Star-News Editor: “As of Wednesday, I am a Bulldog”

This column originally published Thursday, Nov. 11 on A3 in the Star-News.

Most of life is about choice.

Sometimes it’s as simple as picking the lesser of two evils – as in Brown versus Whitman.

Blue or red. Republican, Democrat or decline to state.

Sometimes your choices stay with you for life.

The frothing, spike-collared bulldog my brother Steve brought home on his bicep from basic training at Fort Knox falls into that category.

Other times we face complicated choices between varying shades of gray. Do you want strawberry preserves or grape jelly on that peanut butter sandwich?

Then there’s good choices represented by a group of San Gabriel Valley high school seniors who paraded through the office Wednesday. Each wore clothing advertising the school they hope to attend. Harvard, Stanford, Tulane, Loyola Marymount and the University of North Dakota were all represented.

Of course there is the choice that most Pasadenans will make this week.

For many it will come down to PHS or Muir. It is (after all) time once again for the city’s Turkey Tussle. The annual high school football game at the Rose Bowl pits red Bulldogs against blue Mustangs for citywide bragging rights.

And despite their 11-game losing streak, let me state once and for all that as of Wednesday I am a Bulldog.

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Signature moment for athletes who ink letter of intent

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

Pasadena Poly’s Jordan Kutzer and St. Francis’ David Hubinger played on the same all-star baseball team when they were 10 years old.

Seven years later, the duo almost landed at the same college before Hubinger ultimately signed with Pepperdine, while Kutzer chose Stanford.

They are two of 16 area athletes who signed national letters of intent Wednesday, the first day of the Fall Signing Period for all sports except football, boys and girls soccer and boys water polo.

It was a proud moment for the group, whose members at some point crossed paths despite playing various sports and formed long-lasting friendships, including six softball players and five volleyball players.

La Caada’s Anna Edwards (Northwestern), La Salle’s Sterling Shuster (Loyola Marymount), Maranatha’s Annie Sommers (Boston College), Mayfield’s Katie Clancy (Belmont University) and Temple City’s Jessica Loicano (North Dakota) play on the same travel softball team, Velocity 18U Gold, which is based in the San Gabriel Valley.

Edwards, who batted .580 with 35 RBIs and nine home runs last season, said choosing Northwestern over Michigan and Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo came easy because of the school’s close-knit environment.

Shuster, who led the Lancers to a CIF-Southern Section Division 6 championship last season, said Loyola Marymount offered the best of both worlds – top Division I competition in softball and an opportunity to study film at the industry’s epicenter.

“There’s no better place than L.A. for film,” she said. “I committed at the end of my sophomore season, and that ended the recruiting process for me.”

Sommers, an All-CIF and Star-News All-Area standout for the Minutemen, said the rich sports tradition at Boston College won her over.

“It offers a perfect balance with sports and social setting,” she said.

Clancy, a pitching sensation with a 0.76 ERA, 19 wins and 254 strikeouts, said her love for country music was an added bonus when she signed with Nashville’s Belmont University. Loicano, who led the Rams in batting average (.379) and home runs (5), said North Dakota provided a good environment to learn, as well as a program that would allow her to compete right away.

La Caada’s Lauren O’Leary (Georgetown) is the other softball standout in the group and led the Spartans in strikeouts (165) and wins (19) last season. She said Georgetown was tops on her list, and an official visit there confirmed that.

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Football: South Pas makes things interesting, beats Temple City, 27-17, to create a possible three-way tie.

By Keith Lair Staff Writer

SOUTH PASADENA — The way Matt Nelson runs his routes and Conor Bednarski throws the ball, the common perception is they have been doing the same thing since at least grade school.

But truth be told, it’s only been 20 games.

“I never seriously thought about football until my freshman year,” Nelson said. “We played together as freshmen, but his sophomore year he was on varsity and I was playing a little bit on the soph-frosh and JV teams.

“But our junior and senior years, we put in a lot of work. And we’ve put in a lot of extra work, too.”

That 20th varsity game together was a doozy. Nelson caught 11 passes for 179 yards, including two touchdowns, as South Pasadena picked up a 27-17 victory over visiting Temple City on Wednesday. He also had a key interception.

And the Rio Hondo League race has turned into another doozy, too. If Monrovia defeats La Caada to win the league title outright on Friday, it creates a three-way tie for second with South Pasadena, Temple City and La Caada all going 3-2. The same scenario, in which one team is out by a coin flip and the other shows up after the completion of the Monrovia-La Caada game for a 10-yard tie-breaker matchup exists again.

