Football: Reward issued in slaying of Brandon Jackson, former Muir tailback. Jackson’s aunt makes tearful plea.

Above: Cynthia Brown, 55, of Altadena, accompanied by Sheriff Lee Baca and sheriff’s homicide detectives, asks for the public’s help in solving the death of her nephew, Brandon Jackson. (Walt Mancini / Staff Photographer)

Our Brian Charles is on top of the Brandon Jackson story, the Muir football player who was fatally shot and killed after attending a party in Altadena back in February.

Brian Charles writes on his blog, Notes from Northwest Pasadena:

Standing alongside Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, the aunt of slain John Muir High School football player and student Brandon Jackson gave a tearful admonition to her nephew’s killers Wednesday.

“Every day you look in the rear-view mirror, I hope you can see an image of Brandon there left to die,” said Cynthia Brown. Brown joined Baca, Capt. Steve McLean of the sheriff’s Altadena Station and members of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau gathered at Sheriff’s headquarters to announce a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the Jackson killing.”

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Football: Pasadena coach Randy Horton talks about scheduling Alemany in opener, among other things.

I had a non-football related story I was working on Monday afternoon at Pasadena High School. Upon my arrival I saw a good crowd there, watching PHS football practice. Regardless of wins and losses, football (practice or otherwise) is an event at both Muir and PHS. That was the case Monday as the team prepared for their final week of practice before dead period and returning Aug. 8. Pasadena coach Randy Horton said discipline was lacking, and it was the difference between winning and losing. Horton, a former strength and conditioning coach at UCLA, put a strong emphasis on weight training. He said most kids couldn’t bench press more than 180 pounds when he got there. He says everybody on the team can now bench press at least 260 pounds. He’s raving a lot about junior quarterback Brandon Cox, the former Temple City QB before transferring to Pasadena. Horton said Cox can power clean 230 pounds, and that his training has paid dividends in the form of fielding strong interest from Pac-12 schools, including Washington, Utah, UCLA and USC. From the few minutes I caught at practice, Pasadena definitely looks more disciplined and practice was structured. Is this the year Pasadena finally beats Muir? The Bulldogs were one win away from making the playoffs last year. It’ll be interesting to see how Pasadena fares out. It’s time for Pasadena football to get back on the map.

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Baseball: Olmedo-Barrera commits to Cal State Fullerton.

St. Francis is quickly becoming a breeding house for Division I baseball athletes. On Monday night, senior-to-be shortstop David Olmedo-Barrera, a two-time Star-News All-Area selection, committed to Cal State Fullerton.

St. Francis baseball coach Brian Esquival found out Tuesday morning when he woke up to a Olmedo-Barrera voicemail.

“He called me, left a message Monday night but I was already in bed,” Esquival said. “When I got up Tuesday morning I got the message. He sounded really excited. I think he wanted to take care of this as early as possible because now he can concentrate on baseball and not so much worry about ‘Who’s looking at me.’ It’s now taken care of and he can now play baseball and have some fun.”

Esquival said Cal State Fullerton, a four-time national champion, was the best fit for him. Esquival added there were other schools coming after the standout shortstop who also is a two-time All-Mission League selection.

“I know UCLA was in the mix,” Esquival said. “He spoke to Oregon and a few schools back East. San Luis Obispo was there, too. There were a few schools that were intersted but I think he just thought this was the best fit for him. I’m not sure it’ll be as a shortstop, maybe second base. I don’t know for a fact. My guess is it’s probably going to be somewhere up the middle, but more towards second base.”

In just the last couple years, St. Francis has sent three players to major Division I schools. Star-News All-Area catcher David Hubinger is getting ready to start at Pepperdine; A.J. Berglund is at UCSB and Ethan Bramschreiber is at Northwestern.

“It’s good for the program,” Esquival said. “It’s just good news.”

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Football: The offers are coming for St. Francis wide receiver Travis Talianko, who got an offer from San Jose State over the weekend. Won’t be the last offer.

