Sammy Swanson is slated to start at quarterback for Costa Mesa High. (Courtesy of Mark Settles / August 23, 2014)

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Costa Mesa High football, Wally Grant, Orange Coast League, Sammy Swanson, Mason Mataafa, Darmonta Davis, Cameron Curet, Adam JeyaRajah, Sean Tolliver, Frankie Hernandez, Jose Granados, Hadley Figueroa-Bravo, Roberto Olivares, Austin Sheffner, Neru Fesili, Brandon Stevens, Andrew Garcia, Josh Snipes

When Wally Grant became head football coach at his alma mater Costa Mesa High in 2011, he had a goal in mind.

Grant wanted the number of players in his program to be in the triple digits by his fourth year.

The Mustangs have at least come close to meeting that goal. When school starts, Grant anticipates about 60 youngsters on the varsity and junior varsity, and more than 30 freshmen out for football.

"We're knocking on that door," said Grant, who only expects those numbers to get higher in subsequent years.

The Mustangs, though, want to do more than knock on the door in regard to an Orange Coast League title. They want to defend their title from last year and return to the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs.

"I don't discount us if we stay healthy," said Grant, whose team is young and lacks a lot of depth. "It could be feast or famine. We could be a very good high school football team, but if a few things go wrong, we're a year away. On paper, we look a year away. But again, if you look at those 16 [projected non-senior starters], 10 of them had quality varsity time."

But he doesn't discount other teams in the league, either.

"Estancia's got to be up there, because they have all those kids coming back," he said. "Godinez always has to be mentioned, because they're a school of 3,000-plus [students]. Calvary came together out of nowhere last year with that new staff, and put together a heck of a product.

"I think our league is starting to get the people in place to make their programs respectable. Three, four years ago, that wasn't necessarily the case. The Orange Coast League was the bottom-feeders, and I don't see that as an issue anymore."

Here's a position-by-position look at the Costa Mesa High football team, which opens its season against Northwood at 7 p.m. on Aug. 29 at Jim Scott Stadium.

Quarterback: Sammy Swanson, a junior, is the projected starter, replacing graduate Oliver Ferris. Swanson only picked up the quarterback position last year, starting late in the year on junior varsity. But Grant likes the potential of Swanson, who is 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds. To this point, he is more known for his snowboarding prowess than football.

"He has a chance to be my first quarterback that I'll have as a two-year player," Grant said. "So far since I've been here, they've been one-year quarterbacks, they've been all seniors ... The kids respect him. He's a hard worker."

Competing with Swanson for the starting nod are junior Rodrigo Carvahlo (5-8, 165) and sophomore Eric Carrasco (5-10, 155).

Running backs: Last year's tailback and fullback are both gone, as Oronde Crenshaw graduated and Will Padilla moved to Minnesota.

Mason Mataafa, a junior who is 6-3 and weighs 215 pounds, steps in as starting tailback. He started a couple of games last year as Crenshaw, the Orange Coast League MVP who rushed for 1,971 yards and 28 touchdowns, nursed nagging foot injuries. Mataafa, more of a physical runner, had 279 yards last year, averaging more than six yards per carry.

"It was fun to watch him develop as the year went on, knowing that it's going to be an easy transition for him to step into a role that Mario [Smith] had [in 2011] and Oronde had the last couple of years," Grant said. "I don't compare his speed to those two kids — it's not close.

"But in the third quarter and fourth quarter, you're going to start seeing kids that just don't want to step in front of him anymore. All of a sudden, his 10-, 15-yard plays are going to be 40-yard plays. He's a very physical kid."