Thursday, October 24, 2013

Heritage Athletes of Week Honored for Individual Success

Heritage High Athletes of the Week, from left: Kyle Hernandez, Christin McGrath, Jarrett Carter, Nerrah Taoete. Not pictured: Samantha Munoz.
Five outstanding athletes at Heritage High School have been honored with Menifee 24/7 Athlete of the Week awards for their recent performance.

Christin McGrath of the Patriots' girls tennis team played singles last season. She teams with Brianna Thompson in doubles this season. Thanks in part to their leadership, Heritage is one of the top teams in the Sunbelt League.

"This year has been great," McGrath said. "It's been the best experience of my entire life. Tennis really changed my high school career, I started out as a little freshman, you don't know anyone. Then I started tennis and met so many girls, we all just clicked and bonded. It really defined me as a person."

Nerrah Taoete is a senior outside hitter and back row player for the volleyball team, which is battling for the league lead heading into the second round of league play. Taoete, who also plays club volleybal, hopes to attend Cal State Dominguez Hills next year.

"Over the summer, we all just kind of played for ourselves," she said. "We didn't really create that bond on the court. We didn't know how each other played. We only had four returning players. But we've come a long way.

"The outside hitter is your go-to player, mainly," she said. "The job is to put away the ball and play hard every point."

Jarrett Carter ran a personal best time of 17:40 for the boys cross country team in the Inland Empire Cross Country Challenge against top competition from across the Southland last week.

"I was told the fastest runners in the whole Inland Empire were there, so I just tried to do my best and keep up with the rest of them," he said. "That was my motivation."

Carter is preparing for the challenging course of the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational, where rugged hills serve as the ultimate test for runners in this meet and the CIF postseason competition.

Kyle Hernandez was thrust into the starting role as placekicker for the Patriots football team last week when Tyler Baca went out with an injury. He responded by making 6 of 7 PAT attempts.

Hernandez didn't have much time to be nervous at the start of the game. Jalen Glover returned the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, sending Hernandez right out for his first kick -- which he made.

"I found out Wednesday I was starting," said Hernandez, a senior in his first year on the varsity team. "I didn't know I would get in the game that fast. You're on the sidelines and you have to be aware of what's happening. Your team could score at any time and you're out there."

Samantha Munoz is the team captain for the girls golf team. In helping the team to a second-place finish in league with wins over Lakeside and Elsinore, she shot a round of 49 in her last match of the regular season.

Munoz placed in the top 10 in the league finals this week and was named first-team all-league.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Six Standouts Honored as Paloma Valley Athletes of Week

Back row, left to right: Marshall Tuleja, Savannah Aaron, Olivia Meyer. Front row, left to right: Symone Carreno, Lucero Morales, Phillip Hauser.
Some of Paloma Valley High School's finest athletes are being honored today in their respective sports as the Menifee 24/7 Athletes of the Week.

Marshall Tuleja has battled through injuries to have a successful season for the boys cross country team. He had what he considers one of his better races last week in a Sunbelt League meet at Lakeside High. Despite the injuries, he hopes to top his personal best of 16:09, established last year in the CIF postseason competition.

"I'm banged up, but I've learned to run with them," he said about the injuries. "I overcome it by staying focused on the big picture. The team needs me to score some points, so I'm working hard every day to stay in there."

Junior golfer Savannah Aaron was set to compete in the league finals this week on a par-72, 18-hole course -- a challenge for players who normally play nine holes in regular-season matches. So far this season, she has been up to every task in her performance for Paloma Valley.

"I started playing golf when I was about 8," she said. "My dad would take me along with him. I had some lessons, but I never really played competitive golf until last year."

Junior Olivia Meyer has made a huge impact on the volleyball team in her first year at the varsity level. She has shown great improvement and determination at the middle blocker position for the Wildcats, who have been solid in league play.

"We had a rough start in the preseason," she said. "I don't know what happened when league kicked in, but when we played Elsinore, we turned things around."

Symone Carreno has been a standout for the girls cross country team, posting a personal best of 20:55 in a recent meet. This is the first full varsity season for the junior.

"My coach said that race was the first race where I actually raced the whole way," she said with a smile. "Instead of having one point of the race where I'm just surviving, I've worked on racing the whole race."

