Don Lugo football team hopes to build on strong summer showing

The Don Lugo football team made great strides in the last two years under coach Luis Garcia. Well a veteran has taken over the reigns and should keep the ship headed in the right direction.

Greg Gano, who has had stints at Hacienda Heights Wilson, Damien and Los Altos, has retained most of the previous coaching staff and there are a lot of returning players so the transition has been a smooth one.

The Conquistadores were impressive over the summer winning two passing league tournaments. If nothing else, Don Lugo will start the new season with momentum and confidence.

Football coach Greg Gano, who coached at Northview, Los Altos and Wilson locally, is now at Don Lugo and has seen some positive signs this summer. (Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News)

“Those things don’t always mean a lot but we did beat some good teams,” Gano said. “I think we opened some eyes. We’re very excited about starting the new season.”

Of course it all starts and ends with a quarterback Don Lugo has one back in junior Rudy Garcia. He spent most of the season as a backup but had to step in when starter Dane Ford got injured late in the season and did an admirable job.

There are plenty of other starters returning too though, particularly along the offensive line, an area that Gano singles out as the strength of the team this season..

That unit is led by center Trevor Goulet, who will also play on the other side of the ball. Others pitching in there will include seniors Chris Torres, Tito Torento and Aaron Ngyuen and junior Chris Randazzo.

The Conquistadores graduated their top two rushers, one of those Ford, but there are plenty of contributors ready to shoulder the load – most notably junior Khoury Bethley, senior Zak Murray and sophomore Chris Perez.

The stable of receivers features senior Kendale Taylor, juniors Daniel Munguia, Thomas Delgado and Nico Lara, a transfer from Chino who won’t be eligible until the sixth week.

The biggest question mark appears to be the defensive line but Gano isn’t overly concerned. That group is headed by seniors Jason Gardner and Connor Wilt, junior Andy Esparza and sophomore Jack McNaughton.

“We have players at every position,” he said. “We don’t have as much experience there. We just have to find the right combination.”

Bethley and Taylor will also be important to the defensive effort in the secondary.

Among the others expected to be big contributors defensively are linebackers Tzion Dixon, Anthony Miller, Steve Quijada and Albert Luevano.

“The job really has energized me,” Gano said. “I can’t wait for the first game.”

Don Lugo plays a difficult non-league schedule, starting with Warren on Aug. 26. That’s a foe that went 8-3 last year. Other teams on the schedule are reigning league champions Pomona (Miramonte) and Northview (Valle Vista) as well as Chino and Rancho Cucamonga who look to be among the best teams in the Inland Valley this season.

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Sykes, San Dimas football looks to keep the ball rolling

Jarell Sykes of San Dimas carries the ball for a first down in Valle Vista League action against the Covina Colts. The Saints shut out the Colts in the first half 28-0 Friday, October 30, 2015, at Covina District Field.

Senior running back Jarell Sykes (above) will again lead the charge for the San Dimas Saints.

The San Dimas football team is coming off quite the season. The Saints marched all the way to the Mid-Valley title game before falling to Sierra Canyon.

The Saints have more than enough talent to get to another title game, although the Mid-Valley Division is gone and a new playoff alignment is in place.

“I really like what we have,” second-year head coach Mark Holman says. “We have a lot of players that had really great off-seasons. We think we can pick up where we left off.”

Of course the Saints (10-4 in 2015) are going to do what they do well – run the football. And why not when you have a quality back like Jarell Sykes returning. He ran for 2,129 yards and 28 touchdowns last season and was the catalyst of the 12th-ranked rushing team in the state. Oh yeah, Sykes is also a top defensive player.

Among the other returning veterans on offense are senior quarterback Joey Tamayo, senior lineman Abbas Darwiche, a three- year starter, and junior lineman Pablo Donoso.

Holman is also high on junior tight end Andre Zarate, senior wide receiver Josh Marquez, junior running back Noah Maldanado and senior running backs Daniel Jackson and Kai Rodriguez.

San Dimas head coach Mark Holman has the Saints back in the CIF-SS Mid-Valley Division semifinals.
(Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

“I’m more excited about our offense than I was last year,” Holman added. “We have more options so it doesn’t have to be all one guy.”

On defense Holman will be counting on many of the same players – most notably Darwiche and Sykes.

He singles out junior middle linebacker Dylan Ware as the best pure athlete on the squad.

Other major contributors will include junior lineman A.J. Placentia, senior outside linebacker Evan Haas and senior  Anthony Bernal who has excelled at both linebacker and free safety.

