Football: I’m back by (not so) popular demand ….

NOTE: Monrovia’s Nick Bueno and St. Francis’ Travis Talianko among those named to Aram Tolegian’s Preseason all-encompassing SGV(N) All-Area Team at “In the Huddle”.

What have I been up to, a lot of you have wondered over the last month or so.

As our area coaches and players can tell you, they had to make the drive to our office in Pasadena to have their photos taken as we began preparing to put together the inaugural Prep Extra magazine, which is slated to run the first week of September.

We’ve taken a much bolder approach this year with the magazine, and I’m happy to say our content for the magazine is done. Every story has been written, every ranking is in, cover shot finished, and now it’s in the hands of our production crew, the same people who do our popular Rose Magazine.

Keith Lair and myself wrote team previews for every single team in the West San Gabriel Valley. No longer will you be subjected to reading league previews and team-by-team box previews like in the past. But we’ll have much more than just team previews, we’ll also have a preseason All-Area team to go along with Top 5 lists. Photos will blanket the pages, which are scheduled to run in full color. I’m confident the magazine won’t just be your best source for high school football, but also a great keepsake.

There are exciting things happening in the West. St. Francis is arguably stronger, and it’ll need to be as it gets ready to compete in the morphed Mission League. All eyes will be on three studs on the rise: TE Travis Talianko, OL Patrick Carroll and QB Brett Nelson.

Arcadia will be much improved with all nine sophomores who started last year a year older, wiser and stronger. You don’t need me to tell you how exciting players like Taylor Lagace make it fun for us to cover.

Muir‘s all the talk right now, and again it’s the offensive line that figures to be the centerpiece, led by standouts Danny Huerta and Cameron Palmer.

I’m hearing a lot of good things about Pasadena Poly, too. The Panthers have a solid attack that will allow them to scare some teams with an aerial attack led by 6-foot-5 quarterback Hunter Merryman and wide receiver-pseudo running back Blake Edwards.

I’m a little worried about Temple City and Alhambra. Both teams are in search for some offensive power after losing plenty because of graduation and/or transfers.

You don’t need me to tell you about arguably the most exciting team in the West, and that would be none other than Monrovia. What does it say about the Wildcats and the direction coach Ryan Maddox is taking the team when their preseason schedule includes only one area team? Monrovia will be tested right off the bat with Chad Jeffries and the Glendora Tartans. I figure Nick Bueno again will put on a show and add to the highlight reel. Monrovia, however, won’t be the only team with a tough schedule.

You can add St. Francis and San Gabriel with tough preseason opponents. The Matadors invited Muir, Burbank and Rosemead to the party. Let’s hope injuries don’t become an issue like they were in 2009 (and, no, I did not just jinx them).

You want some rising stars in the making? How about La Salle QB Mike Novell, Arcadia QB Myles Carr and Pasadena QB Brandon Cox for starters?

Speaking of the Bulldogs … I’m hearing they’re going to play with more cohesiveness this year, but that remains to be seen.

Over the last two months we’ve also transcribed hours of quotes, some of which made the magazine and many of which will make it here on the blog. I’ll touch on different topics over the next few weeks as I prepare to get the blog back off the ground. When you see the magazine you’ll understand all my time and effort was focused on the magazine.

I welcome your input on what you want to hear from over the next few weeks.

I don’t leave for vacation (probably New York or Vegas) until the last week of August, so I’m all yours until then.

In the meantime, I’ll post some subjects and you give you some threads where you can start your banter as we prepare for Kickoff 2010.

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Homeless Pasadena man finds peace on the golf course

I know this isn’t high school-sports related, but I wanted to share this with you all. Almost three months ago I began working on a story about a homeless man I encountered while on assignment covering the Pasadena City Golf Championship. I was intrigued that several golfers who are regulars at Brookside Golf Club knew Lawrence Hunter well. It took a few days to gain his trust, but when I did, Hunter opened up and allowed me to spend time with him. We lunched at Brookside and hung out at his regular spots, like the cement channel at Brookside and an offramp near the Rose Bowl.

A version of this article appeared in print on Saturday, July 24, 2010, on page A1 of the Star-News.

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

PASADENA — Lawrence Hunter is embraced with a warm hug from a waitress at the Brookside Golf Club restaurant, where he goes each morning for coffee.

She’s happy to see him break his routine of only sipping coffee. On this occasion, Hunter accepts a lunch invitation and orders a bacon-cheeseburger and fries.

“No soda,” he says. “I don’t drink that high-fructose stuff.”

Hunter, 51, is no stranger to Brookside – he’s been coming for more than a decade – but he has never shot a round of golf there in his life.

Instead, he spends his days and nights living in cement channel alongside holes No. 7 and 8, two greens featuring neatly-manicured Poanna grass with a backdrop of the picturesque San Gabriel Mountains.

Hunter patiently waits for errant golf balls flowing down the Arroyo Seco.

It’s how he survives.

A green fish net tied to the end of a long aluminum pole makes it easy to catch the balls. Hunter has learned over the years how to spot a quality ball from a bad one from afar. He collects them and separates them into zip-lock bags. When he has enough, he sells them back to golfers. Hunter would not say how much he earns, but says it’s enough for food for him and his dog, Nuclear, a year-old pit with a powdery white coat.

The cops have been called — a few times, said David Sams, who heads up golf course operations for the Rose Bowl. But in eight years, police have come out only “three or four times” in response to complaints about Hunter, Sams said.

Mostly, course officials have come to accept Hunter as a sort of pseudo-resident. “It comes to the point where bygones are bygones,” Sams said.

