Football preview: Curiosity surrounds Rice, Pomona

Pomona isn’t usually the subject of the most curiosity in the Inland Valley. Given that it has a two-time CIF champion coach on the sideline this year, the Red Devils might be the most intriguing team in 2009. Pomona appeared on the rise last season, raising the stakes for this year, but consider that the five teams they beat during a 5-1 start averaged 1.6 wins last year.

Due to a slightly deceiving 6-4 record in 2009, I think a lot of people expect coach Anthony Rice, who won a pair of CIF Central Division titles in four years at Colony, to step in a lead Pomona to its first playoff appearance since 2003. That’s a pretty tall order, especially considering he lost his best player a couple weeks ago when running back Taj Teague transferred to Claremont.

“It’s a work in progress,” Rice said. “We want to pick up where they left off last year when they took a solid leap forward. We want to work hard, add a little more discipline and focus on the little things to win games.”

After sticking to a physical ground-oriented offense at Colony, Rice will implement a spread offense in an attempt to take advantage of Pomona’s speed and athleticism.

Junior quarterback Tavia Cobbs, who played sparingly last season, was expected to be a game manager before the departure of Teague but now may have to carry a larger offensive load. Running back Jamal Overton, a senior who ran for 278 yards and four touchdowns on just 34 carries last season, will take on a more prominent role after a promising campaign last season.

There are only two automatic playoff berths in the Valle Vista League. Of the teams that finished first and second last year, San Dimas returnd 14 starters from its CIF-SS Mid-Valley Division title team and Baldwin Park brings back much of the team that beat Pomona by three TDs. I think Pomona’s best shot to end a seven-year playoff drought is an at-lagre berth, something that is absolutely accessible.