Holman is looking for his team to get off to a better start. It was only 2-2 through the first four games last year and one of those was the Smudge Pot loss to Bonita, something else he hopes to avenge.

The Saints also settled for second place in the Valle Vista League behind Northview.

The new season starts on Aug. 26 with that rivalry game at Bonita.

“We haven’t won that in a few years so we’re due,” he said. “For whatever reason we always seem to get off to a slow start. We’d really like to change that.”

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Los Osos football team looking to contend in tough Baseline

Carter running back Spencer Coleman is tackled by Los Osos defender Garrett Kohler during the first half of Friday night’s game Friday at Carter.

Garrett Kohler of Los Osos makes a tackle on a Carter ball carrier in a non-league game last fall. He will be top returner for the Grizzlies.

The Los Osos football team made some modest improvement last year, going 4-6. That came after 2-8 showings the previous two years.

But this fall coach Kevin Price is hoping to have more to show for his team’s hard work over the past off-season. The Grizzlies haven’t had a winning season since 2009 when they were 10-3 under previous coach Tom Martinez, now the school’s athletic director.

Price has made some subtle changes he hopes will pay off. He has restructured practices, in hope of getting better quality practice time out of a squad that has seen a decline in numbers the past few years.

Mike Randall had been serving as offensive coordinator and coaching the offensive line, but Price has taken the position responsibility off Randall’s plate so he can focus on the play-calling.

“The last couple of years have been frustrating,” said Price, given the head coaching nod in 2012. “We have made some changes we think are going to help. The numbers are down but we have a lot of kids here that have worked hard and they’re all in. I’d rather have this group of kids that are all in then 20 more players who aren’t fully invested.”

Junior Brett Cabral, younger brother of former offensive lineman Cohl Cabral, will get the nod at quarterback. He got some experience last year, taking over the starting job late last season.

He’ll have a couple experienced lineman up front in junior tackle Brandon Trejo and senior guard-center Aaron Meraz, with junior Jacob Nielsen helping out at fullback and/or tight end.

It will be a running-back-by-committee with the Grizzlies having graduated their top player in running back Donovan Williams. Among those looking to factor in are junior Kyle Jorgenson, a linebacker last year, junior Marco Martinez, who is up from the junior varsity and senior Evan Marks.

Price is quite high on senior wide receiver Tyler Riley, who is a lanky 6-foot-5 and has good hands.

“I think we’re going to be strong up front on both sides of the ball,” Price said. “It really all starts there. If we have success there it makes it easier to do everything else.”

The top returning player on the team is senior defensive end Garrett Kohler.

Others top performers pitching in on that side of the ball include senior defensive end Daivan Allen, senior safeties Ryan Esparza and Jacob Ray, with Ray also getting some time at wide receiver.

The new season kicks off Aug. 26 with a home game against Carter, a team to whom Los Osos lost 30-3 a year ago, although Carter looks to be in rebuilding mode this season.

The Grizzlies will compete in Division 5 in the CIF’s new divisional alignment. Price thinks that was a fair place to put his school and hopes it means it can contend should it make the playoffs.

“I like it,” he said of the playoff system, which puts schools in different division based on results the past two years. “It gives us a chance to sort of get out from under. If we can make the playoffs we’re competing to teams similar to us.”

 

 

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Alta Loma football looks for better showing in 2016

Alta Loma's Isac Velasquez (24) reaches towards the goal line only to come up short during the second quarter Thursday night against visiting Fontana at Chaffey High School in Ontario. Alta Loma hosts Fontana High School Thursday evening September 10, 2015 in a prep football game at Chaffey High School in Ontario. (Will Lester/Staff Photographer)

Alta Loma’s Isac Velasquez scores a touchdown last season in non-league game against Fontana.

Alta Loma was one of those schools that experienced some growing pains under a new coach last season. Mark Pasquarella wasn’t pleased with the Braves 4-6 showing but says his team is light years ahead of where it was at this time last year.

“We were really young last year,” Pasquarella said. “With so many kids coming back we’re really looking for a better finish. We believe in what we’re doing. It’s just a matter of changing the culture and getting the kids to believe they can win.”

Of course defending champion Colony looms as the Mt. Baldy League favorite but there should be quite the battle for the other two playoff spots with the Braves in the mix.

Among the players returning are quarterbacks James Josiah and Garrett Kettle, junior and senior respectively. Josiah saw considerable playing time last year with Kettle slowed by an elbow injury that never quite healed. Pasquarella said the job is up for grabs.

