M-Town’s Blake Heyworth has got the ring, the stats and the chance for more.
Editor’s note: I guess now would be a good time to explain what SGV(N) means. The “(N)” is the last letter in the company name that signifies the partnership of the Pasadena Star-News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Whittier Daily News. The “(N)”, in this case means that the list pertains to players from the schools covered by this newspaper group.
1. Blake Heyworth, Monrovia — Heyworth has arrived somewhat late on the scene and that has him playing catchup a bit on the recruiting scene. But make no mistake, his generalship last season is what turned Monrovia from a talented, stumble-prone team into a champion. Heyworth didn’t play a full season, but still put up a 25-5 TD-INT ratio and 2,377 yards. He’s also the only player on this list with a ring as the starting QB.
2. Brandon Cox, Pasadena — When you consider Cox is essentially a one-man show, what he does becomes even more impressive. What’s more, Cox will be even more of a one-man show this season because PHS graduated a fair share of surrounding talent and had one experienced WR jump ship for Monrovia. But the Arizona commit will be playing in the Pac-12 next season for a reason and his combo arm and legs is downright scary. Just close your eyes when Pasadena’s defense is on the field.
3. Andrew Elffers, Maranatha — I’m fully expecting a bounce-back season from Elffers in every regard. His stats should be better, but not like his soph season when the team ran a different offense. I also expect more wins and a better result in the playoffs. Perhaps too much, too soon was heaped on Elffers, but there’s no doubt he has the tools. The rocket arm is there, so are the brains. He’s not surrounded with overwhelming skill talent, but things should be better than last year.
4. Matt Simko, Chino Hills — The stage is set for Matty Ice to have a memorable senior year. He’s got a D-1 receiver in Jack Austin to work with and the typically sturdy Chino Hills offensive line to protect him. It’s evident already in passing games that Simko sees the field properly and all that’s needed is some fine tuning. The arm is there. The frame is there. Footwork needs to get quicker (Inland Division coaches already telling me that’s the area they’ll attack). This should be one heckuva year for the 6-foot-4 senior.
5. Kevin Dillman, La Mirada — He’s a sophomore and already has four college offers, according to a CNN/SI article I read. The 6-foot-4 Swede reportedly has all the tools, but just needs experience. He’s got the right coach in Mike Moschetti and the right division in the Southeast to do some damage (quite possibly one of the worst pass defense divisions I’ve ever seen last year. Yes, even West Covina often looked clueless defending the deep ball last year). It’s very possible Dillman will finish the season deserving of a higher ranking than this.
6. Jared Lebowitz, St. Francis — Lebowitz got plenty of hype prior to last season, coming in from Vermont of all places to pilot the Knights. He put up decent numbers in his debut season (2,223 yards, 21 TDs). But now he’s got no Travis Talianko to work with. That hurts. At 6-foot-3, recruiters have taken notice. It also helps to have Jim Bonds as his head coach. If St. Francis can manufacture some good skill guys to surround Lebowitz, expect a solid rise in his numbers.
7. Paul Telles, St. Paul — Telles has been at the helm of the St. Paul offense since his sophomore season, but not until now has he had this much skill talent to work with. With Kurt Scoby at running back, defenses will have to respect the run and that should open the door for Telles to spray it around to a very strong group of receivers. Numbers-wise, it’s hard to project. Telles is facing a monster schedule, so that may offset the boost you might expect from all that skill talent around him.
8. Sean Sparling, La Habra — I really like Sparling’s footwork. He moves the pocket as well as anybody around and gets receivers open because of it. Sparling assumed the controls of La Habra’s offense without much fanfare and put up a solid season of 1,866 yards and 26 touchdowns. With an offseason of work under his belt, it’s safe to expect even bigger things, even though top WR Bret Bartolone was lost to graduation. La Habra always has solid skill players, so Sparling should be just fine. He played against a very tough schedule last year and should be even better for it. Sparling may not be flashy, but he’s easily one of the most savvy QBs around. The 4.2 GPA and high SAT scores only drive that home further.
9. Frankie Palmer, La Serna — Only a sophomore last season, Palmer led La Serna all the way to the Southeast Division finals. Optimists expect a growth spurt to catapult Palmer’s frame into something recruiters will fawn over. The rest of it is already there. Palmer can run and throw, and he’ll need to do both this season if the Lancers are to make up for the loss of leading rusher OJ Medina. Rounding off, Palmer threw for 1,500 yards and ran for another 500 last season. He could push for 2,500 and 1,000 this season and that’s some pretty rare air.
10. Brandon Martinez, El Monte — Almost feel bad for Martinez because the bar he’s expected to approach was set last season by Arroyo’s Steven Rivera. Quite a few people are expecting B-Mar to push for those type of numbers and lead his team to the Mission Valley League title. No doubt about it, B-Mart was magnificent last season. throwing for 2,160 yards and 27 TDs and rushing for 793 yards and eight more scores. He’s got the MVL stage to himself now, but with it comes expectations. B-Mart would be starting at several higher-division teams in the SGV were he not at El Monte, and that should tell you just how many hopes are riding on him as the Lions gear up for the most anticipated season in longer than anyone can remember.
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