comes out and they finally have somewhere to go,” said senior defensive end Konan Van Lear. “They finally have a home.”

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>North Monterey County High senior DE Konan Van Lear talks about the Condors’ improvement over the offseason. <a href=”;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#RPsports</a> <a href=””></a></p>&mdash; Tony Nunez (@Tony_Nunez) <a href=””>August 15, 2018</a></blockquote>
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The Condors’ placement in the newly-formed Pacific Coast Athletic League has also drummed up a bit of excitement. N.M.C. will compete in the third toughest division of the 33-school super league, the Cypress, against Monterey High, Pacific Grove High, San Lorenzo Valley High, Santa Cruz High, King City High and St. Francis High.

After winning just three league games over the last two seasons in the now-defunct Monterey Bay League Pacific division, the realignment landed the Condors in a league that is expected to be filled with parity.

“I think it gives us an opportunity to compete,” Gomes said. “That’s really all we wanted.”

N.M.C. will rely on its passing game and physicality on defense to win games this season.

Junior Brandon Ducusin is a big bodied (6-feet, 185 pounds) quarterback that saw action at the varsity level last season because of injury, but has since played himself into the starting spot. He can fit the ball into a tight spot, and also has a nice set of wheels when the pocket breaks down around him.

Seniors Lupe Sanchez (5-6, 155), Isaiah Solorio (5-9, 155) and Abel Ruiz (5-9, 170) will be his top targets in the passing game while junior transfers Cyrus Coffelt (6-0, 170) and Riley Anderson (5-9, 165) work their way into Gomes’ fly offense — Coffelt and Anderson transferred from Monte Vista Christian and Seaside High, respectively.

“We finally have a set of receivers and a good quarterback,” Van Lear said. “We’ve been bonding a lot more.”

Van Lear (5-11, 200) will lead the Condors’ fast and hard-hitting defense as he hunts down quarterbacks from the defensive end.

“Konan, he’s been a beast this year,” Gomes said. “He’ll do what ever you tell him to. Great kid.”

Ruiz leads the linebacking corps from the outside linebacker position, while senior Alex Flores (5-7, 200) can stuff the run from the inside. With his short area quickness, Ruiz can cover every position and give the defense some much-needed flexibility.

The defensive backfield is where the Condors’ defense really shines. Senior Jesse Ramos (5-6, 145) and junior Ricardo Mendoza (5-5, 148) will join Sanchez, Solorio and Anderson in the back half.

“We should be pretty good there,” Gomes said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who can run, and who want to hit people. We have guys who are physically tough. We’ll be physical.”

That should apply to the Condors’ offensive line, too. Senior center Spencer Gonzalez (5-6, 195) and senior tackles Jose Alvarez Zavala (5-10, 285) and Christian Moreno (6-0, 259) return after starting every game last fall. Promising sophomore tackle Marcos Calderon (5-10, 230) has also provided the line with a boost.

“Last year it was just a lot of mental mistakes,” Van Lear said. “If you don’t have the mental (aspect) there, it doesn’t work out. And it just wasn’t there.”

The Condors will start their preseason on Aug. 23 at Rabobank Stadium in Salinas against North Salinas High before kicking off their home stand the following week against Carmel High (Aug. 31). They will close their preseason against Scotts Valley High (Sept. 7) and Greenfield High (Sept. 14) before kicking off PCAL Cypress division action against Monterey on Sept. 21.

Monterey will be the lone hold over from the Condors’ league slate in 2017.

Gomes wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the rest of the teams in the division, but said his team would treat every game like a championship.

“We’re not going to take anybody lightly,” Gomes said. “That’s for sure.”

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