Tennis standout Lucero Morales battled her way onto the varsity team this season and adjusted to a switch of doubles partners to become a key part of the Wildcats' success. She says she prefers doubles to singles.

"At first the switch from singles is tough, but once you get used to it, it's fun," she said. "Having a partner to rely on helps; you don't have to cover as much of the court."

Senior Phillip Hauser has made some key catches for the Wildcats football team, which is undefeated at 7-0 heading into Friday's game against Heritage. He has caught 13 passes for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns, including 5 catches for 117 yards against Elsinore two weeks ago.

"I haven't gotten as many catches as I hoped, but we're doing pretty good and that's what counts," he said. "I knew we could do that. This is my third year on varsity, and I feel like I'm starting to make more plays."

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hifo, Takitaki Lead Way as Heritage Defeats Temescal Canyon

Limihai Hifo beats Temescal Canyon's Jacob Zinda across the goal line for one of his two touchdowns in Heritage's 48-28 victory Friday night.
They're cousins, but they call themselves brothers. On the football field, they are warriors -- and that's what matters most to the members of the Heritage High School football team.

Limihai Hifo rushed for 154 yards and and one touchdown and scored again on a pass reception, while Sione Takitaki ran for 62 yards and two TDs to lead the Patriots to a 48-28 Sunbelt League win over visiting Temescal Canyon Friday night.

Heritage (2-0, 6-1) took the lead right from the start, scoring on Jalen Glover's 88-yard kickoff return on the game's opening play. Pounding the Temescal defensive front with the solid running of Hifo, Takitaki and others, the Patriots never looked back.

In fact, Heritage has such depth at running back, Hifo and Takitaki -- both seniors -- are allowed frequent breaks while backs such as junior Isaiah Morrow (41-yard TD run) and sophomore Glover enter the game to throw different looks at the defense.

"People know when it's their turn to shine," said Takitaki (left), a bulldozer of a running back at 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds. "Having more guys to run in there helps keep everyone's legs fresh."

Indeed, no one on the Patriots squad seemed tired as they ran up and down the field with the Titans, who fell to 1-1 in league and 3-4 overall.

Following Glover's initial touchdown, the Patriots got the ball right back on a fumble recovery during Temescal Canyon's kickoff return. Within minutes, Heritage led 14-0 following a 21-yard pass from quarterback Brett Virgil to Hifo.

Hifo scored again later in the game on a 3-yard touchdown run. He was an aggressive ballcarrier throughout the contest.

"I was happy with our fast start," Hifo said. "I thought it would be closer than this. It's nice to have the young guys stepping up."

Temescal Canyon cut the deficit to 14-7 on a touchdown run by Armani Simmons midway through the first quarter, but Heritage re-established control with Morrow's 41-yard touchdown romp for a 21-7 lead. By the time Hifo capped a 66-yard drive with a 3-yard TD run early in the second quarter, the Patriots were comfortably in charge.

Takitaki scored both his touchdowns in the second half, on a 1-yard run and 10-yard run. Chris Nile also scored for the Patriots on a 34-yard pass from Virgil.

"We were able to throw the ball early in the game, which was nice to see," said Heritage coach Kraig Broach. "I have to give a lot of credit to the offensive line. Overall, we're playing better as a team."

Next Friday, Heritage plays at crosstown rival Paloma Valley, which is undefeated at 7-0.

Sione Takitaki heads toward the end zone on a 10-yard touchdown run in the second half Friday night.
Chris Nile hauls in a pass from quarterback Brett Virgil and beats the secondary for a touchdown.
Isaiah Morrow is off and running on a 41-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Limihai Hifo takes to the air to avoid defenders on a run during the second half of Friday night's game.

Paloma Valley Stays Unbeaten With Easy Win Over Perris

Paloma Valley's Fred Lundy prepares to haul in a pass from quarterback Brent Boehm that went for a 42-yard touchdown play in the Wildcats' 35-6 win at Perris Friday night.
By Zac Force

Paloma Valley High School beat Perris 35-6 in a Sunbelt League football game Friday night, moving to 7-0 on the season.

Paloma Valley is now 2-0 in league games heading into next Friday's "Menifee Bowl" showdown with crosstown rival Heritage, which is 2-0 in league and 6-1 overall.

