Ayala football team looks to get back on track under new leader

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The Ayala football team is one of the many in the Inland Valley under a new leader. A.J. Gracia has taken over and is hoping to lead a resurgence of a program that most agree underachieved last year in going just 3-7.

It won’t be easy. The competition is pretty stiff in the Palomares League and the Bulldogs open the season on Aug. 26 with a non-league game against local rival Chino Hills which has owned them in recent years.

But the new leader is optimistic.

“There is talent here,” he said. “Everyone has been working hard and they have bought in with what we’re trying to do and that’s a good place to start.”

Like all new coaches who weren’t on the staff previously Gracia says every player comes in with a clean slate with him. No returning player is guaranteed a starting spot. Those have to be earned. That competition for playing time can only help.

One of the battles is at quarterback where freshman Cole McCain and junior James Linn are candidates for the starting spot. Linn saw some playing time last year as a back-up to the graduate Michael Morales.

The line will be led by junior center Justin Salazar and junior guard-tackle Addison Shackelford, both of whom saw considerable action last year.  Senior tackle Justin Winans, out last year with a knee injury, and junior tackle Brian McMillan will also be counted on.

Ayala also graduated the running back who was the workhorse of the offense the last three years in Jordan Charles. Several players are vying for time there including junior brothers Mason and Max Hura and Makaio Provoost, also a junior.

Gracia expects his skill position players and his defensive secondary to be the strong points of his team.

“We have some good athletes and we have some depth,” he said. “There are a lot of guys that can contribute.”

Among those in that secondary are senior Emmanuel Flowers, perhaps the best player on the squad. Seniors Zach Brozick and Moses Sanchez and juniors Joshua Pryor and Dominic Gaetano should be big contributors there as well.

Gracia says the biggest question marks are the defensive line and linebacking core because of the number of players graduated. Among those the rookie coach is looking for to step are senior linebackers Josh Elliott and Parker Wallace

Many of the same players who will see time on offense will do so on defense as well with Provoost and Hura among those.

Senior Brian Papazian, who handles all the kicking duties, is also back.

Gracia has brought in some experienced assistants to help him. Matt McCain and Rick Martin will head the defensive staff while Manny Saiz will serve as offensive coordinator.

Gracia, who came to the school from Hillcrest, says he’ll judge the season on how his players progress, not necessarily on how many games it wins since the first year is usually a transition one.  He had to finish out the year at his former school before moving over to Ayala full-time which slowed the process.

“It’s really about going out there and working hard and hopefully it all pays off,” he said. “We’re just really looking forward to being competitive and then see what happens.”

 

 

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Montclair to hold alumni men’s basketball game

Montclair will hold its third annual alumni men’s basketball game at 6 p.m. on Aug. 19.

Players will be from as early as 1999 and as recently as 2014.

Admission is $3 with all proceeds going toward the Cavaliers boys’ basketball program. The first 200 spectators will be admitted free, courtesy of Larry Gordon, a former Montclair standout and All-American at Cal Poly Pomona.

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Rebuilding Bonita football hopes to factor in to Palomares race

Bonita cheerleaders hope No. 3-ranked football team can remain undefeated in Friday's Palomares League opener against Claremont. ¬ (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News) ¬ ¬

The Bonita High School football team goes into the new season not that much different than several of its Palomares League counterparts.

Not only did the Bearcats lose a majority of their starters, they had a coaching change as well with Ibis Aguilar taking over for Adrian Medrano, who moved over to El Rancho.

So yes this is shaping up to be a rebuilding year. But that doesn’t mean Bonita can’t be competitive.

“A lot of teams are in the same boat,” said Aguilar, who served as wide receivers coach and assistant head coach under Medrano before being elevated to the head job. We’ll see how fast the younger players come along. We’re hoping to be right there in the mix.”

