Mission Valley League Prediction: Arroyo is the safe bet obviously, but Rosemead not far behind

The Mission Valley League is what it is, a two-horse race between defending league champion Arroyo and Rosemead. If you thought the distance between the two and the rest of the field was growing last year, they might be lapping the field this year. No disrespect to South El Monte, El Monte, Gabrielino and Mountain View, but it’s clear they’re playing for third until they can prove otherwise. And that’s what it’s all about really, there always is a surprise, and there needs to be. The Mission Valley stumbled last year, falling behind the Montview in terms lowest rated league in the Valley. Let’s see if they can bounce back, here’s how we think it will unfold.

Above: Arroyo QB Steven Rivera

1. Arroyo –– Cleary, they have a quarterback in Steven Rivera that is an absolute stud. We talk a lot of Glendora’s Chad Jeffries, Charter Oak’s Travis Santiago, Rowland’s Michael Ball and Bishop Amat’s Rio Ruiz, but believe me when I say at the end of the year Rivera will lead all in touchdowns and passing. Doesn’t mean he’s the best, but he belongs in the conversation, and there are just too many teams on the schedule he’s going to torch.

2. Rosemead — As much as we like Rivera, the Panthers have a stud at running back in senior Matt Fregoso. Just like Rivera, he may be among the area’s leading rushers when all is said and done, and is a reason why the Panthers might upset the Knights. PIck your poison, do you go with the quarterback or running back in a game that matters. I’ll bet most coaches would gamble on the RB. And the Panthers have the guys on D to scare Arroyo. However, it’s still the Knights league to lose.

3. El Monte — Mark this down, the Lions could be a sleeper. QB Manual Santa Cruz did well over the summer, and threw for over 1,000 yards in just four games. They also return 14 starters from a team that went 1-9, but that was because they couldn’t stop anyone, which they have to shore up. Offensively, this team has weapons and can score points. If they prove they can defend, watch out.

4. South El Monte — It was clearly a rebuilding year for the Eagles, who normally are in the league title chase conversation. They also gave Rosemead a great game before losing 31-28 last year, but also finished 3-8. I’m not expecting that again, coach Ray Hernandez is better than that, and will prove it this year. While the Eagles sort out their QB, RB Billy Valencia could hold the keys, because the Eagles have to establish some sort of run game. And defensively, they need to get after it much better.

5. Gabrielino — Kind of a mystery under new coach Harold Sanin, and would be great to see them return to the days earlier this decade when they competed for league titles, but have to see it before we believe it. They have some talent like Eduardo Moreno and Isaac Garcia and have some key returners back. But depth has become a big issue, and the Eagles have little of it.

6. Mountain View –– One of the great things new coach James Wilson said is you don’t want to dwell on going 0-10, but you don’t want to forget it either. Let’s face it, futbol not football is king at Mountain View, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. The Vikings usually have problems in the trenches, and thus have a difficult time stopping anyone or blocking for impact players. Will it change? That remains to be seen.

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Believe it or not, the Smudge Pot is Friday …

It isn’t just the Bonita High School football team that’s had to adjust in the wake of quarterback Garrett Pendleton’s elbow injury. San Dimas, which opens the season against the Bearcats on Friday night, also has had to do some adapting. The Saints were preparing on defense for Pendleton, but with the senior expected to miss 4-6 weeks backup Greg Spathias will be the man under center. There could be some wildcat formations coming San Dimas’ way, too.

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Tribskin Pick’em, your predictions and ours

For the fourth consecutive year, Steve Ramirez and I will go head-to-head throughout the season for our annual end-of-season who pays the dinner bill bet. Steve beat me in 2007, but I came back and won 2008 and ’09 by going 189-44 to Steve’s 173-60 last year.

This week’s games: Steve and I differ on several right off the bat. I like Glendora, San Dimas, Rowland, El Rancho and Santa Margarita while Steve goes with Charter Oak, Bonita, Baldwin Park, Los Altos and Diamond Ranch, a difference in five games. It just goes to show how exciting zero week has become. I like Glendora because of the experience of QB Chad Jeffries, and the uncertainty of Charter Oak’s defense, especially with top notch DBs like Brandon Golden, A.J. Powell, and linebackers Keith Smith and Leon Youngblood graduated. I feel good about San Dimas because Bonita won’t have QB Garrett Pendleton, and the Saints are unveiling a hurry-up offense, like the Wing T wasn’t already tough enough to prepare for. Rowland, across the board is too tough for Baldwin Park, and can’t wait to see QB Michael Ball return. Diamond Ranch is still a question with so many starters graduated, and a tough roadie to Orange County won’t make it any easier. El Rancho is a tough Whittier area school, and with all the uncertainly still at Los Altos, I couldn’t pick’em yet. And oh yeah, there’s Bishop Amat, which we both agree on. But this won’t be a slam dunk. Garfield reminds me of Amat two years ago, a hungry team with something to prove and if you think Bishop Amat are a bunch of hard-hat kids, expect that an then some from the East L.A. hosts.

