Football: San Dimas closing in on owning Monrovia

EDITED: I mistakenly took San Dimas coach Bill Zernickow’s quote out of context when I created this thread late last night under the headline Bill Zernickow: If we beat (Monrovia) three more times in a row, we might own them mentally.”

I failed to add the second half of the quote, which read: “We would sure hope to try and foster that, but we don’t own them mentally one bit right now. We’ve been fortunate enough to have circumstances fall in our laps and have taken advantage.” I must have read it quickly last night, but no excuses here. I also failed to comprehend the phrase “three more times” which was brought to my attention by Aram.

In short, I agree. If San Dimas does in fact beat Monrovia three more times, they would indeed own the Wildcats mentally. San Dimas certainly has Monrovia’s number right now, but it’s certainly not complete domination, or is it?

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Monrovia doesn’t need board material to get up for its nemesis in Saturday’s CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division semifinal showdown. But I guess it’s good to know the opposition’s thought process should a third-straight win come to fruition.

Aram’s hammered home the point throughout the season, relentlessly challenging Monrovia’s mental toughness, whether the Wildcats are capable of withstanding late surges, such as the one San Dimas mounted this season.

The answer: No, Monrovia was not.

The Wildcats surrendered a 28-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter as the Saints reeled off 21 straight points to force overtime, score first and later stop Nick Bueno at the 1-yard line to pull off a dramatic 35-34 come-from-behind victory. It should be noted that this is San Dimas’ signature win of the season.

Monrovia’s Ryan Maddox told Aram that “they wouldn’t want it any other way” and that they were rooting for San Dimas so they’d eventually cross paths for the right to play in next week’s title game. You have to like the sportsmanship displayed from Zernickow, though, who said: “You know what, these guys are really good. So if you get to play them twice in a season, it’s been a good year. If we don’t win this game, I want Ryan to win this thing because he’s such a good guy.”

So here its, Monrovia. This is what you wanted, and now you’ve got it. Now’s the time, and there’s absolutely no excuses for letting this one slip away. Injuries, schemes? Nah. It’s coming down to executing with heart. Who wants it more? The unforgiving cold December air pales in comparison to the feeling of dejection felt under the pouring rain last December. This is when you grab fortune by the horns and steer it exactly where you want it, straight into next week for a chance to hoist your very first CIF championship plaque,

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BHoops Preview: Pasadena above all others, again.

STAR-NEWS TOP 10 PRESEASON RANKINGS
1. Pasadena
2. La Caada
3. Pasadena Poly
4. Flintridge Prep
5. Muir
6. Keppel
7. Maranatha
8. La Salle
9. St. Francis
10. Rennaisance Academy

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

With success comes higher expectations, which is the reason why Pasadena High School has moved from Division 2A to 1AA for this season’s CIF-Southern Section boys basketball playoffs.

Pasadena joins the ranks of Mater Dei, Etiwanda and Long Beach Poly, all perennial powers.

The Bulldogs last season reached the Division 2A final and the semifinals of the Southern California Regional State Playoffs. It’s uncertain if Pasadena will have as much success playing in 1AA, but the simple fact the Bulldogs can be named in the same sentence as the aforementioned schools is the reason why Pasadena again is the No. 1 team in the Star-News’ preseason top 10 rankings.

1. Pasadena (27-8 last season)

Steven Adams will return for his fifth season after he was granted a hardship waiver by the CIF-State office. Adams underwent brain surgery two years ago and missed the second half of his junior season and played sparingly last year.

“He played last year but he was at about 55 percent,” Pasadena coach Tim Tucker said. “(The) CIF (Southern Section) denied his request, but he went to the state and there was enough evidence to support that the kid deserved another year.”

Adams has since regained some of his strengths as a post player, and Tucker said his confidence will grow as he plays more games. His work ethic also has shot up, so much so that he’s leading by example and for the first time was named a captain.

Pasadena, ranked 17th in the state by ESPN, will be led by Todd Lewis Jr., the slashing forward with a soft stroke. He averaged 18 points and eight rebounds per game on his way to earning All-CIF honors as a junior.

Brandon Jolley started halfway through last season as a freshman and early on showed why he’ll be a dominant force. Jolley (6-foot-5) is one of a number of players who will give the Bulldogs a sizeable front court. Adams (6-9), Lewis (6-4) and Nick Holden (6-6) are the others who will likely make up the starting five. Senior Austin Daniels, a speedy point guard with an eye for finding the open man, will replace three-year starter George Toyama.

“It’s his turn,” Tucker said of Daniels. “He’s been on this team for three years and he showed a lot of maturity in the playoffs, where he got to see a lot more time. This is what he’s been waiting for, to show what he can do.”

