By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
As if the stakes in Friday’s showdown with rival Rosemead weren’t high enough, the Arroyo High School football team may have a lot more on the line than the Mission Valley League title. At 5-1, the Knights have a chance to finish the season 9-1 if they can get past the Panthers and win their next three games, in which they’d be heavily favored, but that’s the kind of talk that gets teams beat, so Knights coach Jim Singiser doesn’t want to hear any of it this week.
“To be honest, somebody else mentioned the possibility of that,” Singiser said. “Obviously, being 9-1 would great, but we want to be 6-1 after Friday. That’s the only way we look at it, and that’s the only way we let the kids look at it.”
Arroyo’s lone loss this season was against traditional power Hart, and the Knights didn’t have star quarterback Steven Rivera for that game. Rivera, who suffered an ankle injury in September in a win over Montebello, has played the last two games and continues to stamp himself as one of the top signal callers around.
The junior remains limited in terms of mobility, but he’s still able to pick apart defenses if given time in the pocket. Rivera threw for more than 200 yards and had two touchdowns passes in games against La Ca ada and South El Monte after his injury.
“He’s healthy enough to suit up,” Singiser said when asked how healthy Rivera is. “Right now, we’re happy he’s back there throwing the ball.”
Like Arroyo, Rosemead has plenty on the line. The Panthers have league title hopes, and like Arroyo, they’d be heavily favored to run the table the rest of the way. That would mean an 8-2 record going into the Mid-Valley Division playoffs.
“For Arroyo to go 9-1, or us to go 8-2, that would be a pretty good season,” Rosemead coach Matt Koffler said. “They’re the defending league title holders and we’re trying to knock them off. You have to beat the top dog, and that’s Arroyo.”
The two rivals have played close games even in years in which it appeared one team was far better in terms of playmakers. Koffler expects this year’s game to be no different, so long as turnovers don’t get in the way.
“It’s going to be a good game,” Koffler said. “We’ll be ready to play, for sure. It’s going to come down to the team that makes a limited amount of mistakes. If Arroyo starts turning the ball over, advantage us. If we start turning the ball over, they’ll beat us.”