Los Angeles Preps: Devon Samuels

I.E.: All-region football teams

December, 19, 2011
12/19/11
11:34
AM PT
With the season officially over for Inland Empire football teams, it proved to be a memorable year with the parity that enveloped the area this season and a number of top players are expected back again next year. Here’s a look at the top players in the I.E. from the 2011 season.

MVP

Su’a Cravens, Vista Murrieta, Jr., 6-2, 205 – Cravens was a game-changer on both sides of the ball for the Broncos and a big reason for their first Southern Section title this season. He scored touchdowns when the offense needed them most, and on defense took turns making plays in both the backfield and secondary. Cravens touched the ball 95 times on offense, averaged 10.5 yards a touch and scored 19 touchdowns. On defense, he had 11 sacks and three interceptions, one for a game-clinching touchdown against Chaparral.

OFFENSIVE MVP

Romello Goodman, Corona Centennial, Sr., 5-5, 165 – Goodman took advantage of the talent around him and rushed for 2,758 yards and a state-leading 44 touchdowns. He was at his best in the postseason, rushing for 1,170 yards and 17 touchdowns in four games.

DEFENSIVE MVP

Christian Powell, Upland, Sr., 5-10, 240 – Powell was a force on both sides of the ball but he was especially dangerous on defense, recording an Inland Division-leading 15 sacks. Nebraska, Texas A&M and Washington are among the colleges in pursuit of his services.

SPECIAL TEAMS MVP

Tyler Rausa, Vista Murrieta, Sr., 5-8, 170 – Rausa booted a Southern Section-leading 19 field goals in 14 games, an Inland Empire record for a single season. The Broncos were setting Rausa up for a game-winning kick in the Inland Division final against Centennial last week, but instead scored on 30-yard run in the 35-28 victory.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Coley Candaele, Vista Murrieta – Coming into the season, it didn’t appear Candaele had much in the cupboard on offense, but he found ways to move the chains and get it into the end zone, most notably giving Cravens a chance to run and catch the ball. Junior quarterback Nicholas Stevens also appeared to gain comfort with Candaele’s system as the season rolled along and, like Cravens, will be back next season for another run at the section title.

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CIF-SS playoffs: Central Division

November, 13, 2011
11/13/11
1:01
PM PT
CIF-SS playoffs:
Central Division
This group might not carry the hoopla of the Inland Division, but it certainly has some quality teams and superb athletes. Rancho Verde hasn’t lost a regular-season game since 2007, yet hasn’t won a section title in that stretch either. Not so for Palm Springs and Colony. Palm Springs won the Eastern Division title in 2009, and the Titans won Central Division titles in 2006 and 2007. Here’s a breakdown of the division:

The seeds: No. 1 Rancho Verde, No. 2 Palm Springs, No. 3 La Sierra, No. 4 Colony.

Best first-round matchup: Palm Desert (5-4) at Carter (9-1) -- Carter had a chance to clinch the program's first outright San Andreas League title Thursday night against Cajon but lost, 24-7. That missed opportunity could spill over to the playoffs. Carter will have its hands full trying to stop Palm Desert running back Tim Santa Maria, who rushed for 333 yards in 33 carries and scored four touchdowns in a 38-35 loss Friday against La Quinta, dropping the Aztecs into third place in the Desert Valley League and setting up this matchup.

Toughest road: Palm Springs (10-0) -- The Indians’ unblemished record might be a bit misleading because they really haven't played any quality opponents this season, though they did blow out everyone except Palm Desert in the season opener. They open against a Rialto team that has a big-time victory against Cajon this season, one that likely cost the Cowboys a top four seeding. Waiting in the wings would be a matchup against Chino or Arlington, two other programs that could pose a problem with their potent run games.

Potential shocker: Valley View at Colony, first round -- Valley View had a bye in Week 10 to give them extra time to prepare for the playoffs and provide running back Michael Harrison a chance to rest up for the heavy workload he’s likely to encounter. Harrison, who has rushed for 1,373 and 16 touchdowns this season, is the type of power runner that has given Colony fits this season. The Titans have already allowed 100-yard rushing performances to Xavier Browne of Chino, Devon Samuels of Chaffey, Jamel Hart of South Hills, Jordan Robinson of Ayala and Corey Victoria of Glendora.

Darkhorse: Cajon (9-1) -- As mentioned above, Cajon would likely be one of the top three seeds if not for its loss against Rialto three weeks ago. The Cowboys have the athletes to make a run at any team in this division, and seem to have found a quality replacement for quarterback Edwin Martinez, who went down with a knee injury two weeks ago. De Juan Brooks stepped up from the junior varsity and threw for 241 yards and three touchdowns in the victory against Carter, locking up a share of the San Andreas League title.

Final analysis: This division is Rancho Verde’s to lose but that’s exactly what the Mustangs did last season, cruising to the championship game before getting stunned by Colton, the third-place team from the San Andreas League. They certainly didn’t catch any breaks in the brackets, getting stuck on the same side as Cajon and Colony, both of which feature Division 1-bound athletes who can change the course of a game.

Championship prediction: Palm Springs vs. Rancho Verde – These two programs appear to be in a class by themselves, though neither has really proved themselves against quality opponents during the regular season. Look for both teams to build momentum during some challenging early games and meet head on for the section title. Rancho Verde 27, Palm Springs 21.