Tucker said this season’s bench is arguably his deepest in a while. It features 6-5 junior Simon Erza, who is captain of the Sweden 16U National Team. Tucker said he can play four positions, but will need a few games to adjust to “U.S.” speed.

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Star Picks: The end is near, time to pay up the bet …

The Stang Fan and I will go head-to-head this season, though I don’t see the point anymore…

Melendez: 2-4 last week; total 146-51-1
Stang Fan: 3-3 last week; total 157-40-1

Apologies for taking long on posting this thread. I’ve been really under the weather the last week, and working Friday certainly didn’t help. I wouldn’t have had it any other way though. For one, I’m not a big believer in calling in sick, and secondly, I would have been wondering too much about the Monrovia-Schurr score. Saw some good things and a lot of not good things, which I’ll get more into later this week. In just two more weeks I’ll officially lose this year’s Star Picks. The Stang Fan had my number since Week 1, but that’s OK. I’ll pay the bet and wear USC gear and use that photo as my blog photo for one week. It’s been a fun ride, but no ride is complete until someone reaches next week’s finals. In my 10 years of covering high school sports I don’t recall ever not having one of my teams reach the finals in any given sport I’ve covered. Monrovia and Pasadena Poly have one more hurdle before reaching the big stage. The Panthers travel nearly six hours one-way to Bishop to play against top-seed Bishop Union. The game is slated for 6 p.m. and we’ll dispatch a reporter up there. The ride up there should be interesting and the environment there as well. We’re all set for Monrovia-San Dimas IV on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Yours truly, Fred and Mike “The Cousin” will be there too for live-blogging. We’ll have a two-minute video posted later in the week. With Monrovia the lone team in the area playing local, I’m wondering how many of you will come together and join in cheering on the Wildcats who aim to make their 10th finals appearance. Or, like a few folks out there, are you just waiting until Monrovia collapses so we can hear the rhetorical “I told you so” crap? Time for some more Theraflu, so I’ll hit you guys up Tuesday.

CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION PLAYOFFS
NORTHEAST DIVISION
SEMIFINALS

Pasadena Poly (9-3) at No. 1 Bishop (11-1), Friday, 6 p.m.
No. 3 Vasquez (10-1) at Boron (11-1), Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

MID-VALLEY DIVISION
SEMIFINALS

Whittier Christian (11-1) vs. Village Christian (8-4) at Glendale HS, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
No. 2 Monrovia (10-2) at San Dimas (8-4), Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

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Friday Night Aftermath: Monrovia, Pasadena Poly win; Muir, Maranatha, Rosemead and Rio Hondo Prep slip.

CLICK HERE FOR OTHER SAN GABRIEL VALLEY SCORES

Friday’s results

Bonita 49, Muir 25 — Giomani Johnson scored three touchdowns in the final period to lead the Bearcats. The score was 30-25 with 4:49 left in the game.

Village Christian 34, Rosemead 0 — The Panthers had plenty of chances. Three of their first four drives went inside the 26 and twice were stopped on fourth down and had a fumble at the Village Christian 8. Matt Fregoso finished with 123 yards on 34 carries.

San Dimas 56, Maranatha 20 — Losing Joshua Jones to a knee injury was big for the Minutemen, but not sure if his presence would have made the difference in this one. San Dimas led something like 42-0 at halftime. Big plays from Codee Watts and Theo Darlington helped the Saints, who will host Monrovia in next week’s Mid-Valley Division semifinals.

Monrovia 21, San Dimas 7 — Schurr turned the ball over four times and were penalized 11 times as the Wildcats capitalized to run away with the win. Nick Bueno for the most part was contained. He finished with 108 yards rushing on 22 carries. He scored from 24 yards out early in the third quarter. Three penalties in that drive moved the ball all the way to the Schurr 24. Christian Blanco scored from 25 yards early in the second quarter, but it was Andrew Plasencia who recovered a Schurr fumble that set up that score. He intercepted a pass later in the game and returned in 12 yards for a score to give the Wildcats a 21-0 lead. Schurr on its first five possessions resulted in a punt, turnover, turnover, punt, punt. Aaron Cantu finished with 215 yards on 25-of-38 passing and a touchdown. Monrovia will visit San Dimas in next week’s semifinals, likely to be played Saturday night.

Pasadena Poly 43, Desert Christian 27 — Blaked Edwards rushed for over 200 yards and quarterback Hunter Merryman threw for two touchdown passes. The Panthers will play at top-seed Bishop next week.

