TEMECULA -- Matt Morin sat in the stands last December at Vista Murrieta High School and watched Chaparral escape with its first section title while wondering if his destiny would rest with the Pumas.
Turns out, Chaparral's fortunes in a hope-filled 2010 campaign -- which starts at 7 p.m. Friday against two-time state champion Oceanside -- may sit with him.
Not that the Pumas' new quarterback is stressing his role on a talented team.
"I'm just worrying about using the athletes around me and making sure I don't screw up," said Morin, a junior who transferred from Murrieta Valley when his family moved to Temecula. "I've got athletes around me that can do great things. If I just put the ball in their hands, that will make them look great and then that will make me look great.
"I'm only worried about putting the ball in their hands."
Those athletes, of course, are the reason the Pumas enter the season ranked among the state's top programs. Wide receiver Antoine Arnold piled up more than 1,500 yards and 17 TDs last year and enters the season as one of the nation's top recruits at his position, two-way standout Darius Guillory has already verbally committed to San Diego State and coach Tom Leach has already declared this year's class of juniors and sophomores as his deepest yet.
The pundits are buying in, too.
Chaparral, the Inland Division champion after topping Vista Murrieta last December, opens the season ranked No. 1 in the division, No. 7 in the state in calpreps.com's poll and No. 11 in Cal-Hi Sports' rankings.
Emerge unscathed from a nonleague slate that includes defending state champion Oceanside, Corona Centennial, Anaheim Servite and Fresno Central -- all in calpreps.com's top 50 -- and Chaparral's standing would soar.
"They know they've got a talented football team," celebrated Oceanside coach John Carroll said. "They are willing to play the people they need to play to play for a CIF championship and be considered by state. They've got a lot of guys back and a lot of speed."
Oceanside, on the other hand, is in a bit of a reloading mode after graduating six Division I athletes from last year's state championship team. The growing pains, too, were evident in last week's tilt with Anaheim Servite. In search of career win No. 200, Carroll saw a youthful team commit six turnovers -- including four interceptions from sophomore quarterback Tofi Pao Pao -- in a 31-7 loss that ended Oceanside's streak of 39 games without a loss, a run that covers a pair of state championships and four San Diego Section titles.
"This team has nothing to be ashamed of," said Carroll, whose team was without starting center David Vasquez last week. "We are what we are, and we have to believe in ourselves. The idea that our streak is over -- hey, that was pretty incredible and we have to take pride in it. But this is this year, and we need to develop our players."
Count Chaparral among the believers in Oceanside. Infused with plenty of coaches with North San Diego County ties -- offensive coordinator Jon Mitchell is an Escondido Orange Glen product and defensive coordinator Ryan Tukua played for Fallbrook -- the Pumas know what they're up against Friday night.
Ranked 50th in the state by calpreps.com? The Pirates a heavy underdog? No one at Chaparral is buying into any of that.
Oceanside, after all, hasn't lost back-to-back games since 2006.
"I think Oceanside is going to come out with a mean look on their face, wanting to smack us in the mouth," Morin said. "I think we're going to have to come out and battle, because that's going to be a tough game."
Added Tukua: "We respect the heck out of that program, like we respect Corona Centennial -- two programs that have been successful long-term. They have great coaches, and we wanted to get them on our schedule because think it's a great way to evaluate ourselves."
CALPREPS.COM PREDICTION: Chaparral 38, Oceanside 13