Football: Monrovia should just size up the rings now…

Print the banner, order the hats and shirts and size up the rings.

Monrovia High School will win the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division championship.

Clean out the trophy case and do away with the nine CIF runner-up plaques.

In the long history of the CIF-Southern Section football playoffs, the Wildcats are the only school to have advanced to nine finals without bringing home a CIF championship.

That ends in three weeks.

Azusa, thanks for coming, but Monrovia will take it from here.

The Wildcats (8-2) will avenge two consecutive losses to San Dimas (6-4) and dethrone the Saints in the semifinals. Azusa (10-0) will be a worthy opponent and, if nothing else, we’ll see a great matchup with a potential shootout.

The taste of a victory for Maranatha (7-3) in the Mid-Valley Division will fuel its drive in 2011 while Covina (9-1) runs into a determined Azusa team in the other semifinal bracket.

The collective talents of Nick Bueno and Ellis McCarthy are enough to give any team the edge. But Monrovia’s supporting cast is what makes them arguably the most dangerous team in the division.

Sophomore George Frazier has the frame (6-2, 200) and pedigree that allows the Wildcats to move pieces within the offense.

Bueno will get his one way or another. He’s passed for 1,258 yards and rushed for 1,226 yards and accounted for 26 touchdowns. Bueno is a defensive coordinator’s nightmare, but when Frazier steps in at quarterback and Bueno moves to slot or tailback, well, that’s just not even fair.

Jay Henderson, Anthony Craft and Luke Williams are playmakers with speed, agility and toughness. Derrin Jenkins has become a show-stopper at cornerback and Derrick Johnson is a punishing linebacker who often directs players to head for the sideline and avoid a bruising collision.

Then there’s Ellis McCarthy. The junior stands an intimidating 6-feet-5 inches and weighs 290 pounds. Opposing teams can double-team and even triple-team the man-child who still has managed to record 11 sacks and counting.

Simply put, no team in the Mid-Valley Division will find a way to contain McCarthy. His pass-rush is textbook, and don’t underestimate his speed. He’s hungry going after the ball and can chase down the run, too.

Monrovia’s relentless pressure establishes the game’s tempo and ultimately its momentum.

Bueno’s ability to balance his arsenal is a huge asset, and he’s proven he can kick it into third gear and run defenses wild with his speed and elusiveness.

Don’t underestimate the pain Monrovia felt losing the way it did to San Dimas in 2009. The Wildcats made a frantic push near the end when rain subsided but to no avail.

The pain followed them through summer ball and into fall camp.

It ends in three weeks.

Monrovia coach Ryan Maddox and his Zen-like approach will make way for elation.

The third-year coach led the Wildcats to the semifinals in his first season and a finals appearance last year.

Is this the year?

It only makes sense.

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Football: Monrovia’s stadium ready; Maranatha, Temple City enjoy a little luck; Any more time changes?

Monrovia athletic director Randy Bell said the school’s new synthetic track will be ready in time for the Wildcats to host Friday`s football game against Gladstone in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division playoffs.

The Wildcats (8-2) played their final two home games at neutral sites (Maranatha and San Marino) because the construction company had only a two-week window at the end of October in which to complete the installation.

The game also has been moved up half an hour to a 7 p.m. start.

Perception is reality?

Monrovia pummeled its Rio Hondo League opponents this season by a combined score of 235-17. That has created a perception that the Wildcats might be heading into the playoffs without really having been challenged.

That’s of little concern to Wildcats coach Ryan Maddox, however.

“From our perspective, it doesn`t really matter what other people think,” Maddox said. “We just have to prove to ourselves and win the games in front of us. As far as perception, we can’t control what people may think about us.”

Feeling lucky

Maranatha (7-3) and Temple City (4-6) received a little luck in finishing second in their respective leagues.

Maranatha finished second in the Olympic League, thanks to Village Christian beating Cerritos Valley Christian 56-27 to create a three-way tie for second place behind Whittier Christian. The Minutemen went from possibly missing the playoffs to winning a coin flip and a head-to-head tiebreaker to host La Puente (8-2) on Friday at 7 p.m. in their first Mid-Valley Division playoff appearance.

