LA City Section Division 3 football will look quite a bit different in 2019.

After winning last season’s CIF LA City Section Division 3 championship 52-20 over Fremont, Santee is moving up to D-1. Also leaving D-3 are runner-up Fremont and quarterfinalists Chatsworth and Manual Arts.

Among the favorites in 2019 is senior-loaded Marquez, who likely stands to improve after making the quarterfinals last season. Rudy Fortiz is in his first year as their head coach, but he was already an assistant coach last season, and has 32 years of coaching experience. And he has a ton of talent to work with, with nine starters returning on both sides of the ball.

The Gladiators employ a rush-heavy offense, and are returning their plethora of playmakers, some of whom both rush and receive. Leading rushers Armando Guardado (812 yards), Joe Vasquez (647), Devin Vega (426), Juan Gonzalez (252), and Oscar Hernandez (187) are all returning. Dual-threat starting QB Erick Salas is returning as well. He passes fairly infrequently, but when he does, his efficiency is great, as shown by his QB rating of 121.9. Top receivers Andrew Molina, Jorge Barajas, and Francisco Amezcua all return as well. Aldo Sanchez stars on the offensive line.

LB Christopher Diego made 114 tackles (70 unassisted) last season, by far the most on the team, and he’s back. He makes up one of the better linebacker corps in the division with Hernandez, Joshua Del Cid, Pedro Gallardo, and Julian Soltero. Gonzalez, Andrew Izaguirre, Saul Viramontes, and Jorge Barajas form an excellent secondary.

With so much continuity, Marquez seems close to a lock to finish near the top of the division. They have accordingly high expectations, especially with all the seniors on the team. Coach Fortiz told Scorebook Live that they’ve recently implemented a new weight room program that has been very successful. Offense will be the Gladiators’ calling card, but their defense could very well be the best in the division too. If they stay healthy, they are probably the team to beat.

While Gardena finished with an unimpressive 3-9 record last season, that was mostly a reflection of a brutal schedule. They actually made the quarterfinals as well, and are likely to be a top D-3 threat come playoff time. Like Marquez, Gardena runs a rush-heavy offense, and is returning many key players on both sides, particularly offense.

Dual-threat QB Daquan Paul figures to be one of the team’s leading rushers again. Their leading rusher from last season, RB/HB Kwanta Pugh, returns as well. Paul’s top receiving target, Andre Lawson, will be back for his senior year. Defensively they’re in solid shape too. Pugh, a standout at OLB, anchors the interior. They should have an elite secondary behind an outstanding CB trio in Lawson, Duran Wallace, and Eddie Seale. Seale had a phenomenal sophomore year last season, registering 45 tackles.

Dropping down to D-3 after making the playoffs in Division 2 is Hollywood. RB Ameer Davis is back after running for 1,142 yards last season as a junior. Dual-threat QB Aaron Garcia threw for 1,361 yards last season a sophomore as well. Also returning is second leading receiver, Edwin Garcia, who racked up 460 receiving yards.

Contreras returns six starters on offense and seven on defense. The Cobras ran the ball more often than not last season, but all their top rushers graduated. Expect an increased role from junior QB Jesus Torres if they opt to pass more this season. Anthony Medoza (RB/FB) will definitely get a significant increase in touches after a strong junior year as well. They also have a top OL in Guillermo Crisanto. Lastly, coach Eric Carrillo expects big things out of WR Manuel Mata and ATH Matthew Myers.

Their defense should have enough top returners to still be on the stronger side, particularly on the interior. Mendoza, Eric Mena, and Johnny Prado return as a very strong linebacking group. They also have a promising line with Crisanto and Keyshawn Waters back. Chris Talamon and Ahkiem Taylor anchor the secondary.

This year the Cobras might play with a chip on their shoulders for a couple reasons. They lost four games last season by a touchdown or less with a very young squad, and are quite hungry. Also, their home field has been condemned by LAUSD, so they’ll play every game on the road this season. Coach Carrillo has high hopes for his team given their seniors/experience, and really believes they’re one of the better defensive teams in the division. Don’t be surprised if Contreras is one of the last teams in D-3 standing come playoff time.

Coming off a berth in the quarterfinals, Lincoln is looking to reload after losing many of their best players. The offense will have a lot of turnover, but Andrew Perez and Andre Watkins are still around. Perez is a dual-threat QB who also played quite a bit of receiver last season. With last season’s starting QB Geo Suarez gone, expect to see Perez get the bulk of the snaps. At RB, Watkins ran for 972 yards and 11 touchdowns last season in only eight games. He’s also a threat to catch the ball.

Lincoln has several experienced players returning on defense. Lineman Isai Ballentine and Eduardo Teran both made over 60 tackles last season. They are joined on the line by another strong returner in Ronald Sosa. Watkins doubles as a safety, and Andrew Velasquez can excel at multiple positions on defense.