Boron 14, Rio Hondo Prep 6 — This was the Kares’ earliest playoff exit since 2007 when they were eliminated in the opening round. Rio Hondo Prep’s lone losses this season came to Boron, which defeated Rio Hondo Prep 36-28 in the fourth game of the season.

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Happy Thanksgiving: Here’s a little Monrovia-Schurr tidbit to go along with the turkey and pumpkin pie…

Chris Gutierrez, who’s one of the first on the copy desk to look over my daily scribbles I call a story, sent over a tidbit Wednesday afternoon. Monrovia and Schurr were members of the Mission Valley League together from 1972 until Monrovia departed after the 1976-77 school year. Monrovia won all five football meetings against Schurr. However, Monrovia, San Gabriel and Schurr shared the MVL title in 1975 with 4-1 league records. That season Schurr earned its first-ever football playoff berth. Schurr visits Monrovia on Friday in the quarterfinals of the Mid-Valley Division playoffs.

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BREAKING NEWS: Maranatha’s Josh Jones has “possible tear in ACL, which could require surgery.”

In Thursday’s paper you’ll read that Maranatha senior Josh Jones’ status remains uncertain for Friday’s Mid-Valley Division quarterfinal game at San Dimas, but the latest update sent moments ago in an e-mail from Minutemen coach Joel Murphy doesn’t look good.

“Looks like there is a possible tear in JJ’s ACL which could require surgery,” he wrote. “It’s a huge loss for us but we have to focus on his hearling and preparing for Friday’s game.”

Jones (806 yards, 12 touchdowns) underwent an MRI on Monday for a knee injury suffered in last week’s win over La Puente.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Jones’ status was uncertain. The senior appears to be walking with no pain or with the help of crutches. He can jog and bend the knee because there’s no swelling and good movement.

“The doctors are kind of baffled because the knee is soft, but they can’t get a clear read of it,” said Murphy early Wednesday. “And because JJ still wants to play after this (San Diego State or Northern Arizona) we’re taking the necessary precaution. If this was his last hoorah he’d play, but right now we don’t know.”

If Jones is gone for the season, that’s a huge huge loss for Maranatha. But JJ’s hopes is to continue playing at the next level, and, as tough as it is, it’s in his best interest to recover from injury if in fact he’s torn an ACL and requires season-ending surgery.

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Football: Maranatha will play biggest game in history

Maranatha’s played for the CIF-Southern Section East Valley Division championship and numerous semifinal games. Still, it pales in comparison to the task the Minutemen face Friday when they travel to visit defending Mid-Valley Division champion San Dimas.

“We’re not making light of this: This is the best school and biggest game in our school’s history. We’ve played in some big games before, but nothing like the competition or the level we’re in right now.” Joel Murphy, Maranatha coach.

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Football: No-huddle working wonders for Monrovia

Ryan Maddox isn’t set in his ways. If it means improving an already-explosive offense with seemingly no weaknesses, the third-year Monrovia High School football coach won’t hesitate adding finishing touches.

Such is the case this season for a Wildcats (9-2) team that averages nearly 40 points per game. Maddox this season added a new concept to the Wing-T offense that’s proven to test the endurance of every opponent – a no-huddle offense.

The concept was applied after Monrovia lost to San Dimas in Week 3, and the Wildcats haven’t lost a game since. They are riding an eight-game winning streak heading into Friday’s game against Schurr (7-4) in the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division playoffs.

“Last year we were more about ball control and we threw the ball a ton,” Maddox said.

“We spread it out so that we can run the ball, but in doing that we had too many people going both ways.”

The no-huddle offense accomplishes several things, including fewer players playing both ways. In fact, only two players are doing so now: senior Jay Henderson and sophomore Anthony Craft, both of whom play wide receiver and defensive back.

Junior Ellis McCarthy started the season at offensive tackle, a new role for him after he play tight end last season. In the no-huddle offense, the 6-foot-5, 295-pounder switches back to tight end in special packages, but overall he concentrates solely on anchoring the defensive line at tackle, making the defensive specialist with 11 sacks an even better weapon.

“He’s humongous,” Maddox said of McCarthy. “He’s a man, really. He’s starting to really understand how to use his frame.

“He’s just so hard to block. It’s definitely a team game, but when you have somebody special like that you have to find ways to account for him, and that allows our other defensive ends and linebackers to make big plays.”

That will be Schurr’s biggest concern, given senior quarterback Aaron Cantu (2,272 yards, 18 touchdowns) likes to sit in the pocket and allow plays to develop. Cantu, however, may not have that luxury against Monrovia.

“For a true pocket passer, you want to put pressure on them,” Maddox said. “That disrupts their timing and flow of the game. They’re not going to beat you with their feet.

