2017 Manzanita League Preview

Running Back Jacob Leyba of Calipatria revved-up for Manzanita League Title defense.

IMPERIAL VALLEY – During the 2016 high school Varsity football season, three Imperial Valley representatives dominated the Manzanita League as (1) Calipatria, (2) Vincent Memorial, (3) Holtville swept through the top three slots in the division.

Calipatria Hornets:  In their ML first place season last year, Calipatria managed to shake off two early losses and their offensive rhythm and caught fire during a victory storm that produced six wins in seven games.

The streak began at the tail end of no-conference play with wins over Army-Navy (27-9), Riverside Prep (36-20), and San Pasqual Valley (30-6).  A game one regular season hiccup that resulted in a 28-16 upset was the team’s last loss up until the final game of the season for Calipatria. After winning the Ax Game at Holtville (36-7), the Hornets swarmed into the playoffs with great aspirations, but Horizon Christian Academy’s early 21-0 lead was insurmountable amidst the 34 point surge that fell short in the 49-36 CIF season-ender.  Calipatria lost key starters on the offensive side of the ball to graduation, but starting RB Nate Banuelos will return to carry the ball and the brunt of the offensive load for one more season in his senior title defense.

Vincent Memorial Scots:  Vincent Memorial ended the 2016-2017 season with a total record of 5-5 and 3-1 in league. An impressive 28-16 conference win over Calipatria positioned the Scots in the conference wheel house to start off the regular season.

The Achilles heel for Vincent Memorial was the inability to string together two consecutive wins. A big 42-17 regular season blowout over Mountain Empire and a 3-1 conference record was not enough to catapult the Scots into the CIF post season. The good thing for Vincent Memorial is that the Scots will return the majority of last season’s skilled players and starters. An injury to QB Eduardo Valenzuela early last season may have been the culprit of the lack of offensive consistency. As a captain and senior, Valenzuela will lead the march into another session of ML action and a highly anticipated mid-season non-conference battle versus Calexico High for city bragging rights.

Holtville Vikings: Holtville’s season last year began with choppy waters with a 2-3 non-conference record heading into league play. A 49-2 shredding of Victory Christian Academy followed by a 47-17 pounding over Mountain Empire corrected the season’s course to a 2-0 ML status.

A mid-season non-conference home game versus Orange Glen came down to the final whistle in a 39-35 barn burner that netted 40 points in the fourth quarter and a tally in the loss column for the Vikings. Holtville regrouped and polished off Vincent Memorial 36-20, but the season concluded with two losses to Calipatria (36-7) and Classical Academy (41-6).

The Vikings take a big hit in the area of offensive productivity with the loss of seniors QB Anthony Castro (1,055), RB Andrew Camacho (557), and RB Adam Montes (554), who contributed the lion’s share of the 2,335 total yards of last season. With many fresh faces, the Vikings will rely on senior returner Jace Heraz to carry the fellas into ML battle and fight for the top spot and 2017’s Ax.