ESPNLA plans to spend the next 10 days or so previewing the top leagues from the Inland Empire. First up, the Baseline League.
Last season’s results: Rancho Cucamonga (11-2, 5-0); Upland (8-4, 4-1); Etiwanda (6-6, 3-2); Los Osos (5-5, 2-3); Glendora (5-5, 1-4); Alta Loma (0-10, 0-5).
Players to watch: Two of the league’s top three passers return for their senior seasons. Larry Cutbirth of Etiwanda threw for a league-leading 2,996 yards last season, ninth best in the Southern Section, and 32 touchdowns. He led the Eagles to the team title last month at the Claremont seven-on-seven passing tournament. Rancho Cucamonga quarterback Dimitri Morales also returns after throwing for 1,828 yards and 22 touchdowns while helping the Cougars reach the SS-Inland Division semifinals. Morales was intercepted just once in the final seven games. Kenny Lawler of Upland, who has committed to Arizona State, is the top returning receiver after hauling in 42 passes for 887 yards and nine touchdowns. Up front, offensive tackle Cameron Turner of Rancho Cucamonga is a returning first-team all-Inland Division selection. Defensively, senior middle linebacker Chandler Scott returns for Etiwanda after sitting out last season with a knee injury. As a sophomore, Scott was a first-team all-Baseline League selection after leading his team in tackles. Scott will team with fellow senior linebacker J.J. Everard, who led the league in tackles last season.
Projected order of finish: Rancho Cucamonga, Etiwanda, Upland, Los Osos, Glendora, Alta Loma.
Key games: Sept. 9 – Etiwanda vs. Vista Murrieta @ Ontario Colony HS; Sept. 16 – Etiwanda vs. Norco @ Colony; Sept. 23 – Upland @ Norco; Sept. 30 – Los Angeles Loyola @ Upland, Rancho Cucamonga vs. Redlands @ Los Osos; Oct. 14 – Etiwanda vs. Upland @ Colony; Oct. 21 – Rancho Cucamonga @ Upland; Oct. 28 – Rancho Cucamonga vs. Etiwanda @ Los Osos.
Alumni in the NFL: Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers (Alta Loma ’03); Kenyon Coleman, Dallas Cowboys (Alta Loma ’97); Patrick Chung, New England Patriots (Rancho Cucamonga ’04); Terrell Thomas, New York Giants (Rancho Cucamonga ’03); Gerald Alexander, Carolina Panthers (Rancho Cucamonga ’02); Vincent Brown, San Diego Chargers (Rancho Cucamonga ’07)
Fast fact: Alta Loma comes in riding a 20-game losing streak after allowing an average of 48 points a game last season. There’s reason to be hopeful for a turnaround, however. The Braves return their top two tacklers from last season, senior middle linebacker Phillip Fisher and junior safety Andrew Pacheco.
On the clock: Big VIII League.