Cerritos Valley Christian, which beat Maranatha 70-64 in five overtimes, did not make the playoffs after losing the coin flip.

“When we looked at it, to think we could be fourth and completely out of the playoffs to now hosting a game, it’s very exciting for us,” Maranatha athletic director Brian DeHaan said.

Now that it’s in the playoffs, Temple City will show how much it has improved since starting the season 1-4 when it visits Rosemead (7-3).

“No question,” Temple City coach Mike McFarland said. “It’s a great opportunity to gauge our progress.”

As for how things played out in the Rio Hondo League, McFarland sympathizes with South Pasadena. The Tigers finished 6-4 overall and 3-2 in league but missed the playoffs on a coin flip after finishing in a three-way tie with Temple City and La Ca ada.

“It’s an imperfect process,” he said. “We were just very fortunate that things turned our way. There’s no way of making it a fool-proof process. Someone’s always going to get hurt when there’s an odd man out.”

Time changes

Pasadena Poly’s first-round game against Hamilton at South Pasadena has been changed to 7 p.m. on Friday.

Teams with time changes should e-mail miguel.melendez@sgvn.com.

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Mid-Valley Prediction: Monrovia makes 10th finals count


Southeast, Northeast Division predictions come Tuesday and Wednesday.

Freddy and Steve Ramirez agree: Monrovia will be crowned Mid-Valley Division champion when it’s all said and done. Monrovia will kill one bird with two stones. They’ll beat San Dimas in the semifinals and finally avenge three losses to the Saints over the last two years, including last year’s 12-7 loss in the Mid-Valley Division finals. Azusa will be a worthy opponent. If nothing else, we’ll see a great matchup with a potential shootout. Maranatha’s taste of a victory in the Mid-Valley Division will fuel its drive in 2011. A lot of you will get blown away by the poise, quickness and textbook-play of sophomore quarterback Andrew Elffers. Don’t be surprised if you see this kid play at a major Division I school in a few years. Omar Younger is a beast on the ground. He’s a crashing machine, never fazed by tough collisions. Back to Monrovia … Steve Ramirez has said it all season, Ellis McCarthy gives the Wildcats a huge advantage. The 6-foot-5, 290 pound defensive tackle sets the tone and trickles to every facet of the game, allowing the Wildcats to control the tempo and ultimately their own momentum. Nick Bueno’s ability to balance his arsenal is a huge asset to the Wildcats. He’s proven that when the passing game isn’t there he can kick it into third gear and run defenses wild with his speed and elusiveness. What people forget about Monrovia is its much-improved defense over the last few weeks. Linebacker Derrick Johnson, safety Charlie Cimmarusti and cornerback Derrin Jenkins are just a few of the key pieces anchoring a hard-nosed defense that worked hard in nearly shutting out the Rio Hondo League. Sure, it’s a sub-par league this season for the most part, but these seniors took pride in recording the shutouts. Granted, there was In-N-Out for the taking, but still.

Mid-Valley Division Predictions
Top Seeds:
1. Azusa (10-0), 2. Monrovia (8-2), 3. Arroyo (9-1), 4. Covina (9-1)
Unseeded Sleepers: San Dimas, Whittier Christian, Maranatha.

Mid-Valley Division
Top Bracket

Village Christian (6-4) at No. 1 Azusa (10-0) — Azusa
Temple City (4-6) at Rosemead (7-3) — Rosemead
Bell Gardens (7-3) at Whittier Christian (9-1) — Whittier Christian
La Canada (5-5) at No. 4 Covina (9-1) — Covina
Bottom Bracket
San Dimas (6-4) at No. 3 Arroyo (9-1) — San Dimas
La Puente (8-2) at Maranatha (7-3) — Maranatha
Baldwin Park (5-5) at Schurr (6-4) — Baldwin Park
Gladstone (5-5) at No. 2 Monrovia (8-2) — Monrovia

