Football: How not to stop Nick Bueno? By punching him.

With less than a minute left in the second quarter in last week’s second round of the Mid-Valley Division playoffs, Schurr was forced to punt after facing fourth and 4 at its 44.

Waiting for the punt was Nick Bueno. He caught the ball and returned it for a small gain before he was tackled. As he lay on the ground, a Schurr football player wearing jersey No. 32 began punching Bueno’s right leg. The Schurr player landed at least two clean punches before getting up and walking to the Spartans sideline.

There were no flags thrown, but the poor sportsmanship was in full display. I knew that things happen when in a pile, but I’ve never in my career as a sportswriter ever seen someone blatantly stoop so low and disregard complete sportsmanship. Punch the star athlete to slow him down?

Bueno didn’t complain. He got up, walked to the sideline for the play call and hussled back to the huddle. I asked Monrovia coach Ryan Maddox if he got to see it happen during film.

He did.

“They played hard, they’re a good program, but, yeah, they’re a little dirty,” Maddox said. “They cut a couple of our kids. I don’t know if that’s coaching or if that’s just the kids. I know the defensive coordinator pretty well. He’s a good guy. You hate to see it. You don’t want to see anybody intentionally hurt and you hope the refs protect the kids.”

Schurr’s roster doesn’t list a player with a No. 32 jersey. Would I have published the kid’s name to begin with? Yes, because this athlete showed total disrespect for the game, himself, his teammates and, of course, Bueno. I’m baffled as to how someone can do such a thing and seemingly think he can get away with it. It’s not what sportsmanship is about, and it’s not the way to slow down Bueno.

Moving on …

MONROVIA SAW MORE and more pressure come at them last week as the first half against Schurr wore on. The Wildcats made adjustments, and it paid dividends.

“They were taking advantage of our snap count,” Maddox said. “So in the second half we adjusted, gave them a couple different looks and got them to jump offsides. That gave us momentum.”

If you remember, Schurr jumped offsides twice in Monrovia’s first possession in the second half that led to Bueno scoring from 24 yards. Schurr suddenly became penalty-prone and little by little, the Spartans succumbed.

I BROUGHT UP the no-huddle concept Monrovia went into after playing San Dimas early this season, and Saints coach Bill Zernickow said he doesn’t think it’ll affect them much, if at all.

“No, because every time they look to the sidelines we’re going to check on the defense,” he said. “We’ve seen a couple no-huddles throughout the playoffs and regular season. It’s a new trend, the new thing to do. Now, if (the Wildcats) were doing it at Oregon speed, that’d be different.”

That Monrovia’s limiting the amount of players going both ways will work wonders for the, Zernickow said.

“Because they’re always coming in fresh,” he said, “and it also allows them to get more kids on the field. It’s going to be good for the program and they’re able to maintain success. When more kids are playing, kids are happy. That’s an awesome thing to do.”

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Football: Pasadena Poly ready to take on top seed Bishop Union at 6 in Northeast Division semifinals.

CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION PLAYOFFS
NORTHEAST DIVISION
SEMIFINALS

Pasadena Poly (9-3) at Bishop Union (11-1), 6 p.m.

It’s no secret the Pasadena Poly football team can put up big numbers.

The Panthers average 40 points per game this season, and that much was expected after a strong showing in summer passing league games.

Quarterback Hunter Merryman’s pedigree all but called for an explosive offense, and the surge of running back Blake Edwards as a dual threat cemented Pasadena Poly’s potent 1-2 punch.

But for the first time during these CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division playoffs, the Panthers will face a team that has just as many weapons, and figuring out containment is easier said than done.

Bishop Union will fill its 3,000-seat stadium to capacity when the Broncos host Pasadena Poly in the semifinals tonight at 6.

Poly (9-3) is hoping to reach its first final since 2003. The Panthers won Division XIII titles in 1998 and 2002.

Bishop Union (11-1) is the top seed and for all the right reasons. The Broncos average 44.5 points per game and give up less than eight points a game.

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GSoccer Preview: Much expected from FSH Academy

PRESEASON TOP 10 RANKINGS
1. Flintridge Sacred Heart
2. La Salle
3. Arcadia
4. San Marino
5. Ramona Convent
6. Pasadena Poly
7. Alverno
8. Flintridge Prep
9. La Caada
10. Mayfield

By Keith Lair, Staff Writer

There are dreams of league and CIF-Southern Section girls soccer championships dancing through the heads of west San Gabriel Valley players this time of year.