“He can step around and moves decently within the pocket. He is good about checking receivers, whereas somebody like Nick (Bueno) is able to get himself out of trouble.”

McCarthy’s prowess calls for double- and even triple-coverage, which allows defensive ends Adrian Velasco and Jerome Brown to wreak havoc of their own, and they have. Brown, a senior, is second in sacks with six while Velasco’s quickness and physicality off the block often allows for the pocket to collapse and leaves little room for quarterbacks.

Lorenzo Casas is the other junior defensive tackle along with McCarthy. Casas has taken advantage: he’s third on the team in sacks with four.

Monrovia last season had a strong stable of running backs with varied styles. Bueno has shouldered most of the responsibility on the ground this season with 1,314 yards and 11 touchdowns. Christian Blanco, Michael Harris and Marquis Bias still provide variety in the backfield, which means Derrick Johnson, who spent a lot of time sharing carries last year, can concentrate on anchoring the defense at linebacker.

In a sense, the no-huddle offense also improved the already-stout Monrovia defense, giving the perception that the Wildcats have no weakness. Penalties, miscues and turnovers are battles Monrovia strives to win, and when it does, it means opposing teams struggle to keep up with the Wildcats’ up-tempo pace.

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Football: Bonita’s Podley knows all about Muir’s prowess

By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer

Bonita High School football coach Eric Podley doesn’t need a history lesson when it comes to the Bearcats’ opponent on Friday, Muir.

After crushing California 51-6 in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division playoffs, the Bearcats (10-1) play at Muir (6-4) in the quarterfinals Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Mustangs knocked off La Mirada 33-14 for their sixth consecutive victory.

Podley was the offensive coordinator on the Mustangs’ 1989 Division II co-championship team that tied Santa Barbara 7-7 under head coach John Tyree, a championship that came shortly after Muir’s storied back-to-back championships in 1985 and ’86 under legendary coach Jim Brownfield.

“This is our toughest game since West Covina (55-21 loss on Oct. 29),” Podley said. “They’re playing with a lot of confidence, they beat their league champion (Burroughs) and haven’t lost in over a month, so they believe in what they’re doing and what their coaches are telling them.”

Muir coach Ken Howard is in his seventh season, which is the longest tenure at the school since Brownfield was there.

In those seven years, the Mustangs have won four Pacific League titles and are making their fourth quarterfinal appearance, although they’ve never been beyond that.

When the Mustangs advanced to the quarterfinals in 2003 and ’04, they were in Division III, where they lost each time to powerhouse Sherman Oaks Notre Dame.

In 2006 the Mustangs moved to Division V but lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champ Colony.

The Mustangs suffered their first losing season under Howard last year, 4-7, but they still gave eventual Southeast Division champ Charter Oak their toughest game of the playoffs before losing in the first round 20-19 after getting stopped on a game-winning two-point conversion attempt in the final seconds.

That’s Muir, a team that always has a ton of talent, which is why they’re so upset-prone.

“There has been sort of a revolving (coaching) door since Brownfield, but he’s (Howard) done a great job,” Podley said.

“Having been there, I have the utmost respect for him. It’s not the easiest place to work and sustain a program.”

The area surrounding Muir always has been known for producing great football talent, but that talent hasn’t always remained there, with players leaving to neighboring schools more than ever.

Even Muir great Saladin McCullough’s son, Saladin McCullough Jr., is at Alemany, along with quarterback Vernon Adams, who both live in the Muir school district.

The east San Gabriel Valley has benefitted from several players who would have gone to Muir, such as Charter Oak legends Will Harris and Patrick Fuller, and there are so many more.

“That’s why I give (Howard) so much credit. He’s done a great job in a tough football environment,” Podley said. “Football means everything to those kids.”

Players don’t leave Muir because of football. They leave because of academics and safety concerns brought on by neighboring gangs.

Podley, however, never remembered anything negative happening during his only season there. He felt that was out of respect for football.

“There might be trouble swirling around the practice or during the game sometimes, but when it came time to play football it’s a community that respects the game,” Podley said.

“The kids in the community know when it comes to football, it’s all business.”

That’s why Podley’s so concerned with Friday’s game.

Muir is as healthy as it’s been all year, and quarterback Jeffrey Davis might be the most dangerous run and pass threat in the division.

Davis suffered a concussion earlier in the season that forced him out of two games – both losses – and is 7-2 as a starter.

“I’m not sure how we prepare for that,” Podley said of Davis.

“I don’t have anyone to simulate what he does, so it’s hard to predict how we’re going to handle him.”

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