Red Hawks seek new fortunes in new league

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Corey Vann drops back with the ball during a summer seven-on-seven passing event July 8-9 at Southwestern College.

The Mountain Empire Red Hawks are moving to a new league, not necessarily closer to home, but certainly closer to the media spotlight surrounding Friday Night Lights.

“We should be on the PPR every week, our scores should get in the larger papers,” Mountain Empire head coach Bernard Vann said.

There’s certainly going to be more exposure for the program, and that should help with college recruiting.

The Red Hawks hope to make the most of it in the move from the Imperial Valley-based Desert League to the Coastal Conference Pacific League.

“We’ll be driving to places like La Jolla rather than Holtville,” Vann said.

Vann has coached the team since 2015. The Red Hawks finished 8-4 in 2018 as Manzanita League champions while advancing to the quarterfinal round of the Division V playoffs, the team’s last winning season.

“We’ve grown, we’ve built our culture,” Vann said. “Like everyone else, we lost a year-and a- half due to COVID. But we’re coming up.”

Mountain Empire participated in last weekend’s seven-on seven passing tournament at Southwestern College, advancing to the consolation semifinals on a promising note.

“This year our offense should get back to where it was in 2018,” Vann said. “We should put up some points. We’ve got a couple good returning offensive players. Our quarterback is a three-year starter.”

Junior Corey Vann (6-0, 150) completed four touchdowns passes against one interception in three games last season. He enters this season having thrown for 872 yards with seven touchdowns as a freshman and sophomore.

Hunter Morgan, one of the bigger players on the team at 173 pounds, enters his senior season having made 62 tackles, including five for a loss and two sacks, as a sophomore and junior.

Mountain Empire finished 4-7 overall last season after a 1-3 showing in Desert League play. The Red Hawks qualified for the Division V playoffs as the No. 9 seed, ending their season with a 19-0 loss at eighth seeded Crawford.

Besides Mountain Empire, the revamped Pacific League also includes Escondido Charter, Francis Parker and Classical Academy for the upcoming season.

Escondido Charter, last year’s Pacific League champion, finished 9-2 en route to a first round berth in the Division V playoffs. Francis Parker finished 5-6 last season with a first-round berth in the Division IV playoffs.

“It’s one of the best leagues for smaller schools in San Diego,” the elder Vann said. “Our goal is to compete.”

Mountain Empire kicks off the 2022 season with an Aug. 19 game at Hoover before hosting Southwest San Diego on Aug. 26. Hoover finished 3-7 last season while Southwest did not field a varsity team.

The Red Hawks’ somewhat imposing non-league also includes matchups against the Bishop’s School (there on Sept. 10), Tri-City Christian (home on Sept. 16), Army-Navy Academy (there on Sept. 23), La Jolla Country Day (there on Oct. 14) and Orange Glen (home on Oct. 28).

Bishop’s, La Jolla Country Day and Orange Glen are members of the Coastal Conference’s Coastal League.

Bishop’s finished 8-3 last season with a first-round berth in the Division II playoffs while La Jolla Country Day was 7-5 with a quarterfinal-round berth in the Division IV field.

Red Hawks seek new fortunes in new league

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