Football: ‘Just another game’ for Monrovia’s Schuster

Monrovia High School defensive backs coach Craig Schuster will see familiar faces on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. when the top-seeded Wildcats (13-0) take on No. 2 seed San Dimas (12-1) in the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division championship game at Citrus College.

Schuster was the Saints’ defensive coordinator last year before parting ways to spend more time with his three daughters at the new house he bought in Rancho Cucamonga. Schuster was head football coach at Azusa for three years before his San Dimas stint.

“My daughters were playing sports and I told (San Dimas head coach) Bill (Zernickow) I can’t put those hours in and that I’m going to have to step away,” he said.

This is Schuster’s first year at Monrovia, but he’s no stranger to Monrovia coach Ryan Maddox’s success. They’ve been friends 14 years, and Schuster was in the press box when Maddox was defensive coordinator during West Covina’s 2004 CIF championship run.

“I was there just watching and I couldn’t imagine what (Maddox) was going through and the kids getting all excited watching the clock running down and that much closer to a CIF championship. And now, to be a part of it is amazing.”
Schuster has no ill feelings toward San Dimas.

“It’s just another game,” he said. “If it wasn’t us in the game I’d be rooting for San Dimas. But we’re in it, and we’re going to work hard to get that ring.”

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Football: Monrovia’s Ryan Maddox is a model of success

Editor’s Note: Star-News reporter Miguel Melendez takes a closer look at Monrovia High School coach Ryan Maddox’s upbringing, mentors and work ethic. This is the second in a three-part series following Monrovia’s run to its ninth CIF football finals appearance.

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

TWELVE YEARS ago, Ryan Maddox was breaking in as a teacher at Sierra Vista Middle School in Covina, where he also was the school’s flag football coach.

It was a humble beginning compared to the grand stage on which Maddox now finds himself. Monrovia High School’s second-year head coach is leading the Wildcats in their ninth CIF football finals appearance.

Maddox helped engineer an unblemished 13-0 record, and on Saturday night at 7:30 will lead top- seeded Monrovia against No. 2 seed San Dimas (12-1) in the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division championship game at Citrus College.

The road there, however, required a studious Maddox who, to this day, plans every detail to the minute.

He also required a break.

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Football: Monrovia’s preparation for title bid is intense

Editor’s Note: Star-News reporter Miguel Melendez was given access to Monrovia High School’s football practices, coaches meetings and film sessions during its perfect season and run up to the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division finals. This is the first in a three-part series.

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

Is this the year?

Monrovia High School football fans asked that question eight times, and eight times the answer was the same — wait until next year.

In the long history of the CIF-Southern Section football playoffs, the Wildcats are the only school to have advanced to eight finals without bringing home a CIF championship, a sufferable distinction that also makes them lovable to Wildcats fans and alumni who wait for that day like a Chicago Cubs fan who dreams of winning a World Series.
Imagine that, eight runner-up plaques in the trophy case.

They came so close in the 1990s, losing three straight trips to the finals from 1997-1999 under then-coach Steve Garrison. It was so painful it drew comparisons to the Buffalo Bills losing four straight Super Bowls.

So, is this the year? Has there even been a better opportunity?

Monrovia makes its ninth trip to the championship game on Saturday as the Mid-Valley Division’s top-ranked team and sporting a perfect 13-0 record.

The Wildcats will face No. 2 seed San Dimas (12-1) at Citrus College. They handily defeated the Saints, 36-17, back in September.

The man of the moment orchestrating it all is head coach Ryan Maddox, who in just his second season and first head coaching job has the Wildcats on the verge of ending decades of frustration.

The journey started in September, but many in football circles believe the big nail was hammered down on Nov. 27 against Paraclete. That’s when the Wildcats took on the defending champions in frigid tempatures up north, coming away with a 14-3 victory and their first big step toward the ultimate prize.

If the Wildcats knock off San Dimas on Saturday, they certainly will remember the week leading up to the Paraclete game. It started with Maddox taking an hour-and-a-half trip to the Santa Clarita area to pick up film from Paraclete coach Norm Dahlia.

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Boys Soccer: St. Francis sets sights on league, CIF

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

There were big surprises last year in boys soccer, perhaps none more than St. Francis High School’s run to a CIF Southern California championship.

That understandably was nice, but the Golden Knights are hoping the Mission League and a CIF-Southern Section Division 1 championship don’t become elusive this year.

Rosemead made a run to the semifinals of the Division 6 playoffs while Monrovia and Pasadena became powers within their respective leagues.
This season should be no different.

