QB Kevin Amezquita is hoping to lead Gladstone back to the playoffs.
NOTE: This is the sixth in a series of previews that look at local leagues that consist of local teams only.
1. Azusa — Other than Monrovia in the Rio Hondo League, there is probably no surer bet in the Valley than Azusa winning the Montview. The Aztecs have been on a major roll in the Montview and what impresses me most is their run is poised to last longer than the recent good runs of the past by teams like Duarte and Gladstone. Azusa impressed me this summer with its collection of athletes and overall tenacity. This is a tough football team at heart, which I like. QB Jake Martinez is looking like a good bet to be the league MVP. My only concern with the Aztecs is that they’re likely to drop a tad on defense when compared to last year. That will hurt in the nonleague against teams like San Dimas and Maranatha … and possibly the playoffs.
Predicted record: 8-2 overall, 7-0 in league.
Playoffs: Yes, likely top-four seed.
2. La Puente — I really like what head coach Brandon Rohrer and his staff have going on at LP. I caught the Warriors a couple times this summer and they’re not really world beaters, but they do have some speedy receivers and some decent-looking athletes. Combine that with the good scheme set in place by Rohrer and you’ve got the making of another solid ball club. The Warriors probably aren’t good enough to stay with Azusa, but they’re a good bet to handle the rest of the league.
Predicted record: 7-3 overall, 5-2 in league.
t-3. Gladstone — There was some attrition last year which hurt the Gladiators, but coach Albert Sanchez got enough out of his team to finish third and reach the playoffs. With former Wilson coach Brian Zavala now joining the staff and calling the shots on defense, I think the Gladiators have a good shot equal last year’s bottom line. Gladstone has a lot to replace skill-wise, but I wasn’t disappointed by what I saw at the SGV Shootout. In typical years and when players actually stick with the program, Gladstone has one of the better talent pools in the league. I expect this year to be more of the same.
Predicted record: 5-5 overall, 4-3 in league.
t-3. Sierra Vista — Head coach Don LeGro’s offense did its thing last year and the numbers (if you believe them) piled up. The Dons suffered a big blow in the offseason when it was revealed that 2,300-yard rusher Giovanni Rivera would not be with the team this fall. But LeGro feels like his offense is a plug-and-play system, so expect the featured back to put up good numbers. Although the Dons garnered a lot of attention because of the offense, the defense actually put up a strong year, allowing just 15 points per game, which put them second in the league behind Azusa. Trouble is, the top-five tacklers from last year must be replaced.
Predicted record: 6-4 overall, 4-3 in league.
5. Ganesha — The Giants got some league relief last offseason by being placed in the Montview, but it wasn’t enough to get them into the big dance … or even close. I saw the Giants throw this summer and they’re just fine talent-wise in terms of skill players at this level. But I think overall toughness and confidence, as in knowing how to win, are what will hold them back again this season. The talent is there to spring an upset and make things interesting, so contenders beware.
Predicted record: 4-6 overall, 3-4 in league.
6. Workman — Year 2 of the Scott Morrison era at Workman should see some overall improvements. The Lobos simply did not have enough firepower on offense last season and put up only 16.5 points per game. That number may improve, but it will have to do so with some new faces in key skill spots. The defense, which gave up over 30 points per game last year, also has to get better.
Predicted record: 4-6 overall, 2-5 in league.
7. Bassett — The Olympians played some decent defense last year, i.e. holding Sierra Vista to three points in a 3-0 loss to end the season. And that’s the problem. Bassett cannot score consistently enough to take advantage of its stop unit. The Olympians averaged just 9 points per game for the season, but perhaps that number improves in Year 2 under Aubrey Duncan. Remember, there was a time last season when we weren’t 100-percent sure Bassett would even field a team. Not bad considering …
Predicted record: 3-7 overall, 1-6 in league.
8. Duarte — I’ve heard from some pretty reliable people that the talent level is up considerably at Duarte. One person even told me not to be surprised if the Falcs win 5 games! It’s hard to see that, though, because that would require tremendous improvement after last year’s team finished with an average losing margin of just over 42 points per game. But if anybody is capable of turning around a program, it’s Lavell Sanders. Will we see any green shoots this year?
Predicted record: 2-8 overall, 0-7 in league.
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