Sports Notebook...with Brian Gomez
Corona faces tough test after winning season opener
By Brian Gomez
One win can go a long way.
But how far can it carry the Corona del Sol High School football team?
That’s the biggest question confronting the No. 6-ranked Aztecs after a convincing 41-19 win over Mesa Dobson in last week’s season opener.
Corona coach Gary Venturo figures to get a quick answer at 7 p.m. Sept. 10 when top-ranked Chandler Hamilton, the defending state champion, visits Hascall Henshaw Stadium in one of the most anticipated non-region games in recent years.
Last week, Hamilton (1-0) slipped by No. 12 Mesa Mountain View 21-20 behind senior quarterback Travis Dixon, who threw for 160 yards and rushed for 54 yards and two touchdowns.
Dixon got help from senior Mekell Wesley, a slot receiver who amassed 118 all-purpose yards. Wesley caught six passes for 85 yards and gained 33 yards on five carries.
Corona (1-0) looked sharp against Dobson, showing the ability to make big plays and sustain long drives. Most of its offense revolved around senior Daniel McClendon, who rushed for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Jake Nero was effective, as was senior halfback Blaise Johnson, who scored on a 5-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
Hamilton undoubtedly will pose a much tougher test than Dobson, but Venturo isn’t backing down from the challenge.
“We’re approaching it like it’s just another game,” said Venturo, whose team was trounced by Hamilton twice last season. “We know they’re ranked No. 1 and we know they’re the defending state champs. We’re just going to do the best that we can. We’re looking for a win, just like everyone else.”
Regardless of what happens against Hamilton, Corona likely will receive a boost in the all-important power points ratings, which are used to determine seeding for the Class 5A state playoffs.
A win over Hamilton obviously would go further than a loss, but merely playing a powerhouse such as Hamilton should help the Aztecs come November.
Corona must get production not only from Nero, Johnson and McClendon, but from other players, like Tony Vidaure and Matt Finstad, both of whom rushed for touchdowns against Dobson.
Sparked by defensive back Matt Mosley, the Aztecs pressured Dobson quarterback Brenan Poe into making mistakes. They’ll have to do the same against Dixon, who was nearly perfect in completing 15 of 17 passes against Mountain View.
“The whole key is their QB,” Venturo said of Dixon. “He can do it all.”
For Corona, the key is Nero, whose leadership was evident in the opener. However, Venturo sees plenty of room for improvement.
“We need to move the ball on the ground a little more,” Venturo said. “We had some big plays, but we’ve got to go 10 yards, 10 yards, 10 yards. Just the basics.”