The Epic Highs and Lows of High School Football: Looking Back on the Trojan Football Season

Krishna Khawani, Section Editor

As the sun sets on the University High School football season, it is worth taking a look at the months of training and effort that the team has put in. Led by Head Coach Vince Mesa, the University Trojans went 2-8 during their fall season, putting in a valiant effort week after week. Alongside Coach Mesa was a roster of coaches that aided in the training process, some of whom came and went throughout the season. These coaches included, Coach Anthony (Receivers), Coach Shayan Noories (Offensive Line), Coach Daniel Bejarano (Linebackers/Running Backs), Coach Dick Roche (Defensive Coordinator), Coach Sean (Quarterbacks/Defensive Backs), Coach Bryan (Defensive Line), and Coach Anderson (Defensive Backs).


Throughout the season, the Trojans spent weeks preparing and training for games; however, their story begins much earlier. Last year, former head coach Chris Hernandez stepped down and moved from California, leaving the position vacant. It took at least two months to start the process of finding a new head coach, something wildly unusual for any football program. Instead of having a coach hired immediately, the process took all the way until June of 2021 to be completed.

UHS administration conducted interviews for the first batch of applicants, and after a screening process, certain candidates were selected for a secondary round of interviews. UHS football booster members, along with seniors Noah Scherson and Ziyad Merchant, participated in this second round of interviews to ensure that they found a good fit for the team. The biggest concern for the team was finding a coach that would be able to teach on campus, like Coach Hernandez did and provide effective training for the program. The UHS administration ultimately chose Coach Vince Mesa and preseason training began for the Trojans.

“Coach Mesa is a players’ coach, and that’s exactly what we were looking for,” said Scherson.

The road ahead would not be easy for the team, as the setbacks in coaching meant that the team did not have much time to prepare for the upcoming season. They only had approximately two months to develop and memorize a new playbook, as well as the various complex calls on both offense and defense.

Game One: Magnolia

The Trojan Army came out in full force to support the football team in its first game of the season on Aug. 26 against Magnolia. Led by captains Noah Scherson, Dominic Bejarano, and Joseph Cameron, UHS was narrowly defeated with a score of 16-8. Sophomore Koa Saito scored a touchdown for the Trojans, with Scherson adding on a two-point conversion to the Trojans’ score. Both Scherson and Saito traded off the role of quarterback for the game, totaling 130 yards through the game. Sophomore Blaine Anderson led the Trojans in receiving yards while Bejarano led rushing yards.

Despite the loss, the Trojan football team was invigorated and ready to continue to prove themselves as a force to be reckoned with. The game had given hope to many of the members, the vast majority of whom are sophomores, which is unusual for a varsity football team. 

“I think today was a great show of what UHS football is capable of, but sadly they pulled it together too late. But there is huge promise for this team, I really think there is talent that we are going to use to our advantage,” Coach Anthony said.

Game Two: Ocean View

The night of Sept. 3 rocked the UHS campus as the team made history. The team defeated Ocean View 13-12, and it was the first win in years for the team. Junior Pax Lang scored a rushing touchdown for the Trojans while Anderson completed yet another one for the team. Freshman kicker Daniel Novell brought the team just over the edge with his successful extra point.

The atmosphere in the stadium was electric, as students returning from the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic found themselves back in the stands, ready to support the Trojans. The energy of the Trojan Army made its way onto the field, as the football team fought its way to a well-deserved victory. Taking the previous week’s loss in stride, the UHS team trained and learned from their mistakes in order to change trajectory and end the night on a high note.

“The first game we didn’t have as many guys, but we’re having reinforcements come in as more players come back and get cleared, and they’re all just putting it together. Everything is brand new but they’re starting to understand the system,” Coach Mesa said.

Game Three: Century

The Sept. 10 game against Century High School blew every expectation out of the water, with the Trojans winning by an incredible score of 35-0. Sophomore Jonathan Soto led the Trojans with two touchdowns, followed by touchdowns from Merchant, Anderson, and Lang.

“Going into the game we knew how they played, we practiced, we studied all week. We’ve done it in the past, but never as precise as Coach Mesa. He’s brought something new to this team and we are really grateful for him,” Soto said.

The looming threat of the next week’s matchup against Irvine High was in the back of everyone’s mind; however, it did not take away from the celebration of a second consecutive win for the Trojans. The game against Century itself was not an easy fight despite the eventual score, and the players and coaches were thrilled by the performance.

