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.