Wildcats quarterback Brent Boehm struck quickly with a 12-yard touchdown pass to wideout RJ Benz, putting up the first points of the game on just the fourth offensive play. In the second quarter, Boehm threw for a pair of touchdowns to Michael Valencia and Fred Lundy, giving the Wildcats a 21-0 lead going into halftime.

In the second half, Demarco Prewitt (right) ran for two touchdowns as the Wildcats built their lead to 35-0. The Panthers were finally able to put points on the board with a rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats' offense was productive as usual, putting up 362 total offensive yards. While Paloma was able to rush for more than 100 yards, the big key was their passing attack, which racked up 259 yards. Perris was also able to put up over 100 yards on the ground, but was limited to just 29 passing yards and only six total points.

Paloma Valley’s defense held the opposition to its lowest point total of the year (equalling the six points allowed in week one against San Bernardino). The pass defense for Paloma kept Perris in check and Valencia intercepted two passes.

Boehm completed 65 percent of his passes with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Boehm now has 23 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions on the year and is averaging 3 touchdowns and over 200 yards per game. Prewitt leads the team in rushing on the year with 643 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging over 10 yards per carry and almost 130 yards per game.

Paloma is currently leading the league in points scored with 341. The Wildcats also have allowed the least amount of points with 136.

"It hasn’t been easy to go undefeated thus far; it has been tough," coach Bert Esposito said.

Like his players, Esposito is also excited about next Friday's home game against Heritage.

"I expect it to be a great game," he said. "It’s a clash of different styles. They’re great runners and we’re great passers."

RJ Benz of the Wildcats finds open field on the way to a 12-yard touchdown pass play.
Michael Valencia hauls in a pass and holds onto the ball in traffic.
Quarterback Brent Boehm shows his versatility by tucking the ball away and running upfield.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Heritage High Athletes of Week: Stafford, Rodriguez

Lauren Stafford of the tennis team and Evan Rodriguez of the football team are the Heritage High Menifee 24/7 Athletes of the Week.
A standout tennis player and star football player are this week's representatives of the Heritage High School athletic department in the Menifee 24/7 Athlete of the Week award program.

Lauren Stafford has excelled as the No. 2 singles player for the Patriots in just her first year of playing organized tennis. After spending the preseason on the JV team, she won a challenge match against a varsity player and earned a spot on the varsity team.

To what does Stafford credit her quick success in a new sport?

"I think it's more my athletic abilities than anything specific in tennis," she said. "Plus, I'm a fast learner."

Stafford has competed in the jump events for the Patriots track team the last two seasons and plans to do so again. She hopes to attend UC Santa Barbara next year and study engineering.

"I was kind of nervous in the challenge match, but I was also excited for the chance," she said. "It seemed like they didn't notice anybody on JV, and that gave us a chance to show what we can do."

Evan Rodriguez
plays tight end and defensive lineman for the Heritage football team, which is 5-1 this season. He is part of the strong side of the offensive line that includes nose guard Caleb Marquez and tackle Niko Gomez.

With Gomez sidelined last week because of a leg injury, Rodriguez stepped up to protect the offensive backfield in the Patriots' 56-3 rout of visiting Perris.

"When Niko first got hurt, I was like, 'Who's going to play next to me?' But Paydin (Derrick) was getting the job done and we all worked together well," said Rodriguez, who played the first three quarters of the one-sided game.

Rodriguez also had a big game in the Patriots' last nonleague game Sept. 27 at Rialto, making two catches and performing well on both sides of the ball. He said he has no concerns about the fact a sophomore quarterback, Brett Virgil, is playing behind him.

"I'm really close with him, just like I was close with his brother Chad," Rodriguez said, referring to former Patriots QB Chad Virgil. "I know he's always looking for me and I look out for him."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Paloma Athletes of Week: Bateson, Volkoff, Hansen, Smith

Paloma Valley High School Athletes of the Week (from left): Samantha Bateson, Maria Volkoff, Joseph Hansen, Elliott Smith.
Four successful sports teams from Paloma Valley High School are well represented this week by the Menifee 24/7 Athletes of the Week chosen from Wildcat rosters.

Samantha Bateson, outside hitter for the girls volleyball team, has proven to be a leader on offense for the Wildcats. In a recent victory over Murrieta Mesa, she had 11 kills with no errors from her front-line position.