Ask people who know him and they’ll say that something about Hunter doesn’t add up. They use words like “bright,” “friendly” and “kind” when describing him. They can’t understand how he came to live isolated in a flood control channel — and why he’s still there.

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Football: When is it too early for All-Area nominations?

With our PrepXtra Magazine in full motion, we’re cranking out stories and top 10 lists, etc. One of the things we’re compiling is a preseason Star-News All-Area team. This ought to be interesting and I will be curious to see how different our pre-season All-Area team is compared to our final one in December. This will be a first-team offense and defense, so we’re taking suggestions. If you want to fill in the blanks, this is what we’re looking for …

OFFENSE
QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE, OL, OL, OL, OL, OL, K
DEFENSE
DE, DE, DT, DT, LB, LB, LB, DB, DB, S, S, Punter

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Star-News Athletes of the Year: Yortsos, McCutchan personify the true meaning of sportsmanship, class.


ABOVE: Pasadena Star-News Athletes of the Year Stevie Yortsos (San Marino) and Courtney McCutchan (La Canada) pose at San Marino High School. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Keith Birmingham)

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

Perhaps for the first time ever, San Marino High School’s Stevie Yortsos and La Caada’s Courtney McCutchan find themselves with too much free time on their hands.

Yortsos and McCutchan long for the days filled with busy itineraries when the only free time available was during timeouts and water breaks.

It’s how life has been for the standout athletes, who personify the true meaning of sportsmanship. For their academic and athletic accomplishments, Yortsos and McCutchan are the 2009-2010 Star-News Athletes of the Year.

Yortsos was a three-sport athlete all four years at San Marino. He earned the captaincy in football, soccer and baseball because he knew how to lead by example. And it’s not like Yortsos just played those sports, he excelled in every facet of the game, quickly becoming the go-to guy as a wide receiver and defensive back, lightning-quick midfielder and clutch-hitting second baseman.

Yortsos earned Star-News All-Area first-team honors in football. He was limited to five games during soccer season because he had to undergo surgery on his right wrist after breaking his scaphoid bone while landing awkwardly during a football game. He continued to play, leading San Marino to a 9-3 season and an exciting second-place finish in league after beating a pesky Temple City team and reaching the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division playoffs.

Yortsos required a bone graph from his hip to fix his wrist, but in five games with the Titans’ soccer team he still managed to score four goals and had three assists.

He didn’t join his teammates on the baseball team until a week into Rio Hondo League competition. Still, he managed to earn first-team all-league honors after batting .448 with five doubles, two triples and a home run in 10 games.

Yortsos arguably was at his best his junior year, when he earned Star-News All-Area first-team honors in all three sports.

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Baseball: Covey earns Cal-Hi, MaxPreps All-State honors

The accolades just keep coming. Just a week after being named to the Pasadena Star-News’ Baseball Player of the Year, Maranatha’s Dylan Covey was named to the Cal-Hi Sports All-State Baseball First Team. Glendora’s Adam Plutko and Bisohp Amat’s Rio Ruiz also were chosen from the San Gabriel Valley. It should be noted that every player is a senior except Ruiz.

UPDATE: Covey still is in negotiations with the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s not uncommon for negotiations to last until August. Covey feels confident he’ll sign and forgo his playing for the University of San Diego. Also, Covey was named to the Max Preps All-State Baseball Team and first-team all-America by USA Today.

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Then & Now: Amazing alumni at Alhambra High School

THEN AND NOW
JIM McCONNELL

It all started with Red Worthington.

Bob “Red” Worthington, born in 1906 in Alhambra, graduated from Alhambra High School in 1924. By 1931, he was a starting outfielder for the Boston Braves, the first but certainly not the last Alhambra High athlete to make the big time.

Worthington played four years with the Braves. He then played in the Pacific Coast League from 1935-37 before ending his pro career.

“Oh yeah, Red making the big leagues was a big deal in Alhambra,” Max West said in a 2001 interview. “He lived right down the street from my family. So it told me that I had a chance, too.”

Indeed West did. Max, a 1934 graduate of Alhambra High, made the majors in 1938. He played seven years in the big leagues, part of a 15-year career in pro ball.

West’s accomplishment’s in turn inspired a youngster named Ralph Kiner, who graduated from Alhambra High in 1940 and made the majors by 1946 en route to a Hall of Fame career.

Worthington, West and Kiner made history playing baseball. Alhambra High, however, was better known during the first half of the 20th century for producing football and basketball players.

“Growing up in Alhambra, football was actually king of the hill,” West said. “It was a great sports town, but people really lived and died with the high school football team. If we didn’t win league it was a major disappointment. And the basketball team wasn’t far behind. Baseball was kind of an afterthought.”

Starting with the likes of Johnny Seixas and Orv Mohler in the late 1920s and continuing to Dick Wallen, Bill Leeka and Duane Allen in the 1950s, the Moors’ football program consistently produced winning teams and outstanding players.

One of the first San Gabriel Valley players to make it big in the NFL was Vic Carroll. The 1931 graduate of Alhambra High played his college ball at Nevada-Reno and then played from 1936-47 as an offensive lineman in the NFL, most notably for the Washington Redskins.

Another outstanding AHS football product of the 1930s was Vard Stockton, Jr. He went on to be a three-year starter at guard for Cal, earned all-conference honors in 1937 and is in Cal’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

High achievement ran in the Stockton family. Vard Sr. was a notable photographer in Southern California, a friend of Norman Rockwell and a big influence on Rockwell’s work.

Basketball at Alhambra High came on strong after World War II. Bob Boyd, later coach at USC, was a 1948 Alhambra grad.

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