Los Angeles Preps: Andrew Blake

I.E.: 5 questions to ponder after Week 9

November, 7, 2011
11/07/11
3:52
PM PT
Which team has the best chance of beating Rancho Verde in the playoffs? Palm Springs is ranked second behind the Mustangs in the Southern Section Central Division coaches’ poll, but the Indians might just be the better team. Though the games were played nearly two months ago, both teams beat Moreno Valley in consecutive weeks this season. Palm Springs won, 54-21, in a nonleague game, and Rancho Verde prevailed the following week, 28-7, in an Inland Valley League opener. If comparative scores can be used as a measuring stick, Palm Springs looks to have the edge.

Where did that loss come from? It was just two weeks ago that Rialto stunned Cajon, 27-25, in a San Andreas League game. Just as surprising was Rialto’s performance Friday night against San Gorgonio. The Knights gave up a touchdown 30 seconds into the game and two more in the opening quarter before eventually losing, 41-10. The saving grace for Rialto is it can still clinch a playoff berth with a victory Thursday against Pacific.

Who will be the top quarterback in the I.E. next season? There are a few possibilities, but Chase Chambers of Murrieta Mesa is quietly putting together the best junior season of any signal caller in the region. The 6-foot-1 left-hander threw for 404 yards and a touchdown in a 30-24 overtime loss Friday night against Temecula Valley. On the season, he has 19 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. The other junior quarterback to watch isn’t far away. Andrew Blake of Murrieta Valley, a good friend of Chambers, has 16 touchdown passes and three interceptions.

Which team’s season couldn’t end soon enough? With a bye in Week 10, Canyon Springs officially finished 0-10, getting shut out six times in the process. The Cougars have lost 15 straight games dating to last season. San Bernardino probably wishes its season was already over, but the Cardinals still have one more game to lose. San Bernardino’s problem has been its defense. The Cardinals have given up 55 or more points in six of their nine losses.

Which team managed to get a monkey off its back last weekend? Cathedral City defeated Coachella Valley to end an 18-game losing streak in Desert Valley League play. The Lions had not won a DVL game since defeating Palm Springs, 45-40, in the 2007 season finale. Earlier this season, the Lions ended a 23-game losing streak with a nonleague victory against Desert Mirage.

I.E.: Games of the Week

November, 3, 2011
11/03/11
3:37
PM PT
As the regular season winds down to the last couple of weeks, reality begins to set in for a lot of teams. Some can see the finish line in the race to a league title, while others are just hoping to hang on to that last automatic playoff spot. Here are the games that have the most meaning in the I.E. this week.

A-Game

(Inland Empire rankings included)

Heritage (7-1, 3-0) at Elsinore (7-1, 3-0), Friday (7 p.m.) – Heritage beat Elsinore for the Sunbelt League title last season, 40-19, but it was Elsinore that went on to win the Eastern Division title, the program's first Southern Section championship in 83 years. Elsinore relies heavily on its run game and is loaded with players who occupied key roles in the latest postseason run. Tight end/linebacker Nolan Peralta was the league's defensive MVP last season and running backs/defensive backs Allan Stubbs and Daniel Rodriguez have combined for 2,067 rushing yards. Heritage has its own 1,000-yard rusher in junior Jamal Morrow, and one of the area's most punishing two-way players in fullback/linebacker Tony Hifo.

Calpreps.com computerized projection: Heritage 27, Elsinore 26

ESPNLA: Elsinore 24, Heritage 21

B-List

Murrieta Valley (7-1, 3-0) at No. 3 Vista Murrieta (3-5, 3-0), Friday (7 p.m.) – Though this rivalry is just a few years old, it has already produced some memorable upsets on both sides. In just its second season in the Southwestern League, Vista Murrieta beat the Nighthawks in 2005 to deny them the league title. Three years later, Murrieta Valley returned the favor with a 10-3 upset, its only victory against the Broncos in six meetings. The Nighthawks will need a huge game from quarterback Andrew Blake. He delivered last week, throwing for 402 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-6 victory against Murrieta Mesa. Of course, Vista Murrieta is no Murrieta Mesa and Su'a Cravens isn't your typical team MVP. Cravens is a junior strong safety and running back who's a game changer for the Broncos on both sides of the ball, and Oregon-bound defensive end Jeremy Castro holds down the line.

Calpreps.com: Vista Murrieta 34, Murrieta Valley 7

ESPNLA: Vista Murrieta 35, Murrieta Valley 20

Los Osos (6-2, 3-0) at No. 2 Upland (8-0, 3-0), Friday (7 p.m.) – Los Osos is the last hurdle for Upland in its bid to win win the Baseline League title outright and secure a top four seeding for the postseason. Don't expect the Grizzlies to roll over and play dead, however. They might be one of the most underrated teams in the I.E.. Los Osos beat Etiwanda by seven points two weeks ago, the same margin that Upland defeated Etiwanda and better than Vista Murrieta, Rancho Cucamonga and Norco. Look for some good battles in the trenches between Los Osos offensive tackle Dylan La Frenz, who committed to Arizona State last week, and Upland defensive lineman Christian Powell, who is scheduled to take an official recruiting trip to Nebraska this weekend.

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I.E.: Games of the Week

October, 12, 2011
10/12/11
7:42
PM PT
League play kicks off this week for the remainder of the I.E., and the Southwestern League doesn't waste any time, opening up with two excellent matchups. Meanwhile, the Big VIII League will feature its only remaining undefeated teams in a cross-town showdown, and the Baseline League opens up with a potential high-scoring affair.