Link to the Central Division bracket on CalPreps.com

I.E.: 5 questions to ponder after Week 8

October, 31, 2011
10/31/11
4:11
PM PT
1. Next best comeback in the I.E. this season? This might be up for debate, since just four weeks ago La Quinta rallied from a 34-0 deficit at the start of the second half to defeat Ridgecrest Burroughs, 41-34. But a similar improbable comeback occurred Friday night in the Sunkist League, when Norte Vista rallied from a 21-point hole midway through the fourth quarter against Jurupa Valley and won, 43-42. The final points came with 1:01 remaining. Daniel Duronslet tossed a 16-yard touchdown strike to Samuel Cena, and Gabriel Pena ran in the two-point conversion. The Braves (4-4, 2-1) recovered two onside kicks while scoring 22 points in 3 minutes 46 seconds. Jurupa Valley dropped into fourth place at 5-2-1, 1-2.

2. Who will be the next I.E. running back to average 200 yards a game? Despite missing a game earlier this season because of a hip pointer, Chaffey senior Devon Samuels is fourth in the Southern Section with 1,423 rushing yards. His average of 203.2 yards a game is second best. If he can maintain that average, he would join an elite list of ball carriers that include Kenjon Barner of Riverside Notre Dame (now at Oregon), Deontae Cooper of Citrus Hill (Washington) and Ryan Bass of Corona Centennial (Idaho).

3. Which is the most surprising undefeated team in the I.E.? The latest meeting between Yucaipa and Redlands didn’t have nearly the excitement level of four years ago, when Yucaipa went for two points after scoring a touchdown in double overtime and beat the Terriers, 22-21, in a Citrus Belt League game. On Friday night, Yucaipa beat the Terriers for the first time since that night and in a much more convincing fashion, rolling to a 23-6 victory. The win kept the Thunderbirds undefeated at 8-0, including 3-0 in league play. By comparison, league co-leader Redlands East Valley (8-0, 3-0) needed overtime to beat the Terriers a week earlier. REV should try to avoid looking ahead to the playoffs when they travel to Yucaipa for the league finale Nov. 10.

4. Which team that started 0-5 is in the best position to make the playoffs? Moreno Valley survived a torturous nonleague schedule and didn’t get any breaks once Inland Valley League play began. The Vikings (3-5, 3-2) lost to Rialto, Citrus Hill and Palm Springs in nonleague play, and Rancho Verde and Arlington in league openers. Rancho Verde is ranked No. 1 in the SS-Central Division and Palm Springs is No. 2. Citrus Hill is ranked No. 2 in the Eastern Division. Moreno Valley has come alive the last three weeks, however, beating Canyon Springs, Ramona and Valley View to move into a tie for third in the eight-team league. The Vikings have another big test Friday against visiting La Sierra (7-1, 4-1).

5. Who’s the latest quarterback in the I.E. to suffer a significant injury? According to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, Cajon quarterback Edwin Martinez will be sidelined a minimum of three weeks because of a knee injury. Martinez was injured during a 31-13 victory Friday against Colton while scrambling to recover a fumble that Colton eventually returned for a touchdown. Cajon (7-1, 4-1) has a key San Andreas League game Nov. 10 at Carter (8-0, 5-0). A loss would likely drop the Cowboys into third place and give them a tough first-round draw. Other teams that have seen their league title and playoff hopes jeopardized by injuries to the quarterback position are Roosevelt and Paloma Valley.

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

October, 10, 2011
10/10/11
6:24
PM PT
How can one-loss Corona Centennial continue to be ranked No. 1 in the I.E. ahead of unbeaten Redlands East Valley, Upland, Vista Murrieta and Rancho Cucamonga? By ranking standards, Centennial's two-point loss to St. Bonaventure was a long time ago. The Huskies were breaking in a new quarterback and running back that night in early September, and they were facing their toughest nonleague opponent at their most vulnerable part of the schedule. Starting about the third quarter of their second game against Mater Dei, the Huskies have been playing like the team of last season, when they went all the way to the Division 1 state bowl game. Redlands East Valley, Upland and Vista Murrieta each had the luxury of building themselves up for their best nonleague opponents, all the while Centennial was getting better too. Not sure there are too many other teams in the Southern Section that have the firepower to build a 42-6 lead over J.W. North with 10 minutes still remaining in the first half. That's the same J.W. North team that beat Alemany earlier this season.

What team should probably be in the I.E. top 10 but isn’t? This goes back to the first week of the season as well, but the big difference between Centennial and Summit's season-opening losses is Summit's relates to head-to-head competition. Summit lost to Etiwanda, 49-36, in Week 0, and Etiwanda went on to put a big scare into top 10 members Norco and Vista Murrieta before losing by less than a touchdown each time. Summit has steadily gotten better too, posting shutouts in its last three games while scoring 40-plus points, the latest a 49-0 road win against Southwestern League member Murrieta Mesa. If it’s any consolation to the SkyHawks, Etiwanda also dropped out of the top 10 this week to make room for Corona Santiago, a 49-22 winner against previously No. 6 Norco. The Eagles will have a shot to get back into the top 10 when they host No. 3 Upland on Friday night in a Baseline League game. Summit, well, the toughest part of its schedule is in the rear-view mirror.

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