Football: Dietrich Riley takes center stage this season

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St. Francis star Dietrich Riley is one of the most coveted recruits this season, and arguably the West San Gabriel Valley’s best Division I prospect; the San Gabriel Valley’s version of Matt Barkley, if you will. USC coach Pete Carroll was first to offer Riley a scholarship, and he hadn’t even set foot in his first varsity game. Yeah, Riley’s got game. Since then, Riley’s gotten well over a dozen offers from some of the top football programs in the nation, including USC, Ohio State, Alabama, Notre Dame and Oklahoma. Riley’s graced us with his ominous presence the last three seasons, and as he prepares for his final season we will follow him every week and await his highly-anticipated decision of where he’ll continue his stellar career.

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Alhambra duo, others make The Times’ list of top players

The Times’ Eric Sondheimer has rated the top players at each position. Not surprisingly, some of the WSGV’s best are on that list, led by Alhambra senior Mitchell Crockom, rated No. 5 in Sondheimer’s top 10 list. He writes: “(Crockom) has speed and a 41-inch vertical leap.” Crockom is our top-rated wide reciever. Also making the list at No. 15 is Alhambra senior quarterback Darrian Cazarin, who threw for 2,204 yards and 24 touchdowns. When our FAB 5 list publishes this week on our blog, you’ll find Cazarin at No. 4 behind San Gabriel’s Isaac Valdez, Monrovia’s Nick Bueno and Muir’s Jarron Williams. Cazarin at No. 4 in my list might not be a popular move, but remember the guys above him had either an even much better season (Valdez), led their respective team to a semifinals run in the playoffs (Bueno) or led their respective team to a league title in a tough league (Williams). Cazarin’s stats this season will be of greater significance when he leads the Moors back to the promise land: an Almont League title and a quarterfinals run in the Southeast Division playoffs. Temple City’s Max Ruckle cracked the “Others to watch” part of the “Rating the running backs” list. St. Francis’ Patrick Carroll made the offensive linemen list. I didn’t see Dietrich Riley’s name come up, but no doubt the St. Francis star is a man among boys in the land of coveted recruits. You can throw Loyola running back Anthony Barr in the mix, too. The kid is a beast, running over Bishop Amat as a junior last season.

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Star-Jibber: It’s time to go to work boys ….

Discuss anything and everything you want to talk about, especially football …

Be sure to grab a copy of our football tab, which publishes Wed., Sept. 2 in the Star-News. As usual, we’ll have league overviews, the preseason top 10 poll, the top 6 returning athletes gracing the cover, team-by-team capsules and complete schedules, and beginning Tuesday we get back to full speed with daily notebooks and weekly features on your favorite teams …

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Week 0: Muir hungry for some (D)-Ranch dressing

“We’re aiming for heads.”

Those are the words of a Muir football player when asked if the Mustangs are seeking redemption when they host Diamond Ranch next Friday at 7. There are posters all over Muir’s campus promoting the school’s new football field, which is generating buzz around campus with students who will attend their first game just to see their team play on a new field. Muir will try to do what it couldn’t do in the first round of the Southeast Division playoffs. We’ll see how the Mustangs fare against the runner-up. Here’s a list of Week 0 games in the WSGV … Who’s ready to get this party started? By the way: the football preview tab publishes Wednesday, Sept. 2.

(All games 7 p.m. unless noted)

Thursday, Sept. 3

La Puente at Gabrielino — Harold Sanin, a longtime assistant coach, begins his first season after Vince Lopez resigned to become assistant principal. After La Puente’s debacle last year, the Falcons Warriors could give Sanin a tough Week 0.

Friday, Sept. 3

Diamond Ranch at Muir — All year long, a certain D-Ranch assistant coach has taken friendly jabs at Muir coach Ken Howard. It’s time to put that to rest, Kenny. The Mustangs won at Diamond Ranch last year in the season opener but faltered in the playoffs. Muir will protect its home field and reclaim SGV supremacy.

