(El Monte) – “We’re not going 1-9. I’ll tell you that,” said El Monte assistant coach Amilcar Archila during morning conditioning drills at El Monte High School.
Archila, who played quarterback for the Lions before going to Azusa Pacific and continuing his football career, has returned to his alma mater to help the Lions rebound from a forgettable 2009.
El Monte has the talent at several key positions to compete for a playoff spot. Manuel Santa Cruz returns at quarterback after starting four games last year as a freshman. When we had him on the Mid Valley Sports Show a few weeks ago he never put down the football.
Coach Joel Sanchez will be asking him to air it out plenty of times this year.
Santa Cruz threw for over 1000 yards last year in five games including 359 against Mountain View and over 250 vs. Gladstone.
Michael Jimenez, who also appeared on the show, will be the primary ball carrier for EM. The junior has played defense for the Lions in the past, but with more depth in 2010, he will focus primarily on offense. Jimenez led the Lions rushing attack last year with close to 400 yards.
Santa Cruz has several targets to sling the ball to in juniors Memo Silva and Juan Ceballos. Conner Salazar will be catching passes as well.
Defensively, the Lions have two kids named Alex Gonzalez both returning. One a senior, plays corner and the other, a junior, heads the line backing corp. Gonzalez (linebacker) averaged over five tackles per game last season. There is no relation.
Michael Bustillos, (31 tackles in 2009) and Jesse Gaytan anchor the line.
Rowland and Baldwin Park have been replaced on the non league
schedule with Wilson and Chino. El Monte opens with La Puente at home Thursday night September 9. Then the Lions travel to Covina, Gladstone and Wilson, before returning home to face Chino. They open Mission Valley League play on October 15 at home against Mt. View.
On paper El Monte should be a contender in the MVL- second place? But we all know the saying about paper and where the games are played. Sanchez is counting on a great spring and summer translating to a good season.
“We’ve had a great summer. We have about 72 kids out here today (freshman included). We’re excited to get started. We’ll go in full pads on Monday,” Sanchez said.
Note: Interviews with Sanchez and Archila will be posted soon.