By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
Imagine if Duarte High School still had Jordan and Jamie Canada, Wardell Crutchfield Jr., Demetrius Jackson, Jerome Cox, and the several other standouts that left the school or quit the team in the months after school officials removed Wardell Crutchfield as head coach. The Falcons would likely have been league favorites instead of where they sit now, which is 0-4 and still without any points, having been outscored, 205-0. It’s hard to blame first-year coach Lavelle “Tip” Sanders, who inherited a team with only 18 players. But Sanders refuses to give up hope with the Montview League season beginning this week.
“We’re learning the hard way,” Sanders said. “The kids are a good group of kids, they just have to learn that football is a physical game. They haven’t grasped that yet.
“But on the other hand, we have gone up against teams that are bigger, stronger, faster and with much more depth than we have. The Montview League at least gives us an opportunity of playing kids about the same size and the same speed.”
With the exception of Duarte, the rest of the Montview League had one of its best nonleague campaigns ever.
Azusa, Bassett, Gladstone, La Puente and Workman are all 3-1, and Sierra Vista is 2-1.
But as Sanders pointed out, none of them have done it against opponents with a combined winning record.
Duarte’s opponents have a combined winning record of 12-2. The Falcons have lost to the CIF-Southern Section Mid Valley Division’s top-ranked Monrovia, powerful Cajon, undefeated Pomona, and Littlerock (3-1).
“Littlerock had two receivers 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds,” Sanders said. “Monrovia is a beast, I don’t think we’re going to see anything like them in league.
“We still have a lot of issues to work out, and I know everyone is playing well, but at least I feel like we’ve got a fighting chance.”
Duarte opens the Montview at La Puente (3-1) on Friday, a game that also intrigues Azusa coach Joe Scherf.
The Aztecs (3-1) are the defending league champs and host Bassett (3-1) Friday at Citrus College.
“I saw them (Duarte) play against Pomona,” Scherf said. “Their skills kids are pretty good, but they have a lot of holes in their lines. Obviously they played the toughest schedule of anyone in our league, so they will have a chance to win some games.”
La Puente the favorite?
After the Warriors’ 35-6 win over South El Monte, Scherf certainly thinks so.
“We still believe it’s ours to lose, but if you’re an outsider looking in, you have to give La Puente the heads up,” Scherf said. “(Coach) Brandon (Roher) is doing a great job. They have kids that are motivated, talented and playing extremely hard. You have to give the coach a lot of credit for that.”
Gladstone (3-1) opens at Sierra Vista (2-1) on Friday, and though Gladiators coach Albert Sanchez like his team’s chances, he says Azusa, La Puente and Workman stand out.
“You still have to take away the crown from the defending champion (Azusa),” Sanchez said. “But La Puente and Workman have been playing some good ball.”
With six of the seven teams having winning records, it will be an exciting race for playoff spots, too.
“I can’t remember this many teams having winning records going into league,” Scherf said.
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