East County Sports

Building Braves want another fast start

El Cajon Valley's Tyson Smith / photo by ECVBraves.com




By Ramon Scott



EL CAJON – The El Cajon Valley Braves won’t have to wait long to find a measuring stick for the 2016 season.

The Braves performed admirably during 2015, finishing 5-5 and qualifying for the San Diego CIF Division IV playoffs.

In fact, the El Cajon Valley squad may have been a bad rule away from winning its first playoff matchup under first-year coach PARRIS PISIONA. And maybe even more significantly, the Braves wrapped up their first five-win season since the school’s historic 2005 campaign.

The Braves were seeded No. 8, while opponent Kearny was seeded ninth. However, because Kearny won the Central League, they were awarded the home game, which they won, 28-12.

That rule is being scrapped by the CIF this season.

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El Cajon may have proved their might were they allowed to host the Komets last Nov., having already owned a 34-28 OT win at home over Kearny during the regular season when an electrical issue forced a late-hour venue change to Madison Ave.

Now, the Braves will host the Komets in the season opener next Friday, Aug. 26.

El Cajon Valley’s roster certainly took some hits from graduation, and although Kearny’s roster is thin and they are expected to resemble a new team, they still boast a host of experienced players.

The Braves are strongest at the top of their defensive roster this season, bringing back a pair All-Grossmont Valley League players on defense.

Senior MLB/FB FAAMAMA LAUIFI (5-11, 215) was a first-team All-East County defender as a junior last season. He led the Braves with 65 tackles last season and registered two sacks and a fumble recovery.



Joining him in receiving post-season accolades for his work on defense were S/QB TYSON SMITH (6-1, 195), who was named to the All-Valley League second team.

Smith also will handle the quarterbacking chores this season after taking nearly 40 percent of the reps last year. He completed just 12 passes, including two for touchdowns, but rushed for an impressive 518 yards on 118 carries and six scores.

He also was the quarterback for most of the playoff game against Kearny, after his brother, Charles, left the game in the first quarter with an injury. That contest was full of injuries and penalties.

“This season, we want to play football respectfully, responsibly, with no dirty plays, and just play the game fair,” said Smith, who had 60 tackles and an interception last season.

El Cajon Valley went 4-1 in non-league play, which could help their playoff cause once again should they repeat that early season performance this year since the Komets and Chieftains are also in Division IV.

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El Cajon Valley’s Maquel Garner (42) and Lauifi (45) size up Granite Hills’ play last season.  / CSProPhoto

Many of the Braves are likely to play on both sides of the ball, including returning junior LB/RB MAQUEL GARNER (5-10, 180), who had 29 tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery last season.

Junior DE DANIEL WILSON, a tackle on the offensive line last season, is reportedly shifting out to tight end this season.

“We started off a little rough (in training camp), people didn’t know each other that well since we had a lot of new players,” Wilson said. “Eventually, we came together and started becoming a real family and we’ve worked really we together ever since.”

Senior linebacker OMAR GARCIA (5-11, 205) had 33 total stops last season, while versatile LOUIS MORALES (5-9, 155) also returns.

Other impact returnees include senior OL/DT EDWARD DAVIS (6-0, 275) and senior LUIS PEREZ (5-10, 170).

Top newcomers, according to Pisiona, are sophomores MASON TILEA (OL/DL, 6-2, 280), BRANDON ROBINSON (LB, 5-10, 175), ISAAC BLAKE (WR/S, 6-1, 170) and junior RB/OLB JUAN MECHEL (5-10, 180).

“We’ve got a new and young front line with good size, but inexperienced,” Pisiona said. “We’re returning our QB and linebackers and our sophomore are expected to play big roles.”

In addition to the opener, the Braves host Montgomery, followed by a five-game road stretch that goes into the league season. Other non-league foes include Clairemont, Orange Glen and Chula Vista.

The Braves will also have a crisp, new look when they take the field this season with some very sharp new threads.



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