By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
Perhaps no football team in the area understands the importance of building its resume in nonleague games better than El Monte High School. Last season, the Lions finished third in the Mission Valley League but wound up spectators when the Mid-Valley Division playoffs started because of a 1-4 performance in nonleague games which included losses to division foes Covina, La Puente and Wilson. That’s why El Monte coach Joel Sanchez is well aware of the implications involved in his team’s opener on Sept. 2 against Baldwin Park, which also plays in the Mid-Valley Division.
“That’s a game that sets us up to show us where we’re at for the beginning of the season, but also it’s a team in our division that’s been making the playoffs every year and has been up there the last three or four years,” Sanchez said.
“A lot of people will say `Well, who did El Monte beat?’ And if we get a win from Baldwin Park, then later on in the year they can look at it and it will help build our resume.”
Two seasons ago, simply finishing third in league would have been enough to get any Mid-Valley team into the postseason. But now that the division has six leagues, only two playoff spots are guaranteed per league.
The Lions may be catching Baldwin Park at the perfect time to spring an upset. The Braves lost several top players to graduation and will be breaking in a new quarterback next Friday. But you won’t catch Sanchez falling into that trap.
“When we were playing them before, they were always good, whether they had Aaron Harris or all those other guys who were just kicking our butts,” Sanchez said. “Whether they’re going to be great or mediocre, I don’t know what they’re going to be. Last year when I scheduled them, I knew it would be a tough game whether they had everybody coming back or had new guys stepping in.
“They have a good program. They’re going to build. I don’t think we’re catching them in a bad year because we don’t yet.”
El Monte scrimmages tonight at Downey.