Bateson followed that up last week with strong performances in wins against Perris and Heritage. She has improved her spiking form greatly in just her first year on the varsity squad after moving up from the JV team.

"I'm hitting the ball harder now; it goes straight down now," said Bateson. "I worked on snapping my wrist more."

Maria Volkoff, a junior member of the girls tennis team, has dominated the competition in recent matches, says her coach, Alison King.

"Each week, Maria continues to improve her tennis game and each week she continues to score big points for the Lady Wildcat tennis team," King said. "As a junior, Maria leads the team by her hard work and dedication on the court as well as in the classroom."

Cross country runner Joseph Hansen posted the second fastest time on his team (16:21) at the recent Sunny Hills Invitational. He also has posted times of 16:05 at the Woodbridge Invitational and 16:29 at the Inland Empire Championships.

"Joseph ran a stellar race at the Sunny Hills Invitation," coach Joe Ellett said. "He is improving his racing strategy each week. It will be exciting to watch how well he can finish this season."

Hansen acknowledged his change in race strategy.

"Before, my main problem was, I'd just start to run and stay there," he said. "You have to watch your pace. You move up through the course, you try to stay with one runner, then you decide when to make a move. The race is too long to just run out front and go all out the whole race."

Running back Elliott Smith of the football team had an outstanding first half of the season and really hit his stride in a 49-34 win over Temecula Valley Sept. 27. With Demarco Prewitt sidelined by injury, Smith took charge of the running game, gaining 125 yards on 28 carries with one touchdown. He also performed well on defense.

Unfortunately, Smith suffered an injury of his own last Friday in the Wildcats' 35-29 win over Elsinore. According to Smith, an injury to his right leg was diagnosed as a tibia plateau displacement -- a bone dislocation that will keep him out the rest of the season.

"I'm pretty satisfied with what I did the first half of the season," Smith said. "I'll be out there pulling for the team."

Each of the players received a certificate in recognition of the honor and a T-shirt from the school's athletic department.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Video Highlights: Heritage 56, Perris 3

Click on the video below for a highlight reel from Heritage High's 56-3 win over Perris in Friday's Sunbelt League action.

Thanks to Matt Palmer for posting this on YouTube and to coach Marcus Johnson for forwarding it to us. Here's a couple notes from Matt to accompany the video:

Heritage had three turnovers in first quarter, spotted Perris a field goal, then ran off 35 points in the second quarter, 56 unanswered points total.

Featured players in the video:

5 McKinley Grant
7 Aleva Hifo
12 Matthew Palmer
16 Sione Takitaki
25 Carlos Vargas
26 Isaiah Morrow
33 Evan Rodriguez
42 Raul Amaya
41 Jacob Marquez

Video Highlights: Paloma Valley 35, Elsinore 29

Click on the video below to watch a 12-minute highlight reel of Paloma Valley High School's 35-29 victory over Elsinore in Friday night's Sunbelt League game.

Our thanks to the Paloma Valley film crew and to coach Juan Merida, who sent this to Menifee 24/7. We have added captions describing the key plays you will see. Send any feedback in a comment here or in an email to

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Heritage Has Easy Time With Perris in League Opener, 56-3

Isaiah Morrow heads upfield for a big gain in Heritage's 56-3 win over Perris Friday night. 
By Zac Force

Heritage High's football team got off to a fast start in Sunbelt League play Friday night, beating Perris High 56-3 in the Patriots' Homecoming game.

Perris scored the first points of the game with a field goal, giving the Panthers a 3-0 lead, but Heritage then struck for 56 unanswered points. Heritage scored 35 points in the second quarter and another 21 points in the second half.

With the win, Heritage improved to 5-1 overall. Perris dropped to 0-1 in league play and 2-4 overall.

Head coach Kraig Broach said this was a big win for the Patriots, who had been on the road the last four games.

"Homecoming aside, it’s the first game of league and it was great to win that," he said. "But we need to play better to compete with Temescal."

Heritage will host Temescal Canyon next Friday as the Patriots continue their bid to win the league title.

The Patriots' offense put up a total of 416 yards, 324 of which came from rushing. Isaiah Morrow led the rushing attack with eight carries for 100 yards.

