Apple Valley hopes experience will move it upward

Despite having only a handful starters and a small senior class last year, the Apple Valley High School football team was able to qualify for the playoffs for the second consecutive season and for the fourth time in five years. Now that they have 14 starters back, confidence is high for the Sun Devils.

“I’m loving the competitiveness that we have going right now,” Apple Valley coach Frank Pulice said. “We have a good senior nucleus offensively and we have some juniors and sophomores that are getting after it. We have some depth issues on the line we have to work around, but all in all I’m pleased.”

The Sun Devils will also be getting a shot in the arm defensively with a more aggressive, attacking philosophy. They’ll be moving away from a 4-3 to a 3-5 defense to take advantage of the speed they have coming back and to try to improve a unit that gave up 25.5 points per game in 2010.

“We need to get better on that side of the ball and I think we will,” Pulice said. “Offensively we racked up a lot of yards and scored a lot of points, but we weren’t good enough defensively.”

That offense will return its ringleader, as senior quarterback Ben Quiroz (6-0, 190) returns after throwing for 1,481 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior. Junior Tyler Murphy (5-8, 155) will lead the returning running backs and try to pick up the slack for the graduated Jermaine Lowe, who ran for 1,000 yards last year. Seniors Tyler Baskett (6-1, 170) and Kennedy Smith (5-7, 150) return at wide receiver.

Apple Valley will be undersized on the offensive line for the most part but will have some heft in sophomore left tackle Albert Lewis (6-0, 280). Seniors Frankie Marino (6-1, 200), Jacob Tizzard (6-1, 205) and Anthony Ballinger (5-8, 200) also return on the offensive line and will also see time on the defensive front as well.

Senior defensive end Gilbert Ayala (6-0, 220) serves as the other starter in Apple Valley’s three-man front. Junior Kenneth Carcamo (5-8, 170) and sophomore Mason Kelly (5-9, 165) head the linebacker corps while Smith is an accomplished cover man at cornerback.

Apple Valley schedule (Home games in CAPS, * indicates league game)

Sept. 2: BARSTOW
Sept. 9: PALM DESERT
Sept. 16: GRANITE HILLS
Sept. 23: at Victor Valley
Sept. 30: at Indio
Oct. 14: at Serrano*
Oct. 21: HESPERIA*
Oct. 28: vs. Silverado (Victor Valley HS)
Nov. 4: at Sultana*
Nov. 11: OAK HILLS*