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.”
As with any new coach, there is sure to be transition as new systems are in place. Price ran a spread at Granite Hills and while the spread is new to Yucaipa, the T-Birds have a quarterback with the necessary skill-set in senior Dylan Malone. Malone (5-10, 180) was a backup to Wyatt Padgett last year and brings a running element to the position.
“He’s one of the more explosive kids I’ve coached,” Price said. “He’s quick, fast but also thick and hard to bring down. He’s capable of the big play and we are pretty excited to see what he can do.”
Malone, who ran for nearly 200 yards as a reserve, will have talented targets to throw to in seniors wide receivers Tyler Swinford (5-10, 170) and Dallas Alexander (6-0, 150) and senior tight end Jordan Morris (6-4, 190). The Thunderbirds will have some youth on the offensive line, but have two starters returning in seniors Ben Barnes (5-11, 250) and Tyler Kiest (6-2, 250).
The Thunderbirds look to be in pretty good shape on the defensive line with Barnes, Kiest and Morris getting time and in the secondary with Malone, Swinford and Keenan Onodera (5-10, 180). The linebacking corps is where things get a little hairy for Yucaipa, as they’ll have to rely on Menifee Heritage transfer Cliff Smith (5-8, 180) and sophomores Wyatt Hauso (6-2, 185) or Steven Best (5-11, 165).
Yucaipa 2010 schedule (Home games in CAPS, * indicates league game)
Sept. 10 – MORENO VALLEY CANYON SPRINGS
Sept. 17 – at Moreno Valley Rancho Verde
Sept. 24 – SAN GORGONIO
Oct. 1 – BEAUMONT
Oct. 8 – at La Quinta
Oct. 15 – at Fontana*
Oct. 22 – REDLANDS*
Oct. 29 – at Miller*
Nov. 5 – at Redlands East Valley (Citrus Valley HS)*
Nov. 11 – EISENHOWER*