With the season officially over for Inland Empire football teams, it proved to be a memorable year with the parity that enveloped the area this season and a number of top players are expected back again next year. Here’s a look at the top players in the I.E. from the 2011 season.
Su’a Cravens, Vista Murrieta, Jr., 6-2, 205 – Cravens was a game-changer on both sides of the ball for the Broncos and a big reason for their first Southern Section title this season. He scored touchdowns when the offense needed them most, and on defense took turns making plays in both the backfield and secondary. Cravens touched the ball 95 times on offense, averaged 10.5 yards a touch and scored 19 touchdowns. On defense, he had 11 sacks and three interceptions, one for a game-clinching touchdown against Chaparral.
Romello Goodman, Corona Centennial, Sr., 5-5, 165 – Goodman took advantage of the talent around him and rushed for 2,758 yards and a state-leading 44 touchdowns. He was at his best in the postseason, rushing for 1,170 yards and 17 touchdowns in four games.
Christian Powell, Upland, Sr., 5-10, 240 – Powell was a force on both sides of the ball but he was especially dangerous on defense, recording an Inland Division-leading 15 sacks. Nebraska, Texas A&M and Washington are among the colleges in pursuit of his services.
SPECIAL TEAMS MVP
Tyler Rausa, Vista Murrieta, Sr., 5-8, 170 – Rausa booted a Southern Section-leading 19 field goals in 14 games, an Inland Empire record for a single season. The Broncos were setting Rausa up for a game-winning kick in the Inland Division final against Centennial last week, but instead scored on 30-yard run in the 35-28 victory.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Coley Candaele, Vista Murrieta – Coming into the season, it didn’t appear Candaele had much in the cupboard on offense, but he found ways to move the chains and get it into the end zone, most notably giving Cravens a chance to run and catch the ball. Junior quarterback Nicholas Stevens also appeared to gain comfort with Candaele’s system as the season rolled along and, like Cravens, will be back next season for another run at the section title.
FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
QB – Justin Gheorghe, J.W. North, Sr., 6-0, 185 – The agile left-hander threw 25 touchdown passes and just four interceptions in 11 games, leading the Huskies to a second-place finish in the Big VIII League.
RB – Marshaun Coprich, Oak Hills, Sr., 5-6, 165 – Coprich scampered for at least 120 yards in all 11 games, helping the Bulldogs to an 8-3 record. He finished with 2,058 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns.
RB – Joseph Ajeigbe, Norco, Jr., 5-8, 198 – Up against the toughest league in the region with one of the youngest offensive lines, Ajeigbe found a way to bulldoze his way to 1,573 yards and 18 touchdowns in 11 games for the Cougars.
WR – Aaron Peck, J.W. North, Sr., 6-3 205 – Centennial coach Matt Logan called Peck the best athlete in the Big VIII League last season. The rangy receiver caught eight touchdown passes for the Huskies.
WR – Kenny Lawler, Upland, Sr., 6-3, 175 – Lawler finished with more 1,200 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns for the Highlanders, solidifying him as the region’s top recruit at wide receiver. He had seven touchdowns in three playoff games.
WR – Nick King, Palm Springs, Sr., 5-11, 180 – The dual-purpose back for the Indians was instrumental in their run to the Central Division final, both on offense and defense.
OL - Isaiah Folasa, Corona Santiago, Sr., 6-3, 315 – The UCLA commit helped the Sharks average 176 rushing yards a game en route to finishing third in the Big VIII.
OL – Dylan LaFrenz, Los Osos, Sr., 6-4, 280 – The Arizona State commit spearheaded the Grizzlies rushing attack, which averaged 136 yards a game.
OL – Corey Whitaker, Vista Murrieta, Sr., 6-5, 270 – The key blocker on an offense that averaged 235 rushing yards a game, Whitaker should have a future at the next level as well.
OL – Kevin Shelton, Rancho Verde, Sr., 6-5, 245 – Another player who raised his stock among college recruiters while leading the Mustangs to a 14-0 finish and the Central Division title.
OL – Cameron Turner, Rancho Cucamonga, Sr., 6-2, 305 – The returning all-Inland Division tackle picked up where he left off last season, helping the Cougars rushed for an average of 223 yards a game.