Heritage was just as effective on defense against Perris. The Panthers had negative 51 yards rushing and only 2 yards passing, giving them a total of negative 49 yards total offense in the game.

The Patriots' defense was able to capitalize on every mistake made by the Panthers, which helped give the offense plenty of opportunities to succeed -- and the offense did just that.

Heritage trailed 3-0 early in the second quarter when Sione Takitaki (right) caught a touchdown pass from Aleva Hifo, who got some valuable playing time by playing the whole game at quarterback in place of starter Brett Virgil. About a minute later, it was 14-3 after Raul Amaya returned an interception for a TD.

Before the half was over, Heritage had scored two more times. Takitaki ran for a touchdown and Hifo passed to Evan Rodriguez for another score for a 35-3 halftime lead.

In the second half, Hifo ran 17 yards for a touchdown and Carlos Vargas scored on a 57-yard run.

This was the Patriots' highest scoring game of the season and the least amount of points and yards they have given up. Perris recorded its lowest point total of the season. Perris has been outscored 97-9 in its last two games.

The homecoming queen was also announced at halftime. Odessa Chandler (left) was chosen from a group that included Melissa Quijada, Elizabeth Gonzalez, Leslie Gastelum, and Kendra Johnston.
Heritage's defense made life miserable for Perris offensive players all night.
Heritage running back Carlos Vargas runs away from the field on a long touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Getting his first start at quarterback, Aleva Hifo scored on a 17-yard touchdown run.

Late Defensive Plays Help Paloma Valley Remain Unbeaten

Demarco Prewitt finds running room for a long gain late in the fourth quarter of Paloma Valley's 35-29 win over Elsinore Friday night.
In a perfect world, the Paloma Valley High School football players would eliminate their penalties and not have to sweat out frantic fourth-quarter drives by the opposition.

But the Wildcats' record is indeed still perfect Friday night after a hard-fought victory, and that was coach Bert Esposito's primary concern.

"We keep finding ways to win," Esposito said after Paloma Valley's 35-29 victory over visiting Elsinore in the Sunbelt League opener for both teams. "I don't care if it's 2-0 or 50-49; it's a win, and the guys did what they had to."

Senior quarterback Brent Boehm passed for 292 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Michael Valencia (right) in the first quarter. Sophomore running back Demarco Prewitt rushed for 97 yards and two touchdowns, plus a third TD on a pass reception from Boehm. Yet it was the defense that had to come up biggest when the game was on the line.

The Wildcats (1-0, 6-0) didn't score again after Prewitt's 1-yard touchdown run gave them a 35-17 lead early in the third quarter. Elsinore (0-1, 2-4) fought back with a 4-yard TD run by Davis Peralta and a 20-yard TD pass from quarterback Tommy Wilson to Chris Harris before the quarter was over, cutting Paloma's lead to 35-29 entering the final period.

That's when the Paloma Valley defense came up big. Showing that they had the ability to shake off earlier mistakes and costly penalties, the Wildcat defenders forced two turnovers and stopped Elsinore's final desperation drive in the final minutes to preserve the victory.

Early in the quarter, Fred Lundy intercepted a fourth-down pass by Wilson deep inside Elsinore territory. Paloma Valley was unable to score on the ensuing drive, but the Wildcats got the ball right back on the next possession when Kre Webb recovered an Elsinore fumble near midfield.

Paloma Valley was forced to punt on its next possession, giving Elsinore the ball back with almost four minutes remaining and the chance to pull out a victory with a touchdown and extra point. It never happened, however.

After two straight incompletions against a solid Paloma pass defense, Wilson went to the air again on fourth down along the left sideline. Defensive back Felix Bogroff outjumped the receiver to knock the ball down (left) and give it back to the Wildcats, who killed the remaining time on the clock.

"I read it at the last second and got over there," Bogroff said about the defensive play. "I looked up and just jumped for the ball."

Esposito was pleased with the way his players responded late in the game.

"Those close games against Moreno Valley and Temecula Valley really gave our guys some character," he said. "Tonight they did it again; they found a way to win.

"That's what we needed. Starting out 5-0 is nice, but character building is the key. They made some mistakes earlier, but they didn't sulk and let up. They did what they had to do."

Junior running back Elliott Smith left the game in the third quarter with an injury to his right knee. The extent of his injury was not known Friday night.

