Prep Preview: Arlington vs. Poly

I’m covering the Riverside Arlington-Riverside Poly varsity football game at Riverside Ramona HS tonight for The Press-Enterprise and HSGametime.pe.com. The best part of this assignment is the clear importance of this game.

THE LOW DOWN:
With neither team playing King HS in 2012, tonight will have to settle as the biggest intra-city rivalry game of the season. The game also has playoff implications, with both teams battle for one of three spots allotted to the Inland Valley League.

Arlington (4-1 overall, 3-0 Inland Valley League) enters the game having won three consecutive games, including shutouts over Fallbrook and MoVal Vista del Lago in Weeks 3 and 4. Defense is clearly a priority for the Lions, and Coach Pat McCarthy stresses team toughness overall. To that point, Arlington’s defense has allowed more than 14 points just twice this season — both losses. Senior LB Daniel Castro had two sacks, and the team had three takeaways in a 32-10 victory over MoVal Valley View in Week 5. Senior RB Martez Duarte has been a handful for defenses this year, forming a potent combo with electric runner Ruben Kelly to give the Lions a superb 1-2 punch.

Poly (3-3 overall, 2-2 Inland Valley League) won its most significant game this decade, defeating Moreno Valley Rancho Verde 21-14 last week following a win over MoVal Canyon Springs in Week 4. Can Coach Jeff Huerta push the winning streak to three games? The Bears got contributions from all over the field vs. Rancho Verde, with senior FB Matt Ybarra putting in a performance to remember (55 rush, TD) and senior LB Aaron Thomas (7 tkls, sack, TD) leading the way. Junior WR Matt Murray, who had two TDs vs. Canyon Springs is questionable. The 6-foot-3 deep threat has yet to be medically cleared, a source has told FOMB, following a hit to the head he sustained vs. Rancho Verde.

THE KEY PLAYERS:
Arlington
 — QB/DB: Roman Holston, Sr. (5-foot-11, 185 pounds); RB/DB: Martez Duarte, Sr. (5-11, 185); WR/DB: Ruben Kelly, Jr. (5-9, 170); Devone Stokes, Jr. (6-foot, 245); RB/LB: Tim Weaver, Jr. (5-11, 180); WR/DB: Mikuel Smith, Sr. (5-9, 165); TE/LB: Daniel Castro, Sr. (6-2, 215); TE/LB: Clayton Palmer, Sr. (6-3, 225); K/P: D.J. Young, Sr. (5-9, 169).

Poly — QB: Tarique Lusk, Jr. (5-foot-10, 180 pounds); RB: Devontre Hale, Soph. (5-10, 180); RB/DB: Chris Navigato, Jr. (5-11, 190); FB/DB: Matt Ybarra, Sr. (6-foot, 180); FB/LB: Leighton Silva, Jr. (5-9, 195); WR/DB: Matt Murray, Jr. (6-3, 190); LB: Aaron Thomas, Sr. (6-1, 200); OL/DL: Yancy Calhoun, Sr. (6-3, 245); K: Nick Blount, Jr. (5-11, 165).

THE DIFFERENCE:
Arlington’s beefy offensive line and stout defense. Duarte and Kelly, the Lions’ thunder-and-lightning, never run behind a guy smaller than 6-foot-3, 275 pounds, and Coach Mac’s defense — rarely lauded but widely respected — seems a little better this year, and it’s usually Riverside’s best.
THE FINAL SCORE: Arlington 24, Poly 17

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