The St. Monica High School Mariners football team of Santa Monica may need some experience, but new head coach Jason Strouse says that the lack of experience will not be a reason to stop his team from finishing at the top of the league this season.

Strouse — who took the St. Monica coaching job July 16th — says the Mariners are more than ready to improve on their 8-4 record from last season, when the Mariners finished second in the Camino Real League to Mary Star of the Sea, San Pedro.

The team also made it to the Division 11 playoffs last year, but left with a substantial loss of 56-0 to Oak Park in the second round.

The Mariners took another big hit this year when 16 starters, including most of the offensive and defensive line, graduated.

“Weíre running on fumes, but we got some good kids back,” Strouse said.

One of those key returning athletes is senior quarterback Mitch Smith, who threw for over 2,400 yards last year.

Seniors Jeremy Brooks, wide out and split end, and Andrew Lennig, lineman, will also help provide leadership to the young team.

“We donít have many starters back, but we expect to win the Division 11 championships and we have as good a chance as anyone,” the coach said. “Our big weakness is experience, but weíre an athletic and special school, and we pride ourselves on having exceptional kids.”

The Mariners will have their season opener away at Artesia High School at 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 10th.

When facing Artesia, St. Monica will have to play to its game and not adjust to theirs, Strouse said.

One game that the team is eyeing for a challenge is at Santa Monica High School at 7 p.m. Friday, October 1st.

The Mariners played the Santa Monica High Vikings for the first time last season and left the field with a 19-14 victory.

Strouse said he is confident that his team will give the Vikings another defeat this year.

The team is also focused on beating Mary Star of the Sea at 7 p.m. Saturday, October 30th, to take over as the leagueís top team.

While some may think that the Mariners are far behind in preparation after holding their first practice only Thursday, August 19th, Strouse says his team is ready to work and expects to have a big season.

“We fully expect to show people how itís done here,” he said. “All my team needs to do is eat their vegetables, do their homework and score more points than the other team.”