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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