The Titan Stadium scoreboard will be dark on Saturday when San Marino High School’s football team plays itself in the annual Blue & White Game, but all sorts of data will be lighting up the mind of new head football Coach Justin Mesa.
Mesa, 36, was selected for the post in April and the unenviable task of replacing Mike Hobbie, who in his eight years compiled the highest win percentage in the history of the program.
Saturday’s scrimmage will be the public’s first look at the Titans under Mesa and the new coach is rarin’ and ready to go.
“This will be an opportunity to learn which kids are going to fight and which kids are going to be reluctant,” Mesa said by phone early Wednesday morning. “We look at this as information-gathering, a way we can learn what the team is all about.”
The opening of summer camp brought a few new players into the fold, upping the number of participants to about 55 from all four grades. For the first time since the inception of the school, San Marino will field just varsity and frosh-soph teams, which has become common to the region. Last season, the Titans began the season with teams at the freshman, junior varsity and varsity levels, but merged the freshman and junior varsity teams midway through the campaign. Mesa will get everyone some playing time against similar and familiar opposition at Saturday’s Blue & White, which begins at 10:30 a.m.
“We are trying to find a nice balance,” said Mesa. “The coaches have little background with this team so every day is a big day to understand what we are going to be like as a football team. We just want the guys to go out there and play their best.”
Mesa has 18 years of coaching and administrative experience and will also teach physical education at San Marino High School. He recently wrapped up a two-year commitment as director of recruiting at the University of Wyoming, where he helped the Cowboys gather its highest-ranked recruiting class since 2011. Before his assignment in Wyoming, Mesa was a member of the staff at Dixie State University. where he coached wide receivers and coordinated special teams for the Trailblazers in 2016. In 2017, he was promoted to passing game coordinator and also recruited Southern and Central California, as well as the state of Utah.
Mesa previously served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Loyola High School in Los Angeles for three seasons from 2013-15.
He also spent six what he called “very formative” seasons in a variety of administrative and coaching roles at USC from 2007-12, including stints as a recruiting and operations assistant, tight end and wide receivers coach, graduate assistant coach and assistant quarterback coach, where he served under current Trojan head Coach Clay Helton.
But now, it’s all about the defending Rio Hondo League champion Titans, and trying to maintain the momentum created by Hobbie, whose status can be described as “legendary.”
“I like the way the kids are grasping onto what we are doing,” Mesa said. “They have a high football IQ and understand our goals.”
The Titans will host a scrimmage on Thursday, August 15 at 4:00 p.m. that will also include San Gabriel High School and Pasadena Poly. San Marino opens the 2019 season on Friday, August 23 at Charter Oak beginning at 7:00 p.m. The Titans first home game is slated for Friday, September 6 when El Monte comes calling at 7:00 p.m.