Paloma Valley quarterback Brent Boehm turns upfield for a big gain in Friday's win over Elsinore.
Wildcats receiver Phillip Hauser stretches for extra yardage after a pass reception Friday night.
The training staff attends to junior Elliott Smith, who suffered a knee injury.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Marquez, Briseno: Heritage High Menifee 24/7 Athletes of Month

Heritage High School's Caleb Marquez and Kristen Briseno receive their Athlete of the Month awards from Cynthia Nemelka of RE/MAX Diamond Realty, sponsor of the awards program.
Senior nose guard and linebacker Caleb Marquez and junior cross country runner Kristen Briseno of Heritage High School were honored this week with the Menifee 24/7 September Athlete of the Month Award, sponsored by RE/MAX Diamond Realty.

Marquez has performed consistently both on offense and defense for the Patriots football team, which is 4-1 overall heading into their Sunbelt League opener at home against Perris tonight. As a starting nose guard on the offensive line, he provides valuable blocking for Heritage's running game and pass protection for sophomore quarterback Brett Virgil.

Experience gained as a lineman and familiarity with those playing next to him -- especially tackle Niko Gomez -- has helped Marquez become a comfortable and confident leader of the offensive line.

"Offense is becoming really fun," Marquez said. "Knowing the plays better helps a lot. I feel like I'm able to go full-speed and hit people hard. But I know I have to hit them under control."

Marquez will be called upon for even more leadership tonight, because Gomez is sidelined with a leg injury. Until he returns -- perhaps next week -- it will be up to Marquez to adjust to a new fellow lineman and take up the slack.

One reason for excitement is the fact the Patriots are finally playing at home after four straight weeks on the road. It's also the school's Homecoming.

"It's a homecoming for us, and it's a real Homecoming," Marquez said. "People show up when we're on the road, but there's a lot more hype when we come home and see a big crowd."

Briseno, who was also a Heritage Athlete of the Week last week, is coming off an impressive performance in a cross country invitational at Yucaipa last weekend. She led the race virtually the whole way and finished first.

"I think it's hard when you're out in front," she said. "I have a bad habit of looking back to see where the other runners are. The coaches tell us not to, but a lot of runners do that."

Briseno handled the course well, both on surface streets and on hilly surfaces. That, combined with her 19:48 clocking in the recent Bulldog Invitational, have made her a top contender entering the upcoming Inland Empire Championships.

"It's a really big meet with a lot of great teams," she said.

Briseno's goal is to keep improving her times into the low 19-minute range.

"I didn't feel like I was hitting where I should be," she said about her earlier performances. "I woke up and realized I had to practice harder. I needed to start improving myself."

Each athlete received a certificate and VISA gift card from Cynthia Nemelka of RE/MAX Diamond Realty, sponsor of the award.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Boehm, Flores: Paloma Valley Menifee 24/7 Athletes of Month

Paloma Valley's Brent Boehm and Samantha Flores receive their Athlete of the Month awards from Cynthia Nemelka of RE/MAX Diamond Realty, sponsor of the awards program.
Senior quarterback Brent Boehm and senior cross country runner Samantha Flores of Paloma Valley High School were honored this week with the Menifee 24/7 September Athlete of the Month Award, sponsored by RE/MAX Diamond Realty.

Boehm has compiled some impressive numbers in leading the Wildcats football team to a 5-0 record in nonleague play. He has completed 61 of 97 pass attempts (63 percent) for 950 yards and 17 touchdowns.

A returning starter, Boehm is a confident leader of the team's high-powered offense, which has outscored opponents, 271-101. After having a bye last week, the Wildcats open Sunbelt League play at home Friday at 7 p.m. against Elsinore.

Boehm said he is excited about the team's success, but he knows the players can't get too high on themselves. The Wildcats started last season 5-0 as well but lost three of five games in league play.

"We know we still have stuff to work on," he said. "We're not really riding too high. We know we can't have something happen to take us down, so the seniors take it as motivation."

Although the Wildcats' level of success in league play remains to be seen, there is no doubt that fans will be entertained by Paloma Valley's wide-open passing game. The team features several talented receivers, including Michael Valencia and RJ Benz, but it all starts with Boehm.

"It helps to have receivers you've worked with for a while," Boehm said with a smile. "I find it (the passing game) fun. The run can get boring."

