Ontario High School’s football team didn’t just struggle last season. The Jaguars finished 1-9, their lone victory a 28-21 decision over La Verne Lutheran, a school that forfeited the remainder of its season after three games because it had only 14 healthy players in uniform. Is this a team that should concern defending Mission Valley League champion Arroyo going into Friday’s 7 p.m. season opener at B.L. Bergstrom Stadium?
Whether he believes what he says, Arroyo coach Jim Singiser has been around long enough to at least choose his words carefully when talking about his opponents.
“We got film on them and watched them in a scrimmage; they’re much better than their record indicated,” Singiser said. “They’re very talented at the skill positions, have a lot of guys that go both ways and they’re athletic. Seems like a real good group.”
The Knights, one of the favorites to compete for a CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division title, shouldn’t have much of a problem passing their opening test, not with junior Steven Rivera, one of the elite quarterbacks in the San Gabriel Valley.
Rivera is the lone quarterback in the area to start on varsity as a freshman and is coming off a sophomore campaign in which he threw for 1,941 yards and 25 touchdowns.
The Knights also have running back Mikey Vasquez, who shared Mission Valley League co-MVP honors with Rivera after rushing for 1,326 yards and 14 touchdowns.
There is some concern, however, about the Knights’ offensive and defensive lines, areas in which Singiser is taking a wait-and-see approach.
“I like where we’re at, I like the skill guys we have, but it’s not seven on seven anymore. We have to see if we have the beef,” Singiser said.
While the Knights should be able to hold their own up front against Ontario, they follow with tougher games against Temple City and Montebello, then a gigantic challenge at home against Hart.
“In most of the games we go into, we’re going to have a lack of experience against our opponents on the (offensive and defensive) lines; that’s a concern,” Singiser said. “When Los Altos had all those weapons and were winning titles, they also had guys on the line like Shaun Cody and Travis Parker.
“If you’re a defensive coordinator preparing for us, take your pick. If you load up and go man to man, the chances are we’re going to get you at some point (with Rivera). If you drop off, we have Vasquez that can beat you.
“But we have to pass protect and we have to run protect. That’s still a concern until we line it up and find out how that’s going to go.”
Nogales hosts tough opener
Teams don’t keep score in scrimmages, but word around the Valley spread quickly after Diamond Bar worked over Alta Loma rather easily in a recent scrimmage.
Just ask Nogales first-year coach Sebastian Hernandez, who watched for himself.
The Nobles’ season opener is at Diamond Bar on Friday.
“They handled Alta Loma pretty good,” Hernandez said. “I was impressed with their skilled players, they have a lot of team speed; that’s a big challenge for us.”
Nogales finished 2-8 last year and 0-4 in the San Antonio League. With league realignment across the Southern Section, though, the Nobles were granted relief, moving to the Mid-Valley Division.
That’s why Diamond Bar is such a good test. In fact, the Brahmas might be the toughest opponent on the Nobles’ schedule.
“We’re working hard, that’s all I can ask right now,” Hernandez said. “I love our attitude, and we’ll see. You want to be optimistic, but your work has to show on the field.
“We have some good skilled players, and in the areas we’re not as strong, we’re going to have to make that up with grit and hustle.”
The Nobles will look to quarterback Keith Bolden, a run-and-pass threat, along with running back Patrick Miranda.