This time, no nightmare for DeZhontaey Fletcher


DeZhontaey Fletcher, the senior RB from Oak Hills proudly displayed his cast after beating Serrano. Why?
If you read my feature story on him a few weeks ago (here it is: you’d know that Fletcher broke his ankle in the Serrano game last year.
It was on the very first play of the game, it ended Fletcher’s season, and Oak Hills lost the game and a chance at the Mojave River League title.
This time, Fletcher decided to bring the cast to the game (he doesn’t usually do that), to remember what happened a year ago.
Now he can forget about last year as Fletcher ran for 163 yards and a touchdown in Oak Hills’ first-ever win over Serrano, 24-21.

A look back at Serrano-Oak Hills football

I love games where there’s a lot of extra stuff to talk about afterwards.

Oak Hills- Serrano had stuff that was fun to talk about, but also had plenty of stuff you hate to have to talk about.

First, the fun stuff:

  • Great crowd at Oak Hills on both sides. It was THE game in the High Desert on Friday and fans from all over brought a great atmosphere.
  • Serrano’s win was well-deserved with a defense that has been solid all year.
  • What is the fallout of the game? I haven’t seen newest CIF-SS football polls, but I know San Gorgonio is very interested. San G. should be the new No. 1 in the Eastern Division. Oak Hills was No. 1, San G. No. 2 and San G. is the only remaining undefeated team in the division. San G. will likely need to remain undefeated to earn the No. 1 seed for the playoffs.

Now, the not-so-fun stuff:

  • Oak Hills star RB De Zhontaey Flecher was injured on the first play from scrimmage with an apparent season-ending ankle injury. It was a blow to Oak Hills, certainly, but also affected Serrano. The Diamondbacks’ victory will be discounted by some because Oak Hills was missing its biggest offensive weapon. But Serrano still deserved to win. After the injury, Oak Hills rallied to take the lead, only to see Serrano rally for the win.
  • Penalties, penalties, penalties. Each team had over 100 yards in penalties. I spent a half on each sideline, and I can tell you neither coach was happy with the officiating. The call that drew particular ire of Oak Hills coach Robert Kistner was an unsportsmanlike conduct call that went against his team in the fourth quarter. The player had just recorded a sack that (I believe) would’ve ended a Serrano drive. He celebrated, but officials thought it was taunting. It did not appear so to this observer. The drive continued and while Serrano didn’t score on the drive, it limited the time Oak Hills had to try and score in the final minutes.

Running game doomed Serrano

When Serrano lost to Perris Citrus Hill 38-24 in the CIF-SS Eastern Division it wasn’t due to quarterback Daniel Epperson and the passing game.

Epperson finished 19 of 29 passing for 339 yards and two touchdowns, but the Diamondbacks had difficulty running the ball.

Star running back Michael Hawkins finished with 58 yards rushing on 18 carries and a touchdown, but one of those carries was a 32-yard run in the second half when the game was already decided. Hawkins has been hampered by injuries recently and hasn’t practiced in the last two weeks.

“They just beat us up up front,” Serrano coach Ray Maholchic said.

Epperson was the only other ball carrier for Serrano, with five carries for eight yards


Serrano wants to ground and pound its way to success

If there’s one thing that Serrano has had during the last four years, where it has won three Mojave River League titles and has gotten to at least the CIF semifinals the last three seasons, it’s been a workhorse running back. Be it Cory Diederich or Dionza Bradford or, in last year’s case, Taylor Ruize, the Diamondbacks have been able to run the ball.

This year, the Diamondbacks have three tailbacks that they have faith in. Senior Darius Hogan (5-10, 170) is more of a scatback, while fellow senior Zak Tuman (5-9, 190) adds a physical element. Junior Michael Hawkins (6-0, 190) may be the best of the three eventually, as he has the size-speed blend that Bradford possessed. Add that to a solid fullback in senior Nick Heftman (5-10, 195) and an experienced, physical offensive line and confidence is high in Phelan for the upcoming season.

“We have three running backs that I feel can do the job,” Maholchic said. “We can mix and match them and play them more on defense because I have faith in all of them. It’s a good thing to have.”

Three of Serrano’s five returning offensive starters are senior o-linemen, with Mark Knapp (6-4, 300) receiving Division I interest and Anthony Mackesy (6-2, 230) in his third year as a starter. Tracy Costello (5-10, 220) also returns.
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5 county cross country teams qualify for state

For those who wonder if they run cross country in the rain, the answer is definitely yes.
The CIF-SS Finals were held as scheduled, but on the rain course at Mt. San Antonio College on Saturday.