The Bearcats, 8-3 with a first round playoff loss to Don Lugo in 2015, will be relying on several newcomers in the skill positions, most notably at quarterback where three are vying for the starting job. That trio consists of senior Andrew Harrison, a transfer from Upland, junior Jason Schiller and sophomore Joe LaFountain, up from the junior varsity, and sophomore John Andrade, up from a freshman team that went 10-0.

If one has taken the lead in the battle for that spot, Aguilar isn’t saying.

Among the veterans who will be called up on on returning lineman Miles Blount and Abel Montoya – both seniors.

But perhaps the team’s best player is senior tight end-defensive end Logan Zylstra, a first-team All-Inland Valley selection last year who has landed an offer from Air Force.

Others to look for are returning standouts in wide receiver Dylan Flores, who will also be in the secondary, and senior kicker Garrette Dean as well as newcomers senior wide receiver corner Adrian Bejarano and seniopr tailback Andrew Pasowicz.

About the only veterans on the defensive side of the ball are Zylstra, lineman Andrew Quintero and linebacker Chase Lopez.

Aguilera is also high on inside linebacker Ethan Lancaster, sophomore defensive back Kevin Bullock and sophomore lineman Donnell Osguera.

“I think we’re going to be competitive,” Aguilera said. “It’s hard to say what we’re capable of win-wise just because we have so many younger players. But there is a lot of potential and they’re working hard.”

First up for Bonita, the annual Smudge Pot game on Aug. 26 vs. local rival San Dimas, a game over which the Bearcats have had bragging rights the last few years.

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Lodolo, Rojas earn MaxPreps All-State baseball honors

MaxPreps has handed out its All-State honors and two area players landed accolades.

Former Damien pitcher Nick Lodolo has decided to attend TCU rather than play for the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Photo by Rachel Luna/Staff)

Damien senior pitcher Nick Lodolo was named to the “Large Schools” first team while senior outfielder Paul Rojas of Redlands East Valley made the second team.

Lodolo was the Daily Bulletin Player of the Year, going 8-2 with a 1.97 earned run average and 83 strikeouts in 65 innings.

His effort propelled the Spartans to the Baseline League title as well as the CIF Southern Section Division 2 semifinals where they lost to eventual champion South Hills.

The 6-foot-5 left-hander was chosen with the 41st pick (lottery pick after first round) in the June draft but decided to go the college route instead, having signed with Texas Christian.

Rojas helped the Wildcats (23-8) to the Division 2 title game where they too lost to South Hills, 4-3. He hit .464 with 28 runs scored and 16 RBI. He plans to play at Riverside Community College.

Here is the link if you want to check who else was chosen.

 

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Two local softball players earn All-American honors

Third baseman Isabel Rocco of Jurupa Hills and shortstop Julia Jimenez of Etiwanda have been named to the MaxPreps Freshman All-American softball team.

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Rocco hit .586 with 11 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs, 56 RBIs and 42 runs scored in 28 games for the Spartans (20-8).

Jimenez, who has committed to University of Michigan, batted .427 with 11 doubles, three triples, 10 home runs, 47 RBIs and 36 runs scored for the Eagles (29-3), who were ranked as high as No. 2 in the country.

Both players were first team All-Inland Valley selections by the Daily Bulletin with Jimenez also named Newcomer of the Year.

Here is the link to the complete list of MaxPreps selections.

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A.J. Garbick gets head baseball job at Upland

Upland has a new baseball coach for the first time in more than three decades as A.J. Garbick has been named successor to Mike Alonso.

Garbick, who turns 37 on Friday, previously served as head coach at Charter Oak in Covina the last three years.

He is no stranger to the area, having previously served as head coach at Colony.
Garbick is a resident of Ontario and a 1997 graduate of Damien where he helped that school to a CIF title his senior year.

“My wife teaches in the district and my kids go to school in the district so it was a natual fit,” he said. “Upland has had a great program. I have played against them so I know what to expect.”

There are other ties too. while at Damien Garbick played under coach Bobby Sheridan, who was an Upland graduate.

He currently works as a teacher in a home school program based out of Chino Hills but is hoping to eventually land a position in the Upland School District.

