La Quinta has racked up a 27-3 record in the Desert Valley League the last six seasons. Their only losses came against Palm Springs in ’08, ’10 and ’11. Will the Blackhawks challenge for another DVL title this season?
Yes is the short answer, but let me elaborate (or otherwise this blog entry would be quite short): With the most experience coming back out of the league’s three perennial powers, La Quinta, in my opinion, is the preseason favorite even though one of its best players is out for the year. The Blackhawks have seven starters returning on offense and eight on defense.
Take a look at the all-DVL honors from last season, totaling the selections from the first team, second team and honorable mention:
La Quinta: Nine of 14 players selected were sophomores or juniors, including five of seven on first team
Palm Springs: Five of 16 players selected were sophomores or juniors, including two of nine on first team
Palm Desert: Two of 12 players selected were sophomores or juniors, none on first team
Last year, two La Quinta juniors also garnered all-CIF Central Division honors — offensive lineman Casey Lorenger and defensive lineman Aaron Jackson.
This season, the Blackhawks were counting on big things from junior cornerback and wide receiver Dejon Wilson, but he is out for the year after suffering a freak injury during a passing league game against Palm Springs. As he jumped up for a pass, he injured his knee without any contact, tearing his ACL and meniscus. If there is any consolation, Wilson can still come back next season with hopes of earning a scholarship.
The Blackhawks also lost another wide receiver in a passing league game this summer when Marcus Simerson broke his collarbone. He could return this year.
Despite the injuries, La Quinta still has a wealth of talent and experience, especially up front. Coach Dan Armstrong always loves to run the football, pulling the guards and tackles for a variety of plays. Three starting linemen — Mailk Blankenship, Lorenger and Ben Simonds — return as well as tight end Troy Roberts. Lorenger was the team’s best lineman last year. Blankenship, a senior, has received scholarship offers from Fresno State and UNLV. Simonds, a 6-foot-4, 265-pound junior, impressed teams from across the Coachella Valley by power cleaning a record 350 pounds at the Desert Strongman Competition last month. Justin Wheeler and Pablo Sepulveda fill out the offensive line.
Alex Beyma is taking over for Taylor Pope at quarterback. The 6-foot, 175-pound senior has good size, and he has varsity experience from starting at defensive back last year. He will hand off to Kenyon Williams and Isaiah Verazas, who will likely split carries. Senior Logan Robinson has the biggest upside for the Blackhawks. The 6-foot-2, 208-pound wide receiver has never played football, but with his athleticism and toughness, he is aiming to stand out on the field.
Guzman will lead the defense from his position at strong safety/outside linebacker. He is playing the hybrid role on defense that Sean Lorenger played so well for the Blackhawks during his career. Guzman will also line up on offense at wide receiver. Jackson should anchor the defensive line, with help from Dominic Aguirre, Seth Carroll, Bobby Orellano, Nick Laclasi and Simonds.
Middle linebackers include Vincent Rosas and Jake Jiannoni, and Verazas will play the same hybrid role as Guzman on the other side of the defense. Robinson, Patrick Lucas and Jesus Aguirre will line up in the secondary.
Check back Friday for a look at Palm Desert.