No. 1 St. Francis

Eric Verso, last year’s Star-News player of the year, no longer is with the Golden Knights. He was an integral part of St. Francis coach Glen Appels’ lineup who now is playing in the Galaxy’s U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy.

“I think it’s a shame the kids can’t be allowed to play,” Appels said. “I understand that they’re trying to build these guys to be future professional players.

“The sad thing is they’re put in a position where they have to make that choice. But if the schedule was arranged they could make both fit.”

St. Francis’ strength once again will be its stout defensive back line which led the Golden Knights to an 18-6-4 record and a win over Cathedral Catholic of San Diego in the Southern California championship.

“It has to be the defense,” Appels said. “If you look at last year’s team our defense was strong, but in the games we didn’t defend well we lost. We’re strong in the back and when regionals came around we finally found our stride. But if we’re going to win tournaments and the Mission League we have to defend well every day.”

Senior defender Andrew Blunk is back after missing much of last season with a broken nose. Dante Ramunno and Max Cadena are senior captains and senior Joel Ingram’s return solidifies the midfield.

Mark Verso, a freshman, is the younger brother of Eric Verso. He plays a different style than Eric, who was more flashy and fast up the middle. Mark is stronger and plays a more physical game.

Appels has no problem with the pressure of starting the season as Southern California champion.

“The pressure’s not a problem,” he said. “We want to put pressure on ourselves to do well. That’s how you respond to things by setting goals. We were disappointed early on; we didn’t do so well with a chance to win league and to go from first to fourth in one week. We were 10 minutes away from being in the finals, but we let that slip away. So we’re going to try to pick up the things we missed along the way.”

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Girls Soccer Preview: Youth is served for area soccer

Freshmen, freshmen, freshmen.

Ninth-graders can be a boon or boondoggle to a program. They’ll make those “rookie” mistakes, but they also can make plays that can result in upset victories just because they do not know any better.

The west San Gabriel Valley is awash in top freshmen girls soccer talent this season. Some teams are going with three and four at a time.

Besides, by the time playoffs start, they’re not truly freshmen players anymore. And best of all, they’ll eventually be four-year starters. That could be very good news when it’s time to go out of the Valley to face other Southern California teams when it is playoff time.

No. 1 Alverno

The Jaguars lost only two players from a team that handily won a CIF-Southern Section Division VII title last season.

Alverno would like to prove to the naysayers the Jaguars are one of the area’s best.

“We have a much tougher schedule,” head coach Ken Berry said. “No one was sure about Division VII last season; it was a whole new division.”

The Jaguars, who outscored opponents 24-3 in the playoffs, opened the season No. 1 in the division.

Junior midfielder Maha Abdallah, senior forward Jessica Capra, sophomore forward Celina Minissian, junior defender Gabby Vasquez and senior midfielder Briana Alvarado give the Jaguars experience. Freshman Devny Osuna will play a top role on defense.

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Football: Finals trip a common bond for coaches


Above: From left to right, Monrovia High principal Dervin Jackson, Rio Hondo Prep coach Ken Drain and Monrovia coach Ryan Madddox. They met Monday morning in the 34th annual CIF-Southern Section Football Press Conference and Luncheon at The Grand.

LONG BEACH – It was a brief meeting, but when Rio Hondo Prep football coach Ken Drain walked over to introduce himself to Monrovia coach Ryan Maddox there was a sense of familiarity.

Both coached their teams to unbeaten seasons, are the top seeds in their respective divisions and play hosts Saturday night.

Beyond the surface, however, there’s some disparity in that one of them is the veteran with a wealth of experience while the other is the new kid on the block.

The meeting took place on a rainy Monday at the 34th annual CIF-Southern Section football press conference and luncheon at The Grand.

It was Maddox’s first such luncheon, but in this only his second season leads top-seeded Monrovia (13-0) to its ninth finals appearance Saturday night when the Wildcats play No. 2 seed San Dimas (12-1) for the Mid-Valley Division championship at Citrus College. The Wildcats withstood Whittier Christian’s frantic attack to escape with a 35-32 victory in the semifinals last week.

Drain, in his 11th year as head coach at Rio Hondo Prep, is back in familiar territory. He’ll try to lead the Kares (13-0) to their second consecutive CIF-SS championship when they host No. 2 seed Linfield Christian (13-0) in the Northeast Division finals. Rio Hondo Prep, winner of 12 CIF football championships, survived a 20-14 semifinal win over Salesian.

