All of the weightlifting sessions, 7-on-7 passing league games, two-a-day practices and motivational speeches seemed to take a back seat to first-game jitters last week.
As a number of Inland Empire high school football teams began play, just holding onto the ball seemed like a tall order.
Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga fumbled the snap from center on five of its first six plays from scrimmage Friday night, all while inside the Colony five-yard line. Fortunately, the Grizzlies took the lead for good on an interception return and went on to win, 20-7.
The same night, A.B. Miller High of Fontana gave away a potential upset against Upland by fumbling twice in a 75-second span in the fourth quarter, leading to two touchdowns and a 21-16 victory by the Highlanders.
Great Oak of Temecula was shaky from start to finish against Redlands, finishing with eight turnovers in a 23-16 loss, including two on its first three plays from scrimmage.
A number of Inland Empire teams don’t begin play until this week, so it will interesting to see if the trend continues.
The temperature reached a record-tying 117 degrees in Palm Springs on Friday, and it was still 108 when Palm Springs High and Palm Desert kicked off to start their season.
The blistering heat was the reason neither school could find an opponent for their season opener, so the Desert Valley League rivals were forced to schedule each other in a nonleague game.
With the exception of a few cramps, both teams made it through the game without any heat-related issues. Palm Springs won the game, 35-20.
Most of the games involving IE teams went according to expectations, but there was one significant upset.
According to the computer-generated predictions on calpreps.com, Maranatha High of Pasadena was expected to post a double-digit victory against host Big Bear.
However, the Bears turned the tables and won, 27-17, behind a strong game from junior quarterback/defensive back Zakk Planz, who rushed for 141 yards and three touchdowns, threw a touchdown pass and secured an interception in the fourth quarter.
Todd Handley of King High in Riverside broke in the new synthetic turf at Riverside District Stadium in style Friday night, rushing for 246 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-0 victory against Ramona High of Riverside.
Finally, just a few observations from the two games I attended last week.
One of the most exciting players to watch was Etiwanda receiver Edward Torruella, who has the leaping ability and strong hands to go up and win the ball in traffic.
Devon Blackmon of Summit might be a more heavily recruited athlete, but he doesn’t have a quarterback who can get him the ball like Etiwanda has in Larry Cutbirth.
Los Osos safety Spencer Wiley will have a lot of receivers thinking twice about going over the middle this season. Wiley, who sat out last season after transferring from Palos Verdes, has a nose for the football and knows how to deliver a punishing hit.
Etiwanda also has one of the top offensive linemen in Jamal Prater, a 6-5, 290-pound tackle who committed to Oregon last month. He was a man among boys against Summit. Here’s a short video clip of Prater discussing his team’s effort and his decision to accept Oregon’s offer.