Each day, we’re profiling a different high school football team in the valley, leading up to the first day of the 2015 high school season on Aug. 28. Today, we take a look at the Coachella Valley Arabs, who finished 4-6 last year but led in three league games that they ultimately lost. If they can show marked improvement in Year 2 under head coach Brett Davis, the postseason may not be such a stretch.
Coach: Brett Davis, 4-6 in first season
Last league title: 1978
Last season: 4-6
Returning starters: 3 on offense, 7 on defense
Overview: Before last season, Darius Hulsey had never played the quarterback position in high school. He didn’t play at all his sophomore year and returned to the field as a junior in 2014 to be the backup quarterback to Ricky Perez. But an injury to Perez forced Hulsey under center, and he responded by throwing for 3,206 yards and 29 touchdowns in 10 games while picking up the nuances of a dynamic run-and-shoot offense.
Hulsey and head coach Brett Davis return for their second season leading the program that averaged just less than 450 yards of total offense and 30.2 points per game a year ago. Davis says Hulsey was learning the offense in 2014 — as shown by his 18 interceptions — but now has such a thorough grasp of it that he’s coaching others on the field, making the right reads and being more calculated in his decision making. Davis expects the offense to be even more potent and crisp in Year 2. And not merely because of Hulsey.
Also returning is slot receiver Juan Rodriguez (49 catches, 702 yards, 6 TDs) and deep threat Marvin Martinez, powerful tailback Romero Martinez who’ll replace the massive production lost in the graduation of Carlos Espinoza and Carlos Medina. Seven starters return on defense, including leading tackler Jonathan Hamilton, a hard-hitting linebacker.
Breakout player: Jacob Salazar, the top junior varsity receiver a year ago, will replace Noah Torres in the slot, and will infuse the offense with some necessary toughness. He’s a big-time blocker and someone who’ll be tough to bring down in the open field. “He can bring the thunder,” Davis said. “I feel sorry for the first guy that tries to tackle him because he’ll lower his shoulder and just knock the fire out of you.”
Magic word: Proficiency. Coachella Valley only won a single Desert Valley League game a year ago, but held leads against Cathedral City, Palm Desert and Xavier Prep. With Hulsey and his teammates having a full year of the intricate run-and-shoot offense under their belts, the Arabs should be much more proficient offensively, and in turn more of a contender this season.
Quotable: “We expect to be a playoff team this year. That’s every player’s expectation. That’s just it. We won’t settle for anything less. There’s no moral victory this year, like there was last year. We need to go take it.” — Brett Davis, head coach
Projected record: 7-3
Aug. 28…Rancho Mirage
Sept. 4…@ Desert Hot Springs
Sep. 18… @ Desert Mirage
Sept. 25…Cathedral City
Oct. 2…@ Palm Springs
Oct. 16…Xavier Prep
Oct. 23…@ La Quinta
Oct. 30…Palm Desert
Nov. 6…@ Indio
*All games start at 7 p.m.
More coverage online
Be sure to check out desertsun.com to see photos of the Arabs practicing, as well as a video previewing the team’s upcoming season.