Week 0 predictions

My favorite time of the year is back. We’ll see if I got any smarter from last year.

Apple Valley 28, Barstow 6
Aquinas 28, Desert Hot Springs 21
Big Bear 27, Pasadena Maranatha 20
Bloomington 16, Chaffey 12
Cajon 21, San Diego Torrey Pines 17
Chino 31, Diamond Ranch 17
Chino Hills 34, Lakewood (Colo.) Bear Creek 21
Citrus Valley 28, New Westminster (B.C) 14
Diamond Bar 30, Ayala 20
Eisenhower 35, Alta Loma 26
Granite Hills 17, Lancaster Eastside 14
Indio Shadow Hills 30, Jurupa Hills 12
La Quinta 17, Los Osos 13
Los Angeles Baptist 20, Arrowhead Christian 6
Miller 35, Lake Elsinore Lakeside 14
Montclair 34, Ganesha 12
Ontario Christian 28, Bakersfield Christian 22
Rancho Cucamonga 38, Silverado 7
Redlands 24, Apopka (Fla.) Wekiva 17
Rialto 25, Moreno Valley 9
Ridgecrest Burroughs 28, Hesperia 6
Serrano 16, Paraclete 14
Summit 35, Etiwanda 27
Temecula Chaparral 28, Cajon 16
Twentynine Palms 28, Palm Desert Xavier Prep 14
Upland 49, San Bernardino 6
Victor Valley 21, Riverside Patriot 15
Walnut 33, Don Lugo 16
West Covina South Hills 20, Colony 18
Yucaipa 38, Oak Park 14
Yucca Valley 24, Rubidoux 21

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Sun preseason top 10

1. Redlands East Valley
The Wildcats had an uncharacteristically early exit from the playoffs last year, but they went undefeated in the Citrus Belt League with a junior-dominated team. Fifteen returning starters, many of whom play in the trenches, and depth at the skill positions made the Wildcats my No. 1 pick. How quarterback Austin Decoud matures could make the difference between a short and a long playoff run.

2. Upland
The Highlanders ran into the Corona Centennial freight train in the playoffs last year, but there is a lot coming back to Upland. Wide receiver Kenny Lawler, a soft commit to Arizona State, is the top recruit in the county while running back Donta Abron is also legit. The Highlanders should also be legit on defense, led by defensive end Christian Pwwell, should be salty as well.

3. Summit
I was tempted to put the SkyHawks No. 1, as they return 13 starters from a team that went to the Eastern Division championship game. Only reason I didn’t is because I want to see how the Summit compensates for the loss of Devon Blackmon and Montigo Alford from the offense. That being said, there’s a lot of talent here and this may be the year which Kaiser’s hold on the Sunkist League is broken.

4. Colton
The one team to win a CIF title last year, the Yellowjackets lose a lot of studs from last year’s team, namely RB Tyler Irvin and all-everything LB Devan Hussey. But Colton is well-coached, reloads extremely well and has the size to ram the ball down people’s throats as it loves to do. Colton might not play to this ranking early, but I wouldn’t want to mess with the Yellowjackets come November.

5. Rancho Cucamonga
They may be three spots removed from Upland in these rankings, but the difference between the Cougars and Highlanders is razor thin. Rancho returns a host of starters and contributors from last year’s Inland Division semifinalist. If they can find a workhorse offensively to replace Sateki Finau, they could easily switch spots with Upland in these rankings.

6. Cajon
The Cowboys were a failed 2-point conversion away from possibly being a CIF champion last year, as they lost to Colton in a Central Division semifinal classic. The Cowboys actually won the SAL last year and led by WR/DB Damontae Kazee, have the personnel for a repeat. Cajon tends to start slow but come November, I expect this team to be a beast.

7. Chino Hills
The Huskies gave Corona Centennial a better game than anyone else in Southern California could last year, losing to them in a relatively-close semifinal game. They do lose some big-time players in WR/DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, RB Nate Harris and DE Auston Johnson, but Chino Hills has gotten to a point in its program where it just reloads. Don’t sleep on the Huskies.

8. Serrano
The Diamondbacks are one of the most consistent high-achieving programs in the county, as they’ve won 11 Mojave River League championships since 1997 and have been to the semifinals or better the last three seasons. Serrano has a host of RBs and a deep, experienced offensive line. If they can get some typical D-back production out of a young defense, they could be a dark horse CIF title contender.

