Three of the valley’s most talented and dynamic players were honored as the best of the best in the De Anza League on Monday when the league announced its postseason honors for the 2016 season.
Coachella Valley junior quarterback Armando Deniz hadn’t played a down of varsity football before the start of the season, yet managed to be a solid choice for the league’s co-Offensive MVP along with Rancho Mirage junior Marques Prior, who played running back, wide receiver and quarterback at times on offense this season.
His Rattler teammate, Daniel Whelan was named the Special Teams MVP for the massive ways the senior managed to affect games while pinning offenses deep, preventing hardly any kickoff returns and sinking field goals from more than 50 yards out.
Deniz finished his season with 3,508 passing yards, more than any valley quarterback in recent memory, and was up among southern California and the entire state’s best for much of the season. The junior went 241 for 415 passing and had 29 touchdowns through the air and seven more on the ground.
“I was pretty surprised honestly the things I did this season,” he said. “I surprised myself just as I surprised anyone else in the valley.
“But I couldn’t have done it without my linemen, receivers and coaches and all their support. It was partially me, but without others’ help, I wouldn’t be where I am.”
Even more importantly, he said, Deniz played a pivotal part in getting the Arabs to their second consecutive playoff appearance. In his final season, he said, he hopes 2016 can be a spring board for even bigger numbers and an even deeper playoff run.
For Prior, the impact he was expected to have on offense was less certain coming into the season, with coach L.D. Matthews moving sophomore David Talley to the starting quarterback position. This, though, allowed Prior to move around the field, creating havoc for defenses running sweeps, catching passes and occasionally running and throwing out of the wildcat formation.
This season, he rushed for 934 yards and 15 scores with 27 catches for 367 yards and two touchdowns and eight completions for 151 yards.
“It’s really special to me,” Prior said.
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Whelan, one of the best high school kickers in the country, sank a season-long field goal of 52 yards and had the distance to make ones from beyond 60 yards at times. His kickoffs nearly always caused a touchback, and his punts would often pin teams deep, causing opposing offenses to have to drive farther than normal to score – a pivotal part in Rancho Mirage’s success.
“I feel like I don’t do much in the games, but to get recognized, it’s really good,” he said.
“With his foot, offenses had 80 yards to make a mistake, and that really came up big for us late in the season,” Prior said.
Joining Prior and Whelan on the De Anza League first team were teammates running back Kyle Whitefield, linebacker Mikey Ramos, linebacker Josh Ramirez, lineman Jonny Avila, tight end Isaiah Archuleta and lineman Matt Ontiveros.
Along with Deniz, fellow Arabs wideout JJ Rodriguez, running back Romeo Martinez, lineman Nick Hernandez and lineman Jose Cuevas made first-team honors. Desert Hot Springs lineman Nathan Ongalibang was also honored with teammates linebacker Miguel Gutierrez and lineman Jordon Walker, along with Desert Mirage linemen Frolian Rodriguez and Omar Bautista.
All-De Anza Leauge Football Team
Rancho Mirage: Daniel Whelan (K/P), Marques Prior (Ath), Kyle Whitefield (RB), Mikey Ramos (LB), Josh Ramirez (LB), Jonny Avila (OL), Isaiah Archuleta (TE), Matt Ontiveros (OL)
Coachella Valley: Armando Deniz (QB), JJ Rodriguez (WR), Romeo Martinez (RB), Nick Hernandez (OL), Jose Cuevas (OL)
Desert Hot Springs: Nathan Ongalibang (DL), Miguel Gutierrez (LB), Jordon Walker (DL)
Desert Mirage: Frolian Rodriguez (DL), Omar Bautista (OL)
Yucca Valley: Lucas Lopez (RB), Elijah Lynch (QB), Dominick Lito (OL), Travis Shartel (DL)
Twentynine Palms: Michael Clark (DL), Derek Sutherland (DB), Eneliko Tuli (DB), K.J. Magwood (LB), D’shaun Barrett (WR), Hunter Tygart (RB)
Rancho Mirage: Mario Montalvo (LB), Mason Ferrer (LB), Brandon Walker (DL), Jesus Valenzuela (OL), Mark Grenier (OL), Travis O’Brien (DL)
Coachella Valley: Christian Brenes (LB), Jovan Ramos (WR), Jacob Salazar (WR), Joe Villegas (DL)
Desert Hot Springs: Sirvon Campbell (QB), Albert Montes-Reyes (WR), Abraham Rodriguez (DL)
Desert Mirage: Jaime Serrano (LB), Kevin Cabrera (OL)
Yucca Valley: Noah Rodriguez (LB), Jared Nutter (DB), Blade Hildebrand (WR), Elmil Featherstone (LB)
Twentynine Palms: Gunner Moss (DL), Andrew Wallace (OL), Hugh Carpenter (QB), Caleb Roy (OL), Casey Allen (OL)
Rancho Mirage: David Talley (QB)
Coachella Valley: Albert Garcia (DB)
Desert Hot Springs: Nick Hartfield (WR)
Desert Mirage: Francisco Ponce (RB)
Yucca Valley: Chris Worrell (DL)
Twentynine Palms: Michael Hendges (DL)