It’s always exciting to kick off a new high school football season, win or loss, but several teams from around the Coachella Valley went home Friday night scratching their heads. Overall, the 12 teams in action went 4-8 – just one win came out of a game that wasn’t a head-to-head game featuring two local opponents.
The winner of all three of those games, though, were De Anza League teams, putting together a sharp night for a league that often plays second fiddle to the Desert Valley League. Rancho Mirage, Desert Hot Springs and Desert Mirage as a trio outscored Coachella Valley, Cathedral City and Indio 62-20 Friday night in three victories. Interestingly enough, these same three matchups all came in week one last season, too, where the DVL had the upper hand, going 2-1 and outscoring their opponents 80-60.
What can we take away? As a whole, the DVL still has the stronger kings in Palm Springs, Palm Desert and La Quinta, but the De Anza League is slowly becoming much more competitive with its big brother. We’re coming off a season where Shadow Hills took care of Palm Desert handily, 34-14, in a clash of top teams from both leagues (programming alert: these teams face off again in Palm Desert on Thursday, so make sure your popcorn is ready).
Coachella Valley had plenty of opportunities to score early against Rancho Mirage Friday night, driving to at least the Rattlers’ 30-yard-line on three of the team’s first four drives. Each time, Arab coach Brett Davis elected to go for it on fourth down rather than attempting a field goal. That move could show a lack of faith in his kicking unit, but it may also show some overconfidence against a De Anza League opponent.
Anyone hoping for a valley “super league” in the near future? After watching Friday night, we can only hope.
Rancho Mirage grabs program’s second win in school history
Before the start of the season, Rancho Mirage head coach L.D. Matthews had his eyes set on big goals – a De Anza League title and a playoff appearance, both of which would be major firsts for the young program.
But Matthews said he wouldn’t overlook the little milestones in 2015, too. A year ago, his Rattlers amassed a 1-9 record in their first season of varsity football while giving up size, speed, experience, endurance and age in every facet of the game. Going 1-9 again would double the program’s win total, and heck, a 2-8 record would mean the winningest season in school history. Matthews said he wasn’t aiming to settle for one or two wins, but the prospect did excite him.
Friday night, Matthews quickly picked up the first.
“If feels so great. I’m so proud of these kids and their hard work,” he said. “Dedication pays off. After our season last year going 1-9, it was a gut check. We had to go back and look and see ‘Do we really want to compete at this next level?’
“We made history tonight. We’ve never won an opening varsity game, and we’ve only won once before, so a lot of positive things are going on. I couldn’t be happier with our kids tonight.”
Next task: beating a Cathedral City team struggling with a lack of experience at nearly every position. A 2-0 record could bring the Rattlers closer to a special season than they could have imagined.
Stat sheet stuffers
Although it came in two losing efforts, Coachella Valley’s Darius Hulsey and Palm Desert’s Jake Vincent appeared to be the most complete players under center in week one around the valley. Hulsey threw for 251 yards while completing 25-of-44 throws to lead the valley, while Vincent scored three touchdowns – tied for the most of any player in the valley Friday.
On the ground, Tony Williams Jr. officially took over the No. 1 rushing attack option for the Knights after being the No. 2 guy behind Isaiah Ortega-Dage in 2014. Williams Jr. ran for 129 yards and two scores, while averaging more than nine yards a carry.
Palm Springs’ Noah McGuire proved he could stand in for Ray Mullen, who was Will Olvera’s No. 1 target a year ago. McGuire sat out much of last year with knee and ankle injuries but caught seven balls for 92 yards as Olvera’s most popular target against Tahquitz.
Play of the week
Facing fourth-and-eight on the Rattlers’ 22-yard-line in the third quarter, Arab quarterback Hulsey dropped back and fired it to Jacob Salazar, but the ball ricocheted off his fingertips towards the back of the end zone. Luckily, teammate Sadiel Aranda kept his eyes on the ball and reeled it in as he fell to the ground for the Arabs’ only score of the evening.
Coachella gets 7 back with this lucky deflection and catch against rancho mirage. Score 14-7 rm over cv pic.twitter.com/GqtdNBqmV5— jay calderon (@jaymcalderon) August 29, 2015