The strength of the team is likely to be the offensive line which boasts several returning starters. Pasquarella hopes that factor results in a more consistent showing by the offense which struggled at times last year.

Among the veterans up front are senior center Nick Gannuscio, senior tackle Angel Castellanos, junior guards Dylan Vanderkallen and Alex Bermudez and senior tight end Ryan Twist.

The Braves have always favored a balanced offense with multiple receivers and ball carriers and that will again be the case. Junior Isac Velasquez is a threat from a running and receiving.

Others coming out of the backfield include junior Christian Palmer, senior Jeremiah Goss.

“We need to move the ball more consistently,” Pasquarella said. “There were some times last year when we asked way too much of the defense. They were on the field a lot and that always gets you in trouble.”

Many of the same faces that will contribute on offense will do so on defense as well – Twist at defensive end and Velasquez playing some defensive back. Others will include junior nose tackle Kingston Toki, senior linebacker Michael Sanchez and junior linebacker David Bustamonte. Standouts in the secondary should include junior Jerry Valencia and seniors Ryan Pun and Kaedo Baynham.

The cast of promising newcomers is led by junior Joe Castillo, who will play in a lot of spots and senior receiver-corner Kenyon Johnson who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury. Pasquerella is also counting on junior defensive lineman Ira Thomas and senior defensive end Joshua Abrams.

There has been a major coaching change as Jeff Kettle, father of the quarterback, is in as defensive coordinator. He is a graduate of the school.

The Braves open the new season at home on Aug. 26 against Diamond Bar. It will mark the first home game for Alta Loma, which like many other schools in the Chaffey Joint Unified School District, will be breaking in new stadiums.

Alta Loma had primarily used Chaffey  as a home field and was relegated to a lot of Thursday night games.

“Our guys are very excited to be able to play a home game,” Pasquarella said. “I felt sorry for our seniors having to watch it get built and not being able to play on it. But this is great for our kids and the community.”

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Chino football looks to build on a stellar showing last season under new coach

Sometimes a team has a lot of ups and downs when it is playing under a new coach. It often means new offensive and defensive schemes, different position coaches as well and a new way of doing just about everything.

For the Chino Cowboys there was no such learning curve last year when Jesse Ceniceros took over. The Cowboys went 9-3, were second in a tough Hacienda League and advanced to the seconds round of the Central Division playoffs before losing to Summit which went undefeated in the regular season.

Good news for the Cowboys and their faithful fan following – the squad returns nine starters on offense and eight on defense. So yes, the Cowboys should be a team we’re talking about for the next several months.

“You never know what’s going to happen in a first year but I was confident in the system that I run and it has been successful everywhere I have been,” said Ceniceros, who came to the school after seven at Norwalk. “We have the same kind of kids here and they really bought into it right away.”

That “system” is the double wing as Ceniceros is a disciple of veteran coach Don Markham who made that his trademark.

The star of the offense, Da’Creh West, is one of the few graduated starters. He ran for 1,826 yards and 21 touchdowns a year ago.  That lead role will now go to junior Andrew Almazan, who ran for 764 yards and seven touchdowns. He stands just 5-foot-7 but worked on strength over the summer to prepare for the larger role in the offense.

Ceniceros compares him to now graduated Chaffey back Mikey Dean who led the area in rushing yardage despite a diminutive stature.

“He is very much in that mold,” Ceniceros said. “He knows how much we’re expecting of him this season and he worked hard to get ready for that workload.”

Among the other top offensive players returning are quarterback Angel Herrera and center Steven Lopez, both seniors.

“Lopez really is the quarterback of that line. He makes all the calls and he’s a very smart kid,” Ceniceros said.

The Cowboys have also been bolstered by the return of senior Brandon Serrano, a lineman who missed all of last season with a back injury sustained in a weight room accident.

There are plenty of quality players back on defense too, the most notable being senior defensive back Willie Morris, who is being sought after by Division I schools and already is an academic qualifier.

Other top players on defense are senior middle linebacker Adrian Alfaro and senior defensive end Matt Lara, who also could see time at tight end.

Ceniceros is also high on senior defensive end-defensive tackle Christian Noble, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound move-in from Texas.

“I really feel good about this team,” Ceniceros said. “I believe we have quality players at every position and there isn’t any reason we can’t compete for a title.”

The season gets underway on Aug. 26 with Chino traveling to Damien.

 

 

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Chaffey football looks to challenge in post-Dean era

Chaffey HS Athletics

The Chaffey High School football program has always relied on the running game. The last few years it has been Mikey Dean as the featured back.