But then, it’s Christmas.

It’s more than a month until teams begin league play, and playoffs won’t happen until February. Two months from now, long after the Christmas season has faded, teams will have a slightly better idea of where they stand in relation to championships.

There are, however, a lot of players still on colleges’ Christmas wish lists. Nearly a dozen Flintridge Sacred Heart players have signed national letters of intent or are waffling on final decisions. Players from other schools, including La Salle, have also signed letters of intent.

And there are a lot of area underclassmen who may be just as good as, or better than, those who haven’t signed with Division I programs. Here are the Star-News preseason rankings of the area’s top 10 teams:

No. 1 Flintridge Sacred Heart (22-1-4 last season)

The Tologs are ranked No. 15 in the nation by one publication. They won a CIF State regional title last season, and there should be plenty of pressure this time around.

“There is not any pressure,” co- coach Frank Pace said. “Why should there be? We finished second in (the Mission) League last year. We did not win a (CIF-Southern Section) title, although we came close. We have unfinished business.”

What the Tologs have is loads of young talent. Seven players have already committed to NCAA DivisionI schools, and two others are undecided. The Tologs have only two seniors returning, Natalie Zeenni and Alyssa Conti.

“We have good players with good heads,” said Pace, who’s entering his 13th year with the program. “Our goal is to play the best we can and live with that. The only pressure is that in which we put on ourselves.”

Co-coach Kathy Desmond is entering her 17th season.

Breeanna Koemens, the 2009-10 Star-News Player of the Year, returns. So does leading scorer Katie Johnson.

Junior Lindsey Espe, who’ll go to Belmont University, will be in goal, and freshman Sami Dier has looked sharp as her backup.

“We’re young, but we have experience,” Pace said.

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Football: Pasadena Poly will embrace what’s coming

I’ll have a big preview story in the paper Friday on Pasadena Poly-Bishop, but I thought I’d share some other notes.

Pasadena Poly is about a half hour from arriving to Bishop after leaving a near two-hour practice at Paraclete High in Lancaster. When the Panthers arrive, they’ll check into a hotel, somewhere around 9:30 tonight. At around 11, the team will flip on the TV and tune in the local news. What they’ll see are football highlights from none other than their own.

Coach Brendan McGrail said he spent the early part of Thursday granting TV and radio interviews from the Bishop media.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “They asked what time we were getting in tonight and they said to turn on the 11 p.m. news on the local news station because they’re doing a story on Poly.

“They have the four films I traded with their head coach, and (the TV station) had access to them. They compiled Blake Edwards runs and Hunter (Merryman) passes.”

McGrail had an idea that the Panthers could potentially meet Bishop in the semifinals.

“They’re the top seed and we knew they’d proably be in the semifinals,” he said.

Pasadena Poly lost the coin flip, which is why they travel to play at Bishop on Friday night at 6 for the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division playoffs.

“We’re staying in a hotel before the game, which is a new experience,” McGrail said. “It feels real big time, like a college road trip.”

Pasadena Poly will have a walk-through in a conference room at the hotel. The Panthers are hoping to reach their first finals appearance since doing so in 2003 when they lost to Flintridge Prep in the Division XIII title game. Pasadena Poly won the divisional title in 1998 and 2002. This is the deepest run the Panthers have embarked in seven years under McGrail. Pasadena Poly lost in the second round last year, losing to eventual champion Linfield Christian.

Pasadena Poly last week against Desert Christian in Lancaster played in 25-degree weather. The Panthers can expect about the same kind of playing conditions Friday.

“We knew all week it was going to be cold,” McGrail said. “But there’s no way to simulate that in practice. I was really pleased with the mental toughness they showed not letting the weather be a factor. It is a funny thing to practice in 75-degree weather and play the next day in 25 degrees and windy.”

It should be around 44 degrees come kickoff and should dip into the high 30′s by around 9 p.m. Arnie Palu, the voice of the Bishop Broncos the last 10 seasons on KIBS-FM, said that’s “nice” weather “by our standards. But the weather can change at moment’s notice.

Last season, Bishop played host to St. Margaret’s in the finals. The weather was around 10 degrees with 30-mile an hour winds.

“It can change up here in the Sierra,” Palu said. “But it should be around what Poly experienced last week in Lancaster. That’d be a great night for us.”

Palu will be joined by Rock Baker, the color commentator who also happens to be Bishops JV basketball coach.

