Overview … If there’s going to be a changing of the guard in the Mission Valley League, the process will likely begin tonight. Arroyo has won the last three league championships as part of a broader pattern of dominance over the league. El Monte is having one of those rare years in which the Lions have the league’s best player in quarterback Brandon Martinez. This is homecoming for El Monte, which means a giant-sized crowd. Thrown in Arroyo as the opponent with the inside track for the league championship, and this atmosphere will be as electric SGV fans will see all year.
Arroyo will win if … Running back Peter Aholoka has a career night. Martinez may be the league’s top offensive weapon, but Aholoka is a clear second. The senior running back will find space against an El Monte defense that’s been porous at times. What he does with it will determine whether the Knights can trade points. Pounding Aholoka also means the Knights will kill clock and keep Martinez off the field.
El Monte will win if … It can get over the mental block that’s caused the Lions to turn into kitties when on the same field as Arroyo. The mental ownership the Knights have over the Lions is as real as traffic on the 10 East at 5 p.m. Having a player like Martinez can go a long way toward overcoming something like this, but he and the rest of the team had better play spotless football because the defense just isn’t good enough to make up for mistakes.
What will happen … Martinez will make some big early and the Lions will ride the wave of emotions to a nice early lead. Arroyo will use Aholoka to grind away and by the time the fourth quarter rolls around, it will be anyone’s game. From that point, Martinez takes over and makes two big plays to put the Lions comfortably ahead and in control of their league championship destiny. … El Monte 37, Arroyo 28.