We are at the half way point of the 2017 Football season. With the pre-season over and heading into the Imperial Valley League title chase things have turned interesting to say the least. There have been some surprises (and that’s an understatement) making this one of the most exciting IVL Football title chases in a long time.
The Friday Night Lights experience isn’t only about the game played on the football field. It involves the cheerleaders, the fans and the marching band, all creating the great tradition it has been, not for years or decades, but almost a full century. So at the midpoint of the season I will address the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, then talk about the Best, saving it for last.
Putting off the Good until later, let’s begin with the Bad. An illegal procedure penalty should be given to those responsible for limiting the Wildcat band’s playing time during the last game. They were only allowed to play at pregame and in between quarters but not during the game’s timeouts to allow a DJ with a boombox to play in the student section. These band members have worked too hard, often on their own time, to be pushed aside during football games. This is the funnest time of the season for them and game days are the reward they get for practicing many hours begining two weeks before school started.
They have many songs in their music library as they proved the first game of the season on August 25. They played more in that first game than they did the entire season the last two years. Teachers in Brawley can attest to their wide song selection after the Wildcat band performed for them last Thursday night at Hidalgo Hall for a teachers’ dinner. Mr. Esteban Corona, the newest band director, has brought an excitement and enthusiasm to the band that it has lacked in recent years. If the DJ is going to be allowed during the games there is an easy solution. It would involve compromise and communication. Alternate turns during the timeouts but under the supervision of the band director. There were many lost opportunities to play during the game, I counted at least eight, that could have been easily filled with music from the band.
Now onto the Ugly, where a personal foul penalty of targeting and an ejection should have been given to somebody in the student’s section. Not one, but two water bottles were tossed from the highest point of the student section directly at the cheerleaders almost making contact. Sadly, no one near cared to point them out, thus condoning the disgusting act. One might expect that behavior from a rival but to do that to your own is totally unacceptable. Not only was that cause for an ejection but that person could have been arrested on a misdemeanor charge.
So now it’s on to the Good. The cheerleaders this season are doing an incredible job at the games. Constantly cheering and keeping the crowd entertained, they have done so at both home games and the three away. They even brought back the nostalgic “We’ve got Spirit, Yes We Do” cheer that had been missing for years. Let’s see if they can get a reply from fans on the opposite side when both sides of the stands are filled to capacity. Keep the Spirit up, girls!
The Wildcat band showed hints of their future halftime show. They also performed a unique version of the Wildcat Victory and Alma Mater songs in an uptempo speed that was the first I have heard.
Said band director, Mr. Corona, ” An alumnus from years ago suggested it to me after the first game and we (the band) practiced it, and it turned out good”.
The remixed version, as it might end up being called, was a product of a seed being planted and the blossom was awesome. Kudos to the band and their director.
The band had a new addition to its show. Consisting of nine young ladies in Gold sequins and one male, the dancers are similar to a drill team that add a nice sparkle and class to the band’s show. Lisa Smelser, owner of Ooh La-la Studio, is the director and choreographer. They are members of the Brawley High Dance Club.
Saving the Best for last, let’s talk about one the best IVL Football Title chases to occur in many years. There are four teams that appear to have the best chance at being 2017 IVL Football Champions. There has yet to be a team to win in consecutive years and be sole champions since the Central Spartans did it in 2008 and 2009. Southwest shared it with Brawley in 2010 and Imperial shared it with Brawley 2011 in the infamous tie where both teams were shown as Co-Champs (Imperial beat the Wildcats in overtime that year). From there, the IVL Title has gone back and forth between the Imperial Tigers (2013 and 2015) and Brawley Wildcats (2012, 2014 and 2016).
The Calexico Bulldogs are in a rebuilding season and are 1-4 with an uncomfortable win of 29-28 over the Calipatria Hornets. While they could get possibly one more win against the Palo Verde Yellowjackets their moving up to Division IV will most likely prevent them from entering the post season playoffs. Calexico High will one year in the near future challenge for a title in either Division IV or V but it will not be this season.
The Palo Verde Yellowjackets, who could easily move into the Manzanita League, continues to play in the IVL with the larger schools. I’ve always admired that in Coach George Dagnino and his Yellowjackets. With a 2-3 record, they could make the Division V playoffs with a win over Calexico. The tougher games in IVL schedule should prepare them for the playoffs if they make it to the dance.
There are two undefeated teams in El Centro where the Central Spartans and Southwest Eagles both have 5-0 records. Under new head coach David Pena, the Spartans are riding high with their biggest victories coming over Gila Ridge, Vincent Memorial and La Jolla. Passing for over 1,000 yards and rushing for over 700, Central has managed to outscore what their defense has allowed on points for the five game winning streak. The Spartans task of winning the IVL Title will be tough and it could definitely prepare them for a strong showing in the post season playoffs. They are currently ranked 4th in Division IV. Their first big test comes quickly when they meet the Southwest Eagles in the City Championship game this Friday.
The other undefeated team, the Southwest Eagles, have had their eyes on the IVL Title the last few years with Imperial and Brawley in their path. Coach John Mitosinka has prepared his team for what appears to be their best legitimate shot since 2010. Cameron Jungers,Tyler Saikhon, Reece Quintero and Derek Guzman account for most of the 1271 rushing yards while Jungers has passed for 529 yards. Their defense has recorded three shutouts and allowed only 24 points in the other two games. Their schedule the next three weeks include Central, Brawley then Imperial with each game being more important than the previous.
The Imperial Tigers have had the schedule with the most moxie. Scheduling tough opponents as they have before, the Tigers record of 2-3 should not be overlooked. With a balanced attack of rushing and passing for just over 1,000 yards each, they are led by Wyatt Rodriguez at quarterback and Senior Brandon Hueso. Hueso has been the most successful running back in the IVL since his sophomore year. Imperial begins with Calexico for their Homecoming game but follow it with Central, Southwest then Brawley for a three-tough-games combo. Coach Kerry Legara will surely have them ready for each and every contest.
The Brawley Wildcats have the opportunity to do something that they haven’t done since 2004 and 2005. Win back to back IVL Football titles outright. They are 3-2 in the preseason, but both losses were winnable games. Coach Jon Self should have the Wildcats ready and up for the challenge. Michael Moreno has over 600 rushing and Casey Kline’s has over 600 yards passing and rushing combined offensively. The Wildcats’ strength is on both offensive and defensive line. They are led on defense by Alek Aguirre, Westin Hale, Branden Gutierrez, Henry Thomas and Mike Alvarez and should keep opponents’ scoring at a minimal. Clicking on offense positively and keeping turnovers to a minimum could be the difference of back to back league titles or not.
So the 2017 IVL Title is at stake and a new season begins this Friday October 6th as League games start. Best of luck to all the IVL teams. Hopefully this will turn out to be the most exciting season ever and it flows over into the San Diego CIF playoffs for a strong showing from the IVL with a Championship or two.