Last season’s results: Romoland Heritage (11-1, 5-0); Elsinore (12-2, 4-1); Lake Elsinore Temescal Canyon (6-5, 3-2); Menifee Paloma Valley (4-6, 2-3); Lake Elsinore Lakeside (1-9, 1-4); Perris (1-9, 0-5).
Players to watch: After knocking off Fontana Summit last December in the SS-Eastern Division final to win the program’s first section title in the school’s 83-year history, Elsinore is in good position to make it two in a row. The Tigers return four of their best defenders from last season, led by senior tight end and linebacker Nolan Peralta, the Eastern Division defensive player of the year. Peralta, the son of coach Tony Peralta, was the team’s second-leading tackler and receiver last season. Also returning are a pair of all-Eastern Division defensive backs, Allan Stubbs and Daniel Rodriguez, and the team’s leading tackler, linebacker Jose Banda. Rodriguez also emerged as a valuable running back late last season, combining for 303 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the final two playoff victories. After beating the Tigers in Sunbelt League play, Heritage lost to Summit in the section semifinals. Heritage returns senior quarterback Chad Virgil and junior running back Jamaal Morrow, who rushed for 731 yards and eight touchdowns while spelling Scott Benson last season. Morrow will be asked to do a lot this season, as he was also one of the team’s top defensive players while patrolling the secondary a year ago. He’ll team nicely with one of the division’s top defensive players, senior linebacker Tony Hifo, a returning all-Eastern Division pick. The next biggest challenger for the league title is Paloma Valley. The Wildcats return the Eastern Division’s second-leading passer last season, senior Logan Tutwiler, who threw for 2,022 yards and 18 touchdowns. He should benefit from having his two favorite targets back this season. Anthony Johnston led the league with 937 receiving yards and scored nine touchdowns, and Patrick Santhavisouk was second in the league with 461 yards and six touchdowns. On defense, Nico Caramella led the league with six interceptions. Temescal Canyon will try to win games on the ground behind running back Michael Shepherd, who rushed for a league-leading 1,887 yards and scored 21 touchdowns. Lakeside also returns their top rusher in Ryan Byrd, who totaled 1,112 yards and 13 touchdowns, as well as junior quarterback Dakota Wilson.
Projected order of finish: Elsinore, Heritage, Paloma Valley, Temescal Canyon, Lakeside, Perris.
Key games: Sept. 2 – Fontana A.B. Miller @ Lakeside; Sept. 16 – Perris vs. Moreno Valley Canyon Springs @ Moreno Valley HS; Sept. 23 – Moreno Valley Rancho Verde @ Heritage, Temecula Valley @ Elsinore; Sept. 30 – Paloma Valley @ Temecula Valley; Oct. 14 – Temescal Canyon @ Heritage; Oct. 21 – Heritage @ Paloma Valley, Temescal Canyon @ Elsinore; Oct. 28 – Paloma Valley @ Temescal Canyon; Nov. 4 – Heritage @ Elsinore; Nov. 10 – Elsinore @ Paloma Valley.
Fast fact: The new coach at Lakeside this season is Kitrick Taylor, who previously assisted at Lakeside, Pomona High School and Chaffey College. He's probably best known, however, for catching Brett Favre's first game-winning touchdown pass in the NFL. Taylor was a member of the Green Bay Packers in September 1992, when he caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Farve with 13 seconds left, lifting Green Bay to a 24-23 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was also the first victory for Mike Holmgren as an NFL head coach.
On the clock: Sunkist League.