Bishop takes its football very seriously. KIBS-FM has broadcast all football games, home and a way, live on radio consecutively for 30 years.

In addition, Bishop’s 3,000-seat stadium will be filled to capacity.

“It’ll be standing room only,” Palu added.

KIBS-FM will have a 25-minute pre-game show.

“We’ll break it up and play soundbites in our local news segment and an extended interview during the pre-game show,” Palu said.

The radio station is not in an Arbitron market (Arbitron measures ratings), so Palu said he’s unsure of how many listeners tune in to the football games.

“But you mispronounce a kid’s game and you get phone calls,” he said.

Sierra Wave TV will broadcast the game late Friday night and again Saturday throughout the day as well as Sunday and into next week.

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Football: There’s no live-feed for Friday’s Pasadena Poly-Bishop Union game, but you can order a CD of the broadcast from KIBS-FM, and it’s free of charge.

Had a pleasant conversation with Arnie Palu, voice of the Bishop Union High Broncos football team. Palu, who’s in his 10th season as the play-by-play announcer, did radio work in Colorado after earning a broadcasting journalism degree from the University of Nebraska. Palu and I talked about several subjects, which you can read about in Friday’s paper. I asked him if the radio station will carry a live feed. He said they used to do it n the past when they had a larger online presence, but not anymore. We will have a reporter in Bishop for Friday’s semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division playoffs and have a story in Saturday’s paper. But if you’re curious about the radio broadcast, you can order a CD (free of charge) and have it mailed to you. Call 760-873-6324 to place an order, I know I will.

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BSoccer Preview: La Caada with potential to shine

PRESEASON TOP 10 RANKINGS
1. La Caada
2. St. Francis
3. Monrovia
4. Pasadena Poly
5. La Salle
6. Maranatha
7. South Pasadena
8. Duarte
9. Muir
10. Pasadena

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

There’s no disputing the West San Gabriel Valley is a hotbed for high school boys soccer. From west of La Caada to east of Monrovia, the talent is rich with depth and speed.

La Caada coach Barry Ritson enters his second season as coach and has vowed to make the Spartans an offensive machine. Ritson succeeded, and despite losing one key player, La Canada still makes the Star-News’ preseason top 10 rankings as the No. 1 team.

1. La Caada (23-3-1 last season)

La Caada returns arguably the area’s best two-punch combination in senior forward Matt Cannata and senior goalkeeper Jack Hale. The duo helped the Spartans reach the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 playoffs last season. The Spartans literally came within inches of reaching the semifinals before a volley by Salesian’s Jose Espinoza just cleared Hale’s fingertips and went into the net in the golden-goal period to lead the eventual champion.

The Spartans return eight starters, including senior midfielder Danny Thompson and senior defender Randy Gartside. But the status surrounding Cameron Meeker, who had 33 goals and 13 assists, remains uncertain. He currently is traveling with his club team in a tournament in Arizona and Ritson said the chances of his return to play high school soccer is “slim, if any.”

Still, Cannata’s return assures the Spartans have one of the area’s most prolific scorers. The reigning Star-News Player of the Year compiled 24 goals and 12 assists last season, and the addition of others will bolster Ritson’s lineup, which he said will employ a 4-4-2 formation. Ryan Blumfenfeld, a senior, did not play last season because of his involvement in the U.S. Developmental Academy. He’s been granted permission this season and will play in the center-midfield along with Thompson.

“He’s big time,” Ritson said.

Armand Bagranyan, a sophomore, also is a top newcomer.

“He scored a phenomenal goal against Mountain View,” Ritson said of Bagranyan. “He’s the real deal and nobody knows about him.”

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Pasadena Poly will experience a football playoff game unlike any other: TV, radio, print and 3,000 strong as Bishop Union hosts Friday’s Northeast Division semis.

One night a year, downtown street merchants in the city of Bishop – population 3,700 – stay open until well past the typical 5 p.m. closing time. Residents gather for the annual “Street of Lights” and light the town’s Christmas tree at the local city park. Some merchants serve hot chocolate, and most have some sort of giveaway in an effort to draw customers in for a late-night shopping spree.

That night this year is Friday and begins at 6, the same night and time when Bishop Union, the town’s only high school, hosts Pasadena Poly in the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division football playoffs.

“We’re a little conflicted,” Bishop Union athletic director Stacy Van Nest said.

“It’s a huge town event that evening, but at the same time, this town heavily supports athletics. Half the town will be (at the event) and half the town will be at the game.”

