The Mountain Empire Red Hawks expect to be a much higher profile team in their move to the Coastal Conference’s Pacific League.
No more road trips to Holtville or Calexico where the lenses of large media outlets are less likely to travel. Road trips this season will take the Pine Valley-based team to such more well-traveled places like La Jolla, Escondido and Carlsbad. Winning those games would double the spotlight.
The Red Hawks lost their starting quarterback in the third week of last season but managed to hang in there to post some respectable results.
Mountain Empire finished 4-7 in 2021 with four losses by eight points or less. The Red Hawks received the No. 9 seed in the Division V playoffs en route to a 19-0 first-round loss to eighth-seeded Crawford. Mountain Empire finished 1-3 in Desert League play with its lone win 27-0 against Calipatria.
“We’re happy to be in a new league,” Red Hawks head coach Bernard Vann said. “We are looking to compete in our new league. With the return of our quarterback, we should be able to put more points on the board this season.”
Top returners include seniors Hunter Morgan, David Lothspeich and Jason Sandoval along with juniors Drew Reed, Mannix Gonzalez, Phoenix Tani and Corey Vann, the quarterback as noted.
Hunter, a versatile utility player (middle linebacker/receiver/running back), earned second team all-league honors last season while the younger Vann tossed four touchdown passes in the three games in which he played.
Impact newcomers include seniors Brisen Cardinez, Roberto Andrade and Hector Cruz along with juniors Omar Acevedo, Shiattea Lindholm and Aden Rivera. Mountain Empire kicks off its season Aug. 19 with a non-league game at Hoover before hosting Southwest San Diego on Aug. 26.
The Red Hawks play three more non-league games — away at Bishop’s on Sept. 10, home to TriCity Christian on Sept. 16 and away at Army-Navy Academy on Sept. 23 — before opening league play.
The Coastal Conference’s Pacific League lineup includes Escondido Charter, Francis Parker and Classical Academy besides Mountain Empire.
The Red Hawks have additional non-league games against La Jolla Country Day and Orange Glen embedded in the second half of their season schedule.
The elder Vann is hoping the 2022 schedule will be kinder to his team in both exposure value and the win-loss column.