Arroyo Erases Memories of Start With Strong Finish
The Arroyo High football team has faced some difficult challenges en route to its third Southern Section championship game appearance in six years.
After starting the season 2-3, the Knights (10-3) regrouped to go unbeaten through Mission Valley League play. They have defeated Jurupa Valley, Ganesha and Indio in the playoffs.
But none of those teams was as strong as Corona, Arroyo’s opponent in Friday night’s Division V championship game at Corona.
“They really don’t have any weaknesses,” Arroyo Coach Don MacKinnon said.
MacKinnon may be overstating the case, but Corona, under Coach Stuart Horn, has had an impressive season.
The Panthers (11-2), champions of the Mountain View League, have lost to Chaffey and Hemet. They have averaged 44 points in playoff victories over Coachella Valley, Montclair and Palm Desert.
Corona has given up only 13 points a game this season, a figure inflated by the 44 points Chaffey scored in its victory over the Panthers.
“That game really gave the kids a kick in the butt,” Horn said. “They decided nothing like that was going to happen again. And they’ve made sure that it hasn’t.”
Senior Dave Janoski has rushed for 1,139 yards, caught 38 passes for 761 yards and scored 21 touchdowns. He also is the team’s leading tackler with 39 solos and more than 70 assists.
Senior quarterback Steve Bernier, who passed for five touchdowns in the Panthers’ semifinal victory over Palm Desert, has thrown for 1,998 yards this season.
Senior receiver Doug McDaniel has 52 receptions for 820 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also has kicked nine field goals, including a 44-yarder.
“They don’t have a lot of real big guys,” MacKinnon said. “But what they do have is a lot of very good athletes.”
Arroyo, which won a Southern Section championship in 1986 and finished second in 1987, expects to stay with a ground-oriented attack that is led by D.J. Hoyt and Keith MacLellan.
Hoyt has gained 1,641 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. MacLellan has rushed for 754 yards and scored nine touchdowns.
Arroyo is allowing 13 points a game.
MacKinnon hopes his team can sustain the level of intensity that has carried the Knights the past six weeks.
“We’re by no means the most talented team in our division,” MacKinnon said. “But we do have a bunch of kids who really enjoy playing, practicing and executing whatever we want them to do.
“We weren’t even picked to win our league. But now we’re here. This is why you get into coaching, for a group of kids like this.”