About Steve Ramirez

Steve Ramirez has covered prep sports for San Gabriel Valley Newspapers since 1989.

Brown goes downtown for Utes

Former Damien star Freddie Brown is loving life in Utah.

It’s been a long road to the Division I level for Freddie Brown. But the former Damien High School star and Citrus College player is making the most of is opportunity with Utah.
Brown, arguably one of the top collegiate players with local ties, has helped the Utes to a top-10 ranking and a shot at BCS bowl.
The senior leads the team with 57 receptions for 678 yards and seven TDs. He came up big two weeks ago, catching the winning TD in a 13-10 victory over TCU. He also five catches for 59 yards in a 25-23 victory at traditional-power Michigan in September and 11 receptions for 110 yards and two TDs in a 63-14 victory over San Diego State this past weekend.
He will now attempt to get the Utes a BCS bid with a victory over intra-state rival Brigham Young on Saturday.

Who’s the best? How about Pierce

Mt. SAC alum Antonio Pierce is one of the top linebackers in football.

As I was watching the Super Bowl champion New York football Giants take apart America’s team – the Dallas Cowboys, I couldn’t help notice the play of linebacker Antonio Pierce, who might be the best NFL player with local ties.
Who is better?
Is it former Bishop Amat star Brian Russell, who is now starting in the Seattle Seahawks defensive secondary?
Good pick. Russell ranks among the team leaders, with 36 tackles and has one sack.
But I like Pierce, who NFL analyst John Madden called one of the better linebackers in the game. And the numbers prove it.
Pierce, who helped Mt. San Antonio College win the 1997 CCCAA state title, is a key member of the Giants defense that played a big role in upsetting the New England Patriots. He’s picked up where he left off, leading the Giants with 38 tackles. He also has one sack.
Pierce is also one of the emotional leaders for the Giants, who many believe can be repeat champs.

Perez ranks among national leaders

Charter Oak grad, who is now at UCLA, is one of the top punters in the country.

This has been somewhat of a trying season for the UCLA football team. But one of the bright spots have come from Charter Oak High School grad Aaron Perez, who is one of the top punters in the country.
Perez has become a key ingredient of coach Rick Neuheisel’s plan to play the field position game, resulting in the former Charger being ranked No. 10 in the country with a 44.39-yards per punt average. He also ranks second in the Pac-10.

Damien’s Johnson OK with new role in Boise

Damien High Grad Ian Johnson doesn’t mind his dimished role at Boise State.

Former Damien High School running back, who made a name for himself at Boise State in the Broncos’ upset of Oklahoma a few years back in the Fiesta Bowl, is in a more limited role this season. But with Boise State’s current success, he doesn’t seem to mind.
Here’s the story about the former Spartan.
My own memory of Johnson at Damien was how he got me in trouble with then Bishop Amat coach Mike DiFiori. Johnson did some trash talking in my post-game interview after Damien beat Amat in 2002. I went with the quote and learned that I was forever banned from the Bishop Amat sideline by DiFiori.
I wonder if the former Lancers head coach, who is now an assistant at Amat, still has the same power. I will find out next week when I cover the Amat-Loyola game.
But good luck to IJ.

Thurmond comes home

West Covina HS grad Walter Thurmond III intercepts a pass against USC in 2006. He returns to Southern California to face the Trojans on Saturday.

Saturday will be sort of a homecoming when the USC football team plays host to Oregon at the Coliseum at 5 p.m.
No, not for the Trojans, but for former West Covina High School’s Walter Thurmond, who returns to Southern California as a member of the Gang Green secondary.
Thurmond is considered to be one of the top defensive backs on the West Coast. The junior, who has 19 tackles and two interceptions this season, was All-Pacific-10 last season and is on the watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the top defensive back in the country.
Thurmond will lead a Oregon team that is ranked No. 23 and is 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the Pac-10. The Ducks scored a 63-14 victory at Washington State last week.
Welcome back Walter and good luck against those Trojans!

Tigers take a likin’ to WesCo’s Skelton

James Skelton, a former standout baseball player at West Covina High School, completed a solid 2008 season in the Detroit Tigers organization, moving from Single-A to Double-A by season’s end.

