Starting today, Aug. 28, high school football will take over much of the Valley’s sporting interest, with plenty of City Section and Southern Section action to keep that interest at a high level until the December state bowl games.
As with every new season, questions abound. Here are answers (maybe) to some of them.
Is San Fernando Building A Dynasty?
No, not yet. Even though the Tigers have won back-to-back City Section Division II championships, Division II is not where they will or want to stay.
Coach Robert Garcia, beginning his third season, is already pointing his team toward moving up to Division I within the next two years. And it may not be their choice considering the success they’ve had in Division II.
The Tigers bring in a couple glittering numbers into the 2014 season — an 18-game winning streak, and winners of 26 of the last 28. But they are now without Cris Solano, the ultra talented quarterback and even better leader who has matriculated to the University of Nevada-Reno. And the schedule this year has been beefed up to include Sierra Canyon, Taft and Arleta, along with league rivals Sylmar and Reseda.
That’s not a schedule that screams “undefeated.”
This is not to say the Tigers can’t be good; there is enough talent around that they should be. But its too early to determine if they are championship material again, or if they can continue to draw the kind of sizable talent they will need to battle the City D-1 ruling class that exists below the hill in Narbonne of Harbor City, Carson, and Crenshaw and Dorsey of Los Angeles. Just ask Arleta and Reseda whats that like; both have been struggling to match up in the playoffs since being moving to Division I a couple of years ago.
Is There A Super League In The Valley?
Southern Section has taken the monsters that made up last year’s Serra League — Alemany, Bishop Amat of La Puente, Crespi, Loyola of Los Angeles, Notre Dame — and put them in the Mission League with Chaminade and Serra of Gardena.
Chaminade and Serra have won the last two section West Division titles and the last two Division II state bowl games; henceforth their “promotion” into this league as well as the section’s Pac-5 Division, arguably the strongest in Southern California.
The Eagles and Cavaliers will find no cream puffs to dine on in the regular season or playoff schedule. And while the weekly confrontations will be highly entertaining, you have to wonder what the three teams that qualify for the playoffs will have left for the postseason. But hey, such is life for at least the next four years.
Is There New Blood?
On some teams, yes.
Those taking over as head coaches include Bill Coan (Arleta), John Brazil (Sylmar), Terrence Johnson (Kennedy), Tim Frost (Granada Hills), and Aubrey Duncan (Cleveland).
Good luck gentlemen.
Can Birmingham or El Camino Real Have An Impact In City’s Division 1?
The Patriots and Conquistadors will probably go as far as their quarterbacks can take them.
Patriots’ signal caller Oreste Simi is new to the team. But he played last year at Taft before transferring, and threw for 1,551 yards and 16 touchdowns. He probably won’t need 10 games to mesh with his receivers and absorb the playbook. The more pressing issue is whether the Birmingham blockers can keep Simi upright in a nonleague schedule that includes Newbury Park, Notre Dame, Chaminade and Oaks Christian of Westlake Village.
If they can, and say the Pats are no worse than 2-3 going into West Valley League play, they will certainly be favored to win or share a fourth straight league title. And if they can somehow wrangle two home playoff games — and the strength of schedule will certainly help — then look out.
Adam Blythe is returning at quarterback for El Camino Real, and is reportedly being given a more balanced offense to operate. Yes, that means passing, perhaps more than 5-10 times a game. If Blythe and the Conquistadors can throw the ball consistently enough that opponents can no longer load up against the Double Wing-T running game — one operating with smaller linemen than in seasons past — ECR could surprise some folks.
All of this goes out the window, of course, if the teams can’t stay healthy or wind up again getting one of those early playoff “death” games on the road.
Are There Other Valley Area Players Who Bear Watching?
There are plenty.
Besides Blythe and Simi, the list includes Dominic Davis, Blake Green (Alemany); Alex Gonzalez (San Fernando); Okalani Taufahema-Langi, Dymond Lee (Chaminade); Scott Diaz (Poly); Justin Santos (Chatsworth); Isaiah Gable; (Arleta); Darius Jones (Canoga Park); Clarence Williams (Sylmar); Leo Lambert (Notre Dame); Sterling Salguero (Birmingham); and Ramon Johnson (Granada Hills) on offense.
On defense there is Malik Davis (Taft); Marcus Moore, Vaimoe Sekona (Crespi); Darian Cohen (El Camino Real); Tyree Thompson (Alemany); Marco Gonzalez, Ivan Vazquez (Arleta); and Oscar Salazar (San Fernando).
That’s a mere sampling. Many more players will breakout as the season progresses.
It starts now.