“We had to adjust because they ran a totally different offense than the films we saw of them, and so we had to adjust defensively in the second half,” Coach Roche said. “Irvine is always a huge challenge for us, [like] these next four games will be, but it will be exciting. The fact that we start 7 sophomores out of 11 kids on defense is incredible, we have as good a sophomore class as we have ever had.”

Game Four: Irvine

The Trojans’ winning streak was brought to an unfortunate close on Sept. 17 in the game against Irvine High School, with a final score of 57-0. Sophomore Andrew Bogard accumulated nearly 200 punt yards, a testament to the state of the matchup throughout the game. The loss combined with the final score served as a devastating reminder of the work that was left to be done and more importantly, it was a preview for upcoming competition. 

Entering the game, many of the UHS players had injuries and Irvine High capitalized on many of the mistakes the Trojans made in the first half. However, UHS made some improvements in the second half with a soaring defensive attempt that limited Irvine to only one touchdown.

“We get back to it tomorrow. I’m going to tell you right now, it won’t get easier from here. Go home, learn from the film, and come back to win,” Coach Mesa said in the team’s huddle after the game. “That second half? That’s the football team I know. That first half I have no idea; that was not who we are. Maybe you didn’t have a chance because some of our guys are out injured, but that is not our team.”

The game was a test for the Trojans, as many had anticipated in the weeks leading up to it. And although the result was far from ideal, it served not as a demoralizing event, but rather the exact opposite. The team was motivated and ready to put in the work to become better, little by little, and reap the rewards of their dedication and commitment.

Games Five, Six and Seven: Dana Hills, Laguna Hills and Portola

Just as Coach Roche had predicted in the matchup against Century, the following games were difficult for the Trojans. In all three games against Dana Hills, Laguna Hills and Portola, the team was unable to score any points, with the final scores ending at 43-0, 48-0, and 49-0 respectively. 

A combination of injuries, issues with morale, and difficult opponents plagued the team week after week. Senior Sabasstian Acuna led the Trojans in yards alongside Lang and Bogard, while the defense was led by Bejarano, sophomore Eithar Takesh, and senior Joseph Cameron.

Despite the team’s efforts, however, the games left the Trojans with a 2-5 record. Yet, there was still a sliver of hope for UHS. All seven games that had been played so far in the season technically qualified as non-league matchups. 

“Starting next week it really counts. We’ve had all these games to get our scheme down, get your technique down. These last three games really matter, it’s all you have left. It’s up to you now,” Coach Mesa said.

Due to recent changes in the football league, the only teams that are a part of the specific league with UHS are Northwood, Beckman, and Woodbridge. So the Trojans were only just beginning their journey to bid for CIF playoffs. In order to qualify for CIF, they needed to win two out of the next three games and the Trojans were ready to do just that.  

“When I came in my freshman year, on my first day of summer camp, I made a promise to put one date up on the wall near the tennis courts. This is my last shot,” Scherson told his teammates. “I’m not going to give up. I’m not going to stop taking those hits. I live by the sword and I will die by the sword. I live on this field and I will die on this field.”

Games Eight and Nine: Northwood and Beckman

The bid for playoffs began with an unfortunate loss to Northwood on Oct. 15, with a final score of 7-51. However, it was the first time the Trojans scored points in a game since their game against Century. Jonathan Soto scored for the team and led the Trojans in yards as well. The notoriously difficult matchup against Northwood set the Trojans off to a rocky start going into the next match and put the pressure on them in order to reach CIF rounds. The team now needed to win two games in a row for a chance at playoffs. 

The first of these games was a matchup against Beckman High and ended in an unfortunate loss for the Trojans with a final score of 30-14. Merchant made his return as quarterback for the first time since Week Three and was able to pass for a total of 181 yards while rushing 101 yards for a touchdown. Saito was responsible for the second touchdown and sophomore Skye Murphy scored two extra points for the Trojans. The defense was yet again led by Bejarano and junior Christopher Rue as the team fought to stay in the running for a playoff bid. 

The night ended on a somber note; many of the players thought this was their last chance to attend CIF for football. However, the upcoming matchup was one of the most important of the year, regardless of its CIF potential: the Unity Game (which had been rebranded this year from the Rivalry Game) against Woodbridge High School.

Game Ten: Woodbridge

The final game of the season came with a major surprise: the Trojans still had a chance to attend the CIF playoffs. Northwood held a record of 2-0, while Beckman and Woodbridge were both 1-1. It was almost assumed that Beckman would lose to Northwood, and if the Trojans could manage a win against Woodbridge it would create a three-way tie for teams with 1-2 records. In determining who would move forward, a CIF coin flip placed the Trojans on top. Simply put, if UHS won their final game, they would go to the CIF playoffs. Word spread through the stands to an already electric, enthusiastic crowd.

