Los Angeles Preps: Darion Williams

No. 13 Vista Murrieta 27, Chaparral 10

October, 14, 2011

TEMECULA -- Su’a Cravens of Vista Murrieta left no doubt who the player of the game was Friday night. He may have even cemented himself as the best player in the Inland Empire this season.

What's scary is, he’s only a junior.

Cravens caught the go-ahead touchdown pass in the second half against Chaparral, returned an interception for a game-clinching score in the final minutes and caused and recovered a key fumble deep in Vista Murrieta territory in the fourth quarter, lifting the Broncos to a 27-10 victory in the Southwestern League opener at Chaparral High.

“Su’a was definitely in the spotlight tonight,” said Vista Murrieta coach Coley Candaele. “He made plays on offense and defense that allowed us to win this game.”

The Broncos had trouble just getting the ball in their hands during the first half.

They had just three offensive possessions in the first two quarters, with the first two drives ending without a first down.

Cravens sparked the third drive with nice 18-yard reception over the middle. After a 50-yard completion from Nicholas Stevens to Darion Williams, Stevens then found running back Aaron Piecukonis for a 16-yard touchdown pass, tying the score, 7-7, with just under five minutes left in the opening half.

Chaparral booted a 19-yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter to take a 10-7 lead into halftime, but the Broncos came out throwing to start the second half. The drive was kept alive by a roughing-the-passer penalty on third and 10 inside Vista Murrieta territory. Stevens then hit Cravens on a 14-yard pass on third and seven, and followed up with a 17-yard touchdown strike to Cravens on third and 16.

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Football: No. 17 Vista Murrieta 38, No. 4 Crespi 20

September, 30, 2011
ENCINO -- The unthinkable nearly happened to Vista Murrieta in the first quarter of Friday's game at Encino Crespi. The Broncos star player, Su'a Cravens, went down with what appeared to be a sternum injury. Turned out, it was only a scare.

The highly-touted junior returned in the second quarter. Returned in a big way, mind you. Cravens had an interception and scored a pair of touchdowns, one rushing and the other receiving, to guide Vista Murrieta to an impressive 38-20 victory.

“I wasn't coming out, no way, this one was too big of a game,'' Cravens said. “I got popped pretty good and the hit stung. I played through the pain though. If the coaches told me that I couldn't have returned, I would've jumped in the lineup somehow.''

Indeed it was a big game. Crespi (4-1) entered the showdown as the odd-on favorite with a No. 4 spot in the ESPNLA.com rankings.

The Broncos (4-0) were not considered a slouch. They boasted a No. 17 ranking in the ESPNLA poll and will likely move up next week.

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Football: No. 23 Vista Murrieta

August, 20, 2011
Few teams in the Southland have put their imprint on a region as quickly as Vista Murrieta. The Broncos emerged as the class of Southwest Riverside County just three years after the school opened in the fall of 2003 and have remained the team to beat in the area.

Vista Murrieta has won 24 of its last 25 Southwestern League games, secured four outright league titles in the last five years and advanced to the Inland Division championship game the last two seasons. The Broncos feature another star-studded team this season, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

Here’s a closer look at the Broncos:

Team: Vista Murrieta.

Coach: Coley Candaele, ninth season.

2010 Record: 12-2, lost to Corona Centennial in the Inland Division final.

Returning starters: 13 total. Six on offense, seven on defense.

Key players on offense: OL Corey Whitaker, RB Aaron Piecukonis, WR Cody Piecukonis, K Tyler Rausa.

Key players on defense: SS Su’a Cravens, DL Jeremy Castro, LB Randy Perez, DB Darion Williams.

Difference maker: Cravens is expected to be one of the top recruits in the nation for the class of 2013. He plays a disruptive style of defense, similar to what Troy Polamalu provides for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 6-foot-1, 205 pounder accounted for eight sacks last season, three caused fumbles and five fumble recoveries. He has already been offered athletic scholarships by about a dozen schools, including UCLA.

Newcomers: QB Austin Mowatt, WR Esteban Ortuno, LB Jason Gardner.

Not to be missed: at Chaparral, Oct. 14. One of these teams has won the Southwestern League title each of the last five seasons and this year should be no exception. Both teams have plenty of returning talent on defense but the difference might be at quarterback, Chaparral has a returning starter and the Broncos do not.

Coach’s comment: “We have two new wide receivers and a new quarterback and how that’s going to affect our output, I don’t know yet. In the wonderful world of high school football, you’re just one injury away from going from contender to a guy just struggling to get by.”

Final analysis: With plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball, the key to Vista Murrieta’s success this season will be putting enough points on the board. The Broncos averaged 37.5 points a game last season, but with quarterback Derrick Brown now at Washington, they might have to survive with half that average. A good indication of where Vista Murrieta stands will come in Week 1, when the Broncos play a much-improved Etiwanda team at Ontario Colony High.

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

August, 17, 2011

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.

Inland Division: Vista Murrieta 35, Rancho Cucamonga 28 (2OT)

December, 4, 2010

MURRIETA — It took until midway through the second quarter for Vista Murrieta to earn a first down Saturday night against Rancho Cucamonga, but only two plays to score two touchdowns in overtime.

The second-seeded Broncos then stopped Rancho Cucamonga running back Sateki Finau for no gain on fourth-and-goal from inside the one-yard line, securing the 35-28 Inland Division semifinal victory at Vista Murrieta.

“I couldn’t let my team down, I had to make a play right there,” said Vista Murrieta senior linebacker Manuel Moreno, who was the first to make contact with Finau. “I just jumped up in the pile, tried to make a play, cut him right there, then my teammates rallied to the football.”

With the victory, the Broncos advance to play top-seeded Corona Centennial in the championship game next weekend. Vista Murrieta lost to Temecula Chaparral in last season’s final.

Vista Murrieta (12-1) did not get a first down on its first three drives. Meanwhile, the Cougars scored on their opening drive, a one-yard run by Finau.

The Broncos were set to punt on their fourth drive, but Derrick Brown, who also plays quarterback, saw the punt return team had quickly dropped back, so he ran 21 yards up the middle for a first down.

Two plays later, he hit Darion Williams with a 33-yard touchdown pass, his first completion of the game in six attempts, tying the score, 7-7.

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