But nothing great comes easy, and now that both teams are here it’s certainly something they’ll remember the rest of their lives. That’s the message UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel wanted to get across as the guest speaker.

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Saturday Night Aftermath: Monrovia and San Dimas will meet in next week’s Mid Valley Division finals; Rio Hondo Prep, Linfield Christian meet in Northeast Division.

CLICK HERE FOR A PHOTO GALLERY OF SATURDAY’S MONROVIA-WHITTIER CHRISTIAN GAME

MONROVIA 35, WHITTIER CHRISTIAN 32

It was sloppy, but Monrovia High School will take it.

The top-seeded Wildcats were hurt by penalties and had to rally in the second half to escape with a 35-32 victory over Whittier Christian on Saturday night in the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division playoffs.

Monrovia (13-0) will make its eighth finals appearance in school history next Saturday when it faces No. 2 seed San Dimas (12-1) at a site to be determined. The Saints are hoping to avenge their only loss, a 36-17 defeat to Monrovia in September. At the time, many already thought the game was a preview of the Mid-Valley Division finals, and now they have it.

Whittier Christian (9-4), the No. 3 team out of the Olympic League, put a scare into Monrovia, which twice trailed by 10 points and had a difficult time establishing any offensive rhythm.

Whittier Christian trailed by 11 late in the fourth quarter and got to within three points after Heralds quarterback Stephen Anderson connected on a 13-yard touchdown pass to Grant Escobar and Garrett Fulbright ran in the two-point conversion, but an onside kick was recovered by Monrovia’s Charlie Cimmarusti to all but seal the outcome.

RIO HONDO PREP 24, SALESIAN 14

Under the most improbable scenario, Rio Hondo Prep defeated visiting Salesian 20-14 in their CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division semifinal Saturday.

The defending champs were reduced to using Jake Hanna at quarterback in the second half because the starting quarterback, backup quarterback and junior varsity quarterback all were unavailable.

The Kares (13-0) also repelled multiple Mustangs drives in the second half to hold the lead and advance to next Saturday’s division championship game against Linfield Christian.

Starter Chris Llamas was hurt on a Salesian sack midway through the second quarter and the senior was taken away by ambulance. Backup J.T. Parker was hurt on the Kares’ first defensive series, and JV quarterback Cody Rivera did not dress because of injury, leaving the quarterback duties to Jake Holguin. The freshman orchestrated one unsuccessful drive before Hanna took the final snap of the half on a kneel down.

Before Llamas was hurt, he led the Kares to a 14-0 lead.

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Football: Monrovia has a firm foundation with O-Line


Offinsive Line: Grant Haggard, Kizz Prusia, Hale Hulin, Dean Bisterfeldt, Mark Rangel, Cody Strain, Josh Lowden and Ellis McCarthy are the unsung heroes of the Monrovia football team.

MONROVIA – Offensive linemen constantly are reminded Monrovia High School’s success is heavily dependent on their individual victories in the trenches.

How the offensive line goes, so goes its heralded quarterback Nick Bueno and a stable of running backs that includes De’Shawn Ramirez and Derrick Johnson.

It’s a ripple effect resulting in an undefeated season and the No. 1 seed in the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division playoffs.

From the start of the season, Monrovia coach Ryan Maddox said the offensive line would be the Wildcats’ strength, and so far it’s held true.

They’ll quietly go unnoticed once again when Monrovia (12-0) hosts Whittier Christian (9-3) at 7 on Saturday night in the division semifinals.

Seniors Josh Lowden, Cody Strain, Harley Hulin and Kizz Prusia are the returning linemen from last year’s team that made a run to the semifinals. Dean Bisterfeldt, a 6-foot, 210 pound junior, is the newcomer.

They’re the centerpiece that holds the offense together, but they’re also the group that gets little notice.

They’re not pretty or flashy like their more skilled teammates, but they get the job done.

“Truly they are the foundation,” Maddox said. “Without a great offensive line you don’t have the stats for Nick Bueno and De’Shawn Ramirez.

“They’re all great players, but it’s the offensive line that makes it all go.”

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Basketball: Pasadena, Steven Adams get a scare

PASADENA – In just a matter of days, Pasadena High School went from waltzing through the first round of the Rose City Classic to getting a scare Thursday night in second-round action at home.

The Bulldogs held a 16-point lead at the half, but the game was a lot closer, more intense and even sloppier than the 73-57 win over L.A. Jordan actually indicated.