Quarterfinals
Top Bracket

Azusa over Rosemead
Covina over Whittier Christian
Bottom Bracket
San Dimas over Maranatha
Monrovia over Baldwin Park
Semifinals
Azusa over Covina
Monrovia over San Dimas
Championship
Monrovia over Azusa

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Star Picks: Road to the CIF-SS finals begins Friday

The Stang Fan and I will go head-to-head through the playoffs…

Melendez: 14-4 last week; total 137-45-1
Stang Fan: 14-4 last week; total 146-36-1

The regular season comes to an end, and it looks like Stang Fan will win the competition in his first year. It’s all good. He was a worthy opponent. I struggled picking Rosemead over Temple City. You know what the Rams are capable of doing on the ground with Joshua Simangunsong leading the way. But in the end, I went with experience, and the Panthers last season made the playoffs, albeit it was an early exit. Still, Panthers running back Matt Fregoso last year ran wild against San Marino. He was the lone bright spot in Rosemead’s first-round loss. I like Maranatha over La Puente. Still no word on Chris Cornell’s status for the Minutemen, but you have to love Maranatha’s chances with Andrew Elffers directing the offense. Muir’s win over La Mirada will be no surprise. I’m expecting the Apaches not to let up while Pasadena Poly and Rio Hondo Prep represent the Prep League well. This is the end of the rope for La Canada and St. Francis.

Friday’s games with predictions
Temple City at Rosemead, 7:30 p.m. — Melendez (Rosemead)
Muir at La Mirada, 7:30 p.m. — Melendez (Muir)
La Puente at Maranatha, 7 p.m. — Melendez (Maranatha)
Norwalk at Arcadia, 7:30 p.m. — Melendez (Arcadia)
Gladstone at Monrovia, 7:30 p.m. — Melendez (Monrovia)
La Canada at Covina, 7:30 p.m. — Melendez (Covina)
Hamilton vs. Pasadena Poly at South Pasadena, 7:30 p.m. — Melendez (Poly)
California City at Rio Hondo Prep, 7:30 p.m. — Melendez (Rio Hondo Prep)
St. Francis at Dominguez, 7:30 p.m. — Melendez (Dominguez)

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CIF-SS Playoffs: La Caada earns at-large in Mid-Valley Division; St. Francis earns at-large in Western Division; What’s your game of the week come Friday night?

MID-VALLEY DIVISION
TOP BRACKET

Village Christian (Olympic at-large) at No. 1 Azusa (Montview 1)
Temple City (Rio Hondo 2) at Rosemead (MVL 2)
Bell Gardens ( Almont 2) at Whittier Christian (Olympic 1)
La Caada (Rio Hondo at large) at No. 4 Covina (Valle Vista 1)
BOTTOM BRACKET
San Dimas (Valle Vista at-large) at No. 3 Arroyo (Mission Valley 1)
La Puente (Montview 2) at Maranatha (Olympic 2)
Baldwin Park (Valle Vista 2) at Schurr (Almont 1)
Gladstone (Montview at large) at No. 2 Monrovia (Rio Hondo 1)

SOUTHEAST DIVISION
TOP BRACKET

Bellflower (Suburban 4) at No. 1 West Covina (Hacienda 1)
Burbank (Pacific 3) at Santa Fe (Del Rio 2)
Diamond Ranch (Hacienda 3) at Mayfair (Suburban 2)
El Rancho (Del Rio at large) at No. 4 Burroughs (Pacific 1)
BOTTOM BRACKET
Muir (Pacific 4) at La Mirada (Suburban 1)
California (Del Rio 3) at Bonita (Hacienda 2)
Norwalk (Suburban 3) at Arcadia (Pacific 2)
Walnut (Hacienda 4) at La Serna (Del Rio 1)

