Expectations are high for the Montebello High football team — and they should be.
“Our team should be pretty good,” said an openly optimistic Coach Pete Gonzalez. “We should be more balanced on offense and our defense will need to keep playing hard-nosed football.”
Two-time All-CIF running back Isaac Mendibles is back to lead the Oilers again this season. He rushed for 1,943 yards and 24 scores to lead Montebello to its second consecutive Almont League title in 2014.
Mendibles, who had 10 100-yard games during the Oilers’ 7-5 run last season, set a school record by rushing for 336 yards against Keppel.
As a sophomore, Mendibles had 1,775 yards and 19 touchdowns. His senior season, however, could be his best yet thanks to a more balanced attack. Quarterback Ryan Rivera also returns, only this time the versatile senior will be in the lineup when Montebello opens the season Friday night against El Monte at Arroyo High School in El Monte.
Under CIF transfer rules, Rivera, who left St. Paul, had to sit out the season’s first five games last season until his reinstatement. Montebello was 0-5 against its nonleague opponents. Rivera started the Almont League opener at Schurr and made an immediate impact, throwing for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to rally the Oilers to a 17-14 win.
“He works hard and it’s great to have his presence out there,” Montebello Coach Pete Gonzalez said. “He has great leadership and his passing adds balance to our team. But he’s also a threat to run.”
Rivera will have a pair of returning wide receivers to look for in junior Andy Brown and senior Sergio Cortez. Senior Jose Teodocio will be another target for Rivera.
The offensive line has a trio of returning players in right tackle Luis Lopez, right guard Chris Cobos and center Carlos Gomez, all of whom made the all-league second team last year. Gonzalez is expecting solid play from Ramiro Robles, a first-year starter at left tackle.
Defensively, Montebello has a strong corps of linebackers led by junior Jonathan Holguin in the middle, and senior Josiah Kyorga on the outside. Holguin and Kyorga made the all-league first team in 2014. They will reunite with junior outside linebacker Kobe Kyorga, Josiah’s brother, who was on the all-league second team, to once again be a formidable force. The addition of junior Isiah Jenkins bolsters the unit.
“We have a great linebacking corps,” Gonzalez said. “They’re aggressive and fast, and they’re a close knit group of players. We preach the importance of being not only a team, but like a family as well, so having them really helps create that atmosphere.”
Gonzalez is looking forward to the play of junior nose tackle Brandon Gonzalez on the defensive line. The Oilers have a returning starter at defensive end in junior Kevin Lopez.
Junior safety Ramon Preciado and junior cornerbacks Dorian Sanchez and Jonathan Gomez lead the secondary and will be tested early by El Monte Friday.
“Besides a solid running back, El Monte has a good quarterback and some good-sized wide receivers,” Gonzalez said. “They’re a very athletic team, so we’re going to be in for a good game.”
With Rivera playing from the outset, Montebello is looking to get off to a much better start than last year when it lost its first five games.
“Our goal is to continue to improve each week and win a third straight league title,” Gonzalez said.