Prep Preview: Inland Valley League

Rancho Verde senior QB E.J. Stewart (left) must be better protected this season for the Mustangs to win a CIF division title.

Rancho Verde senior QB E.J. Stewart (left) must be better protected this season for the Mustangs to win a CIF division title.

PREP FOOTBALL 2016
INLAND VALLEY LEAGUE PREVIEW

(2015 records in parenthesis)

In a league where all of its coaches are either in their first or second season, the IVL doesn’t have a whole lot of history to fall back on or grudges needing to be worked out. Rancho Verde remains the most talented of the bunch, while the others fight for table scraps come the postseason. The question at the end will be which first-year coach(s) made the playoffs?

MoVal Rancho Verde (10-3 overall, 5-0 IVL) returns two of the most explosive offensive players in Riverside County. Seniors QB E.J. Stewart (6-foot-1, 188 pounds) and WR Bryan Thompson (6-3, 185) are a tough stop for any HS defense, and will be unstoppable against the IVL’s shrunken masses. On the other side, Coach Jeff Steinberg enters his second season at ‘The Ranch’ having to overhaul the bulk of the defense. He relied on a tough senior group last year and will need similar production from seniors MLB Tevita Halalilo (6-foot, 235) and DE Kain Su’a (6-1, 272) in 2016.

Riverside Poly (5-6, 4-1) is a team in transition again with the hiring of new coach Derrick DeWitt. Expect the Bears to experience some growing pains during the culture change. Senior QB Alec Quintero (6-4, 178) did not see much time as the backup last season but was 5 for 6 for 132 yards in four appearances, and senior RB Afi Tualega (5-10, 215) is a bruiser who can get tough yards and switch gears when he gets into open field.

Riverside Arlington (4-7, 2-3) qualified for the playoffs in coach Rich Lunsford’s first season, so expectations must be managed going forward. Senior TE/LB Sorryn Khneiser (6-2, 225) is an interesting prospect, and the team appears to have good interior size overall. Skill positions may be an issue.

Riverside North (2-8, 2-3) is going to be different with coach Doug Dubois, who previously led Perris Citrus Hill to its first two CIF-Southern Section titles a decade ago. Now in charge of the perpetually-talented Huskies, DuBois refurbished the football locker room as the centerpiece of a makeover.

MoVal Valley View (4-6, 2-3) has reason to be excited and thinking about a playoff spot for the first time this decade. The Eagles return the IVL’s only 1,000-yard rusher, junior RB Justin Keeling (5-6, 165), in coach Daniel Barlage’s second season.

MoVal Canyon Springs (0-10, 0-5) are the third program with a new coach this season as Howard Boyd takes over for Pete Garza. Junior QB Kyle Whitmer (6-5, 167) is about to stick out like a sore thumb.

PROJECTED ORDER OF FINISH:
MoVal Rancho Verde
Riverside North
MoVal Valley View
Riverside Arlington
Riverside Poly
MoVal Canyon Springs

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
RB/MLB Mustafaa Bell, Sr., MoVal Canyon Springs
RB/OLB Tyzjon Calhoun, Jr., Riverside North (enrolled at Riverside Notre Dame)
QB Abraham Galvez, Sr., Riverside North
RB Justin Keeling, Jr., MoVal Valley View
TE/LB Sorryn Khneiser, Sr., Riverside Arlington
QB E.J. Stewart, Sr., MoVal Rancho Verde
WR Bryan Thompson, Sr., MoVal Rancho Verde
RB Afi Tualega, Sr., Riverside Poly

PROMINENT GAMES:
Sept. 16 — Perris Citrus Hill at Rancho Verde, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 — Arlington vs. Riverside Poly at Riverside King HS, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 — Riverside Poly at Rancho Verde, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28 — Valley View vs. Arlington at Riverside Ramona HS, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4 — Riverside Poly at Riverside North, 7 p.m.

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