The Southern Athletic League is going to be interesting for the upcoming season, especially for Denair and Delhi high schools who are in the hunt for a league title and more.
It's a tall and difficult task for two teams who are competing with a team like Mariposa, who has gone a perfect 38-0 in the SAL over the past three seasons.
“We definitely want to compete for the SAL Championship and I think we have the same chance as all the teams,” said Delhi head coach Brian de la Porte. “Mariposa graduates its top players so that leaves the door open to contend for the championship.”
Delhi has been as close as any team over the last two seasons, having finished second in the SAL and making the postseason in two straight years. They accumulated a record of 15-9 during that span in SAL play.
“I think the SAL champ can have two or three losses in league and it can very easily happen like that this year,” said de la Porte.
One of the teams the Hawks of Delhi will look out for are the Coyotes of Denair, who graduated the SAL MVP from last year in Isaac Starks.
Denair was 10-16 overall last year and 4-8 in the SAL.
“I think going into this season I think the key word is transition since last year we had Isaac who carried the load offensively but with his leadership as well,” said Denair coach Matt Marshall. “It's a big focus on transitioning into a team who will have to learn how to play hard and hustle since we can't count on Isaac anymore.”
The team will look from contributions from senior Carson Haringa and junior Dylan Mann, who both stand above 6-foot-4.
“I think our key veterans, who this year should help us are Carson Haringa and Dylan Mann those two are our bigger post players,” said Marshall. “If Dylan and Carson can play well, it makes it easier for the other guys.”
Chase Pritt has also impressed the Coyotes’ coaching staff with his amazing defending skills.
“If there is an all-team defense he is there,” said Marshall. “We know he does not need to stress on points but he is a playmaker on defense, and everyone needs to do their part and truly need to play as a team to win games.”
In other words, if someone doesn't have the hot hand or having a bad game, the team will look to the next guy.
“We just need to go to the next guy, everyone will get an opportunity and need to run as many guys as we can,” said Marshall.
Last season Delhi was 8-17 overall and went 7-5 in the SAL to earn a postseason berth into the Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section tournament.
The team met its goals but they are hungry. They also seem to be as ready as ever to potentially earn a league title.
“We talked a lot about this. We are the 18th team in varsity school history and we want to be the first to win a league championship in our program,” said de la Porte. “I know we did it in other sports but anything less will be a disappointment. That is our kids’ mentality, we believe we have the pieces to contend and win a league title.”
The team will have to go through Mariposa, Orestimba, Le Grand, Waterford to name a few squads in the SAL, but de la Porte feels it is wide open for anybody.
The Hawks welcome back arguably one of the best overall players in the SAL in standout Chance Browning as well as point guard Arnold Perez.
“Our kids have high expectations and we put in the necessary work to contend for a title and our preseason is brutal — one of the most difficult preseason schedules I ever put together,” said de la Porte. “It should help us, but it’s a loaded schedule and hopefully the goal is to prepare us for league.”
One of those tournaments includes the Modesto Christian Holiday Classic which welcomes some of the stiffest and top ranked varsity programs in the entire state, including the MC Crusaders who are a parochial powerhouse.
Dom Alvarez, Aiden Rocha and Alvin Prasad also expect to see extended minutes for the undersized but very fast Hawks.