Los Angeles High School didn’t play in the postseason despite a very strong season last fall (7-3, 4-1 in league). This year they really have their work cut out for them with very few starters returning. 

Q’marr Allen will run the show on both ends. Last season he racked up 827 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior RB, and 65 tackles at LB. Listed at ATH, Quinndon Allen contributed in limited minutes on both ends as a freshman, and will likely see an expanded role as a receiver and starting defender. Sophomore Jefrey Beltran will likely start at QB.

One team that could make a jump this season after being solid last year is Mendez. They are returning seven starters on both sides of the ball after making the playoffs last season. Their program has only been around since 2016, but they already project to be an above-average team in D-3 this year, and maybe even a strong playoff team. Last year their rotation featured numerous sophomores, and coach Carlos Fernandez loves the experience they now bring as juniors.

The Jaguars almost never throw the ball. In fact, last season they had a total of 241 passing yards. As a result, they had over ten times more rushing yards than passing/receiving yards. 

While star RB Joseph Ponce is gone, Andres Tavares is back after rushing for 550 yards last season. Pass-oriented QB Hugo Quisquinay and dual-threat QB Jorge Charro are likely to split snaps again. Charro’s strength is as a runner, and he will likely see minutes at running back. Top receiver Anthony Estrada is back as a junior as well. Joshua Cruz returns to headline the offensive line.

Mendez’s defense is highlighted by a lot of good returners as well. Andrew Garcia is a standout at FS, and is joined in the defensive backfield by Alfredo Muniz. Linebackers Bryan Avila and Andrew Galvan anchor the interior, along with lineman Bryant Juarez.

Jordan was unlucky to draw Santee in the first round of the D-3 playoffs last year after winning league. It’ll be hard to replace RB Elijah Hawkins and WR Frances Cheeks, but the Bulldogs have some solid talent returning particularly on defense. 

Dual-threat QB Perrion Pemberton took over about halfway through the season and figures to start. Outside of him, there’s uncertainty at the skill positions. Pemberton is likely the best returning defensive player for the Bulldogs as well, recording 50 tackles in six games. Willie Duke and David Chavez will lead the interior and secondary, respectively.

Polytechnic had a losing season after a difficult schedule last year, but still did enough to qualify for the playoffs. Another playoff appearance could definitely be in range as they’re returning five starters on both ends. In fact, coach Derrell Daniels expects a winning record and a top-three finish in league this season.

The Parrots are losing their starting QB, but are otherwise returning their top players at the skill positions. Their top receivers — Jovan Alfonzo, Alex Ochoa, and Joseph Lopez — are all back as seniors. Ditto for RBs Isaac Ramirez and Sal Pineda. The offensive line could be a weakness but they do have Chris Moncada around to lead a less experienced group.

On defense, Poly should have a solid defensive backfield with Lopez, Steven Medina, and Tom Rauda. Along with Ramirez at OLB, lineman Sal Castellanos and linebacker Seth Johnson anchor the interior.

Hawkins struggled last season but should compete for a playoff spot this year with a lot of returning upperclassmen. Brandon Smith and Steven Romero are threats to run the ball, and WR Will Givens is a primary downfield target. Beandre Vickers and Pablo Figueroa make a solid MLB/OLB tandem on defense. Guillermo Arzu is another strong contributor to the interior at DE.

If they can repeat last year’s solid campaign, Rivera is another potential playoff team. Angel Perez is likely the starting QB, with threats at WR in Jonathan Leon, Azarie Miller, Allan Green, and Jeremiah Groom. La’Brian Hicks and Daniel Salazar are the top options at RB. Lance Granberry (LB) and Aromonte Williams (DE) highlight the defensive interior.

New head coach Nathan Hollister Jr. is hoping to turn things around for Rancho Dominguez, who went winless last season. The Lobos are only returning one starter, and the majority of the team has never played football before. But Hollister, who’s also the offensive coordinator, believes that this group can put the pieces together and win games.

Rancho Dominguez only won one game last year. With essentially a whole new program, they have a fresh start awaiting them. Everyone on this very small team is going to play both ends. As of right now, the rotations and positions are still being worked out, but coach Hollister is expecting major contributions out of Nate Gomez, Jemar Armstrong, Torwin Sessions, Marc Collins, Troy Mosley, and Quintin Lee.

Offensively, Belmont will likely run things through their top rusher (and only featured running back) from last season, Elmer Lwin. Lineman Dennis Hernandez anchors the Sentinels’ defensive interior, while Lwin, Juan Acuna, and Rafa Padilla round out the secondary. 

Roybal was solid last season, but is only returning two starters in two-way linemen Denilson Chinchilla and Michael Torres. Torres finished last season with a whopping 74 tackles, with 60 coming unassisted. Despite their inexperience, coach Michael Galvan expects a competitive squad that will aim for a playoff spot.

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