Don Lugo football team gets boost from unlikely source

Last year the Don Lugo team was one of the most improved teams in the area going from last to third in the Mt. Baldy League to make the playoffs.

Many of those players graduated so second-year coach Luis Garcia is counting on newcomers to keep the progress coming.

But one player has come through who wasn’t on the radar three months ago.

Junior Anthony Miller didn’t even play football last year, although he did compete on the wrestling team. Garcia had him penciled in on the junior varsity. But Miller, a 5-foot-10, 170-pounder, has looked so good not only has he earned spot on the varsity, he is challenging for a starting position at running back and/or linebacker.

“He has been a real beast,” Garcia says. “He plays hard, practices hard and he’s tough.”

Don Lugo, 6-4 a year ago, opens the new season on Friday at Walnut. It defeated the same opponent 41-14 to start last season with Walnut ending the season with a 2-8 record.

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Don Lugo football team looks to feed off solid 2014 campaign

Luis Garcia took over the football program at Don Lugo last year. And while he had high expectations for himself and for his team, few outside the program had that kind of confidence.

“I know people we’re thinking, ‘Here we go again. Another new coach,’ ” he said. “I was totally all in though and I was just focused and I believed in the players we had. You have to buy in because if the players sense that you’re not, they’re not going to buy in either.”

The Conquistadors exceeded expectations though. They were coming off a 3-7 campaign. While a 6-4 regular season may not seem like significant improvement, it really was.

Don Lugo’s Jorge Montelongo, who rushed for 101 yards, carries the ball against Chino during Friday night’s...

The only thing that prevented them from finishing second in the Mt. Baldy behind perennial power Colony was a 9-7 loss to Chaffey.

Don Lugo also advanced to the playoffs and battled another perennial power, Monrovia, to overtime before falling 26-20.

The season also included the first win over local rival Chino since 2009. That rivalry had been overwhelmingly one-sided lately.

This year there is optimism in the school and the community for the first time in awhile. Garcia, himself a graduate of the school, recognizes that means his team has to be equal to the challenge.

“I hate to say we had nothing to lose last year but there were were no expectations,” he said. “Now there are, so yes there is some pressure to build on what we did last year.”

The Conquistadors do have quite a few holes to fill. Among the key departed players are linebacker Preston Carr, a first-team All-CIF selection, as well as wide receiver David Delgado and running back Jorge Montelongo.

Among the key returning players are quarterback Dane Ford, who will be a three-year starter. Among the others are cornerbacks C.J. Scrimmager and Kendale Taylor, offensive lineman Chris Torres, tight end-defensive lineman Christopher Gonzalez and defensive tackle Jeffrey Bitetti.

Leading the group of newcomers on whom Garcia will be relying is sophomore lineman Chris Randazzo, a 6-foot-5, 325-pounder who is already attracting interest from Division I schools.

Others are sophomore wide receiver Thomas Delgado, David’s younger brother, as well as junior linebackers Tzion Dixon, whom Garcia says is the hardest hitter on the team.

Don Lugo opens with a scrimmage against Claremont on Aug. 21. The regular season starts the following week with the Conquistadors traveling to Walnut.

 

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A round of applause for coaches who led their teams to great things

Yesterday’s Top 10 featured the top team performances of the past school year. Now it’s time to highlight the coaches, who don’t get nearly enough credit most of the time.

Naturally many on this list are ones from team’s we spotlighted yesterday. And yes it’s hard to narrow it down to just 10. I also wanted to include some that weren’t obvious choices, so here goes . . .

10. Ben Davies, Alta Loma girls soccer (24-5)
The Braves looked to be a true threat to win a Division 5 CIF title all season. Then star player Leah Pruitt went down with what looked like a season-ending knee injury vs. Montclair on Jan. 28. There was a brief hiccup the next game as the Braves lost to Colony. But they regrouped nicely, even without Pruitt to win the league title. Pruitt amazingly returned vat the end of the season and Alta Loma managed to get to the quarterfinal before losing to Palm Desert 3-0.