WESTERN DIVISION
TOP BRACKET

Beverly Hills (Ocean at-large) at Serra (Mission 1)
Adolfo Camarillo (Pacific view 2) at Dos Pueblos (Channel 1)
Downey (San Gabriel Valley 2) at Inglewood (Ocean 1)
Oxnard (Pacific View at-large) at Paso Robles (Pac-7 1)
BOTTOM BRACKET
Culvery City (Ocean 2) at Chaminade (Mission 2)
Ventura (Channel 2) at Atascadero (Pac-7 2)
Arroyo Grande (Pac-7 at-large) at Rio Mesa (Pacific View 1)
St. Francis (Mission at-large) at Dominguez (San Gabriel Valley 1)

NORTHEAST DIVISION
TOP BRACKET

Mojave (Desert Mountain at-large) at Bishop Union (High Desert 1)
Chadwick (Prep at-large) at Mojave (Santa Fe 1)
Hamilton (Arrowhead 2) at Pasadena Poly (Prep 2)
Fairmont Prep (San Joaquin 2) at Desert Christian/L, Desert 2)
BOTTOM BRACKET
St. Genevieve (Santa Fe 2) at Vasquez (Desert Mountain 1)
Desert (High Desert 2) at California Military Inst. (Arrowhead 1)
Boron (Desert Mountain at-large) at Saddleback VC (San Joaquin 1)
California City (High Desert at-large) at Rio Hondo Prep (Prep 1)

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Turkey Tussle: Near-tragedy has Pasadena senior Austin Lacy in ultimate recovery mode.

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

Austin Lacy has a scar that runs from his neck to his belly button.

It serves as a constant reminder of the ordeal the senior from Pasadena High School went through earlier this year.

What was supposed to be a routine procedure in March to drain fluid from his chest because of an ECHO virus was anything but.

Lacy’s heart stopped for four minutes and his chest was ripped opened so surgeons could massage his heart in an effort to bring him back. A 15-minute procedure from a condition doctors said may have killed a less physically fit patient turned into nearly four hours of surgery.

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Friday Night Aftermath: Muir still owns Pasadena, crush ‘Dogs, 63-6; Arcadia clinches share of Pacific crown; Temple City is second in RHL; St. Francis playoff-bound; San Gabriel shocks Schurr, falls short of playoffs.

CLICK HERE FOR A PHOTO GALLERY FROM FRIDAY’S TURKEY TUSSLE GAME

Most Pasadena and Altadena subscribers will find our PrepXtra Turkey Tussle Souvenir Edition inside today’s Star-News. The 24-page magazine includes a preview of tonight’s big Muir-Pasadena game, as well as several feature articles, and projected starters with pictures of each player in the starting lineup. We hope you enjoy this magazine. Additional copies will be sold at the Star-News and at tonight’s game at the Rose Bowl. Please let us know what you think.

NOTE: This is why we strongly encourage you to subscribe to the Star-News, so you don’t miss out on speical issues like the Turkey Tuzzle souvenir edition. The magazine will not be sold at the Star-News office today or at newstands, only at the game. About 1,000 copies will be sold at booths at the Rose Bowl, so get there early and buy them. This is a limited edition, and we plan on more projects like this in the future, so subscribe, subscribe, subscribe!

CLICK HERE FOR OTHER SAN GABRIEL VALLEY SCORES

Friday’s results

Muir 63, Pasadena 6 — Muir dominated from start to finish. For the first time all season, the Mustangs played superb in all facets of the game. Special teams, defense, passing, rushing. Everything. Jeffrey Davis passed for 129 yards and four touchdowns. Karl Holmes Jr. caught two TD passes and Deshawn Hayes and Denzel Talifero each caught one, too. DaiDai McFadden, destiny Iwuoma, Trayveion Yates and Brandon Jackson all made big plays. Muir led 42-0 at the half. It was the Mustangs’ largest margin of victory in Turkey Tussle history and scored the most points in Turkey Tussle history. The win helped Muir secure the Pacific League’s fourth and final berth into the CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division playoffs. Muir will find out who it plays next week.

Arcadia 35, Crescenta Valley 17 — Myles Carr passed for three touchdowns and Brian Ponce ran for another to lead the Apaches, who got off to a slow start and twice trailed by 10 and trailed 17-14 at the half. Arcadia shut out Crescenta Valley in the second half and took the ball away three times, including two interceptions from Nader Daumoni. Arcadia finished undefeated at Salter Stadium.

