QB Josh Mendoza has Alhambra on the rise in the Almont.
NOTE: This is the sixth in a series of previews that look at local leagues that consist of local teams only. I’m making an exception here because although Bell Gardens isn’t local, the rest of the league is.
1. San Gabriel — I give the Mats the slight nod, but this has to be the most wide-open league in the area. Remember when other coaches in the Mid-Valley were sour last offseason when the Almont was added to the division? One year in and nobody is panicking anymore. Somebody in the league needs to start changing that THIS YEAR and it might be San Gabriel. As you all know, I like what San Gabriel did in its final two games last year, beating Schurr and Alhambra. They also beat Rosemead last year during the nonleague and some people feel they gave Muir a good show for a while before that game got away. The Mats need to build on all that, but this is Year 2 of the Jude Oliva era and you know how I feel about teams in Year 2 of a new coach. SG has a nice weapon in QB Andy Guerrero and he has arguably the league’s top WR to throw in Alex Villalobos. I wasn’t impressed by what I saw of the Mats at the SGV Shootout, but I’m willing to forgive that. The Mats have been a traditionally weak defensive team, but maybe that will change this year with some coaching changes. Remember, SG was THREE POINTS away from being league champs last year. While I have no clue what SG is thinking putting Mid-Valley teams like San Dimas and Baldwin Park on the schedule, I think they build on last year ….and it helps that most of the league enters the season relatively untested/weak in the skill spots.
Predicted record: 6-4 overall, 5-0 in league.
2. Alhambra — The Moors took their lumps last year in a new system under longtime assistant and now head coach Lou Torres. But a young team has hopefully blossomed into a veteran group that gets the luxury of being in a league that saw several teams lose some very nice players. The Moors have arguably the league’s top QB in Josh Mendoza. He put on display a nice arm this summer and he has a couple of very nice receivers to work with in Essien Frank and Demtrius Russell. SEVEN Alhambra players finished with 100 yards or more rushing last year, but nobody had more than 258. There’s talk that junior-to-be Ezra Broadus could be a special player and he should get a lot more touches this season. I expect Alhambra’s offense to do much better than the 18.2 points per game it averaged last year. The defense will also have to get better and that’s going to be a tall order with top-two tacklers from last year gone. You have to love Alhambra’s nonleague schedule with FIVE Mid-Valley Division opponents. The Moors had better take care of business right away because if they don’t finish in the Almont top two, CIF will be taking a LONG LOOK at those nonleague games.
Predicted record: 6-4 overall, 3-2 in league.
3. Schurr — No team was hit harder by graduation than the Spartans. QBs like Aaron Cantu don’t come along often in the Almont … and the top-FIVE receivers from last year are also gone. But, as anybody who’s live in the Valley long enough knows, Schurr is a perennial in the Almont and they have reloaded on a consistent basis. My big worry is that Schurr has so much production to replace and before they even get into league, they have to face a nonleague schedule of Cantwell, Downey, El Toro, Cal and St. Paul. I’m no expert on most of those teams, but I have a hard time seeing Schurr win any of those games. There will be some growing pains, but running back Bradley Powell is a nice talent to build the offense around. The defense also has to be rebuilt. But I do think that if Schurr can put a good defense on the field … one that can come close to matching last year’s 14 points per game allowed in league, then that may be enough to have Sparty right in the hunt yet again.
Predicted record: 3-7 overall, 3-2 in league.
4. Montebello — Yet another team with a lot to replace. The Oilers will have new faces at QB and RB this year. In fact, both leading rushers are gone. WR George Romo led the team in receiving last year and is back. The reason I think Montebello may be right in the thick of the league race is A. because it’s so wide open and B. I think head coach Pete Gonzalez knows his stuff and has the program on the upswing. Montebello actually led the league in points allowed last year, giving up an average of 13.8 a game. If they can do that again, they’ll be in the mix.
Predicted record: 3-7 overall, 2-3 in league.
5. Bell Gardens — Am I repeating myself with whole purged by graduation angle? Well, add BG to that group. The Lancers have to replace their leading passer, rusher and receiver. Hurts, man. Last year’s team got its fair share of hype and did well to finish 6-4 in the regular season before being spanked by Mid-Valley finalist Whittier Christian in the first round of the playoffs. BG used to be a good bet to simply reload, but those days have passed. I guess BG’s best hope is the fact that NOBODY in the league is what I would consider dominant.
Predicted record: 3-7 overall, 1-5 in league.
6. Keppel — What do you want me to say? No, the Aztecs aren’t going to compete for the league title. But I do give credit to the players who continue to suit up and play with the aspiration of being the group to turn around the program. Keppel was shut out SEVEN times last year, so obviously they’re a long ways away from contending in the Almont.
Predicted record: 0-10 overall, 0-5 in league.
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