Thursday’s game
Ganesha at Montclair, 7 p.m. — Robledo (Montclair); Ramirez (Montclair)
Friday’s games
Charter Oak vs. Glendora at Citrus College, 7 p.m. — Robledo (Glendora); Ramirez (Charter Oak).
San Dimas at Bonita, 7 p.m. — Robledo (San Dimas); Ramirez (Bonita).
Rowland at Baldwin Park, 7 p.m. — Robledo (Rowland); Ramirez (Baldwin Park).
Garfield vs. Bishop Amat at ELAC, 7:30 p.m. — Robledo (BAmat); Ramirez (BAmat).
Covina at West Covina, 7 p.m. — Robledo (WCovina); Ramirez (WCovina)
Nogales at Diamond Bar, 7 p.m. — Robledo (DBar); Ramirez (DBar)
Ontario at Arroyo, 7 p.m. — Robledo (Arroyo); Ramirez (Arroyo)
Garey at Pomona, 7 p.m. — Robledo (Pomona); Ramirez (Pomona)
Los Altos at El Rancho, 7 p.m. — Robledo (El Rancho); Ramirez (Los Altos)
Ayala at Don Lugo, 7 p.m. — Robledo (Ayala); Ramirez (Ayala)
Chino Hills vs. Mayfair at Bellflower, 7 p.m. — Robledo (CHills); Ramirez (CHills)
Diamond Ranch vs. Santa Margarita at Saddleback College, 7 p.m. — Robledo (SMargarita); Ramirez (DRanch)
Bassett at Keppel, 7 p.m. — Robledo (Bassett); Ramirez (Bassett)

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Montview League Prediction: No secret, the bullseye is on two-time champion Azusa

The Montview race is going to be interesting, because unlike in previous years, the Montview is only guaranteed two playoff spots, with the rest hoping to earn an at-large, which could prove to be quite a chore. It will be important for the Montview to play well in the preseason, and it’s a league that improved mightily last year, and should be improved across the board. Azusa is head-and-shoulders above the rest, but several like La Puente, Gladstone, Sierra Vista and Workman are gaining on them.

1. Azusa –– In his first two years coach Joe Scherf has gone 21-4, won two league titles and has advanced to the Mid-Valley Division quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. It’s a completely mentality change that players have bought into. More players are staying at the school, players that didn’t normally go out for football and showing up in droves. This is the result of winning, and they’re doing it home-grown style. Kudos to the Aztecs.

2. La Puente — The Warriors were 8-3 overall and second in the Montview behind new coach Brandon Rohrer, who should give Azusa all it can handle in his second season. Senior RB Jose Perez should be a force in the Warriors’ Wing T, but defensively, they’re solid with LB Jesse Gutierrez and Pedro Candia.

3. Workman — I’m taking a shot here with new coach Scott Morrison, and like what they have returning in RB/S Gabriel Fychok and with lineman Steven Miranda and Ismael Villaviscencio. Morrison has won titles in much tougher leagues and like Rohrer, could turn around a team that already was on its way back after going 6-5 last year.

4. Gladstone — The Gladiators returned somewhat to form by going 7-4 overall and return plenty of talent for 12th year coach Albert Sanchez. They will be tough to compete with in the backfield with Jhossep Juarez and Joe Herrera and if they improve on defense, they could be competing for the No. 2 spot, but not sure they have enough to topple Azusa.

5. Sierra Vista — One thing I know for certain, and that is that coach Keith Locklear is one of the hardest working coaches there is. He gave up coaching the girls varsity basketball team, which he did wonders with, to focus on football. He loves to throw the ball around, but the Dons need to prove they can play defense after allowing an average of 25 points in 2009.

6. Ganesha — After dropping from the Valle Vista League, many are wondering what to expect from the Giants. They started improving last year, even beating Northview to end a long league losing streak. They will have more to prove in the Montview, a league that seems like the perfect fit.

7. Bassett — The Olympians finally settled on new coach Aubrey Duncan, a no-nonsense Pasadena High graduate who took over late, but seems to have a handle on thigns. This is a wait-and-see, but they do have some impact players in Michael Pena and Alejandro Camacho.

8. Duarte — The Falcons hope to return to be more competitive after going 0-10 last year after the departure of so many players to neighboring school following the firing of coach Wardell Crutchfield. The numbers are better and they will improve, but not sure they’re ready to climb out of the cellar just yet.

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