However, despite the Trojans’ efforts, the team took its final loss with a score of 30-6. Blaine Anderson scored the six points for the Trojans, and the remaining students in the stand celebrated his touchdown. Unfortunately, midway through the game, a stink bomb was set off in the student section, which caused the Trojan side of the stadium to empty in a matter of minutes. The sight was immensely demoralizing for many of the football players. However, the team pushed through for the final touchdown towards the end of the game.

It was an emotional night. The coaches and players stayed and talked for nearly an hour after the game, reflecting upon the season that had passed but also looking forward to the years to come. A predominantly underclassmen varsity team is unprecedented, and the experience they have gained over the course of the year sets up the UHS team for success in the future. 

“Look at what we have accomplished today. This thing doesn’t get built overnight guys, it doesn’t. We are 80 guys, we almost hit 90. It takes time to build programs,” Head Coach Mesa said. “There’s no secret to this. You have to roll your sleeves up and put in the work. But I’ll tell you what, we have achieved a lot, a whole lot. You guys should be proud.”

Regardless of the team’s final record or the scores of their individual games, it is undeniable that they have broken a losing streak for UHS. As of Sunday, Dec. 5, numerous Trojans were rewarded for their efforts at the annual banquet. Noah Scherson received the David Leidal Award for his character and work ethic, an award that has not been given out in recent years. The coaches awarded Dominic Bejarano the MVP award, Joseph Cameron the Offensive Player of the Year award, and Eithar Takesh the Defensive Player of the Year award. The Trojans also received First Team All League Awards, with Scherson for Wide Receiver and Defensive Back, Takesh for Defensive Back, Bejarano for Linebacker, Blaine Anderson for Wide Receiver, and Cameron for Offensive Lineman. Senior Sharif Hayek also was awarded Second Team All League for Offensive Lineman and senior Christian Ortiz for Defensive Lineman, along with many other candidates across a variety of categories.

Despite having an unbelievably young team, one of the smallest coaching staffs in the league, a late start to pre-season training, and so many other setbacks, the Trojans persevered. It took not only a physical, but also a mental and emotional toll for many of the players. But the future for the football program here at UHS is bright and has leaders that are ready to step forward in order to continue to improve upon the foundations that were laid this year.

It is all too common to hear UHS students complain about the team, or about the effort that they put in. However, it takes a certain kind of person to not only stand on that field, but stay there as well. Through the ups and downs, failures and successes, most people, let alone students, would be unable or unwilling to persevere. The football team has shown a new side of themselves this year, one that has been hidden for far too long. To those who will be here to watch the development of the team in the coming years: get ready because they only plan on getting better from here.



​​2 Nikko Ray

3 Carl Oldham

4 Kareem Wali

5 Zylynn Reid

5 Brooks Beckmann

7 Jonathan Soto

8 Justin Tribble

9 Asger Ross

10 Ziyad Merchant

11 Blaine Anderson

12 Damari Carter

12 Andrew Bogard

13 Koa Saito

17 Noah Scherson

18 Calvin Welsh

18 Zephyr Reynolds

19 Daniel Novell

21 Pax Lang

22 Owen Chiou

22 Michael Ceballos

23 Ryan Shabbak

24 Mohammed Oonwala

26 Jai Williams

27 Adharsh Kamalakkannan

29 Dominic Bejarano

30 Adam Laouiti

31 Eithar Takesh

32 Skye Murphy

33 Sabasstian Acuna

34 Jacob Hornback

39 Christopher Rue

42 Daniel Levi

47 Daniel Bar on

50 Christian Ortiz

51 Lex Hackett

55 Sam Sperling

58 Christian Pacheco

61 Joseph Cameron

65 Jack Cameron

66 Sharif Hayek

69 Alexander Nacaty

72 Arturo Hernandez

78 Ahmad Naji

81 Charlie Hedrick

81 Tomas Arango

87 Chris Conner

88 Alireza Rahimi

97 Geoff Soriano

Jesse Javier

Jordan Harris

Adam Chase

Alex Pai

Nathan Lopez

Keshawn Johnson

Prakhar Dagur

Zachary Malek

Amir Majdi

Pouya Beheshti

Jibreel Farooquee

Borna Sharafkhanian

Michael Gasper

Donovan Bejarano

Jack Keeling

Winner Okey

Luke Edwards

Michael Bar on

Jorge Camarillo

Preston Murphy

Ariyon Ferber

Barsam Shafanehpour

Brandon Mcmullens

Kevin Paz

Yousef Alsharif