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.