Got a text from St. Francis coach Jim Bonds with the news that Knights wide receiver Travis Talianko received a scholarship offer from San Jose State. Talianko was a promising sophomore Bonds raved about since the very beginning of the season. He blossomed into one of the premire receivers in the area. There was a lot of upside to Talianko as a sophomore, and he came back his junior year to again earn All-Area first-team honors. He was a first-team Mission League honoree and second team All-CIF. His poise, speed and ability to execute his routes no doubt makes Talianko an attractive recruit. But I think it’s his demeanor that makes him stand out even more. He’s a team player, which is why I think he’ll see more offers come his way as the season rolls around.

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Football: San Gabriel on dead period, Matadors Jude Oliva still has a quarterback battle in his hands.

San Gabriel goes as of now is on dead period. The Matadors return in a couple weeks and begin their fall season. There are still a couple questions left unanswered as summer ends for the Matadors. The obvious note of concern is who will emerge as the starting quarterback at San Gabriel? There are two very good options who are vastly different. Senior Andy Guerrero looks like the front-runner. He’s a pocket guy who has the patience and posise to wait out for a play to develop. Don’t count on him to make plays with his feet, though. He’s not elusive and can’t extend plays, but with viable receivers (notably Alex Villalobos at wide receiver) he might not have to. His mechanics are not the best, but you can tell he has the makeup of a promising quarterback. Guerrero’s wind-up makes him vulnerable for a pocket collapse, but with time in the pocket he can sling it pretty well. He looked solid in a passing game against South Pasadena making solid decisions and not overly pursuing plays. Junior Eric Alvarez is the complete opposite. He’s a 6-foot-1 quarterback who has speed and has, at times, shown signs of elusiveness. Oliva is high on him because he can extend plays like a fella named Isaac Valdez used to do, running circles around opposing secondaries. Alvarez certainly has the potential. He showed as much helping direct the offense as a sophomore starter in the season opener against Muir last year. At the very least, Oliva must like the fact each will push each other as fall camp is getting underway. The friendly rivalry undoubtedly will make the conest that much more intense. Already both quarterbacks throw friendly jabs, each saying it’s their job to lose. Both will have to prove they’re ready. Guerrero showed he was the go-to guy last year before breaking his ankle, thus giving Alvarez real playing time in the latter part of the season. Whatever the case, one will soon have to emerge to help build the kind of chemistry the Matadors will need as it approaches a tough nonleague schedule followed by what’s surely to be an exciting Almont League with the likes of Alhambra, Montebello, Schurr and Bell Gardens all making legitimate arguments to contend. How so? For example, Alhambra coach Lou Torres told me the other day that this year’s team reminds him of the mid 1990′s team that went undefeated. Are the stakes high? You bet they are.

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Football: Ivy League limiting contact in practice. Princeton head coach Bob Surace says “this is the best way to run practice.” Critics will say this is not football.

Above: Former Pasadena Poly standout Blake Edwards, who will play football at Princeton this fall.

While downloading a video interview for the blog I was watching College Football Live on ESPN when the subject of scaling back contact was brought up. The Ivy League will sharply reduce the number of allowable full contact practices teams can hold in an effort to minimize head injuries among its football players.

Princeton head football coach Bob Surace, who is in his second season at the helm, was receptive to the change, in fact he welcomed the concept. Here’s what he had to say when asked what the immediate reaction was to the Ivy League’s decision to limit contact in practice:

“We talked about this as a group of coaches in March at our league meetings, and I’m coming from an NFL environment — last year was my first year here — where I worked eight years under Marvin Lewis, I found in Cincinnati you can run a high tempo, high energy great practice under the structures.”

As for the cricts who say football needs contact and everyday hitting:

“I think we’re not playing touch or flag football, there’s plenty of contact. There was a time in the NFL when they had eight weeks of training camp and three-a-days and things like that. As you progress and as you do things differently player safety is the foremost and most important thing.”

Will the rest of college football catch up to this concept?

“We’ll kind of set the tone and set an example for this. i found this kind of practice tempo to be the best one, and it’s not for everybody. But I am glad the Ivy League opted this. We’re all going to have the same structure because i do think this is the best way to run practice.”