9. Redlands
The Terriers lost a heart-breaker to Redlands East Valley last year in what was a prime opportunity to win their first league title since 2006. Redlands will be younger this year, as the Terriers are depending on a host of juniors, but will be physical and hard-nosed as always. Senior WR/DB/QB Mike Stallone is the player to watch for Redlands. If they can keep him involved, they’ll be dangerous.

10. Kaiser
It feels weird to put the Cats this low and this is something I could easily regret in a couple of months. But Kaiser was ravaged by graduation after a wonderful 12-1 season last year, losing 18 of 22 starters. The Cats seemed to replace quality with quality and will probably produce another physical, hard-hitting behemoth, but their youth, combined with Summit, puts me in a wait-and-see mode.

As far as teams that barely missed the cut, San Gorgonio was a tough omission. They played as well as anyone in the county last year to finish second in the SAL, but I need to see how Monroe Offield handles things at QB before moving them in. Chino lost quite a bit of talent from its 11-1 season, but returns QB Sean Molles and RB Xavier Browne and looks to be the favorite in the Mt. Baldy League. Etiwanda should be as exciting as ever, with senior QB Larry Cutbirth and senior LB Chandler Scott returning.

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Arroyo Valley hopes to profit from culture change

When it comes to discipline and doing things the right way, new Arroyo Valley coach Rock San Angelo is as rigid as his nickname. The Hawk players have learned that ever since San Angelo, a former assistant at Colony, Rancho Cucamonga and San Dimas, was hired in May.

“I’ve kicked a few seniors off this team that didn’t want to buy in,” San Angelo said. “The first thing the administration told me what they wanted me to do, even before winning games, was to change the culture. There’s going to be no more coming to practice whenever you feel like it and playing for yourself on the field. There’s no reason why this team hasn’t been more than a seven-win team with the talent in place.”

San Angelo isn’t bashful about his expectations for the Hawks, who have missed the playoffs two out of the last three years. After balling out in the summer passing league circuit, the new coach thinks that the sky is the limit for his new team.

“I don’t think anyone is really taking us seriously, and to me that’s a mistake,” San Angelo said. “There’s no reason why we can’t be a top team in this league if we play with discipline and purpose.”
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San Bernardino going with youth in 2011

San Bernardino coach Nick Monica can count the number of returning seniors he has on two hands. In a competitive San Andreas League, that makes for quite the challenge for the Cardinals as they strive to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

“We have about 8-10 seniors and roughly 43 juniors and sophomores,” Monica said. “Because of that, it’s taken a little bit longer than normal to come together and get that camraderie, that family atmosphere. We had a lot of seniors last year and we’ll have a lot coming back this year, but we are caught in the middle right now.”

Having a lot of juniors isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when they are guys like quarterback/safety Khleem Perkins. Perkins (6-4, 185) has already started receiving Division I recruiting interest and is rated among California’s top 25 for the 2013 class by ESPN.com.

“Khleem is a stud,” Monica said. “We are looking for big things out of him, both on the field and as a leader. He’s definitely a guy that we are going to lean on both on offense and on defense.”
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Teaching a premium at Fontana

As far as enthusiasm goes, this year’s Fontana High School football team is one of the best that Tim Pike has been around. Pike, a longtime assistant who was hired in the spring to replace Lance Ozier, is enjoying coming to work every day and working with his enthusiastic players.

“I have a great bunch of kids,” Pike said. “It’s just fun sitting back and watching them get after each other and compete. They are great around campus, great in the classroom and really want to learn on the football field.”

While the eagerness to learn is a positive for Fohi, the amount of material they have to absorb is one of the more daunting tasks the Steelers – who went winless last year – face in their final year of the Citrus Belt. Of the 75 kids combined between the JV and varsity teams, Pike estimates that nearly half have not played football.

“It’s great that they are coming out and want to play, but a lot of these kids haven’t played before this year,” Pike said. “We are having to go over a lot of basic fundamental things to get these kids familiar with what’s going on. But as a staff, we enjoy teaching.”
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Eisenhower not intimidated by the CBL

Even though Eisenhower has only won two games in Patrick Lord’s first two years as coach, the Eagles are hardly gunshy entering the 2011 season. In fact, Eisenhower thinks that it is in position to turn some heads.

“The number one thing we are thinking about right now is playoffs,” Lord said. “We’ve spent the last two years building up the program and its numbers and we feel that we have a good shot of making a move this year. There’s no reason that we can’t play at a playoff level.”