Well Dean has graduated, leaving many to wonder what the Tigers will look like in 2016. Veteran coach Chris Brown might be able to use that to his advantage, particularly in the first few games with opponents not able to rely much on previous film.

Dean rushed for almost 4,000 yards and a school record 53 touchdowns in the last two years.

But the new version of the Tigers takes the field for the first game on Aug. 26 at Grand Terrace, an opponent it beat 14-6 in the third game of the 2015 season in which they finished 8-3 with a first-round playoff loss to Chino.

“It will be a little different not having Mike back there,” Brown said. “We’re going to try and throw the ball a little more and work some option stuff. We have dual threat quarterback and we want to use him.”

That quarterback will be senior DeQuan Futrell, who saw some time at that position last year and appears to be ready to step into the starring role this season.

Among the others Brown will be looking for big contributions from are senior wide receiver Joshua Rice, junior running back Nick Silva, promising sophomore David Ciminski who will see time at receiver, running back and even at safety and junior Princeton Kauvaka, the team’s fastest player who can also be utilized at multiple positions.

Brown also thinks he has one of the better tight ends in the area in 6-4 junior George Wusstig who will also play at defensive end.

Of course it always helps to have returning linemen. The leaders there are senior Joe Mizer and sophomore Daniel Godina. Siope Tovi is expected to start as a sophomore.

Leaders on defense will include junior DE Malakai Tovi, senior DB Nick Gonzalez and junior DB Paul Perez.

Colony remains the top dog in the Mt. Baldy League and Brown says the Titans will be a heavy favorite. But as has been the case the Tigers should be in the mix for a playoff spot. They were third last year behind Colony and Don Lugo.

“We might be a little better than last year even without Mikey because we’ll be more balanced,” Brown said. “Guys worked hard over the summer knowing there was going to be opportunity for then to step up.”

 

 

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Ontario football looking to continue improvement

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Antoine Paul looks for running room in game last season against Montclair. He is one of the top returning players for the Jaguars.

The Ontario football program has made progress in the last two years under veteran coach John Kusleika. Well this will be his third year and he thinks it’s finally time to really turn the corner and at least contend for a playoff berth.

The Jaguars, 5-5 overall but just 1-4 in Mt. Baldy League play, head into the season with reason to be optimistic. Their showing in 2015 marked a three-game improvement in the win column over 2014 and they have 12 returning starters.

Then there is the opening of a new on-campus stadium so the varsity will be playing actual home games for the first time in school history.

“You set goals and you have to be realistic,” Kusleika said. “When you look at where we have been it’s tough to go out on a limb and say we want to challenge for a league title. It is more realistic to say if all goes well we have a shot at making the playoffs. We would be happy with that. Not necessarily satisfied –  but it would show we’re making progress.”

Among the returning starters on offense is junior Antoine Paul, one of the team’s three backs last year. He improved over the course of last season and was a pivotal factor bu the end of the season. With the departure of the top two ball carriers, he will shoulder more of the load this fall.

Others include guard Abel Estrada, tackle Osvaldo Diaz, running back Gianni Oquendo and running back Sheldon Osborne, all seniors.

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The defense will be led by ends Justin Anaya and Omar De La Rosa, tackle Michael Ruiz, middle linebacker Dominick Avendano, linebacker-strong safety Justin Fineberg and free safety Hugo Yerena with Paul and Osborne also likely seeing time on defense.

“We’re farther ahead than we were at this time last year just because of the number of starters we have back,” Kusleika added. “Last year we only had a few.”

Kusleika’s concern is up the middle as he graduate a quarterback, a fullback and a center. The Jaguars won’t change what they do and that means someone will have a tall order in replacing Cameron Poe, who wasn’t a threat throwing the ball but was dangerous as  a ball carrier.

There is a battle brewing for that spot with the candidates being Luis Rivera and Aaron Delgado. Both are juniors.  Rivera was a linebacker last season while Delgado was Poe’s backup and also started for a freshman team that went 7-3 two years ago.

Other players on whom a lot is expected include junior fullback David Acuna, sophomore wide receiver Ricardo Soto, junior linemen Luis Garcia and Anthony Gil, junior middle linebacker Chris Uribe, senior center Raul Medina and junior defensive lineman Luis Melchor.

The Jaguars make their debut on Aug. 26 on that new home field against Ontario Christian.

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Ignacio Cabrera named volleyball coach at St. Lucy’s

Ignacio Cabrera has been named volleyball coach at St. Lucy’s. He replaces Franco Macchia, whose second tenure in that position was just one year.