Some have already said that adopting this concept will make players pansys and result in poor tackling, which could lead to injuries.

With two-a-days coming up in the next couple weeks, will high school teams in the area also go that route? Does limiting contact in practice diminish the sport itself and make for poor play? Is football still football with limited contact?

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South Pasadena’s Martin Konrad comes back home to the San Gabriel Valley, eager for Friday Night Lights.


Martin Konrad spent the last two seasons as co-defensive coordinator at College of the Canyons. He also was the defensive coordinator at West Ranch High in Stevenson Ranch from 2005-2007. His tie to the San Gabriel Valley comes courtesy of Flintridge Prep, where he twice led the Rebels to the quarterfinals and a divisional championship in 2003 when he also was voted CIF coach of the year. You can bet there won’t be any forfeits or ineligible players, what with Konrad having served on the CIF Coaches Adivsory Committee from 2001 to 2005. Konrad played for the University of Pacific from 1992 to 1996 as a linebacker and was named first team All-Big West in 1995. He replaces Ed Smith who spent 30 seasons with the Tigers including the last 15 as head coach, compiling a 65-96-4 career record before tendering his resignation last December.

It’s still too early to tell how the Tigers will fare this season. They have a lot of key weapons to replace, like quarterback Conor Bednarski, running back Patrick Martin and All-Area wide receiver Matt Nelson. Sophomore Joey Harmon will ease into the quarterback role. He looked solid in some sets during a passing game at San Gabriel. He has the size (6-foot-2, 175) but his release needs to be a little quicker. Like Konrad said in the video, the team is still trying to find its identity before they go on dead period mid-next week. If you want another chance to look at South Pasadena, check them out in its final passing game next Tuesday at Maranatha.

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Aram “The Mind Reader” Tolegian at it again. Based on his Post-Passing Circuit All-Encompassing SGV(N) Top 25, he nailed the preseason Star-News Top 5 teams.

Just for fun I looked for the West San Gabriel Valley teams ranked in Aram’s Post-Passing Circuit All-Encompassing SGV(N) Top 25 and see if that’s how the Star-News top teams would be ranked in order. Not surprisingly, Aram nailed it. There really can’t be any disputing Monrovia is the No. 1 team in the area. The Wildcats are the defending Mid-Valley Division champions and are one of the most balanced teams in the West San Gabriel Valley. Here’s an interesting tidbit to debate over: has Monrovia ranked No. 76 in the state while Charter Oak, the SGV(N) No. 1 team, is No. 150.

At No. 2 is Arcadia. The Apaches have a strong tandem in quarterback Myles Carr and wide receiver Taylor Lagace. Look for the running game to give Arcadia a much more balanced offense this season with Rodney Arnett anchoring the backfield. The Pacific League, and the Southeast Division, could be in for a huge surprise.

At No. 3 is St. Francis. The Knights are always loaded, aren’t they. Travis Talianko is the guy to keep your eye on. Talianko is a two-time Star-News first-team All-Area kid at wide receiver. The defense figures to be much improved this season with a year under its belt. Joey Dowling and Luke Anderson return at linebacker and Parker Nieves also has experience in the secondary. Watch out.

At No. 4 is Muir. The No. 3 and 4 teams can easily be swapped, but I’ll leave them like this for now. Kevon Seymour is being recruited on the defensive end, but look for his versatility to lend itself offensively. He can play multiple positions (QB, WR, RB). Seymour already has been invited to the Army All-American Bowl and has offers from top Division I schools, including Florida. Tairen Owens also will see plenty of attention from the recruiting circle.

At No. 5 is Maranatha. The Minutemen’s offensive prowess starts with none other than Andrew Elffers. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound junior quarterback is the reigning Star-News Offensive Player of the Year. He’ll transition from shotgun to 3-step and 5-step drop backs. There still will be some packages that call for Elffers to line up at shotgun, but expect Elffers to play the more traditional role. Elffers passed for 3,328 yards and 37 touchdowns as a sophomore, and the Minutemen needed him to do that with significant injuries in the backfield. But with Omar Younger healthy and a slew of seniors committed to running the football, a run game could make Elffers’ life a little easier while also making the Minutemen a much more balanced offense.

