IMPERIAL VALLEY - The Battle for the Imperial Valley League title in high school football begins this week as six teams vie for what they have been eyeing since the beginning of “Hell Week,” and working for during the first five games of the season.
I believe this season has three solid teams with a legitimate chance to win the League championship, while the other three teams will work towards playoff spots or become spoilers with upsets.
The three teams of Central, Brawley and Imperial are the obvious choices to challenge for the IVL Title, whereas Southwest, Palo Verde and Calexico will be playing for respect or act as spoilers of the other teams reaching their goals.
Southwest enters with a 2-3 record and is in the worst position due to their successful previous three seasons. There is not an IVL team that would not think twice of being in the same position, if it included playing in and hosting the State Championship the prior year.
It could possibly take going undefeated in IVL play to even be asked to the Division II dance. Not being invited to the dance has occurred to both Brawley and Imperial already, and I do not see it any different for Southwest.
What I can envision is the Eagles possibly playing the spoiler against Central, Imperial or even Brawley. It’s high school football, so you just never know. That’s the beauty of the sport at this level.
Palo Verde enters with a 3-2 record, and although they have not punched their ticket to the Division V playoffs, losses to Holtville and Vincent Memorial could make that invitation a bit tougher.
The Yellow Jackets will have to improve, but luckily for them, all their opponents are in higher divisions, so an upset win or two may give them just enough points to squeak into the dance. The biggest question out of Palo Verde has to be: “Where is George Dagnino? And why isn’t he coaching anywhere?”.
The Calexico Bulldogs also enter with a 3-2 record with wins over Yuma, Kofa and Calipatria and a 6-0 loss to Vincent Memorial. It will require some help with a win or two in IVL.
Being in Division IV where 12 teams are selected as opposed to only eight taken in Division V, the Bulldogs could make the playoffs with some success in IVL play. Hopefully, positive results from this season will help build a program for better results in future seasons.
The Imperial Tigers enter league play with a 3-2 record with solid wins over Cibola, Holtville and Mount Miguel. The Tigers held a halftime lead against powerhouse Valley Center only to have the wheels fall off in the loss.
Imperial is not one to overlook as contenders, since they once entered league play with an 0-5 record and then won five straight for the IVL Title. Coach Kerry Legara and his crew will have the Imperial Tigers ready for the challenge.
Imperial's first opponent in league play are the Brawley Wildcats. The Tigers will be looking for their first win at home against the Wildcats since entering the IVL and possibly since the 1970s. Imperial is currently number nine in Division III and would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
The Brawley Wildcats enter this season with a 4-1 record and hopes to regain the title they held in 2016. The Wildcats have finished in first or second since entering the San Diego CIF section until last year when they finished third behind Southwest and Central.
Brawley's only loss was the heartbreaker to Steel Canyon late in the game. Gila Ridge gave them a big scare to open the season. Imperial and Central will pose the biggest challenges for Brawley and they begin and end with those two teams.
The “Bell Game” could have two 4-0 teams entering game 10 where they would play for both the Title and a high seed in the playoffs. One of the longest rivalries in California could be the most watched live or listened to game, including online, ever.
While the Spartans haven’t exactly coasted to their current 5-0 record, they have won impressively in all their games this season. It was expected after the great season they had last year under Coach David Pena’s first year.
Central has trailed only once in the first five games, but outscored their opponents 235-68 so far. While Imperial and Brawley appear to be the main obstacles to Central winning their first IVL Title since 2009, they should not overlook the City Championship against Southwest as a spoiler.
The IVL Title chase is on - and it will all be settled by the end of October this year. A high school football team will be crowned the IVL Champs and the post season will continue for teams to reach higher goals in the San Diego CIF championship and State playoff possibilities.
Which team that will be remains to be seen. Best wishes and luck to all the teams and their coaches.