Arcadia at Monrovia — No truth to rumors Arcadia will jog to Monrovia High and use it as pre-game warmups (that visual popped in my head for whatever reason). Anyway, Nick Bueno & Co. takes on a revamped Apaches team that includes one of the area’s top QB in Garret Tuck and newcomers Taylor Legace and Rodney Arnett.

Linfield Christian at Maranatha — Yawn …. When’s that game vs. La Salle again? Oh yeah, but either way ‘Natha fans will finally get a chance to see what Cody Keith’s all about. Call this one a tune-up to the Minutemen’s showdown with La Salle and then Bakersfield Christian.

Village Christian at La Salle — The Lancers were routed last year at Village Christian. They hope to have regained their form with a revamped staff and renewed enthusiasm in the Lancers program.

Pasadena at Westchester — Isn’t Westchester a basketball school? I didn’t even know Westchester had a football team. Well, in that case, pencil in a “W” for the boys on Sierra Madre. The McFarland era gets off to a good start.

San Gabriel at Cathedral — Got a lot of heat for picking Cathedral last year. Someone still owes me a steak dinner. I’ll let it slide. With vengeance on his mind, Isaac Valdez leads the Matadors to an impressive victory.

Pomona at Keppel — Keppel has a 50 percent chance to win this game. But so does Pomona. My coin has the Aztecs breaking out of their 30-plus game skid.

Alhambra at Roosevelt — Alhambra’s Gil Ruedaflores and Roosevelt’s Javier Cid are very good friends and practically hung out all summer as coaches of the SoCal Fiesta Bowl. Ruedaflores, however, will feel no remorse when the Moors put the beat down.

Blair at St. Margaret’s — Why?

Duarte at Cajon — Tip Sanders gets his shot at reviving another program.

Rio Hondo Prep at Mission Prep — The area’s lone CIF champion last year opens the season with a victory.

Saturday, Sept. 4

Contreras at Bosco Tech, 1:30 p.m. — Tiger fans, save your Saturday afternoons for football games. All of Bosco Techs’ home games will be Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Animo Leadership at Pasadena Poly, 11 a.m. — Grab a cup of coffee and read your favorite sportswriter in Saturday’s paper while also watching Poly cook up a win.

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Fire interrupts football practice for area teams

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

A blaze in the Angeles National Forest producing poor air quality across the San Gabriel Valley forced some high school football teams on Wednesday to cancel or restrict outdoor activities.

The fire, which broke out Tuesday afternoon on both sides of Highway 39 near Morris Dam Reservoir, has burned 750 acres. Chris Rush, an Angeles National Forest dispatcher, said the blaze was less than 10 percent contained early Wednesday.

The County of Los Angeles Public Health issued an air quality alert and urged individuals to take precautions where there’s visible smoke or an odor of smoke.

“All individuals are urged to be cautious and to avoid unnecessary outdoor activities,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, director of Public Health. “We are also advising schools that are in session in smoke-impacted areas to suspend outside physical activities in these areas, including physical education and after-school sports until conditions improve.”

While some teams are done with two-a-day practices and begin preparation for next week’s season opener (Week 0), other teams which don’t kick off until two weeks from now (Week 1) and still have two-a-days scheduled are having to find ways to fill time for their morning sessions.

Coaches said they will focus on a light walk-through, watching film and hitting the weight room, activities usually reserved for afternoon sessions.

Rosemead High School football coach Matt Koffler said school and district officials canceled all outdoor activity before the team got on the field for its two-hour morning practice.

“We hung out in the morning and stuck around until further notice,” Koffler said. “Later we’ll go inside the gym, watch some film and do some push-ups, sit-ups and plyometric stuff to keep busy.”

Koffler said the interruption would not affect the Panthers’ readiness.

“We’re set and ready to play if we had to go today,” said Koffler, whose Panthers scrimmage South Pasadena next week. South Pasadena canceled practice Wednesday.

Damien coach Greg Gano said he’s waiting to hear from school administrators to see if they’ll cancel outdoor practice in the afternoon or go ahead as planned.

Glendora coach Mark Pasquarella said the Tartans would practice in one of the school’s gyms.