Running is anything but boring for Flores, who is still riding high after a first-place finish in the recent Woodbridge Invitational cross country meet. She also did well last weekend in a race at Sunny Hills.

What she's really shooting for, however, is a top time at the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational, one of the premier events of the season. The MSAC course is a challenging hilly course that is also used for CIF postseason competition and is considered a benchmark for local runners.

"That meet is huge," said Flores. "I train a lot on hills to get ready for that course. You just have to keep your pace and rhythm. The last half mile is hard, but you have people cheering you on."

Flores recorded the second fastest two-mile time in school history (11:51) in the Bronco Round-Up earlier this season. If she continues her level of success at courses like MSAC, she just might achieve her dream of continuing her cross country career at the University of Colorado.

Each athlete received a certificate and VISA gift card from Cynthia Nemelka of RE/MAX Diamond Realty, sponsor of the award.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Stovall, Miller Are Santa Rosa Menifee 24/7 Athletes of Month

Brianna Stovall and Ben Miller receive their Athlete of the Month awards from Cynthia Nemelka of RE/MAX Diamond Realty, sponsor of the awards program.
Freshman volleyball player Brianna Stovall and junior cross country runner Ben Miller of Santa Rosa Academy were honored this week with the Menifee 24/7 September Athlete of the Month Award, sponsored by RE/MAX Diamond Realty.

Stovall is the first female given the honor at Santa Rosa since Menifee 24/7 created the award late last school year. She has adapted quickly to a key role in her first year on the volleyball team, using her 5-foot-10 frame and leaping ability to excel at the middle blocker position.

At that important position on the front line, Stovall is responsible for protecting the net from oncoming shots as well as spiking the ball when it is delivered to her by setter Taylor Flannery.

"The kills all depend on the setter, our timing and placement," she said. "You can't hit the net, either. That takes a lot of practice."

Stovall said she is excited to be part of the team as a freshman and is happy just to be able to contribute.

"I don't necessarily try to be a leader," she said. "I try to be very supportive of everyone and the decisions they make."

Although Santa Rosa has a new campus on Haun Road, most of the athletic facilities are not completed. So far, there is no gym for the Rangers to use, meaning all their matches are on the road.

"It will be nice when we get our own gym, but a lot of the parents are very supportive and come to see us play wherever we are," she said.

Miller is in his third season on the varsity cross country team. Also a soccer player, he began running cross country as an off-season conditioning program. Now, he is focused on a top-tier finish in each meet.

"I take both sports seriously," said Miller, who performed well in the team's first meet of the season, run at Linfield Christian. "I think I've improved immensely since I first started in the sport."

Daily workouts are a big part of Miller's success. He joins teammates in a two-mile run around the school and the nearby wash, building stamina with each step.

"It helps when you get near the finish line," he said. "You want to finish strong and it helps to have teammates cheering you on. I want to finish in the top 20 of races, which means I literally have to be a step ahead of where I am now."

Like Stovall, Miller looks forward to the day the Rangers have their own athletic facilities on campus. Even the soccer team has to practice at Wheatfield Park and play its games elsewhere.

"Having a home field on play on and having our own people to support us, that will be big," he said.

Miller hopes to study history in college and prepare for a career as an athletic trainer.

Each athlete received a certificate and VISA gift card from Cynthia Nemelka of RE/MAX Diamond Realty, sponsor of the award.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Heritage Athletes of Week: Ibarra, Briseno, Thompson, Gomez

Heritage High School's Menifee 24/7 Athletes of the Week (from left): Jesus Ibarra, Kristen Briseno, Brianna Thompson, Niko Gomez.
From enduring distance runners to a versatile tennis player to a tough member of the football team's offensive and defensive line, Heritage High is well represented by Menifee 24/7's Athletes of the Week.

Jesus Ibarra, a freshman, ran a personal best of 17:38 at the recent Bulldog Invitational in Hemet for the Patriots' boys cross country team. That was well below his previous personal best of 18:51.

Ibarra has a goal of improving his three-mile time to the low 16's in an attempt to qualify for the CIF postseason later this fall.

"I run to stay in shape, but also to go to CIF," he said. "I just have to do extra training and pick up the pace to go faster each meet."

