WHAT: CIF-SS Northeast Division Championship
WHO: No. 2 Linfield Christian (13-0) vs. No. 1 Rio Hondo Prep (13-0)
WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Covina District Field
PREDICTION: From The Sidelines (Rio Hondo Prep); CalPreps (Linfield Christian)
Rio Hondo Prep’s football team suffered a blow Thursday when it was learned senior J.T. Parker would not be allowed to play Saturday night against Linfield Christian (13-0) in the CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division championship game at Covina District Field.
Parker suffered a concussion in the first five minutes of last week’s 20-14 win over Salesian.
The top-seeded and defending champion Kares (13-0) not only lose a leader on the field but they also literally lose five players rolled into one. Parker, part of last year’s championship team, is a starting wide receiver/linebacker, backup quarterback, punter and holder on extra points.
“It’ll definitely be hard,” Rio Hondo Prep coach Ken Drain said. “But it’s just a matter of somebody else stepping up and taking his place.”
Parker’s absence started a ripple effect in Drain’s lineup. Jimmy Davis will move from cornerback to linebacker; Andrew Quintero will take Davis’ spot; Jason Wiley will hold on PATs and field goals and starting running back Nick Preciado will punt. Freshman Jake Holguin will start at wide receiver.
Drain is confident they’ll all make a seamless transition.
“They’re very capable of filling those spots,” Drain said. “But I feel really bad for J.T. because he’s a senior and it’s his last game. We just have to rally around that and overcome it.”
Rio Hondo Prep last year dispatched Linfield Christian, 28-21, in the semifinals. The Kares had to rally from behind to move on and win their 12th CIF-SS championship.
Linfield Christian doesn’t exactly have revenge on its mind, but it would like to make it right this time.
“We’ve definitely been thinking about it,” Linfield Christian coach Jimmy Kemmis said. “I don’t know if it’s as much about last year as it is about this senior class wanting to take that next step.”
In 2006, this year’s seniors went 1-9, then improved to 8-4 as sophomores and reached the quarterfinals. Last year, the Lions went 10-3 and reached the semifinals. In fact, Linfield Christian is an impressive 22-1 in its last 23 games.
Its only blemish? Rio Hondo Prep
Lions cheer on Kares
Four coaches from Linfield Christian’s staff and eight of its players attended last week’s Salesian-Rio Hondo Prep. The Kares fell victim to injuries, which depleted their roster even more since they suited up only 27 players. And cheering for Rio Hondo Prep wasn’t just its home fans, but also the visiting Lions staff.
“To see what they’ve done with their small school size and to win, that just took pure guts and determination,” Kemmis said. “By the end of that game we were hoping and rooting the Rio (Hondo Prep) guys would win.”
Salesian was very physical and would have made for a great finals game, Kemmis said, but there’s the matter of unfinished business.
“After losing to Rio Hondo Prep, if we could have written our story this would have been it,” he said.