He said his philosophy of the game isn’t much different from that of Alonso.

“Upland teams have always played that hard-nosed type of game and that’s the genre I grew up with so that will be much the same,” he said.

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Webb football team looking to get over the .500 hump

Webb FBLast year the Webb football team got off to a 5-1 start and was on its way to the best season in recent memory. But some injuries took their toll and the Gauls settled for a 5-5 record.

Coach Amahl Thomas, now in his fourth year, says this could be the year his team turns the corner provided it can stay healthy.

“We were disappointed last year because we thought we were capable of something a little better. We had four major injuries and when you’re talking a small school and those guys play both sides, it’s like losing eight,” he said. “We just never recovered.”

Thomas singles out his skill position players as the strong point of this year’s version of the Gauls. Many of those will see action on both offense and defense.

Leading the group of experienced players are senior wide receiver-defensive end Apollo Thomas, the coach’s son who was a first-team All-San Joaquin selection last year.

Others include senior wide receiver Nick Jung and junior middle linebacker-tailback Adrian Alvarez. Both were among those players, each sustaining a severe ankle sprain that sidelined them for the stretch run.

The biggest question mark comes on the offensive line which was hit hard by graduation. Thomas will be counting heavily on senior Andy Christiansen, the elder statesman of the bunch.

“We’re going to have to utilize our skill position players and get the ball out there a little quicker,” Thomas said. “We’re just inexperienced up front and we’ll need to make up for that.”

The quarterback spot is up for grabs between  junior Ryan Place and sophomore J.J. Cunningham. Wyatt Albert, who played there last year, is not playing this year after sustaining a third concussion playing soccer in the winter.

Thomas is expecting junior wide receiver-linebacker Spencer Easley, a backup last year, to assume a larger role this season. Among the others who could have an impact are senior linebacker Spencer Stewart, a baseball player who has dedicated himself to football as well.

The new season gets underway on Saturday, Aug. 27 with a 10:30 a.m. home game against North Hollywood Campbell Hall.

Thomas is excited about having three local teams on his schedule – Western Christian Garey and Upland Christian, with Upland Christian, transitioning from the eight-man game to the traditional game this fall.

“I really see this team as a 7-3 kind of team,” Thomas said. “You never know what is going to happen and we’ll need some younger guys to improve as we go but we have good potential.”

 

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Diamond Ranch football looking for some coaching stability

San Marino's J.P. Shohfi (81) carries the ball as Diamond Ranch's Kalean Williams (6) attempts to stop him during a playoff game at San Marino High School on Friday night, November 13, 2015. Shofi made two touchdowns in the half. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz/Pasadena Star-News)

The Diamond Ranch football team is coming off a 7-4 season that included a loss to eventual CIF champion San Marino in the first round.

The Diamond Ranch football program is on its fourth head football coach in as many years in Eric Martinez, previously the defensive coordinator at Upland. Usually that means your program is in turmoil and you haven’t been winning, but that isn’t exactly the case.

The Panthers were 7-4 last year, going 7-3 in the regular season and dropping a first round playoff game to the eventual CIF champion. The school decided to part ways with Jimmy Welker in the spring.

Martinez says his association with Upland landed him instant credibility with his team and players jumped on board early in the process. The new coach is hoping that will translate to success in the tough and balanced Hacienda League and a playoff run.

“The kids know what we accomplished there and the caliber of competition we played so I think that did help. The bought in to what we wanted to do right away and they have worked hard,” he said. “The biggest difference here is numbers. I have 80 kids and at Upland we had 150.”

Martinez said the defense will boast much the same philosophy it did last year but the offense will look much different. Instead of the spread offense with multiple quarterbacks Martinez is going to a power running game. He thinks he has the right personnel to do so and singles out the offensive line as the strength of the team this season.

Heading that group are junior tackles Ryan Roh and Matthew Burks.

Both of the quarterbacks Welker used last year graduated. It looks like the starting nod will go to senior Justin Tong, who Martinez thinks will do a good job of managing the offense.