The genesis of Lord’s confidence is based on a couple of factors. The Eagles have 14 starters returning from last year’s team that got valuable experience in Citrus Belt League play. But the real ace in the hole for Ike is senior offensive lineman/defensive lineman Lalotoa Laumea, who transferred from Compton High School over the summer.

Laumea (6-4, 246) is being recruited by Colorado, Washington, Fresno State and Colorado State, among others and already has been named a team captain, as his hard work has rubbed off on his new teammates.
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Rialto confident after much-improved 2010

Gavin Pachot didn’t get the Rialto job under ideal circumstances last year, as he was named the interim coach of the Knights last June after Don Markham resigned under allegations of player misconduct. But after a 5-5 record and a full offseason, things at Rialto not only are normal, but feeling pretty good.

“Spirits are pretty high,” Pachot said. “Having an entire offseason to work with these kids makes a huge difference. I’ve had them since January and we’ve gotten a lot of good work done. We made some strides last year but we have a way to go.”

The biggest thing the Knights are working toward in a quest for their first playoff berth since 2001 is closing the deal at home. While the Knights made tremendous strides in going from three wins combined from 2007-2009 to five last year, Pachot believes that squandering their home-field advantage was a big reason why their playoff drought continues.

“For whatever reason we didn’t play well in front of our home fans,” Pachot said. “I’m not sure if we were nervous or trying to hard, but we went 1-4 on our own field. That’s something we need to fix because it’s important to take advantage of being at home.”
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Sultana hoping that size does matter

If there was a competitive-eating competition involving high school football teams in San Bernardino County, Sultana would be one of the favorites. While many local coaches have commented on their lack of size, Sultans coach Blake Robbins has a plethora of big guys to lead the way.

“I’m really not sure what it is, but we have a lot of big guys in the program,” Robbins said. “I’m not complaining. If they can play up to their potential, we have a chance to be pretty good.”

Sultana comes into 2011 with a monkey off its back, as it broke a 23-game losing streak with a win at Pacific last September and prevailed over Hesperia for the first time since 2006 in the “Key Game.” While Robbins is happy that those streaks are over, he feels that his team squandered an opportunity to do even more a year ago.

“We went 2-8, but we really felt that we should have won three or four more games,” Robbins said. “We played tough in most of our games but we weren’t able to make the big play. A lot of times we’d move the ball down the field and then commit a turnover or get a penalty that would ruin it.”
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Hesperia looking to find balance

The opening of Oak Hills High School in 2009 threw Hesperia High School for a bit of a loop. Going into the third season of coexistence, the schools still haven’t found a way to balance each other out.

“We are basically a team full of sophomores and seniors,” Hesperia coach Jeremy Topete said. “A lot of the 8th graders that were going to be freshmen two years ago went to Oak Hills and are juniors there right now. Hopefully soon both schools will stabilize a bit.”

The Scorpions hope that the stabilization will help the Scorpions get back to where they were pre-Oak Hills, as Hesperia won a combined 21 games in 2007-08, winning the Mojave River League title in 2008. Hesperia has struggled mightily in its first two seasons under Topete, winning only four games, only one of which came last year. And the Scorpions will go to ball-control to try to improve.

“We are going to try to shorten the game and avoid turnovers, especially early,” Topete said. “Too many times last year we committed the early turnover, got down real quickly and weren’t able to come back. We are going to try to prevent that from happening again.”
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Arrowhead Christian hopes crash course pays benefits

John Beck’s first year at Arrowhead Christian was a harrowing one, as a rash of injuries had him with an 8-man-team sized available roster that was filled with wet-behind-the-ear freshmen who were more suited to playing at the junior varsity level.

“Last year, we had 26-28 guys and I’d guess that 15 of them were freshmen,” Beck said. “It was definitely a hard situation and a lot of these kids had to learn on the fly against a really tough schedule. They were a gutsy group last year.”

The Eagles are hoping that the desperation of 2010 will speed up the building process in 2011. ACA is still low on numbers in the junior and senior classes, as there are only 13 kids in the oldest two classes on the roster. But a group of precocious sophomores with varsity experience and a large freshman class has Beck pretty excited about the future.

“I think the future looks really bright and I think the guys that had to play last year are really going to benefit from it,” Beck said. “If they stick with it, we’ll have some fourth-year varsity players in a couple years and that will help us out a lot.”
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