Ken Leighton 11:22 a.m., June 19
Season Preview: Mission Hills Grizzlies
Last Year: 7-4-1 (1st in Avocado East, lost in D-II semifinals) Returning Starters: 7 on offense/5 on defense Top Players: CB/WR Devin Holiday (Sr., Arizona), QB Connor Wynn (Jr.), LB/RB Ricky Liuchan (Jr.), WR/DB Nate Delaney (Sr.)
Mission Hills loaded for Division I title run
A solid group of returning players combined with the switch to a shallower Division I has Mission Hills in position to do something it has never done before. The 2012 Grizzlies are on the short list of contenders for a section crown that would be the program’s first.
Last season Mission Hills bounced back after starting 0-3 and played its best football late in the season. The Grizzlies lost to Helix in the Division II semifinals, the second time in three seasons they were knocked out of the playoffs by the eventual state champion after losing to Oceanside in the 2009 semifinals.
Unable to get past Oceanside and Helix in the postseason the past three years, Mission Hills knows it will not have to face either of those teams in the playoffs this season. The Grizzlies moved up to Division I this season due to significant enrollment drops at three schools including defending champion Poway, a move that leaves Division I wide open this season.
Mission Hills’ most healded player entering the season is 5-foot-10-inch, 160-pound senior cornerback/receiver Devin Holiday, a three-year varsity player that committed to Arizona during the summer. Holiday, junior linebacker Ricky Liuchan and defensive back Nate Delaney are the top returning players from a Mission Hills defense that held six opponents to a touchdown or less last season.
Offensively, Mission Hills returns all but four starters including junior quarterback Connor Wynn. Wynn improved throughout the 2011 season, and leads an offense that has the potential to be one of the section’s best this year.
Mission Hills opens the season Aug. 31 at Mission Viejo, currently ranked eighth in the state by MaxPreps. Prior to Avocado East League play, the Grizzlies’ schedule includes a two-week stretch against Valley Center (Oct. 21) and Oceanside (Oct. 28).