Bishop Union (11-1) is the top seed, and despite its small student enrollment (645), the school still maintains a stadium with a maximum seating capacity of 3,000.

Pasadena Poly (9-3), to say the least, will experience a playoff game like no other.

Bishop Union’s football games are broadcast live on KOBB-AM radio, home and away. Sierra Wave Television, the only local independent cable station in the area, televises every game on delay. Given the magnitude of Friday’s game, the local FM station, KIBF, will carry the game because of its stronger signal strength.

“I was in Idaho last week and I wanted to listen to the game,” said Van Nest, referring to Bishop’s 49-20 win at Chadwick last week.

“Our broadcasters travel to all the games and they were able to patch me through, so those in town going to the Street of Lights will hear the game live on the radio.”

The game will be televised late Friday night and replayed Sunday afternoon.

Pasadena Poly will make its longest trip in school history for a CIF-Southern Section playoff game. Pasadena Poly athletic director Steve Beerman said the school has planned measures to alleviate the five-hour-plus drive to Bishop.

For starters, the Panthers football team will leave Thursday afternoon for Lancaster, where they’ll practice at Paraclete High from 4 to 6:30, then immediately head for Bishop, where they’ll spend the night.

Paraclete, the top seed taking on St. Margaret’s at Antelope Valley College in the East Valley Division playoffs, will practice early to give the Panthers enough time for a walk- through.

Beerman said practicing at Paraclete is more about beating traffic than getting acclimated to playing in low temperatures.

“We played in 28-degree weather last week in Lancaster,” Beerman said.

“It’s not like we don’t now what cold is. The biggest thing is we don’t want to sit in a bus for a long time.”

Pasadena Poly initially requested to move the game to Saturday, but Bishop couldn’t accommodate, because the school is hosting a middle school basketball tournament. The next request was to move it from a 7:30 start to 6, and Bishop kindly obliged.

“We asked for 6 because after the game, we’ll get right on the bus and head home,” Beerman said.

“Anytime any team has to travel, there’s some sort of request or disbelief that we could possibly be in the same section,” Van Nest said.

“We have people come from as far as San Pedro. That’s what we do, make it as easy as possible.”

Bishop’s no stranger to making long drives, either. The Broncos, who play in the High Desert League and use all of its district funding for travel pay, drive four hours – restroom breaks included – one way to participate in any one of the 18 sports its 27 teams are involved in.

“We’re the only very distant one they have to travel to,” Van Nest said.

The aura that will fill the air in smalltown USA will be a pleasant experience in itself.

“I think this just adds to the specialness of the evening,” Beerman said.

“The whole trip is just going to be a new experience for everybody making the trip.”

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GHoops Preview: Tough Muir at top of area hierarchy

PRESEASON TOP 10 RANKINGS
1. Muir
2. Pasadena Poly
3. Blair
4. Maranatha
5. La Salle
6. Keppel
7. Rosemead
8. Flintridge Prep
9. Pasadena
10. Monrovia

By Keith Lair, Staff Writer

There are high expectations on west San Gabriel Valley basketball courts this season.

Muir High School made an unexpected appearance in last year’s CIF-Southern Section finals, advanced to the state playoffs and returns many of its top players.

Michelle Miller single-handedly helped Pasadena Poly to the CIF-SS semifinals. She was the division player of the year and returns for her junior year with help inside.

Blair returns 10 players from last year and will take aim at returning to the top of the Rio Hondo League.

No. 1 Muir (22-10 last season)

The Mustangs have always been tenacious on defense.

Coach Gary Johnson said they will be even tougher this season.

“We want to get those easy baskets,” he said.

Give credit to a recent college graduate for that. Tierra Henderson, who played for Johnson at Muir and went on to play at UCLA, has been added to the coaching staff.

“She’s giving our players toughness,” Johnson said. “She’s going to give them a different look at the way colleges do things.”

Five players who saw ample playing time last season will be joined by Emoni Jackson, one of the top freshmen in the nation, and sophomore Jordan Jackson, a transfer from St. Anthony’s, which won the CIF-SS Division 5A title last season.

Emoni Jackson, at 6-foot-1, will play forward, complementing senior Christian Conner in the middle. Junior Tahniya Sweatt is at point guard.

Senior Ahsia Owens and juniors Tyler Polk and Jerrica Daniels are also back.
“We surprised people last year,” Johnson said. “We’re still young, but we have experience. I think getting to the finals last year has definitely made us better.”

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