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.

“We lost a lot of great players who meant a lot to this program,” Wildcats coach Ernest Martinez said. “When you lose a Harris, lose a Tausaga, they are hard to replace. But we have quite a few guys that are coming back that learned a lot from going through the playoffs the way we did.”

Don’t get the Wildcats wrong, they aren’t playing the “woe is me” card. When you have two returning all-CIF players like linebackers Robert Caldwell and Austin Cole, its impossible to play that card. The Wildcats’ defense will depend on its linebacking corps early, as the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Caldwell and Cole will be joined by the Shotwell twins, as Halston Shotwell and Chris Shotwell were integral parts of the equation last year.

“We lose the big guys up front, so we are going to need some really good play out of our linebackers,” Martinez said. “Luckily we have some very good ones back there, so we should be all right.”

Twentynine Palms also returns its starting quarterback from a year ago, as Aaron Anderson managed games pretty well as a junior. Without explosive weapons like Harris and Demoss, Anderson will have to progress from being a game manager to being a playmakers. Halston Shotwell and Caldwell will help him in the backfield, as will junior Amari Good – who at 5-6, 159 pounds gives Twentynine Palms a flashy speedster to go along with the power of Caldwell and Shotwell.

Twentynine Palms’ schedule (Home games in CAPS, league games with *)

Sept. 4 – at Indio
Sept. 11 – RIVERSIDE NOTRE DAME
Sept. 18 – SAN JACINTO
Sept. 25 – BANNING
Oct. 2 – at Oak Park
Oct. 9 – AQUINAS
Oct. 16 – DESERT HOT SPRINGS*
Oct. 23 – at Desert Mirage*
Oct. 30 – YUCCA VALLEY*
Nov. 7 – vs. Big Bear* (Big Bear Middle School)

Note: Twentynine Palms’ home games are played at Twentynine Palms Junior High School.