The former Bulldog hit a combined .303 while making stops for the Tigers’ affiliates of Lakeland, Fla. of the Florida State League and Erie, Pa of the Eastern Association. He wound up the season with five home runs, 34 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. He hit .307 in 63 games with Single-A Lakeland before moving up to Double-A Erie after the Tigers traded veteran Pudge Rodriguez in July. He hit .294 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 24 games with Erie.

Perez gets his kicks

Former Charter Oak punter Aaron Perez, who is now at UCLA, is on the Ray Guy Award watch list.

Aaron Perez was one of the top punters in Southern California when he was at Charter Oak High School, and he has continued that success now that he is at UCLA.
Perez, one publication’s preseason pick for first team All-Pacific 10, was recently added to the watch list for the Ray Guy Award, which goes to the top punter in the nation.
Perez has been solid this season, with 10 punts for an average of 47.7, including a long of 61 yards.
He plays a key role in UCLA’s battle to win the field-position game.

BASEBALL: Roemer, Pedroza finish successful seasons

Former Glendora star Wes Roemer enjoyed a solid season in Single-A, nearly throwing a perfect game in July.

The 2008 baseball season is over for former Valley players Sergio Pedroza of Northview and Wes Roemer of Glendora.
Roemer, pitching for the Single-A Visalia Oaks, an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, went 7-12 with a 4.59 ERA. He also had 122 strikeouts in 162 innings. Roemer did flatter with perfection earlier this season, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning before finishing with a three-hitter in a 4-2 victory over the Modesto Nuts in early July.
Pedroza had a solid season playing for the Double-A Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits, an affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. He .248 with five home runs and 16 doubles.

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San Gabriel Valley Bruins?

Former Mt. SAC QB Kevin Craft makes one of his throws that helped UCLA beat Tennessee on Monday.

UCLA may be in Westwood, but the Bruins football team certainly has some San Gabriel Valley flavor.
Of its top players, three have a Valley connection – Mt. San Antonio College’s Kevin Craft, Los Altos’ Brigham Harwell and Charter Oak’s Aaron Perez. All three played key roles in UCLA opening the season with a 27-24 victory over Tennessee at the Rose Bowl on Labor Day.
Harwell was a monster inside, constantly blowing up the Vols’ offensive schemes from his defensive line position. Perez, a two-year starter at punter, allowed UCLA to win the field-position battle, and Craft was the talk of the nation after following a four-interception first half with stout second half in which he led UCLA to a pair of TD drives that eventually led to the 27-24 victory.
Keep up the good work, Valley stars!

Cody hoping to earn his keep

Former Los Altos star Shaun Cody, left, hopes to keep working on Sundays.

The National Football League, as a business, can be quite cruel.
There are no provisionals in the NFL. The best players play, and those who don’t fit that criteria, must look elsewhere.
Former Los Altos High School star Shaun Cody finds himself right in the middle of that world. Cody, who after earning All-America status at USC and being regarded enough for the Detroit Lions to select him in the second-round of the 2005 NFL Draft, is now playing with his roster spot on the line this exhibition season.
It’s a system that Cody truly understands.
“I don’t take it as pressure,” Cody told Detroitlions.com. “I just take it as a chance to compete for a spot. I know we’ve got a lot of defensive tackles and the reality is you can only keep so many. All you can do is go out and compete.
“If you put pressure on yourself, that’s when guys tend to worry about it. You can’t lose sleep over it, but go out there and compete. If you’re the guy for the spot and they think you can perform and play to what they want you to, that’s the only thing you can hope for.”
Cody, who played in all 16 games, starting two his rookie year in 2005 and 15 games last season, has played in all of the team’s three exhibition games, recording four tackles. Cody, who is listed as the team’s No. 2 nose tackle, gets his last chance to state his case when the Lions travel to Buffalo to face the Bills on Thursday.
“I need to go out there and produce,” Cody said. “I know I’ve had a good camp up to this point and now it’s just time to prove it. That’s when you’ve got to prove it. It doesn’t matter what you do in practice. In the end, it’s what you can put on tape and what you can show on film.”