By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
With one week to go in its nonleague schedule, the Mission Valley League is looking to add to what’s become a pretty impressive resume so far this season. Not generally known as one of the area’s power leagues, things might be different this year if the current body of work is any indicator: Heading into this week’s games, the Mission Valley is a combined 17-8.
South El Monte High School’s 4-0 record leads the way. The Eagles were 1-9 last season. “Our league is definitely on its way up,” first-year South El Monte coach Ibis Aguilar said. “Obviously, Arroyo and Rosemead are still doing well like always, but El Monte is coming up and even Mountain View is coming up. Gabrielino has won a few games as well. I think it’s good for all of the teams involved in the league.”
Arroyo (3-1) and Rosemead (2-2) have historically ruled the roost in the Mission Valley. Whether things are going to be different this year remains to be seen, but given South El Monte’s showing thus far, coupled with Mountain View at 3-1 and Gabrielino at 3-2, the depth in terms of competitiveness looks to be much stronger this season. And that says nothing about El Monte at 2-2, with the two losses coming to La Puente (4-0) and Covina (4-1).
“The league is looking good relative to who we’ve been playing,” Arroyo coach Jim Singiser said. “I’m sure bloggers will have at it by saying, `Who have they played?’
“I was just talking to (Rosemead coach) Matt Koffler about this very thing. He had a quote in (the) paper a couple years ago saying that when we play teams that look like us, we fare pretty well. I think that’s what you’re seeing.”
Arroyo has won the past two league championships and is heavily favored to do so again because it has the league’s top player in quarterback/ safety Steven Rivera.
Rosemead, despite other teams having flashier records, figures to be the Knights’ biggest challenger. The Panthers haven’t allowed more than 21 points in a game this season, and their only two losses were a one-point setback to upper-division Rowland and an 11-point loss to Montebello in which the Panthers had five turnovers.
“Until those others – South El Monte, El Monte and Mountain View – can consistently be in that race with us and Arroyo, then I wouldn’t say it could be something different,” Koffler said. “But since I’ve been here, it’s always been Rosemead and Arroyo on a consistent basis.
“El Monte almost beat us last year. We barely beat them, so we sure can’t say we’re looking ahead of anybody, because last year was the perfect example.”
No matter who wins the league championship and who takes second, the biggest issue for the league is going to be whether its third-place team can get in the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division playoffs via one of the division’s four at-large berths. One would think that given the impressive nonleague showing, there’s an at-large berth reserved for whoever takes third.
Last season El Monte finished third, but was on the outside looking in when the playoff pairings were announced – despite the fact that the CIF-SS obviously thought enough of the league to give Arroyo one of the top four seeds. If the Lions are in the same position this year, they may have a better chance because of wins over division foes Baldwin Park and Gladstone. It also helps that so many other Mission Valley League teams have beaten teams from other Mid- Valley leagues.
Ultimately, the only way for the outside world to start giving the Mission Valley League its due is for the wins to come in the postseason and during the nonleague slate. Rosemead, as recently as 2008, reached the division championship game.
“I’m proud of the league,” Singiser said. “I think the league as a whole is better now than what it was when Matt (Koffler) and even (El Monte coach) Joel (Sanchez) came in. We’re doing what we need to do now.
“Do we have respect throughout the division? Probably not. Until we start getting CIF wins, ourselves included, that’s how you start developing real respect, but I think people have an eye on us.”