PK – Jonathan Gonzales, Apple Valley, Jr., 6-2, 160 – Converted 10 of 12 field-goal attempts this season, including the game winner with eight seconds remaining in a 24-21 victory against Indio in Week 4. His field goals were also the difference in 19-16 win against Sultana.
P - Garrett Swanson, Riverside King, Sr., 6-2, 195 – Averaged 46.76 yards a punt, third best in the Southern Section, with 24 of his 42 kicks settling inside the 20-yard line. He also had a 60-yard field goal this season, which is an Inland Empire record.
QB – Hayden Gavett, Corona Centennial, Sr.
RB –Donta Abron, Jr., Upland, Sr.
RB – Devon Samuels, Chaffey, Sr.
WR – Christian Guzman, Desert Hot Springs, Sr.
WR – Anthony Johnston, Paloma Valley, Sr.
WR – Demorea Stringfellow, Rancho Verde, Jr.
OL – Nick Enriquez, Chino Hills, Sr.
OL – Matt Pantell, Chino, Sr.
OL – Lio Lafaele, Corona Centennial, Sr.
OL – Cameron Hunt, Corona Centennial, Sr.
OL – Dominique Robertson, Redlands East Valley, Sr.
PK—Chucky Negrete, Corona, Sr.
P – Chard Virgil, Heritage, Sr.
FIRST TEAM DEFENSE
DL – Jeremy Castro, Vista Murrieta, Sr., 6-3, 250 – The Oregon-bound lineman finished with 11 sacks for the second straight season, but this time the Broncos won the Inland Division title.
DL – Samson Kafovalu, Arlington, Sr., 6-4, 245 – An immovable force in a rebuilding year for the Lions, Kafovalu will have his pick of a few big-time college programs as well.
DL – Kylie Fitts, Redlands East Valley, Jr., 6-4, 250 – An unknown commodity heading into the season, Fitts emerged as one of the top linemen in the Southland, recording 8 ½ sacks and averaging 6.6 tackles a game. A big-time recruit for next season.
LB – Scott Starr, Norco, Sr., 6-4, 235 – The USC-bound outside linebacker averaged 8.7 tackles a game while recording a team-high 5 ½ sacks for the Cougars..
LB – Bryce Smith, Vista Murrieta, Jr., 5-11, 195 – The middle linebacker averaged an Inland Division-leading 12.9 tackles a game, while also recording six sacks and an interception for a touchdown.
LB – Reshawn Hooker, A.B. Miller, Sr., 6-2, 200 – The sturdy outside linebacker averaged 11.2 tackles a game with eight sacks, two interceptions and three fumble recoveries. He has offers from six Pac-12 Conference schools.
LB – Kyle Lass, Palm Springs, Sr., 6-1, 210 – The three-year starter averaged 13.9 tackles a game and intercepted two passes for the Central Division finalists.
DB – R.J. Smith, La Sierra, Sr., 5-11, 170 – Intercepted an Inland Empire-leading eight passes to help the Eagles to a 10-2 record and runner-up finish in the Inland Valley League.
DB – Izaac Colunga, Corona Centennial, Sr., 5-6, 155 – Despite giving up a some inches in height to most opposing receivers, Colunga held his own for the Inland Division finalists, intercepting five passes and deflecting 14 others.
DB – Trevor Douglass, Redlands East Valley, Sr., 5-8, 185 – The heart and soul of one of the top defenses in the Southland, Douglass patrolled the secondary from the strong safety position, accounting for three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and four caused fumbles.
DB – Donte Deayon, Summit, Sr., 5-10, 155 – The Boise State-bound ball hawk became the I.E.’s all-time career interception leader this season, finishing with four picks and two fumble recoveries while leading the SkyHawks to the Eastern Division title.
DL – Teddy Queen, Chaparral, Sr.
DL – Nathaniel Akingbemi, Carter, Sr.
DL – Ngata Tuihalamaka, Corona Centennial, Sr.
LB – Blair Brown, Rancho Verde, Sr.
LB – Tony Hifo, Heritage, Sr.
LB – Darnell Murray, Citrus Hill, Sr.
LB – Nolan Peralta, Elsinore, Sr.
DB – Tacory Spencer, Etiwanda, So.
DB – Jamal Ellis, Redlands East Valley, Sr.
DB – Darion Williams, Vista Murrieta, Sr.
DB – Clayton Atlas, Carter, Jr.