9. Jackie Robinson, Los Osos track
The Grizzles took five athletes to the state competition and four of those placed in a total of five events. There were two athletes in the throwing events but the other athletes were all in different events. Versatility indeed.

8. Luis Garcia, Don Lugo football (6-5)
This one might surprise people but the Conquistadores weren’t on anyone’s radar. They haven’t been good – 3-7 in 2013 and I picked them last this year. Well they went 6-4 under a first-year coach and were third in the Mt. Baldy. Only a 9-7 loss to Chaffey kept them out of second. The Conquistadores turned in an admirable performance in the playoffs, losing to perennial title contender Monrovioa 26-20 in overtime. They also took the Milk Can from local rival Chino which had dominated them as of late.

7. Christine Howard, Colony girls basketball (22-9)
The Titans went all the way to the Division 2A CIF title game before falling to South Torrance 57-56. They were the co-champion in the Mt. Baldy League with Alta Loma, splitting regular season games with the Braves. Colony also got that far with a balanced offense, not relying heavily on any one player.

6. Tishanna Pope, Alta Loma volleyball (36-3)

The Braves had no competition in the Mt. Baldy League so the toughest task for Pope was trying to find a way to keep her team sharp and focused when they didn’t have an equal. Teams that lack competition in the regular season frequently crash and burn in the playoffs – not the Braves who won a CIF title and finished as state runner-up.

5. Jason Schmelzeisen, Chaffey boys  soccer (22-2-5)
The Tigers had a tough task at hand just in Mt. Baldy League play and they finished first, not securing that outright title until a 4-3 overtime win against Ontario the final game of the regular season. That win also came despite playing a man down. Chaffey got to the Division 3 title game before falling to Cathedral 2-0.

4. Randy Bohlmann, Damien volleyball (26-7)
The Spartans won the Division 5 CIF title this season, getting past the quarterfinal for the first time in school history. Bohlmann started the program five years ago so he was the one laying the foundation. Now he is reaping the benefits. The Spartans also did a masterful job of shutting down a marquee player in the CIF title match.

3. Dave Kleckner, Etiwanda boys basketball (24-9)

OK, he’s one that could be on the list every year. And maybe the Eagles didn’t win the Baseline League for the first time in more than a decade. But it was how his team bounced back after that. His team beat both Chino Hills and Damien the second time through league play. It made a run to a CIF final that included a win AT Mater Dei and one over Sierra Canton to whom it lost earlier in the season. The Eagles stayed in the elite Open Division in basketball, losing a SoCal regional semifinal to LA Fairfax.

2. Keith Richardson, Pomona football (11-4)
Richardson had to right the ship and keep his team focused amid numerous distractions, the most notable being the dismissal of the head coach right before the playoffs. Richardson, then the defensive coordinator, took over and did just that. He was officially rewarded with the head coaching position.

1. Matt Dunn, Damien boys basketball (29-5)

The Spartans move from one league into the Baseline, probably the most competitive in all the Southern Section. And they win nine of 10 league games, finishing ahead of Etiwanda and Chino Hills. They lost a second round Open Division CIF game to Orange Lutheran but capitalized on the second chance and won a state title in Division 3 in that portion of the playoffs. A lot of coaches have trouble getting a team up for the state playoffs after a CIF run. No problem here. Some said the Spartans would have been better off in Division 3, a probable easy winner, and not in the Open. Dunn said, “Bring it On.”

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Don Lugo coach steps down

Don Lugo football coach Lou Randall has resigned.

Randall, 62, had only headed the Conquistadores for the last two years but had been in the coaching profession almost four decades.

He called it a personal decision but adds that he plans to retire at the end of the school year.

He cited the demands of the job as well as the difficulty in balancing football and teaching a full load of math classes. He also lives in Moreno Valley, making for a difficult commute.

He says he’d like to be on someone’s staff as an assistant but it would probably be a school closer to home.

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