Contrary to popular belief, I am not taking off on a two-week vacation. I’m somewhat dreading the one-week vacation as it is. Still have no definite plans but I’m very spontaneous when it comes to these type of things. I already know I’ve got Vegas the last weekend of August and a wedding in September down in La Jolla. While I’m gone, do you have any suggestions on how we can try to keep this thing flowing? Remember, I leave Sunday and don’t return until Aug. 10. Keith Lair doesn’t have the keys to this blog. I’m thinking of asking Fred to post a thread once in a while just to keep you guys in sane. I know there’s been limited action here. Some long-piece features have kept me busy. I can assure you once Hell Week is fully underway we’ll get this thing back on track. For now, let me give you my official unofficial Top 5 returning football players in the WSGV.
Leading things off is my boy …..
1. DIETRICH RILEY, ST. FRANCIS, SR.
QUICK LOOK: Riley, who quickly caught the eye of USC, Alabama, Texas and Texas Tech among others, was a strong presence on both ends of the ball. He earned most valuable offensive honors in the Mission League after rushing for 1,034 yards and six touchdowns He anticipated plays well at defensive back and his speed was unmatched.
MY TAKE: One look at this kid and you can’t help but go shopping for a couple footballs and a sharpie. This kid’s legit and will be making some noise well after his high school and collegiate playing days. St. Francis might be too predictable with Riley in the backfield, which is why they’re rotating him at several positions, which in the end may end up diminishing his role. Stick Riley at two (or three spots max) and you’ll see why Riley’s receiving so much buzz. Since the end of the season, Riley’s fielded offers from Notre Dame and LSU. Any chance he becomes a Bruin?
2. MITCHELL CROCKOM, ALHAMBRA, SR.
QUICK LOOK: Crockom was part of the talented group of receivers who immediately caught the eye of opposing defenses. He caught 36 passes for 791 yards and six touchdowns and he also provided a strong presence on defense while playing defensive back. Crockom caught most of his yards while being double-teamed and at times triple-teamed, putting his athletic abilities on display in just about every down whether the ball was thrown to him or not.
MY TAKE: Memo to Darrian Cazarin: Throw more to this kid. 791 yards receiving and six touchdowns aren’t exactly the numbers such an athletically-built player should have when it’s all said and done. The hunch here is Crockom will have a breakout year and have well over 1,000 yards receiving and 10+ touchdowns. Alhambra will finish second in the Almont League and make a quarterfinals appearance come playoffs.
3. ISAAC VALDEZ, SAN GABRIEL, SR.
QUICK LOOK: Valdez completed almost 64 percent of his passes. He was the Star-News’ first team All-Area quarterback after throwing for 2,754 yards and 16 touchdowns. The 5-foot-7 Valdez displayed his speed as well, rushing for nearly 700 yards and six touchdowns.
MY TAKE: Imagine the college scouts all over San Gabriel High if Valdez was 6-foot-3?!?! Heck, he’d like to be at least 5-foot-10, Valdez said to me once during the All-Area photo shoot. Nonetheless, Valdez has shown he has a rocket of an arm, each year improving on yards passing. He’s not elusive but he is quick, making him a true threat for the Matadors which already boast a talented backfield. San Gabriel finished 5-6 overall and were ousted in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section playoffs, but you have to remember injuries plagued San Gabriel with the loss of Marcos Villalobos, who wasn’t the same after separating his shoulder in the Alhambra game. Things are looking up for the Matadors. Keep an eye out on their offensive line. They won’t exactly match Temple City’s studs, but they’ll be up there, meaning Valdez could have an even better season come Fall.
4. NICK BUENO, MONROVIA, JR.
QUICK LOOK: Bueno completed 55 percent of his passes and threw for 1,037 yards and had 10 touchdowns with just three interceptions. He rushed for 221 yards and three touchdowns as well. Bueno was instrumental in leading the Wildcats to the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division playoffs. Bueno also led Monrovia to a Rio Hondo League championship after an impressive 5-0 record in league.
MY TAKE: Bueno was thrown to the fire and the kid didn’t disappoint. Monrovia took some bumps and bruises in mastering the Wing-T offense and though Marquis Williams was a big part of the offense’s success, it was Bueno’s dependability that grew as the season progressed, allowing the Wing-T offense to be effectively executed. Monrovia’s one dimensional offense evolved when Bueno was given more responsibility. He’s not quick but he is patient and mastered his way into finding options even when the pocket sometimes collapsed. Look for Bueno to have more responsibility in the offense with the absence of Marquis.
5. STEVIE YORTSOS, SAN MARINO, SR.
QUICK LOOK: The junior helped the Titans open the season with eight straight victories and an appearance in the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division playoffs. He caught 34 passes for 604 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging nearly 18 yards per catch. Yortsos was just as involved defensively, recording 35 tackles and seven interceptions.
MY TAKE: Quite a few players were up for the last and final spot (including Muir’s Jarron Williams and Monrovia’s Josh Lowden) but I’m feeling pretty high about Yortsos. His numbers above speak for itself, and with Joe Forgatch at quarterback we could see Yortsos having a breakout year as well. As scary as that may seem, Yortsos could be looking a lot stronger and dangerous on the defensive side. Yortsos and the Titans will be tested early. Soon we’ll see if they respond.