Five San Bernardino County teams qualified for state by finishing in the top seven in their race: Rancho Cucamonga boys in Division 1, Ayala and Serrano girls in Division 2, and Granite Hills boys and girls in Division 3.
In addition, Colony’s Xochitl Navarrete (girls Division 2) and Nick Valenzuela (boys Division 2), Apple Valley’s Hannah Valenzuela (giris Division 3), and Aquinas’ Alyssa Windle (girls Division 5) all qualified for the state meet as individuals, which is next Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno.

Palm Springs up 17-7 at half

Blogging from the Eastern title game is a little sporadic. Small press box + lack of chairs plus more reporters than normal = fun times at Palm Springs High.

The Indians – I’m pretty sure I accidentally called them Cardinals in my preview story today – are being led by running back Nephi Garcia, who has accounted for all 17 Palm Springs points. Garcia ran in a 5-yard touchdown, returned a kickoff 80 yards for a score and kicked a 30-yard field goal. Oh yeah, he kicked both extra points too. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s selling concessions right now.

Dionza Bradford, who has 77 yards rushing on 13 carries, scored Serrano’s only touchdown on a 2-yard run late in the first quarter. He also fumbled while the Diamondbacks were driving late in the first half. Joey Peterson has 36 yards on 3 of 5 passing for Serrano, with Joey Devora catching two passes for 30 yards. Ethan Hillyer has one interception on defense.

About 10 minutes before the second half resumes. Who knows if I’ll be able to blog again before the game ends.

Malone commits; Bradford, Beed decommit

Speaking of Malone, the senior safety made a verbal committment to the Ducks over the weekend according to, just over a month after Oregon offered the 6-foot-3, 195-pound 3-star safety.

Malone, who was considering Nebraska, Washington, Arizona State and Arizona, made his commitment after taking an official visit to Eugene for Oregon’s rivalry game for Oregon State last Thursday.

Also, Serrano running back Dionza Bradford and defensive end Everett Beed informed me at the CIF-SS football luncheon that they will be taking official visits to San Diego State next weekend. Both Diamondbacks were committed to UNLV, but decommitted when the school fired head coach Mike Sanford in November.

Mojave River League playoff breakdown

This is one of the more simple breakdowns I have. Which is probably why I’m doing it at 4 in the morning.

1) Serrano (7-2, 3-0): Has clinched the No. 1 seed in the Mojave River League. Even a loss to Sultana Friday wouldn’t change that, as the Diamondbacks own the head-to-head tiebreaker with Rim of the World.

2) Rim of the World (9-1, 3-1): Has clinched the No. 2 seed in the Mojave River League.

3) Apple Valley (4-5, 1-2): Earns a playoff berth and the No. 3 seed out of the MRL with a win over Hesperia Friday. Eliminated from consideration with a loss.

4) Hesperia (3-6, 1-2): Earns a playoff berth and the No. 3 seed out of the MRL with a win over Apple Valley Friday. Eliminated from consideration with a loss.

5) Sultana (0-9, 0-3): Eliminated from playoff consideration.

Sun top 10

Brand new. Colony breaks in with some vigor.

Sun Top 10

1. Rancho Cucamonga (3-0)
Previous ranking: 1. Last week: def. Carter, 49-18. Up next: Friday at Covina Charter Oak (3-0).

2. Redlands East Valley (2-0)
Previous ranking: 2. Last week: def. San Gorgonio, 56-10. Up next: Friday vs. Orange Lutheran (1-1) at Orange Coast College.

3. Barstow (2-0)
Previous ranking: 4. Last week: def. Paraclete, 20-10. Up next: Friday vs. Quartz Hill (0-2).

4. Cajon (3-0)
Previous ranking: 7. Last week: def. Sultana, 41-0. Up next: Friday vs. No. 10 Kaiser (1-1).

5. Upland (3-0)
Previous ranking: 8. Last week: def. Serrano, 21-18. Up next: Friday vs. Lancaster Eastside (0-2) at Antelope Valley College.

6. Colton (1-1)
Previous ranking: 9. Last week: def. La Quinta, 23-8. Up next: Friday vs. Palm Springs (2-0).

7. Etiwanda (2-1)
Previous ranking: 6. Last week: lost to Norco, 37-27. Up next: Oct. 2 vs. Chino (0-2).

8. Colony (2-1)
Previous ranking: NR. Last week: def. No. 9 Chino Hills, 22-6. Up next: Friday vs. Alta Loma (0-3).

9. Chino Hills (2-1)
Previous ranking: 3. Last week: lost to No. 8 Colony, 22-6. Up next: Friday vs. Diamond Ranch (1-2).

10. Kaiser (1-1)
Previous ranking: 5. Last week: lost to Riverside North, 28-12. Up next: Friday at No. 4 Cajon (3-0).

Just missed the cut: Redlands (2-1), Arroyo Valley (2-0), Ayala (2-1), Rim of the World (3-0).

Dropped out: No. 10 Serrano (1-2).