Yucaipa readies for Price era

Yucaipa has been in a bit of a purgatory the last four years, as it has seemed to cluster around the fourth and final playoff spot in the Citrus Belt League. It worked fine from 2006-08, as the Thunderbirds made the playoffs, but Yucaipa finally found itself on the outside looking in last year, missing the postseason for the first time since 2005.

The Thunderbirds have made some changes since then, removing John Hallenbeck as head coach and bringing over Justin Price from Granite Hills. Price comes to Yucaipa after leading Granite Hills to its first winning season in its 11 seasons of existence, as the Cougars went 6-4 last year to beat their previous high-water win mark by two games.

“I’m getting settled in, but I really think this is a school and a community that can thrive,” Price said. “I really like the attitude of the kids in the program and really appreciate the community for embracing us. I think there’s quite a bit of potential here.”
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Jurupa Hills trying to keep it simple in inaugural season

Jurupa Hills coach Edward McMillon spent most of the summer trying to find some sort of stability with his brand-new Jurupa Hills program. Considering that he was dealing with a group of inexperienced freshmen and sophomores and practicing at a junior high, that wasn’t an easy thing to find.

“There’s a lot of stuff you just don’t anticipate that you have to take care of as a new program,” McMillon said. “We were practicing at Southridge Middle School on a field without hashmarks, which was a challenge. You are constantly unwrapping stuff in plastic. It’s different.”

McMillon is invigorated by the task, which is to get a Spartan team that barely has any personnel that can drive legally to compete in a Mountain Valley League schedule with the likes of Rim of the World and Riverside Notre Dame right away. The enormity of that task has the Spartans looking to accomplish simplistic goals.
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Sun Preseason Top 10

Here is my attempt in the wonderfully inexact science of making a preseason poll. We’ll see how it ends up.

1. UPLAND (12-2 last year)
The defending Central Division champions are at the top until they prove otherwise, as the Highlanders return QB Justin Nunes and a array of RBs from last season. Upland loses eight starters on their smothering defense, but Alta Loma transfer Christian Powell should help overcome that.

The Wildcats lose some headliners from last year’s Citrus Belt League championship squad, but REV tends to reload in high numbers. All-CIF CB Josh Armstrong and DT Devon Lewis lead a stingy defense while the Wildcats have the size on the offensive line to help break in the new skill-position players.

3. CHINO HILLS (10-3)
The Huskies return 15 starters, led by all-everything senior DB/WR/RB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, from their Central Division semifinalist team of a year ago. The only real question will be at QB, where Chino Hills will have to replace the steady Ryan Verdugo, but there’s plenty of talent around to help out the new guy.

4. COLTON (10-2)
A banner season for the Yellowjackets was disrupted early by Rancho Cucamonga in the Central quarterfinals last year. The Yellowjackets have plenty of talent, led by LBs Rodney Hardrick and Devan Hussey, to help new coach Rick Bray succeed at his new job. Colton is a prime contender for the Central crown.

5. SERRANO (11-3)
The Diamondbacks lose DE Everett Beed and RB Dionza Bradford from last year’s Eastern Division runner-up, but return loads of experience from last year, including four of their five starters on the offensive line. How well Bradford’s replacements fill his shoes will be key.

6. REDLANDS (9-3)
The Terriers are hungry to get back atop the Citrus Belt League and this club gives them a chance to do that. They return QB Jojo Hernandez and a bevy of wide receivers on offense and have studs on each line in OL Jordan Smith and DT John Siliga, which could be enough to get them past REV.

7. KAISER (9-4)
Like Serrano, the Cats lose their two Division I studs in LB Josh Shirley and RB/DB Anthony Brown but return almost everyone else from their run to the Eastern semifinals. Kaiser has athletes everywhere on defense, with safety Desman Carter and linebacker Dennis Taylor leading the way.

8. CAJON (7-4)
The last time the Cowboys were this loaded, they won the San Andreas League in 2008 and advanced to the Central Division semifinals. Senior QB Thomas Carter, a third-year starter, will be key if the Cowboys hope to repeat the 2008 performance, as will cornerback Demontae Kazee.

A lot of the key cogs that have contributed to the Cougars’ 23-3-1 record over the last two seasons have departed, namely TE Randall Telfer and QB Greg Watson. But Rancho Cucamonga seems to reload with talent, with do-everything senior Sateki Finau providing a key leadership role.

10. SUMMIT (6-6)
The SkyHawks showed a glimpse of their potential in the first round of the playoffs last year, shocking No. 1 seeded Citrus Hill. Summit would like to see that output on a more consistent basis and if they can get elite dual-threat quarterback Devon Blackmon loose, they will.

Just missed the cut: Arroyo Valley (7-4), Rim of the World (10-2), Chaffey (7-5).