Matheny takes over Aquinas

Josh Henderson took over the Aquinas program as an ambitious 25-year old. When he left this spring, he had led the Falcons to two CIF titles, several Christian League titles and had established Aquinas as arguably one of the most consistent forces in the county since Henderson’s alma mater – Fontana High School – was in the middle of its run under legendary coach Dick Bruich.

Henderson is now at Los Angeles Baptist and Aquinas is going back to the 25-year old Fohi well, as assistant coach Nick Matheny assumed the reigns shortly after Henderson left. And with a Falcon team that has won two Christian League titles at his disposal, expectations are high.
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Twentynine Palms ready for next step

While Barstow got a lot of hype for making it to the CIF-SS Eastern final, Twentynine Palms was doing the exact same thing in the East Valley Division. The Wildcats marched to the CIF finals for the first time in a generation, finally falling to Small School state champion San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret’s in the championship game.

Twentynine Palms surged to the final thanks to a loaded roster featuring seven all-CIF players, most notably wide receiver Montreal Harris, running back Jared Demoss and defensive tackle Rusty Tausaga. As the Wildcats try to finish the job, the number of those all-CIF players is reduced to do.
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Yucaipa looks to get out of rut

Yucaipa has made the Inland Division playoffs the last three seasons, the second-longest streak in the Citrus Belt League behind Redlands East Valley. But despite that, the Thunderbirds have yet to make any real in-roads toward a CBL title or a playoff run.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the Thunderbirds finished fourth in 2006, third in 2007 and fourth again last year, forcing them to go head-to-head with Vista Murrieta twice and Corona Centennial last year. As you would think, there isn’t much upside to playing teams of that quality in the first round.

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Zelaya era starts at Kaiser

Since opening in 1998, Kaiser has known one football coach – Dick Bruich. The legendary coach quickly turned the Cats into a Sunkist League and Eastern Division power, leading the Cats to two CIF-Southern Section titles and eight Sunkist League titles before retiring after this past season with 292 victories.

So with Bruich riding off into the sunset, does that mean that Kaiser’s Sunkist dominance will do the same? While its impossible to tell in the long term, the answer in the short term seems to be no. Kaiser’s new coach, Phil Zelaya, was Bruich’s longtime defensive coordinator and retaining most of the coaching staff from a year ago, so there shouldn’t be much transition.
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Experienced Apple Valley ready to take next step

Two years ago, the Apple Valley football team felt that it was snubbed out of an at-large berth in the CIF-SS Eastern Division playoffs, as the 6-4 Sun Devils were left out for a 5-5 Riverside King team. Last year, however, Apple Valley’s exclusion from the playoffs was certainly deserved.

A young Sun Devil squad had its share of ups and downs, eventually finishing with a 4-6 record and a fourth-place finish in the Mojave River League. But the Apple Valley youngsters are a year older and with 16 starters returning, this could be the year that the Sun Devils return to the playoffs.
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Miller trying to stay atop the CBL

Last year was about as good as it’s ever gotten for the Miller football program since it started in 1991. With a veteran, hardnosed defense and an explosive, multifaceted spread offense, the Rebels cruised to an undefeated regular-season record, a Citrus Belt League title and a playoff win over Corona Roosevelt before losing to Vista Murrieta in the Inland Division quarterfinals.

But things have been a bit tumultous at Miller since the loss to Vista Murrieta. Jeff Steinberg, who led the Rebels from the middle of the CBL pack to the top, left for Corona Santiago right after spring practice in May, leaving Miller to scramble for a new coach late in the game. A hazing incident, highlighted here by J.P. Hoornstra in this morning’s Sun, has the status of several varsity players unknown.
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Hesperia embarks on title defense

The last two years have been storybook for Hesperia, at least as storybook as it’s gotten for the Scorpions. With a combined 20-3 record the last two seasons, the second season seeing Hesperia win the Mojave River League championship, life has been good for the Scorpions.

But the 2009 season sees a Scorpions program in a bit of transition. Gone is head coach Robert Kistner, who left for Oak Hills along with former athletic director Darren Goodman. Gone are also 16 starters, especially much of the defense, from last year’s league champions. Hesperia will also have to deal with a bit of a talent drain, as Oak Hills will siphon much of the talent that has allowed for the Scorpions’ success.
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Redlands packs a punch

When looking back on Redlands’ 5-6 season a year ago, its easy to think of what might have been. While the Terriers finished below .500 for the second straight season, it was a play or two away from changing the result in five of those six games.

Except for a 31-7 loss to eventual Citrus Belt League champion Miller, a senior-laded Redlands team was in every other game. A three-point loss to Vista Murrieta, an eight-point defeat to Clovis East, a seven-point loss to Los Angeles Carson, a two-point loss to crosstown rival Redlands East Valley and a three-point playoff loss to Riverside North all could have gone the other way, leaving the Terriers – one of the CBL favorites a year ago – wondering what might have been.
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Barstow looks to finish the job

Four points. That’s all that separated the Barstow High School football team from an unlikely CIF-SS Eastern Division championship, as heavily-favored Perris Citrus Hill escaped with a 31-27 win on a frigid, windswept Saturday night at Barstow High School.

With the temperature in the upper 30s and winds blowing in upwards of 40 miles per hour, the Aztecs couldn’t quite finish off what would have been a pretty huge upset. But the disappointment of the loss has turned into inspiration in the offseason, as the Aztecs have 32 lettermen returning who are completely set on finishing the job and bringing the title to the middle of the Mojave Desert.
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Serrano looks to finish

The Serrano High School football team seemingly had Perris Citrus Hill right where it wanted it during their CIF-SS Eastern Division semifinal matchup last December, up 15-11 with just under three minutes left. But unfortunately for the Diamondbacks, that scenario didn’t treat them well in 2008.

Citrus Hill, which had been throttled by Serrano’s physical, aggressive defense for the first 45 minutes of the game, deftly marched 80 yards in two minutes to score the game-winning touchdown, grabbing an 18-15 lead and providing the Diamondbacks with a rallying cry for the 2009 season.
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