Mt. Baldy circle growing larger this season?

There has been an easy game to circle on the Mt. Baldy League schedule the last two seasons. A couple of coaching changes within the league and a few departed players may make the circle a little larger this year.

Since Chino entered the league two years ago, the Cowboys have played Mt. Baldy League power Colony for the title each season. Defending league champion Colony will have to regain its footing after the departure of coach Matt Bechtel and the reigning league offensive MVP, quarterback Matt Simko, who transferred to Chino Hills. Chino’s bid to stay at the top rests heavily on its ability to replace three-year starters at quarterback and running back.

“The last couple of years you could tell there was one dominant team in the league,” Chaffey coach Chris Brown said. “Chino had a group of Division I skill players two years ago. Colony was the dominant team last year with their two quarterbacks. This year it doesn’t seem like there’s one obvious dominant team.”

Whether it’s Chino and Colony coming back to the pack or the rest of the league improving, the competition figures to be tighter this season.

Don Lugo hired three-time CIF champion coach Lou Randall in the offseason in the hopes he can elevate the program from fringe playoff team to perennial league championship contender. It wasn’t long ago that Chaffey was in the league title mix every season, something Brown hopes a strong group this season will re-establish.

After a winless season last year, Garey is under the leadership of new coach Al Brown, the longtime offensive coordinator at Diamond Ranch. Ontario and Montclair, last season’s fifth- and sixth-place teams, are a year more experienced, as are their second-year coaches.

“If Ontario and Montclair have pretty strong teams this year,” Montclair coach T.J. Fiorenza said, “it could really get wild in this league.”

New Colony head coach Steve Randall may have the best athlete in the league in Samajie Grant. The senior committed to Arizona will play many positions in the new spread-option offense, including quarterback. The Titans, who have built their reputation on a defense that produced CIF championships in 2006 and 2007, are replacing all four linebackers from a unit that allowed 7.1 points per game in league last year, including two who will play on Saturdays this season.

Chino is rich with size this season, including 6-foot-3 defensive ends Adrian Rodriguez and Cody Walsh, two of eight returning starters on defense. It is offense where the question marks lie for Chino, which is replacing 1,700-yard rusher Xavier Browne with sophomore speedster J.C. Carradine while three quarterbacks vie to replace three-year starter Sean Molles.

“We’re going to be young at those positions,” Chino coach Matt McCain said. “But we feel like we’ve got a good team around them. We like our chances.”

Chaffey has its most dominant offensive line in some time, according to Brown, led by 6-2, 340-pound tackle Sionne Matelau. The Tigers’ team speed on defense continues to improve, but it’s the offensive side where Brown is still searching out skill among five candidates to play the featured running back role in the ground-oriented attack.

“It’s just like always, whether we can find those skill kids who can make things happen in space,” Brown said.

Don Lugo lacks experience just about everywhere but the offensive line, where it returns two starters in front of returning starting quarterback Marc Wiseman. In fact, the Conquistadores don’t return a single starter on defense, but there is ample athleticism and Randall’s mere presence is creating optimism around the program.

“Don Lugo might be the team that nobody is counting on,” Colony coach Steve Randall said, “who might put something big together.”

Montclair is returning 17 starters and Ontario 16 from young teams that hope to be in the mix for playoff berths this season.

Garey, which claimed the league’s final playoff berth just two seasons ago, has ample size on both the offensive and defensive lines.

“We want to get the program back to respectability,” Brown said. “The league is competitive and our goal is to compete in every game.”

CHAFFEY
Coach: Chris Brown
Year, record at school: 14th year, 80-62
2011 record: 5-6 (4-2)
Last playoff berth: 2011, lost to Riverside La Sierra 23-6 in CIF-SS Central Division first round.
Key returnees: Sionne Matelau, OL/DL, 6-2, 340, Jr.; Matt Boice, LB, 5-10, 180, Sr.; Adrian Ward, LB, 6-0, 210, Jr.; Jesse Rebelledo, RB/DB, 5-7, 150, Jr.; Jesse Lopez, RB/DB, 5-7, 160, Sr.; Soni Seluini, QB, 6-1, 230, Sr.
Keys to success: It’s no surprise that Chaffey has a mammoth offensive line poised to pave the way for its ground game, but the Tigers need a running back to emerge from a group of five candidates to provide the spark plug for the offense.

CHINO
Coach: Matt McCain
Year, record at school: Third, 20-4
2011 record: 9-3 (5-1)
Last playoff berth: 2011, def. Riverside Arlington 26-14, lost to Palm Springs 42-14 in CIF-SS Central Division quarterfinals.
Key Returnees: Adrian Rodriguez, DL, 6-3, 220, Sr.; Cody Walsh, DL, 6-3, 230, Sr.; Alex Arellano, WR/DB, 5-10, 175, Sr.; Willie Morris, WR, 6-2, 195, Sr.; Christian Galvez, WR/DB, 5-10, 173, Sr.; Trestan Kueneman, OL/DL, 6-2, 235, Sr.; Jessie Rosas, RB/LB, 5-10, 220, Sr.
Keys to Success: Chino is replacing two key positions in the backfield after losing three-year starters at quarterback and running back. Speedy sophomore J.C. Carradine will step in a running back while three are still battling to assume the starting quarterback position.