In the same meet, Kristen Briseno established a personal best as well with a time of 19:48 for the girls cross country team. The junior, who also plays soccer, is disciplined in her physical and mental approach to the sport.

"I just set a goal of going a few seconds faster each time," she said. "A lot of it is mental. Sometimes in the middle of the race you're just tired of running, but you have to keep going."

Brianna Thompson was a standout singles player for the Patriots girls tennis team last year. This year, the senior was asked to team with Christen McGrath to help strengthen Heritage's doubles play. The two have responded with some impressive victories.

"She brings out the best in me as a tennis player," Thompson said about McGrath. "It's the trust factor. Now you have two people to get the point instead of just yourself, and I can play to my full potential without being as nervous."

Thompson would like to attend college at Old Dominion University in Virginia. She hopes to participate in NROTC in preparing for a career as a Naval nurse or ER physician.

Niko Gomez has been an anchor on the football team's offensive and defensive lines as a tackle and nose guard. He has been one of the main reasons the Patriots are 4-1 heading into Sunbelt League play Oct. 11.

Last week, Gomez had to leave during a dominating performance in a win over Rialto when he took the brunt of a helmet on his left leg, which had previously been fractured. His leg was splinted to reduce swelling after he was helped off the field. Fortunately, he suffered no broken bones.

The injury is diagnosed as a sprained ankle. An MRI is scheduled for Friday, but Gomez is hopeful of returning in two to three weeks. The Patriots have a bye this week and should be the favorite in their league opener against Perris Oct. 11. After that, Gomez hopes to be back.

"It's not like I'm looking to get more time to recover from my injury," he said about the team having the week off. "You kind of want to man up and play the next week, but I have to be smart about it. I'm confident about our team's chances against Perris and I hope I can come back after that."

Paloma Valley Athletes of the Week: Williams, Hamand, Colon

Paloma High School Athletes of the Week (from left): Stephanie Williams, Erin Hamand, Ruben Colon.
In recognition of their recent success in athletics and their outstanding representation of their school, Stephanie Williams, Erin Hamand and Ruben Colon have been named Menifee 24/7 Athletes of the Week for Paloma Valley High School.

The sport of cross country has a solid legacy at Paloma Valley, and Stephanie Williams is helping to carry on the winning tradition. In the recent Woodbridge Invitational, she set a personal best for a three-mile course with a time of 19:50.

Williams finished 15th overall in a field featuring top runners from many Southland high schools. And she did it while nursing a pulled leg muscle.

"I had a lot of pain before the race, but I just pushed through it," she said. "That was my best race mentally, maybe because I had to make up for the injury. Running is about 80 percent mental."

Williams doesn't even get to work out with all her teammates during the week. Because she is attending church seminary during early morning workouts, she and a couple teammates train together after school.

"Even if no one is watching over us, we know we can't slack off," Williams said. "You have to have solid workouts."

At 6-foot-2, Erin Hamand enjoys a height advantage that makes her a force from her middle blocker position on the Wildcats' girls volleyball team. A highly recruited junior, Hamand scored 10 points in one game against Tahquitz with three service aces and seven kills.

"I was an outside hitter, but they put me back in the middle," said Hamand. "The block is important because it sets the tone for the back row defense. On offense, I can be ready to handle the set."

Hamand does a good job on both offense and defense at the net and has really improved in her role on the team.

"I used to touch the net all the time," she said with a smile. "One game when I first started, I think I had 28 nets. I've gotten a lot better about that."

Hamand plans to visit Oregon State soon and also is being recruited by Temple, Tennessee and Tennessee Tech.

Junior football player Ruben Colon had a big game against Moreno Valley on Sept. 20, making several open-field tackles and breaking up a fourth-down pass play by the opposition to help preserve the Wildcats' overtime victory. He also played solid defense and offense last week in Paloma Valley's 49-34 win over Temecula Valley.

"Ruben is an outstanding person and student as well and is one of the most coachable athletes a coach could have," said coach Bert Esposito.

Colon, a cornerback, said he's excited to see his work and that of his teammates pay off for the Wildcats, who are 5-0 this season.

"A lot of it is mental discipline," he said. "I have to know if the ball might come my direction and do what I'm supposed to do. That play in overtime was exciting, but not just for me. It's not a personal thing; it's a team thing."