If you haven’t seen this kid play, and I know you haven’t, I suggest you use Thurs. to do so.
League title and playoff spots on the line on Thursday in arguably the most critical night of the season in the Montview League.
The Valley is going to know a lot more about the Montview League around 10 p.m. Thursday.
The league has the stage to itself with two showdowns that will go a long way in not only determining the league champion, but also who makes the Northwest Division playoffs.
Duarte (2-2, 1-0) plays Azusa (2-2, 1-0) at Bonita High. Sierra Vista (3-1, 1-0) visits Gladstone (4-0, 1-0) at Citrus College. Both games kick off at 7 p.m.
For Duarte and first-year head coach Jason Martin, the opportunity couldn’t be bigger. The Falcons have a chance to end Azusa’s 27-game win streak in league and put the four-time defending champion Aztecs in a tough spot with games still to come against Gladstone, Sierra Vista and La Puente.
“Myself, coaching staff included and players are aware of their dominance in league, and we know in order to be the champ, you have to beat the champ,” Martin said. “Especially with the way our league is looking right now — each team has improved — win or lose (tonight) we still have got five more competitive games to come up.
“This will test us to see where we’re at, but we’ve still got a long way to go in the season.”
It’s hard to tell whether the Aztecs are truly vulnerable this season because although their 2-2 record doesn’t get anyone excited, they have played solid competition. There is no doubting, however, that Gladstone has stolen some of Azusa’s thunder with its 4-0 start.
The Gladiators sent notice to the league last week by building a 37-7 lead early in the fourth quarter against La Puente before the game was halted due to a neck/head injury to Warriors quarterback Ivan Vasquez.
Gladstone can’t bask in the glory, though, because Sierra Vista looks formidable enough to pull the upset. The Dons are led by running back Lee Jones, who leads the Valley in rushing (if the team’s oft-inflated stats are to be believed) with 993 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Gladstone will counter with the duo of quarterback Kevin Amezquita and bruising running back Aaron Sanchez. Amezquita has put himself in the mix for Tribune Player of the Year honors by throwing for 481 yards and six touchdowns and rushing for 506 yards and seven scores.
Although it appears that Gladstone and Azusa are headed for a league-deciding showdown on Oct. 19, Duarte could throw a wrench into things. The Falcons has program picked itself up off the mat from back-to-back winless seasons in 2009 and ’10 to become a contender again. But taking the next step won’t be easy and Martin knows that.
“Anytime that you’re the team that could possibly end another team’s winning streak, it’s always a good thing,” Martin said. “There’s always an optimism there that you could be the team to knock them off. But, there’s been 27 other teams that felt like that before us, too.
“We haven’t played a full four quarters yet. No matter what happens in the game, with the trials and tribulations, we can’t let that effect us. From there, we just need to do what we’ve been coaching this week. We have a good game plan set and we know they’ll have a good game plan set for us.”