The backfield will feature senior Chase Steward, sophomore Connor Clark and junior Augie Arellano.

Top defenders will include senior defensive back Donald Green, senior dedensive end Julius Sulia, junior corner Devin Dabich and junior defensive back Alec Flangan.

Green and Flanagan should also see time at wide receiver.

“We have some talent,” he said. “Our weakness is probably just numbers.”

Diamond Ranch starts the new season on Aug, 26 at South Hills, which also has a new coach in Matt Bechtel who came over from Chino Hills where he helped that team to a Baseline League title and semifinal playoff berth.

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Claremont football looks to make up for disappointing 2015

Claremont High School junior running back Duy Tran-Sampson, 16, is one of the main reasons the Wolfpack are 5-0 so far this season. (Will Lester/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

 

Senior Duy Tran-Sampson has been one of the area’s top rushers the last two seasons and is expected to shoulder the load again this season.

 

 

The Claremont football team did alright in the win column last year at 7-3. But the Wolfpack were 5-0 in non-league play so their collapse late in Palomares League play cost them a playoff spot.

They’ll be looking to make up for that misstep when the new season gets underway on Aug. 26. Coach Coco Jarin has a hard time containing his excitement when discussing the coming season.

“We’re going to put a good product on the field,” he said. “People are are going to be impressed. I can’t wait for the first game.”

“We were very disappointed at not making the playoffs last season and it was our own fault,” he said. “The kids haven’t forgotten that and they have been working hard.”

Of course Claremont returns its top weapon on each side of the ball and that will be a bit help. Junior running back Duy Tran-Sampson will ignite the offense. He ran for 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns last year and built on that with a strong showing in track season.

On defense junior linebacker Solomon Tuliaupupu heads the effort, after recording 140 tackles as sophomore.

“Those guys are the leaders but we have good players around them too,” Jarin added.

Tran-Sampson will have a solid line to run behind. That group features senior guard Ricky Sandoval, who will start on both sides of the ball, senior tight end Caesar Arranga, senior center Noah Garcia, junior tackles Ricky Martin and Ryan Bush and junior guard Noah Gonzalez.

In the skill positions Claremont has the potential to throw the ball it they choose with a standout receiver in senior Laquamie Bond and solid fullback in senior Gabriel Gonzales.

The quarterback spot is up for grabs, the candidates being sophomore Reggie Retzlaff, a transfer from Webb, and senior Jacob Grajales, the backup last year.

Standouts on defense will also include Bond at free safety and Sandoval at linebacker as well as linebacker Jacob Gentry, senior safety Jordan Cardosa and senior cornerback Cameron Winfrey.

Jarin is also high on varsity newcomer Cammeron Thomas.

The biggest question mark is the defensive line which lacks returning player with experience. Junior Jason Hall, up from the junior varsity, is expected to be an impact player.

A tougher and more compelling schedule starts on Aug. 26 with Riverside Norte Vista.

“Our schedule will definitely have us more prepared,” Jarin said.

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Etiwanda pitcher Michael Berg headed to NAIA Trinity

Etiwanda High School pitcher Michael Berg will continue his education and play baseball at Trinity International, just outside of Chicago.

Berg was 6-3 with a 2.31 ERA in 12 appearance (10 starts). He pitcher 76 innings and managed four complete games in helping the Eagles to a playoff berth. He was a first-team All-Baseline League and All-Inland Valley honorable mention selection.

“I like the coaching staff and the atmosphere,” he said. “I thought it would be the best place for me to develop as a baseball player.”

Berg was also considering Biola or going to Grand Canyon University and just focusing on academics. He plans to major in accounting.

Berg hasn’t visited the school but has several friends that are going there so he has gotten a full scouting report on the school. He has another friend in Brady Lange, who just graduated from La Verne Lutheran, who will be going there as well and told the coach there about him.

Trinity went 23-24-1 overall last season and 11-17-1 in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference.

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