The 2023 East Valley League Football Preview
Week Zero gets rolling on Friday night and there is plenty of excitement for teams looking to make their name in the East Valley. Monroe will be looking to repeat the championship feats of last season with plenty of players from their 2022 season returning, but they will have stiff competition gunning for them in North Hollywood and Arleta. Verdugo is looking to rebound while a couple of young teams may be poised to strike if the big dogs at the top are not careful. Here’s a preview of what you could expect from the teams that make up the East Valley League this season.
Monroe Vikings – 2022 record: 5-1 East Valley 8-2 Overall
It was a dream season for the Vikings in 2022, as they captured the East Valley crown and received a top seed in the Division II playoffs. While the season did not end the way they would have wanted to with a city championship, the legacy left behind by the seniors of that team helped establish an identity for the players still left behind to follow. Monroe will have a chance to get off to a good start this season with back-to-back home games against Chatsworth, whom they beat on the road to open the season last year, and Marshall, who finished in the basement of the Northern League in 2022.
Key to the season for Monroe: Physicality.
When you watched the Vikings last season, you could sense there was a shift in the mentality of the kids who took on the charge of setting the tone. Look for the front seven led by seniors Uriel Bailon and Steven Molina to continue pounding on East Valley opponents to defend their crown.
North Hollywood Huskies – 2022 record: 5-1 East Valley, 8-4 overall
The Huskies were easily the most dynamic team offensively in the East Valley last season, and it almost led to an outright championship. The team put up a whopping 31.1 ppg average last season and managed to put up at least 34 points in six of the twelve contests in 2022. The issue with North Hollywood was an inability to avoid mistakes that cost them in tight games in 2022. Most of the central components of the Noho high-octane offense are back in 2023, and the Huskies look poised to make a run at the East Valley crown again.
Key to the season for North Hollywood: Maturity
The only thing that stopped the Huskies from achieving the ultimate success they were looking for was their inconsistencies last season. Look for dynamic running back Jaylin Burt and quarterback Nate Arlauskas to take leaps in their respective junior campaigns to try to bring that elusive outright league championship home to North Hollywood.
Grant Lancers – 2022 record: 4-2 East Valley, 5-6 overall
The Lancers were a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team last season, posting impressive efforts against tough opponents, and playing down at times to competition that they should have beaten without much static. While it made for interesting football to watch, Coach Franco Stasilli’s bunch may have missed out on what could have been because of the inopportune mistakes. The team will be young this season, after graduating many of the key pieces from last year's squad. A lot will be on the shoulders of the Lancers Junior signal-caller Armen Hovsepian to lead the squad. The Lancers will be tested early with games against San Fernando and Cleveland out of the gate.
Key to the season for Grant: Patience.
There is talent on the Lancers roster, but it is inexperienced at the varsity level. Luckily for the Lancers, where they do have experience is along the offensive and defensive lines and at the quarterback position. Expect more Jekyll and Hyde with this bunch, but if it all comes together quickly, Grant could be dangerous in the East Valley.
Poly Parrots – 2022 record: 3-3 East Valley, 5-6 overall
The Parrots surprised some folks last season, despite being behind the eight ball with a lack of depth on their roster. Where they lacked depth, they made up for it with dazzling skill and it helped them finish 500. In the East Valley. It will be a bit of a rebuild this season for the Parrots. They will have their toughness tested early in the campaign with three games against Valley Mission foes after their season opener on the road at Hollywood.
Key to the season for Poly: Development
Darrell Daniels has his work cut out for him, and he will have to find playmakers to replace the production they received from Daylen Ortiz and Aaron Summerville last season.
Arleta Mustangs – 2022 record: 3-3 East Valley, 4-7 overall
It would be easy to look at the 2022 Arleta Mustangs and think it was a down season. When you look closer at what the team accomplished, you would see a team that put together the building blocks that could spell success for 2023. The Mustangs had a tough start to the season suffering lopsided losses to Granada Hills, Campbell Hall, and Marquez. The squad's 4-3 record the rest of the way could have easily been 6-1 if not for two overtime defeats back-to-back weeks against Poly and Grant. The team even went on the road to Bell in the postseason and nearly pulled the upset, losing a close 13-7 contest. The Mustangs are a tough bunch and have plenty of weapons to make life miserable for any opponent they will face this season.
Key to the season for Arleta: Leadership
The Mustangs might be ready to take the East Valley back, but they are going to need their senior signal-caller Kennedy Duran to develop into the dual threat that can take them back to the top. We know what the young man can do with his legs, but if he can stretch the defense with the ability to hit targets in the passing game, it could unload the box for Arleta’s vaunted rushing attack.
Verdugo Hills Dons – 2022 record: 1-5 East Valley, 3-8 overall
2022 was a season of turmoil for the Verdugo Hills Dons. From the outside, it felt as if the chemistry was a bit off, and it led to uncharacteristically poor performances on the field. It was an offseason of adjustments for Dons Head coach Sean Jackson, but he believes he has the right mix to rebound from their sixth-place finish in the East Valley last season.
Key to the season for Verdugo Hills: Offense
The offense was non-existent at times for Verdugo Hills last season, being shut out by opponents twice, and never putting up more than 26 points in a game in 2022. If the Dons are going to turn it around on that side of the ball, expect Sebastian Herrarte to play a big role in what the Dons put forth. The senior tailback has first-team East Valley ability, and they will need it to be on display.
Chavez Eagles – 2022 record: 0-6 East Valley, 1-8 overall
The Chavez Eagles should have been in over their head in 2022, but someone forgot to tell them that. It may not have translated into wins on the field, but any team that faced Chavez last season knows it was a dogfight to the final whistle. While they never found the win column after their 24-0 shutout win against San Fernando in the season opener, The Eagles hung tough in every game they played, including three one-score losses at the end of the regular season. Head Coach Rodrigo Nunez is trying to build a bully at the smallest school in the East Valley where lack of depth has been an issue. But the Eagles aren’t built on excuses, just hard work, and tenacity. 2023 may be a year they show the upward direction that the program is heading.
Key to the season for Chavez: Maturity
Chavez intentionally skewed young on their varsity roster last season partly out of necessity, but mostly to give some of their talented underclassmen a chance to learn how to compete on the varsity level in real-time. Now it's time for those players to show development coming off a year of learning on the fly and taking their lumps. The Eagles could be ready to hand out a few receipts if they are taken lightly.