Pasadena (2-0) will play Price (2-0) in the semifinals tonight at 8 at Pasadena. La Verne Lutheran and Centennial of Corona will play in the other semifinal at 6:30 p.m.

The Bulldogs went from a nonchalant 50-point win over Van Nuys in the first round to facing a pesky Jordan team that caused Pasadena to commit 22 turnovers, including nine in the first quarter. To make matters worse, the Bulldogs shot a woeful 14 of 32 from the free-throw line.

Pasadena senior point guard George Toyama held it together for the Bulldogs with 20 points and seven assists despite the Bulldogs initially having a hard time breaking the press.

“But when we did break the press we made them pay for it,” Pasadena coach Tim Tucker said.

Junior forward Todd Lewis finished with 12 points, and his dunk with 3:28 left in the fourth quarter off a behind-the-back assist from Toyama on a 2-1 fast break all but sealed the win and dissipated all, if any, of Jordan’s momentum.

“They’re (Jordan) fast all over the court and we knew that,” Tucker said. “Anytime you start playing erratic you start making crazy plays. I thought we settled down and our shooters were hot with George knocking down some hard shots and then we got that drive from Todd Lewis.”

There was a scary moment with 5:22 left in the second quarter when center Steven Adams was elbowed directly on the right side of his head where he has a running scar from the top of his head down to the temple of his ear. The scar is from brain surgery nearly one year ago.

Adams, limited to four points, clearly was dizzy from the blow to the head as he bumped into assistant coach Tony Brooks as he headed for the bench. There was no blood or tear to the scar. Adams was held out the rest of the first half, but was cleared to start the second half.

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Football: Rio Hondo Prep puts it all on the (O) line

Rio Hondo Prep’s explosive offense averages 40 points per game, and last Saturday the Kares scored 68 against Saddleback Valley Christian in a CIF-Southern Section Northern Division second-round playoff game.

Charles Quintero rushed for 244 yards on 15 carries and scored on runs of 8, 76, 7 and 67 yards. He proved too elusive and gained extra yardage on second and third efforts. But fullback Nick Preciado was just as dangerous in rushing for 153 yards and a 20-yard touchdown run to give the Kares a 47-6 lead in the third quarter.

But who made that really happen? Who executed the blocking schemes and opened holes? That was the seemingly under-appreciated offensive linemen, but they know when their skilled players get noticed that means they’ve done their job and they’re happy with that.

The senior-heavy line hopes to keep the lanes open when top-seeded and defending champion Rio Hondo Prep (12-0) hosts Salesian (6-6) on Saturday night at 7 in the Northern Division semifinals.

Seniors Daniel Morales, Jason Sterris, Wesley Mosher, Ed Drain and sophomore Dave Drain are the ones who get it started. They’re the catalyst to the firepower of Quintero and Preciado.

And they’re not your typical small-school offensive line. Ed Drain is a towering 6-foot-2, 170-pound lineman/linebacker and his younger brother Dave Drain is an even more intimidating presence at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds. Ed and Dave Drain – sons of Rio Hondo Prep coach Ken Drain – are the last of the Drain lineage to play for the Kares.

“Daniel is our center and he has not made a bad snap all year,” Ken Drain said. “That’s been real positive for us. In fact, for two years now he hasn’t made a bad snap.

“Jason is the main guy on our offensive line. He tells everybody what to do. He’s kind of the leader there, and Wes, Ed and Dave play consistent and execute their blocks, which our running backs really appreciate.”

Family affair

Ken Drain and his sons Ed and Dave do their fair share of talking football even when they’re not at Rio Hondo Prep.

“They always have a question and we talk about games and upcoming games,” Drain said.

As for watching game film at home, Ken Drain leaves much of that to his oldest son, Devon Drain, who is a senior at Cal Poly Pomona and last played with the Kares in 2004.

“They watch more film with my older son than with me,” Drain said with a laugh. “He played here and he keeps score for us on the field and does stats.”

Drain always keeps it in the family. He attended and played football at Rio Hondo Prep and came up the coaching ranks with the Kares. His wife also attended there and currently works there, too.

Injury updates

Drain said everybody’s going to try to play this week. Parker will play despite a bad ankle and Cowell will play despite lingering pain from a separated right shoulder two weeks ago.

Jason Wiley, a 6-foot-4 senior wide receiver, has been out four weeks with a sprained ankle but will try to practice this week. He is a game-time decision for Saturday.

Said Drain: “If we can get him back that will help our passing game.”

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