He had served as an assistant girls coach at Pasadena the last two and half years and has aided with the La Salle boys team as well.

Cabrera is also active on the club circuit with Forza1 West Volleyball Club.

“I am excited about getting back to a private school. I really like the environment,” he said, “St. Lucy’s has good tradition in the sport and they are passionate about the sport. This is a great opportunity.”

Cabrera is a 2012 graduate of Bell-Jeff High School. He graduated from Westwood College with a degree in criminal justice in 2015.

The Regents tied for second place in the Baseline League last fall with Chino Hills behind Rancho Cucamonga.

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First-year Montclair HS football coach facing tough challenge

New Montclair High School football coach Eric Kennedy has his work cut out for him – and he knows it.

The school’s football program has forever suffered because of lack of a feeder program.

Eric Kennedy, head football coach at Montclair High School

He had been on the coaching staff of previous coach T.J. Fiorenza as defensive coordinator. But by the time he was formally appointed head coach, several of the school’s marquee players had jumped ship and bolted for other schools. Among those junior Roy Wiley, named the Bulletin’s Newcomer of the Year last fall.

The Cavaliers, 4-6 overall and 0-5 in league play a year ago, head into a new season with a lot of unknown players expected to contribute.

Instead of focusing on what he doesn’t have, Kennedy chooses to focus on the positive.

“We have a great group of kids and they have come in here every day with a good attitude and they have worked hard,” he said. “We’re really going to build on that.”

Kennedy does have some quality help on his coaching staff which includes two assistants that were head coaches last year – Luis Garcia (Don Lugo) who will serve as offensive coordinator and Randy Reams (Ayala) who will coach running backs and coordinate the passing game.

Fiorenza has stayed on too and will direct the freshman team.

Kennedy will be banking on his team’s balance at each position, with no dominant player. Returning starters asked to shoulder a big load this season will include senior linebacker Jason Le, junior nose tackle-offensive lineman Diego Sanchez, senior corner-receiver Jesse Ramiez, senior defensive end Gonzalo Pelayo, senior free safety Eddy Lugo and senior running back Matthew Mendibles.

Among the newcomers is sophomore quarterback Gabriel Tamba, the starter on the freshman team last year.

Other promising newcomers include sophomore tight end-defensive end Evan Richardson and senior receiver Andres Nunez.

The good news is that other than front-runner Colony, there appears to be balance in the Mt. Baldy League with most of the other teams also losing their top players.

Montclair opens the season on Aug. 26 against San Gabriel, a team it defeated 36-0 in its first game last year. The first league game will be Oct. 7 against Ontario.

When it came to the CIF’s new football division alignment, the Cavaliers were put into Division 12 which also includes Ontario. Kennedy thinks its the perfect place for his school.

“We’re in with schools comparable to us as far as resources, socio-economic background, participation, school enrollment,” he said. “It really puts us on a level playing field and I think we can compete should we make the playoffs.”

 

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Basketball player Cameron Shelton transfers from Chino Hills to Damien

Chino Hills Cameron Shelton (20) and Damien’s Isaiah White (3) battle for a loose ball during a Baseline League game. Both teams we selected to play in the Open Division in the playoffs.

Junior guard Cameron Shelton has transferred from Chino Hills to Damien.

Shelton was a key starter for the Huskies as a freshman in 2014-2015.

Last year he was the first player off the bench for a Huskies team that went 35-0, won Baseline League, Southern Section and state Open Division titles and was declared national champion by multiple organizations.

He said the move had nothing to do with playing time or the athletic part of the equation. It was about academics.

“Most of my early life I went to a Christian school,” he said. “My parents thought it would be better for me the next two years. They have a 90-something percent college acceptance rate so this was more about my future.”

Shelton said he still considers the Huskies his friends and he’ll miss being on the court with them. It will also be a little bit strange to play against them as a member of a rival league team.

It is made a bit easier by the fact that the team had a historic run last year that can probably never be equaled.

“I’m always going to have those memories,” he said. “It was special. Those guys are my friends and they’ll always be my friends.”

Right now Shelton is focused on improving his game. He is playing for Watson Elite 16-under which ironically is coached by Matt Dunn, who was the coach at Damien until last season.

Shelton said Dunn had nothing to do with the decision.

“He didn’t even know I did it. I never really mentioned it to him.”

No doubt he’ll be a welcomed addition to a Damien squad that won a league title two years ago and was second to Chino Hills last year. The Spartans graduated their two leading scorers.

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