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.

It was already tough for incoming coach Jeff Strycula – who was the head coach at Fontana earlier this decade – to deal with the expectations of maintaining or increasing what Steinberg had built at Miller, as the Rebels will have to deal with perennial front-runner Redlands East Valley and crafty Redlands to keep CBL supremacy. But the variable of losing 10-15 varsity players, according to the article, for an extended period of time adds an unnecessary complication.

Assuming that the punishments don’t last too far in the season, the Rebels definitely have the personnel to make a run at any Citrus Belt League title. The biggest thing Miller has going for it is an experienced backfield led by quarterback Juan Flores and running back David Dash. Flores ran the spread-option expertly last year, leading the Rebels in passing with 2,133 yards and 23 touchdowns and in rushing with 819 yards and eight touchdowns.

Dash, a 1,000-yard runner as a sophomore at Fontana, should be even more effective this year in his second year in the system. The senior, who has been offered by Iowa State, has the perfect combination of speed and hands to star in the offense. Miller will also be helped by an experienced offensive line that returns three starters.

Where the Rebels could suffer is defensively, as eight starters, including all-Sun first-team selections Jacob Guzman and Trayvon Ralph along with defensive linemen Nalik Davis and Sean Mathews, depart from last year’s team. Getting the defense up to snuff will be one of the first things that Strycula has to address.

Miller’s schedule (Home games in CAPS, league games with *)

Sept. 4 – at Upland
Sept. 11 – LOS ANGELES CARSON
Sept. 18 – at Los Angeles Crenshaw
Oct. 2 – at Fontana*
Oct. 9 – RIALTO*
Oct. 16 – at Yucaipa*
Oct. 23 – at Carter*
Oct. 30 – REDLANDS*
Nov. 6 – vs. Redlands East Valley (U of Redlands)*
Nov. 13 – EISENHOWER*