Monrovia 34, La Caada 10 — Nick Bueno rushed for 289 yards and two touchdowns. He passed for only 69 yards, but the Wildcats didn’t need to really pass. The Spartans, however, did record two interceptions off of Bueno. La Caada’s Scott Gray scored the lone touchdown on a 1-yard run. Temple City, La Caada and South Pasadena all finished 3-2, with the Tigers losing the coin flip. Temple City advances as the league’s No. 2 team after winning the head-to-head tiebreaker over La Caada.

St. Francis 34, Harvard-Westlake 14 — St. Francis scored on its first six possessions of the game, en route to securing the Mission League’s final automatic berth for the CIF-Southern Section Western Division playoffs. St. Francis (6-4, 3-2) opened the game with an eight-minute, 16-play, 80-yard drive, culminating in a 6-yard touchdown run by Austin De Los Santos. Ian Sternau kicked a 48-yard field goal on the last play of the first half for a 24-0 lead.

Rio Hondo Prep 47, Viewpoint 0 — The Kares defense held Viewpoint to 78 total yards of offense. Rio Hondo Prep clinches its 22nd Prep League championship and gets ready for the Northeast Division playoffs.

OTHER SCORES
San Gabriel 38, Schurr 28
Pasadena Poly 36, Chadwick 27
Rosemead 42, El Monte 29
Montebello 38, Keppel 12
Mary Star 31, Bosco Tech 29
Cantwell-Sacred Heart 44, La Salle 6
San Marino 31, Blair 6

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Football: Muir’s Holmes the epitome of true perseverance

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

Karl Holmes Jr. met his father for the first time when he was 5 years old. He was 11 by the time he saw him again.

In December, the Muir senior will drive to San Quentin State Prison to visit Holmes Sr., 35, who’s spent the last 15 years on Death Row along with Lorenzo Newborn and Herbert McClain for their conviction in the killings of three Pasadena children on Halloween night in 1993.

Holmes’ mother, Wanda Martin, wasn’t a constant presence until just two years ago, when Holmes moved in with her, he said. She was in and out of his life, and Holmes during that time was under the care of his uncle, former Muir star running back Darick Holmes.

With seemingly every excuse in the book to turn his back on life, Holmes decided he wouldn’t be just another statistic. In spite of his parent’s troubled history, success became Holmes’ only option.

The 6-foot-4 star wide receiver for the Mustangs football team will play in front of thousands at 7 tonight in the 57th annual Turkey Tussle at the Rose Bowl. Holmes said he’ll think of his father’s words, to make the most of the moment and the opportunities that lay before him.

Holmes will withstand the cold November air and soak in the roaring crowd before making his way out of the dark tunnel. It’s more than a moment, it’s a way of life.

Holmes’ upbringing in northwest Pasadena was a struggle, with pressure and influence from gangs at nearly every turn. If not for his uncle, Holmes said, he’s not sure what would’ve happened to him.

“You see on TV the stories about examples of people who made it,” Holmes said, “but to have someone here, physically in front of you, who is family that you can look up to, means the world to me and makes me feel absolutely blessed.”

Darick graduated from Muir in 1989 before stops at Mt. San Antonio College and Pasadena City College led him to Portland State. He was drafted in the seventh round (244th overall) by the Buffalo Bills in the 1995 NFL Draft, and went on to play for the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts before his season was cut short because of ankle injuries.

Darick draws from his own experience – successful or otherwise – when mentoring Holmes. Darick, while a sophomore at Pasadena, spent 10 months in a juvenile camp. He said his affiliation with the wrong group brought him trouble. Realizing his potential, Darick made a stronger effort to remain focused.

He’s more than just the uncle who played in the NFL. He’s a father figure.

“He’s done so much for me,” Holmes said. “He has his own family to take care of, but yet helps me anytime I need him. He’s always been there to support me.”

Holmes talks to his father about four times a month. They mostly talk about sports and rarely ever, if at all, talk about how and why he landed in jail.

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