A-Game

(Inland Empire top 10 rankings included)

No. 13 Vista Murrieta (5-0) at Chaparral (2-3), Friday (7:30 p.m.) – These programs don’t own a long history but what they have experienced is pretty energized. Vista Murrieta is 5-3 in the series but Chaparral owns the biggest win, a 13-7 victory against the Broncos in the 2009 Inland Division final. Four of the meetings have been settled by three points or fewer, with two stretching into overtime. The player to watch for Vista Murrieta is junior Su’a Cravens, a strong safety by trade but a major part of the offense this season as well. Out of necessity, Cravens has been playing running back for the Broncos, giving them a great weapon as a runner or receiver. Chaparral will need San Diego State-bound quarterback Matt Morin to be consistently sharp, something he has struggled with this season. The Pumas have their own stellar strong safety in Arizona State-bound senior C.J. Dozier.

Calpreps.com computerized projection: Vista Murrieta 34, Chaparral 6

ESPNLA: Vista Murrieta 26, Chaparral 20

B-List

No. 14 Upland (5-0) vs. Etiwanda (3-2) at Colony HS, Friday (7 p.m.) – Two of the top three teams in the Baseline League square off in the league opener. Both teams have offenses that should keep the scoreboard operator busy. Upland is led by running back Donta Abron and wide receiver Kenny Lawler, who have immense big-play ability. The Eagles will count on quarterback Larry Cutbirth to match Upland point for point. Look for the game to turn on the game’s first non-scoring change of possession, whether it’s a turnover, missed field goal or simply a punt.

Calpreps: Upland 42, Etiwanda 28

ESPNLA: Upland 56, Etiwanda 35

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I.E.: A closer look at the Southwestern League

August, 17, 2011
8/17/11
6:49
PM PT
SOUTHWESTERN LEAGUE

Last season’s results: Vista Murrieta (12-2, 5-0); Murrieta Valley (6-5, 3-2); Temecula Chaparral (4-7, 3-2); Temecula Valley (5-5, 2-3); Temecula Great Oak (4-6, 2-3); Murrieta Mesa (2-8, 0-5).

Players to watch: It’s shaping up to be the year of the quarterback in the Southwestern League. Three of the league’s top four signal callers return this season, led by Matt Morin of Chaparral, who committed to San Diego State earlier this month. Morin threw for 1,719 yards and 12 touchdowns last season after transferring from Murrieta Valley. He was named the top quarterback last spring at the Nike Combine at USC. Andrew Blake also returns behind center after a successful sophomore season at Murrieta Valley. In nine games, Blake threw for 1,708 yards and seven touchdowns. Temecula Valley quarterback Derrick Tarin returns after throwing for 1,574 yards and eight touchdowns in eight games. Vista Murrieta, coming off its second consecutive loss in the SS-Inland Division finals, graduated its best offensive skill players from last season, but mounting drives against its defense will remain a challenge. Su’a Cravens is a highly disruptive strong safety and one of the nation's top prospects in the class of 2013. He’ll be joined by defensive lineman Jeremy Castro, a Washington commit who had 11 sacks last season, linebacker Randy Perez (four interceptions) and defensive back Darion Williams. Perez and Williams were all-Inland Division selections last season, as well as senior offensive lineman Corey Whitaker. The Broncos also feature one of the I.E.’s top place kickers in senior Tyler Rausa. Chaparral received a big lift when senior linebacker Curtis Dozier returned to the team this summer. He had transferred to Bellflower St. John Bosco in the spring but returned after his mother was unable to secure a job transfer, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported. Dozier, who has committed to Arizona State, led the Pumas with four sacks and 113 tackles last season. He's reportedly switching to strong safety this season, where he'll be supported by senior linebacker Joe Robinson and senior defensive end Teddy Queen, both Division 1 recruits. Temecula Valley has the personnel to push both Chaparral and Vista Murrieta for the SWL title. In addition to Tarin, the Golden Bears return the league’s leading rusher, senior Kason Kennedy, who scampered for 1,392 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He surpassed the 200-yard mark three times. Temecula Valley also features the league’s top returning receiver, senior Daniel Manning, who caught 32 passes for 516 yards and two touchdowns. The Golden Bears also return one of the league’s top pass rushers in senior defensive lineman Jerome McElroy, who produced a league-leading 15 sacks.

Projected order of finish: Chaparral, Vista Murrieta, Temecula Valley, Murrieta Valley, Great Oak, Murrieta Mesa.

Key games: Sept. 2 – San Bernardino Cajon @ Chaparral; Sept. 9 – Great Oak vs. Rancho Cucamonga @ Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos HS, Vista Murrieta vs. Etiwanda @ Ontario Colony HS; Sept. 16 – Eastvale Roosevelt @ Murrieta Valley; Sept. 22 – Murrieta Mesa @ Perris Citrus Hill; Sept. 23 – Chaparral @ Corona Centennial, Temecula Valley @ Elsinore; Sept. 30 – Vista Murrieta @ Encino Crespi, Elsinore @ Murrieta Valley; Oct. 14 – Vista Murrieta @ Chaparral, Murrieta Valley @ Temecula Valley; Oct. 21 – Temecula Valley @ Vista Murrieta; Oct. 28 – Chaparral @ Temecula Valley; Nov. 4 – Murrieta Valley @ Vista Murrieta; Nov. 11 – Chaparral @ Murrieta Valley.

Alumni in the NFL: Talmadge Jackson, Baltimore Ravens (Chaparral ’07).

Fast fact: A year after winning the Inland Division title, Tommy Leach was fired last February as coach at Chaparral. School principal Gil Compton was fairly close-lipped about his decision, citing personnel issues. Leach's departure was unpopular among many players and parents, who protested at the school in the days afterward. Ryan Tukua, the defensive coordinator under Leach, took over the program. Leach is now a defensive assistant at Norco.

On the clock: Sunbelt League.

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