COLONY
Coach: Steve Randall
Year, record at school: First year
2011 record: 11-2 (6-0)
Last playoff berth: 2011, def. Moreno Valley Valley View 28-1; def. Moreno Valley 31-28; lost to Moreno Valley Rancho Verde 42-14 in CIF-SS Central Division semifinals.
Key returnees: Samajie Grant, WR/DB, 5-10, 170, Sr.; Dontel James, RB/DB, 6-2, 220, Sr.; Kyle Curry, WR/DB, 6-1, 170, Jr.; Hakiteli Tuivia, OL, 5-10, 305, Jr.; Devan Imbach, WR/DB, 6-0, 190, Jr.; Lavonte Lee, WR/DB, 5-10, 165, Sr.
Keys to success: Colony is renowned for its athletes that provide the spectacular plays, but its front seven on defense has been the backbone of the program. The Titans graduated the linebacking corps that was the heart of that unit and the ability of an undersized group to step in may determine the course of this season.

DON LUGO
Coach: Lou Randall
Year, record at school: First year
2011 record: 6-5 (3-3)
Last playoff berth: 2011, lost to Moreno Valley Rancho Verde 44-0 in CIF-SS Central Division first round.
Key returnees: Jaylen Hall, WR/LB, 6-2, 185, Sr.; Adam Torres, OL/DL, 6-0, 255, Sr.; Nestor Aquino, OL/LB, 6-0, 210, Sr.; Terree Gordon, RB/DB, 5-9, 155, Sr.; Sergio Sanchez, OL/DL, 6-3, 285, Sr.; Marc Wiseman, QB, 5-10, 170, Sr.
Keys to success: The Conquistadores graduated a large group after last season, so large that they don’t return a single starter on defense. The ability of an inexperienced group, especially the front seven in a run-heavy league, will go a long way to determining Don Lugo’s fate.

GAREY
Coach: Al Brown
Year, record at school: First year
2011 record: 0-9 (0-6)
Last playoff berth: 2010, lost to Moreno Valley Rancho Verde 70-7 in CIF-SS Central Division first round.
Key returnees: Lamontrae Jones, WR/DB, 6-0, 175, Sr.; Bahlil Thompson, QB/DB, 6-1, 200, Sr.; Manuel Vejar, OL/DL, 6-1, 250, Sr.; Peter Padilla, RB/DB, 5-11, 195, Sr.; Tony Perez, OL/DL, 5-10, 230, Sr.; Justin Preciado, WR/DB, 5-10, 160, Jr.; Trey Young RB/DB, 5-9, 150, Sr.
Keys to success: Garey hit rock bottom with a winless campaign last season, but they’re equipped to build from a foundation provided by sizeable offensive and defensive fronts. If its skill players can execute the fundamentals, the Vikings could begin a resurgence under new coach Al Brown.

MONTCLAIR
Coach: T.J. Fiorenza
Year, record at school: Second, 2-8
2011 record: 2-8 (1-5)
Last playoff berth: 2010, lost 54-0 to Riverside Arlington in CIF-SS Central Division first round.
Key returnees: Robert Scott, QB, 5-10, 165, Sr.; Leonel Villalobos, OL/DL, 5-9, 260, Sr.; Sergio Sahagun, OL/DL, 6-2, 250, Jr.; Jason Sucilla, WR/DB, 5-9, 175, Sr.; Robert Moore, WR/DB, 5-9, 155, Sr.; Dorian Haro, WR/DB, 5-8, 145, Sr.
Keys to success: Montclair hopes that its nine returning starters on defense can help shore up a unit that allowed more than 45 points per game during its final four games of last season after a 1-1 start in league play.

ONTARIO
Coach: Ronald Stocking Jr.
Year, record at school: Second, 2-8
2011 record: 2-8 (2-4)
Last playoff berth: 2008, lost to Menifee Paloma Valley 42-21 in CIF-SS Central Division first round.
Key returnees: Jacob Estrada, QB, 6-0, 178, Sr.; Kyle Zendejas, WR/LB, 5-8, 165, Sr.; Armando Quintero, FB/LB, 5-9, 165, Sr.; Christian Beltran, WR, 6-3, 200, Jr.; Christian Fernandez WR/DB, 5-9, 140, Sr.
Keys to success: A more mature Ontario team with 28 seniors, as opposed to last season’s eight seniors, is hoping to have more endurance this season. The Jaguars hung around for a half or three quarters last season, but had trouble finishing games.