Arroyo High School football hoping for a return to the CIF playoffs

"0812_SPO_SGN-L-ARROYO"

"0812_SPO_SGN-L-ARROYO"

The 2014 football season saw the end of a 30-year playoff streak for Arroyo High School, but while the varsity program narrowly missed out on a postseason spot, the junior varsity team went 9-0-1, and now those players will look to get the Knights back in the playoffs.

“A lot of the guys on that JV team have filled in roles as starters,” Arroyo head coach Jim Singiser said. “The guys that are getting playing time now have shown at the lower levels that they can get it done. A lot of these guys had playing time on varsity, but were also playing in the JV games.”

One of the big holes to fill is the quarterback position after the graduation of Chaz Miller, who accounted for over three-quarters of the Knights’ total offense last fall. Humberto Pantoja, who was the JV quarterback last year, is taking the majority of the reps in camp. Junior middle linebacker Jason Villa is also taking reps at quarterback.

“We push for competition for everything,” Singiser said. “If we have five or six guys fighting for linebacker, all five or six of them are going to get reps. We want depth on this team and quarterback is no different.”

In just two weeks, Arroyo will open the season against San Marino, which scored 56 points against Arroyo in last year’s season opener. This time, the Knights will get to host the contest.

“We weren’t the only ones that San Marino scored a lot on last year,” Singiser said. “They were able to air it out and they did it to everyone. However, we need to do a better job. Their strength is their passing and they’re molding everything around airing the ball out. I like where we are at defensively. I don’t think we are quite as big up front as last year, but we are quicker and more aggressive.”

At defensive end, Arroyo has Andrew Rivas and Bryan Delao, along with Villa, Christian Gutierrez and Evan Knight, who are taking on important roles on the defense.

“Those guys have all looked really good in camp,” Singiser said. “We really have had a very good camp and we think we are headed where we want to be going with the way these guys are progressing.”

Singiser is looking to cut down on the number of players that he uses as starters on both sides of the ball, but two players who he does expect to start both on offense and defense will be Thien Luu and Rey Garcia.

Luu, who is listed at 5-foot-5, did everything for the Knights in 2014. He carried the ball 31 times, had 12 receptions, recorded 57 tackles and also was one of the team’s leading kick returners.

“Luu was our team MVP last year and he will be playing corner and running back for us,” Singiser said. “He got hurt in the spring and we are just getting him back now, and he should be fine for the season. He can also be a difference-maker at running back. He has a great work ethic and very physical kid. At 5-5, he’s a stud and a big part of what we do on both sides of the ball. “

Garcia plays on both the offensive and defensive line, and optimizes what Singiser says is his team’s biggest strength.

“Right now, Rey Garcia is playing right guard and defensive tackle,” Singiser said. “Both sides of the line have been really good up to this point, and we will rely on the strength of the line to win the tight games. We didn’t have that last year, which is why we lost some of those tight games, but I feel much better about the line right now.”

Arroyo’s narrow losses to Rosemead and El Monte on consecutive weeks last year was what kept the Knights out of the playoffs, but this year Arroyo won’t have to take on those teams in consecutive weeks. Still, Singiser is taking it just one game at a time.

“You can’t just pick two games on the schedule and circle them as the most important,” he said. “To win the Mission Valley League, you have to win every game. If you lose one, at best you are co-champions, and nobody walks away from that feeling good. Right now, we are focused on San Marino, and South El Monte is our first league game, so we aren’t looking past that yet.”