Los Angeles Preps: Martin Mercado

I.E.: Games of the Week

October, 19, 2011
10/19/11
10:06
PM PT
It’s rivalry week in the Inland Empire. The Baseline, Big VIII and Citrus Belt leagues feature matchups involving teams that have spent the last decade hammering away at each other. While some of these rivalries have turned into one-sided affairs in recent years, it’s tough to predict which way they’ll turn once the teams step between the lines.

A-Game

(Inland Empire top 10 rankings included)

No. 9 Rancho Cucamonga (6-0, 1-0) at No. 12 Upland (6-0, 1-0), Friday (7 p.m.) – This has been one of the more even rivalries over the years and another tight one is expected Friday night. Rancho Cucamonga has won four straight close games against the Highlanders, including a victory in the 2008 Central Division finals, but Upland is a slight favorite this time around. The Highlanders earned that distinction with an impressive win three weeks ago against visiting Loyola, while Rancho Cucamonga has spent the first six weeks steamrollering mostly mediocre opponents. The key matchup will be Upland’s offensive line and fullback Christian Powell against a defense led by linebacker Viliami Latu, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior. Offensively, the Cougars also need to be on the lookout for Powell, who leads the Inland Division with nine sacks.

Calpreps.com computerized projection: Upland 31, Rancho Cucamonga 24

ESPNLA: Rancho Cucamonga 28, Upland 24

B-List

Norco (4-2, 2-1) at No. 4 Corona Centennial (5-1, 3-0), Friday (7 p.m.) – For the second consecutive season this rivalry has lost some of its luster due to an early loss by Norco in Big VIII League play. The Cougars were upended by Corona Santiago two weeks ago, the second time this season they've allowed 49 or more points in a game. That’s not good news against an offense as unrelenting as Centennial’s, which has scored at least 48 points in four straight. Norco will need to find a way to keep the ball out of Centennial’s hands for as long as possible. Don’t be surprised if the Cougars go for it on fourth down at midfield, or try an onside kick the first time they have the opportunity.

Calpreps.com: Centennial 44, Norco 21

ESPNLA: Centennial 56, Norco 28

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

August, 23, 2011
8/23/11
5:16
PM PT
SUNKIST LEAGUE

Last season’s results: Fontana Kaiser (12-1, 5-0); Fontana Summit (10-3-1, 4-1); Riverside Norte Vista (5-6, 3-2); Riverside Patriot (4-6, 2-3); Bloomington (4-7, 1-4); Mira Loma Jurupa Valley (1-9, 0-5).

Players to watch: Kaiser has lost only one league game in the last 10 years but could be facing its toughest run after graduating 18 of 22 starters from last season’s team. Waiting to pounce on the Cats is Summit and Jurupa Valley. Summit is led by Donte Deayon, a two-way star who committed to Boise State this summer. He tied for the state lead with 10 interceptions last season and also caught 38 passes for a league-leading 524 yards and five touchdowns. Jamaal Williams was another valuable two-way player for the Eastern Division finalists, rushing for 717 yards and 11 touchdowns and playing free safety. He has committed to Brigham Young. Bernard Porter also returns at quarterback after passing for a league-leading 1,611 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushing for seven other scores. Jurupa Valley's defense might be even better. Alex Beam had a league-leading 137 tackles last season, and fellow returners Sergio Camacho, Robert Magana, Alfonso Villegas, Darien Pule and Anthony Torres were also key members of the unit. On offense, quarterback Martin Mercado was the league’s second-leading passer and receiver Ramon Barrajas caught 22 passes for 367 passes and three touchdowns. Patriot has the league’s top returning rusher in Nano Martinez, who totaled 894 yards and five touchdowns last season. Daniel Rico led the way on defense with five sacks. Bloomington features two experienced skill players in quarterback Demetreus Moore and running back Johnta Carter. Heritage might be short on experience but the Patriots might have the most intimidating player in offensive lineman Aiseah Hanson, who stands 6-4, 320.

Projected order of finish: Summit, Jurupa Valley, Kaiser, Patriot, Bloomington, Norte Vista.

Key games: Sept. 2 – Summit vs. Etiwanda @ Fontana A.B. Miller HS; Sept. 9 – Summit @ Redlands; Sept. 16 – Kaiser @ San Bernardino Cajon; Sept. 22 – Summit vs. Colton @ A.B. Miller; Sept. 23 – Riverside North @ Kaiser; Oct. 14 – Jurupa Valley vs. Patriot at Riverside Rubidoux HS; Oct. 21 – Kaiser @ Jurupa Valley; Nov. 4 – Summit @ Jurupa Valley; Nov. 11 – Summit vs. Kaiser @ A.B. Miller.

Alumni in the NFL: Lonyae Miller, Dallas Cowboys (Rialto/Fontana Kaiser '06); Jason Shirley, Cincinnati Bengals (Kaiser ’03);

Fast fact: Bloomington hasn’t had a winning record since 2007 but the Bruins still boast the state record for most points scored in a season. The 1994 team plowed its way to 880 points in 14 games, which was also a national record until 2001. By comparison, Bloomington has scored 866 points in its last 42 games.

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