Bednarski completed 15 of 23 passes for 208 yards. He went short and then long to Nelson.
Nelson made a great 34-yard touchdown reception by out-leaping Temple City’s Andrew Arida to give the Tigers a 20-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter. He reached behind to catch a 28-yarder to keep that drive going.

“The great thing is he made some plays after he caught the ball,” Bednarski said. “We’ve been working out on the weekends and extra sessions. We have developed some nice chemistry.”
Nelson said the defenders were playing him six yards off the ball, which allowed for quick passes. When they stepped up, that’s when Nelson went deeper.

“He made some huge catches,” South Pasadena coach Ed Smith said. “Some of those catches he had a problem with earlier this year. Conor called some audibles and he and Conor called some good plays for themselves.”

But as well as the pair were playing catch, mixed in with Patrick Martin’s running game (136 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries), it was the Tigers’ ability to sustain drives that won the game.

“It’s awesome,” Nelson said. “It’s not just me and him, though. It’s our team making that catch. It’s awesome for the team.”

Meanwhile, as well as the Rams were moving the ball, they failed to sustain those same type of drives.

Joshua Simangunsong rushed for 191 yards on 30 carries, but the Rams struggled after their opening drive.

“We were never able to finish drives,” Temple City coach Mike McFarland said. “We are a running football team. We were able to move the ball, but we made mistakes that put us in long yardage situations for us.”

Both teams scored on their opening drives. The Rams then drove to the Tigers 22 where their push stalled and Nick Palmer gave them a 10-7 lead with a 40-yard field goal.

The Rams were driving again when Sean Nang picked off a Mikal Quintanilla pass at the South Pasadena 41 in the second quarter. Martin scored to give the Tigers the lead.

Three more times the Rams stalled after driving into South Pasadena territory, but on those occasions no points came from it.

“We were able to move the chains, but they didn’t give up the big play,” McFarland said. “The difference was that (Simangunsong) wasn’t able to have those breakout runs like he did earlier this season. South Pasadena did a good job defending against that.

“We were able to pin them deep and they were able to change field positions.”

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PrepXtra’s Turkey Tussle Edition hits newstands Friday

Here’s the cover of PrepXtra’s Turkey Tussle Edition. It will be inserted for home delivery and hit the newstands in the Pasadena/Altadena area Friday. This project truly was a collaborative effort. Managing editor Steve Hunt and preps eidtor Fred J. Robledo oversaw the week-long project while Fred Robledo Sr. (Freddy’s dad), Aram Tolegian, Jim McConnell and myself provided editorial content, which includes features on a player from each team, profiles on both head coaches, a history of the Victory Bell and much, much more. A lot of credit also goes to staffer Evelyn Barge, who did an outstanding job with the design throughout. I’m confident this magazine will be a true keepsake for you all, so be sure to pick up a copy at the Star-News office or buy a bunch from the vendors selling them for $1 at the Rose Bowl. You won’t see a better game preview magazine.

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Football: Rio Hondo League coin flips, head-to-head, etc.

Here are the scenarios:

Monrovia (7-2, 4-0) finishes as the Rio Hondo League champion with a win over La Caada (5-4, 3-1), no disputing that.

Temple City (4-5, 3-1) can clinch the No. 2 playoff spot with a win over South Pasadena (5-4, 2-2) on Wednesday, because even if La Caada pulls off the upset over Monrovia on Friday, the Rams already beat the Spartans, giving Temple City the No. 2 spot with a 4-1 league record.

A Temple City loss, however, certainly complicates things. If the Rams lose, that drops them to 3-2, the same record as South Pasadena.

If La Caada loses, that puts the Spartans, Rams and Tigers at 3-2.

In this event, a coin flip determines the odd team out, with head-to-head competition deciding the second- place team for the league’s guaranteed Mid-Valley Division playoff spot.

The third- place finisher would have to apply for an at-large berth.

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Football: New admission prices for Turkey Tussle

Muir and Pasadena High administrations mutulally agreed to increase the ticket prices to offset some of the costs that are involved with holding the Turkey Tussle at the Rose Bowl.

The ticket prices are as follows:
Adult – $8.00
Student w/o ASB card from Muir or Pasadena – $6.00
Senior Citizens – $6.00
Children under the age of five – free

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