Head coach: Michael Gutierrez
Fifth season at Highland (23-21)
Last season: 8-2 overall, 3-1 SEYL
Playoffs: Lost Central Section D-III first round
History: League titles (1); Section titles (0)
Assistant coaches: Christopher Jacquez, defensive coordinator; Jorge Moreno, H-backs/linebackers; Angel Posadas offensive line/defensive line; David Jackson, wide receivers/cornerbacks; David Yubeta, running backs/linebackers; Gabe Johnson, wide receivers/cornerbacks; Scot Smith, wide receivers/free safeties; Arnaldo Cueto, director of player performance and wellness.

2018 season

Aug. 17 - at Arvin
Aug. 24 - vs. Shafter
Aug. 31 - vs. Kennedy
Sept. 7 - at Tehachapi
Sept. 14 - vs. Golden Valley
Sept. 21- BYE
Sept. 28 - vs. North*
Oct. 5 - at Mira Monte*
Oct. 12 - vs. Foothill*
Oct. 19 - vs. South*
Oct. 26 - at East*
*SEYL game

Top returner

Matthew Miranda, senior, WR - A quiet and composed leader for the Scots, he’ll headline a deep receiving corps in 2018 and be a playmaker on the outside.

Key players

Nick Salas, junior, WR/DB - A smooth player with sneaky speed, Salas has great hands and knowledge of the game. Gets positive yards after the catch and can take the ball away defensively.

Angel Trevino, senior, RG/DE - This 6-foot-5, 230-pounder has gotten stronger in the weight room and developed as a leader on both lines of scrimmage.

Zac Green, senior, RB - A transfer from Stockdale, this big-bodied back is quick and sees the field well. The coaching staff likes his blend of speed and physicality.

Defining feature

The Scots had a historic season in 2017, winning their first football league championship in school history.

Entering his fifth season with the program, head coach Mike Gutierrez has done a good job at the school and wants to continue building off that momentum.

“We want to be successful here at Highland. Sometimes it seems like we were just satisfied being here. But now, we want to win. We want to prove a point,” he said. “We’re not just an east side team, but a team that can compete with teams throughout Bakersfield and throughout our section.”

Gutierrez believes the Scots can lean on their toughness and team speed to give opponents fits.

“We know we won’t be the biggest, we won’t be as strong as we’ve been in the past. We’re a lot younger. But we got a lot of tough guys who work hard. A lot of smart guys,” he said. “They’re very, very physical. So we can use our speed to our advantage since we don’t have the size, and make sure we use the leverage that we get.”

One area the team considers a position of strength is wide receiver, where Gutierrez said the Scots can rotate close to 12 players.

“We’ve got a lot of depth. Two or three guys that could step in any time,” said senior wide receiver Louie Salas. “A lot of hard workers and a lot of guys that can step in and do the job.”

What’s changed?

Under normal circumstances, replacing a senior quarterback from one year to the next is hard enough. 

In the Scots case, they have to replace two following the graduations of Cade Sakamoto and Zeke Arambulo.

The duo threw for over 1,644 yards, ran for over 600 yards and scored 34 total touchdowns (passing and rushing).

The Scots will now turn to A.J. Cleveland, a sophomore who was praised for his smarts and athleticism.

Head coach Michael Gutierrez added that Highland's junior varsity and varsity programs run the same offensive systems, which should make for a good transition.

“I think we can do similar stuff to what we’ve done in the past,” the head coach said.

The two quarterbacks weren't the only key players who departed this offseason.

Gutierrez said replacing Josh Yubeta on the offensive line will be key. The team also lost its top running backs from a season ago, including Cole Johnson who started in the offensive backfield and at strong safety.

"We did lose a lot of kids," Gutierrez said. "It's fun to really re-connect with a new group of kids and it's fun to be able to do some of the coaching that maybe I didn't have to with Zeke Arambulo and Cade Sakamoto being three-year quarterbacks for us."

Teddy Feinberg can be reached at 661-395-7324. Follow him on Twitter: @TeddyFeinberg.

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