It would take an extraordinary set of occurrences for the 10-time defending Sunkist League champion Kaiser High School football team not to be considered the favorite when league play begins Friday.
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There’s the 52-7 loss on Kaiser’s resume. And the 34-7 defeat it suffered a week later.
There’s the fact that Summit, which finished second in league last season thanks to a 19-7 comeback win by Kaiser, is not only coming off an appearance in the CIF-SS Eastern Division championship game last year but is currently ranked No. 1 in the division. Kaiser (3-2) does enter league play with a winning record, but its three victories have come at the expense of teams with a combined 4-11 record.
“They’ve won the league championship however many thousands of years in a row, and they’ve probably done it plenty of times when they had a losing record coming into league,” Summit coach Tony Barile said. “I don’t think anything of their preseason.”
It’s not only the uncertainty surrounding Kaiser this season, but the certainty provided by Summit’s success that makes this the most compelling Sunkist League race in years.
Kaiser’s two losses, while lopsided, came to a pair of teams that have one collective loss in 10 games. Cajon handed the Cats the 52-7 shellacking and Riverside North the 34-7 defeat. Kaiser, however, beat those two teams by a combined score of 63-0 last season. Kaiser has earned so much respect that even after the two losses, it never dropped below seventh in the Eastern Division rankings. Kaiser coach Phil Zelaya, however, isn’t surprised that people are questioning his young team’s ability to win an 11th consecutive league title.
“We got our butts kicked two weeks in a row, so people should be saying things about us,” Zelaya said, “but Cajon might go 10-0 and I think North is going to make the playoffs in that Big VIII League, which is a serious accomplishment.”
Summit nearly won a CIF-SS championship last season, but the fast-rising program in its sixth year hasn’t beaten Kaiser. When the two meet in their final regular-season game Nov. 11, there will likely be much at stake.
The SkyHawks (4-1) are loaded with talent, headlined by a pair of players already committed to Division I colleges who are featured in a running game that’s averaging 352 yards per game. Donte Deayon, who’ll play cornerback at Boise State next year, is the team’s leading rusher with 626 yards and an 11-yard average per carry. Deayon and sophomore Tarik Myles (41 carries, 400 yards) do most of their damage out of the double-wing formation, while the bruising Jamaal Williams, who’s committed to BYU, operates out of Summit’s spread offense.
Riverside Norte Vista, which finished third last season, lost to Kaiser by 36 and to Summit by 30 in 2010. Riverside Patriot, last season’s fourth- place finisher, is yet to get its young program humming.
Bloomington has shown flashes, including a 25-22 victory Sept. 16 over a Pomona team that appears poised to contend for its own league title. The Bruins played Summit close last year but finished with just one league victory in a season that was punctuated by a 44-8 loss to Kaiser.
In other words, don’t be surprised if it’s a two-team race again.
“But if we lose one of our league games, that game against Kaiser will mean a lot less,” Barile said.
Sunkist League prediction:
Jurupa Valley 2-3
Riverside Norte Vista 1-4
Riverside Patriot 0-5