As for the rest of the top 10, you’ll have to wait until PrepXtra Magazine hits the stands.

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Pete “The Wonder Kid” Karavedas couldn’t have dreamed up a better situation than the one he finds himself at Maranatha, talks a little football.


Pretty much done with every team preview for the PrepXtra Magazine set to hit newsstands Aug. 30, but with every story comes a little spillover work that I’ll throw on the blog. The plan is to hit up San Gabriel High later today and catch first-year South Pasadena coach Martin Konrad and second-year San Gabriel coach Jude Oliva. After, I’ll swing by San Marino to see if I have any luck catching Mike Hobbie, who is still trying to get a grasp of what he’s working with. In his words, he won’t really know until the pads come on, and that won’t be until a few more weeks at the earliest.

I headed over to Maranatha and chatted a bit with first-year coach Pete Karavedas (FYI, near the end of the clip you can hear us wondering if we finished the video in under two minutes. I had filmed Pete on Monday during practice, but the 4-minute video file was so large my computer kept crashing, so I had to try again, alas).

His energy certainly is infectious, and he’s driven unlike any other young coach I’ve encountered. He not only comes across well-organized, but he’s also shown his smarts by surrounding himself with a veteran staff. It’s no surprise, then, why Maranatha went with the 26-year-old to takeover a rising program with a future Division I quarterback in Andrew Elffers. The Wonder Kid will have a lot to work with this season. Elffers, of course, is the main attraction. But look for others to steal the spotlight. Robby Flewelling is a name you’ll remember. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound senior needs to add a little more weight to his frame, but he has great hands and will be a key target at tight end.

Karaveda is no stranger to the West San Gabriel Valley having spent four years at Whittier Christian, the last three seasons as the Heralds’ defensive coordinator. The Wonder Kid helped the Heralds compile a 21-6 over the last two years. “If Monrovia didn’t exist I don’t know what else could have happened,” quipped Karavedas.

The rise to head coaching ranks started at 18 when Karavedas was an assistant coach at Lighthouse Christian in Idaho when he wasn’t at Azusa Pacific University. Karavedas was an All-CIF strong safety at Calvary Chapel Downey where he played for John Caffrey, currently the head coach at Sunny Hills in Orange County. Calvary Chapel enjoyed its most successful seasons under Caffrey. Even back then, Karavedas knew coaching would soon be calling.

After a year on the junior varsity level at Whittier Christian, Karavedas enjoyed rapid promotion the following season when at 23 he was tabbed defensive coordinator. He takes over Joel Murphy who stepped down at the end of last season after compiling a 47-16 record in five seasons at the helm.

There were over 80 applications submitted for the Maranatha job, which at one point included one of the most respected coaches in the Valley in South Hills coach Steve Bogan, who eventually withdrew his consideration. And why wouldn’t a school like Maranatha draw a lot of interest? Good school, nice facilities, supportive administration and, from what I gather, supportive parents.

That Karavedas spent four seasons at a small private school and was responsible for the Heralds’ punishing defense seemingly made him a perfect fit at Maranatha. Add the fact he also coached at a Mid-Valley Division school and Karavedas seemed like a shoe-in, right?

“I was just thinking, ‘If I can get a sniff it’d be great,’” Karavedas said. “The Lord just opened up the doors and I really couldn’t ask for more. To walk into this type of situation — great school, great administration, a haeck of a kid playing quarterback for us — you could not ask for more, and the parental involvement is incredible.

“I’ve been around this for a long time, particularly at the private school level. I’m used to this type of community. I’ve gotten to know the Mid-Valley Division really well and the schools really well. It’s an interesting mix that brought me to Maranatha. Just seemed like an ideal place for me to end up. To (Maranatha athletic director) Brian (DeHaan’s) credit they wanted to see what I brought to the table rather than focus on my age.”

And what exactly did Karavedas bring?

Oh, just a resume that includes a trip to the Mid-Valley Division semifinals two years ago and a finals appearance last year.

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