IMPERIAL — Last season was a surprising one for the Tigers as injuries took some steam out of the Tiger’s sails early on. But in the end, the coaching staff and players rallied together and put up competitive showings all season, falling just six points away from an IVL title (a one-point loss to Brawley, and a five-point loss to Central.)
Although the underdog in both games, the Tigers actually found themselves up in the fourth quarters of those games. One season later and one season wiser on the field, the Tigers now welcome back 21 returning varsity players including 12 returning starters, going from being one of the youngest IVL teams last year to returning as the most experienced group this season.
“We are striving to get better each and every week. As always, our goal is to win the IVL. That task will be a tough one as the IVL gets better and better each and every year, with outstanding players and high-quality coaches,” said Imperial Tigers Head Coach Kerry Legarra of the competitiveness of the IVL play over the last few seasons.
Offensively, the Tigers welcome back running back junior Ryan Bonillas and senior slotback Joey Ramos. Bonillas was last year’s second leading rusher as a sophomore but this year will look to have primary rushing duties. Slotback Joey Ramos is now in his senior season after showing big-play explosiveness over the last two seasons at the varsity level and is hoping to add to his already impressive résumé, all while focusing on the bigger goal — making the team better.
“I’m looking forward to seeing our progress as a team as the season goes along,” said Ramos.
Ramos has 24 total touchdowns over the last two seasons and has played in all facets of the game: receiving, rushing, and as a kick/punt returner.
After last year’s impressive display by receiver-turned-QB Santiago De La Torre, the Tigers have a tall order of replacing the signal caller who graduated this past summer. With two capable arms competing for the chance to be under center, juniors Joaquin Alvarado and Jordan Reed both are looking continue the recent era of impressive Imperial Tiger quarterbacks.
Returning on the offensive line will be seniors James Fowlkes and Sebastian Mendoza. They will be fighting the battle in the trenches, opening holes for running backs and looking to provide pass protection for quarterbacks.
On defense, the Tigers bring back seven starters including senior James Ponce, who will be patrolling behind the linebackers at the safety position but has been seen to provide a quarterback rush ability as well as a strong blitz option. Junior Ethan Ramos is also looking to make an impact after a successful 2018 campaign that saw him lead the team in tackles as a sophomore. On the defensive line, CJ Ramos will be the only returning starter looking to lead the attack on the line of scrimmage. Also returning is defensive back Manuel Quintero and linebacker Sergio Serrano who are both in their senior season and coming off tough injuries during last year’s campaign.
“Our team’s first goal is to win league. To do that, we have to come together as a team and play to the best of our abilities,” said Ponce.
After last year’s surprising season, the Tigers hope to capitalize on the experience and momentum gained and turn it into a positive to pave the way to this year’s IVL title, and possible a deep CIF run.
“With our goal being winning the IVL, that doesn't mean we overlook preseason. The old saying ‘take it one week at a time’ is exactly what we intend to do,” said Coach Legarra.