By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
VISALIA – Golden West head coach Paul Preheim is no stranger to leading teams out on the Groppetti Automotive Visalia Community Stadium, but on Saturday he wasn’t directing the Golden West brown and gold. Instead he was giving the Xs and Os to the white and red.
Preheim led an East squad chalk full of talent to a 33-12 victory over the West, and mostly on the arm of Raymond Ortega out of Delano. By the final whistle Ortega was crowned the East’s most valuable player of the game having connected for three of the team’s five touchdowns. What makes the story all the better is he wasn’t even supposed to line up under center.
“Raymond was really just flying under the radar. We picked him to be a DB but when JJ Lino wasn’t able to be there we turned to him and it was like, ‘hey, this kid can play’,” Preheim said.
Central Valley Christian quarterback JJ Lino was expected to play on Saturday, but when he could only make one practice Preheim and the coaching staff decided it was best to sit him out. But that left Ortega with the opportunity to shine as he connected on some long plays and a long touchdown pass.
Not to be outshined though, Strathmore quarterback Nick Salas had two touchdowns of his own. One of his notable connections was with a wide receiver that lives just a few miles up Highway 65 in Exeter, Christian Genetti. The Strathmore Spartans found Genetti with single coverage 37 yards down the field for an impressive touchdown pass.
Genetti was not the only Monarch to put points on the board. According to Coach Preheim kicker Ricky Quintero came through on several point after tries. Although, the East’s head coach also noted how he missed the first one.
“You can’t rush in the All-Star game so I think he might have missed it because he isn’t used to having people not come after it…that will throw kickers off too,” Preheim said.
At least the East had a kicker, the West squad didn’t have one at all. Instead of punting on fourth downs the West opted to go for it every time. As a result the East was able to take advantage of some key field position, particularly in the second quarter where they were able to head into half time up 19-6.
The second half was a much faster affair, not just on the field but on the clock. Because of some fights between East and West teams referees made the decision to move toward a running clock the entire second half.
“We talked to our kids about fighting the two weeks before hand and I don’t know why it’s been a trend in All-Star games lately. It might be there’s this need to protect their new teammates…it’s too bad the game was marred by it,” Preheim said.