Monrovia, which ended two-a-days on Tuesday, had a walk-through in the gym and watched film Wednesday.

“The way it’s looking right now we won’t be doing any running,” Wildcats coach Ryan Maddox said. “We’ll review plays, watch some films so, yeah, it will affect practice.”

Maddox, who got a text from Monrovia athletic director Randy Bell about the limited practice, said there’s no timetable on the imposed practice restrictions.

Whether it affects preparation for next week’s opener at home against Arcadia is uncertain.

“I hope not,” Maddox said. “Hopefully this will be a one-day thing. We’ll play it day by day, but what could be affecting us is probably affecting (Arcadia). Hopefully it’ll clear up.”

Area coaches seem to be getting used to wildfires infringing on their practice schedule.

Last year, the Sierra Madre fire postponed the start of spring practice across the San Gabriel Valley and beyond.

“It was about three times worse than it’s out there now,” Koffler said. “Hopefully everything turns out OK. We’ll get through it.”

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Football: Teen dies day after practice in triple-digit heat

The Associated Press

VERNON, Texas — Officials say a northern Texas middle school student was found unresponsive at home and pronounced dead the morning after going through football practice in triple-digit heat.

Wilbarger County Justice of the Peace Lewis Templeton said Wednesday a toxicology report should determine whether the death of 13-year-old Brent Shinn was heat-related. Foul play has been ruled out.

The 13-year-old from Vernon Middle School was found unresponsive Tuesday morning and later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Vernon schools Superintendent Tom Woody said practice lasted a little more than an hour Monday afternoon. The temperature was about 105, according to the National Weather Service.

Vernon is located about 150 miles northwest of Fort Worth.

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Top RB at Lakewood High charged with attempted murder, coach confirms he’s not playing this season.

Ben Bolch at the Los Angeles Times reports a star running back from Lakewood High was charged Tuesday with two counts of attempted murder in connection with what police described as a gang-related drive-by shooting Friday afternoon in which no one was injured. Bolch wirtes: Law enforcement officials privately confirmed that Jerry Stone, a senior considered among the best tailbacks in the state, was allegedly driving the vehicle involved in the shooting, which occurred in the 1100 block of Acacia Avenue in Compton. Because Stone is a juvenile, authorities are not allowed to identify him publicly.

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Muir and St. Francis the Top 2 area teams? Think again

In putting together the football preview section, Keith Lair and I have made numerous phone calls to WSGV coaches. I’ve talked to every single coach in the Rio Hondo, Pacific, and Camino Real leagues, respectively. And now all I’m missing is our boys on Lincoln and Foothill Blvd: Muir and St. Francis. Seems like we’re playing phone tag the last week or so with both coaches, though I don’t blame them since my extension at work was down a few days while I.T. (finally) took care of my internet connection. With Muir and St. Francis left this question comes to mind: Are both schools really the area’s top two teams? I know Monrovia coach Ryan Maddox might hate my saying this, but I might be going with the Wildcats this season as the area’s best. Unpopular move, I know. But can you really make valid arguments why Muir and St. Francis belong in the top two spots after losing so much talent? Yeah, both teams return Jarron Williams and Dietrich Riley, respectively, but what after that? Therein lies the debate …. Don’t wait for me to start the Top 10, give your two cents here. Football Preview section is tentatively scheduled to run next week.

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BREAKING NEWS: Both Canada’s declared ineligible by CIF-SS, citing “athletically motivated” reasons

Fred Robledo brings it to you first ….

The CIF-Southern Section announced this morning that brothers Jordan (senior) and Jaime (sophomore) Canada have been declared ineligible to play football during the 2009 season for “athletically motivated” reasons. Jordan and Jaime Canada left Duarte high early last spring to enroll at South Hills, where they have been practicing with the football team in preparation for the 2009 season. According to CIF Director of Communications Thom Simmons, the reason for declaring the Canada’s ineligible was that Duarte officials attached a letter with the transfer paperwork suggesting that the Canada’s transfer to South Hills was “athletically motivated.” Once a school that the players is leaving makes that suggestion, according to Simmons, a player is immediately declared ineligible. “Now it’s up to the parents (of Jordan and Jaime Canada) and South Hills to show that it wasn’t an athletically motivated transfer,” Simmons said. South Hills coach Steve Bogan was extremely disappointed, and guarded in his remarks. “We know that they (the Canada’s) did everything right,” Bogan said. “We know this was not a final decision, it was a step in the process. CIF has a process they have to go through to find clarity. We’re looking into and will work with CIF to find that clarity so they can make the right decision.”

