EAL beakdown: League title runs through Pleasant Valley
Breaking down what each team in the Eastern Athletic League has for the 2019 season.
The Eastern Athletic League is a gauntlet and while each school has lost players to graduation and gains newcomers from the lower ranks, everyone knows the path to a league title runs through Asgard Yard. The Pleasant Valley Vikings have captured two of the past three Northern Section Division II, three of the past four EAL titles, along with two state championships in that span (D4-A in 2016, D4-AA in 2018).
Shasta and PV open their seasons Aug. 23 in Sub-Zero Week while Foothill, Chico and Red Bluff start Aug. 30. Enterprise is on its bye week to open the year and opens on the road at West Valley
Here’s a brief synopsis of each team in the EAL and what’s in store for them in 2019.
Being overlooked is a rarity for the black and gold considering Enterprise’s success over the past decade. The Hornets might be the most affected by graduation, opening the door for a new set of guys. The inexperience could limit the Hornets, but they’re embracing the underdog role.
First game: Sept. 7 at West Valley
Chico finished as the D-II runner-up and graduated several defensive standouts. However, the Panthers are stacked at skill positions where they return Abe Del Real (647 rec. yards, 8 TDs) at WR along with Marvelous Owens. Returner Jalen Johnson will likely be the leader at running back.
First game: Aug. 30 at Sacramento High
The Cougars are shaping up to be dynamic. A three-headed offensive attack with QB Brandon Merryman, RB Bryce Henderson and WR Chris Ostergren keeps things exciting in Palo Cedro while the defense has impact guys scattered around to make Foothill a darkhorse for a league crown.
First game: Aug. 30 vs. West Valley
Pleasant Valley Vikings
The defending D4-AA state champs graduated key role players. However, last year’s undefeated JV team moves up, and PV returns a seasoned line led by 6-6, 270-pound Aidan Finney. Senior LB Austin York and RB/OLB Aidan Parks, a Montana State commit, return to lead the Vikes.
First game: Aug. 23 at Del Oro
Red Bluff Spartans
QB Eli Wehbey returns after a 2,198-yard, 20-TD junior campaign. At his disposal are twins Caleb and all-leaguer Brendan Ortega, who can be matchup nightmares. Offense can put up points, but an inexperienced defense, led by MLB Brayden Robinson, will have to grow up fast.
First game: Aug. 30 at Anderson
The Wolves are coming off a disappointing 3-8 campaign in 2018 but have optimism with a host of returners who learned on the job last year. Junior James Weaver will be the offensive focal point while the defense will be anchored by Isaiah Pena and seven other returners.
First game: Aug. 23 at West Valley
Note: The Paradise Bobcats dropped out of the EAL and is playing a Freelance schedule due to a drop in enrollment from the devastating Camp Fire. Paradise is now in Division III (same as the NAL teams), which is enrollment 500 to 999 students.
Editors Note: Chico ER’s Sharon Martin contributed to this article.