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Football: Muir building blocks with quality over quantity

Those were the days: Muir had crazy depth last year, and with 24 players graduating the question is: Who will fill those shoes left by Josh Jones (No. 24), Myles Campbell (No. 3), Mitchell Garner (No. 7), Reuben “Bingo” Thomas (No. 23, AKA Mr. Everything) and Fernando Aguilar (No. 55)?

Well well well.

Just when I thought Muir would somewhat be in trouble this season I make a complete 180 assessment after attending Thursday’s practice. The creepy part isn’t that !stang! easily spotted yours truly at practice but that the ‘Stangs, despite low numbers, have loads of talent.

In fact, Muir just may be the top team when the preseason top 10 poll is published next week, though what does that now say about The Stang Fan’s ability to asses your favorite reporter’s ability to asses your favorite team?

I digress … When Muir graduated 24 players last year (Ouch!) there was no telling where the Mustangs would rate this season. We knew Jarron Williams, nursing back spams Thursday, was returning at quarterback and three linemen (Danny Huerta, Chris Blas, Cameron Palmer) also were returning.

Aside from that, everyone’s guess was as good as mine. The skill positions and the secondary took a big hit, no doubt. Who fills the void is a challenge Mustangs coach Ken Howard is looking forward to overcoming. Gone are the days when Muir suited 40-60 guys.

“It’s intimidating when you look at the other sideline and see a bunch of guys suited up,” Howard said. “But I would much rather work with a small group, honestly. It’s easier to have a solid group of 25 instead of 100 players and having to figure out who is going to play on any given down.”

Be careful what you wish for, Kenny.

Nevertheless, it’s the situation Howard now finds himself in. Muir’s success is heavily dependent on how well the line executes. The “Trench Mob,” as they’re known by the rest of the team and coaches, can’t succumb to the pressure Howard has laid on them.

“Those are my MVP’s,” Howard said. “I preach it to them every day. They need to play well and hold their own in order for us to do what we want to do.”

Exactly what Muir’s offense will consist of is still unclear. Howard said fans can still expect a spread formation, though a balanced attack is still in order.

Senior Eddie Tripp will carry the ball but expect sophomore Kevon Seymore to see time there as well.

Seymore’s only a sophomore but already he’s proved he can hang with the big boys, at least in my eyes.

He took a lights-out hit from Howard Vaughn at practice. Seymore made a cut up the middle and went head-to-head with Vaughn charging. They collided, helmets smacked and down went Seymore. He lay on the ground for a good three seconds, Vaughn looking down on him before Seymore popped up and was ready for redemption.

It’s that kind of determination that has Howard excited for the upcoming season. Muir’s lineup will include a few transfers. Vaughn transferred from Marshall and Jeffrey Lett, a junior competing at quarterback who could see time at receiver, too, from PHS.

Leadership is something I feel the Mustangs lacked a bit last season. I covered my fair share of Muir games, and honestly never did see someone take firm direction of the team. Williams has that quality in him that not only makes him likable but also someone who has the respect of his teammates; they will follow him by example. Williams was overshadowed by the likes of Thomas and Campbell. But not this season.

“This is his team,” Howard said. “He likes to have that kind of pressure on him.”

Howard and I talked more about the Pacific League and the recent hires. On PHS hiring Mike McFarland, Howard said: “He’s about the kids. He’s the best guy for the job in terms of turning that program around.”

Regardless of what anyone says, there may be more parity this season in the Pacific League.

Still — as I quickly learned — never discount the power of the ‘Stangs.

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