You probably know the byline by now. Mike Botticello is one of our best correspondents. He’s been with us for about four years covering some of the best games in the area. This season alone, Botticello was excited about covering Muir and Pasadena, coming into the office after every Bulldogs game raving about QB Brandon Cox and WR Riian Simpson. He’s such a big HS football fan he attended the Monrovia-Glendora game just to watch Ellis McCarthy in action. He’ll be in Connecticut over the next few weeks tending to his family. We express our condolences to him and his family.
1. St. Francis (6-1)
Meat of schedule up next
2. Arcadia (5-2)
Way to bounce back strong
3. Maranatha (6-1)
Relying on big plays
4. Monrovia (4-3)
Win over Blair proved little
5. South Pasadena (5-2)
Most improved team so far
6. Muir (4-3)
Big test coming up Friday
7. Rio Hondo Prep (6-1)
Big second half fuels Kares
8. Rosemead (4-3)
Bounced back vs. Gabrielino
9. Alhambra (6-1)
Team to beat in Almont?
10. Pasadena (4-3)
Impressed with offense, wins
Alhambra pitcher Gary Acuna, a left-hander who was instrumental in helping the Moors win 22 of their final 23 games heading into the CIF-Southern Section playoffs, has verbally committed to San Jose State. Acuna went 7-2 with a 1.52 ERA and 49 strikeouts as a junior. He combined with Frankie Wright for four no-hitters last season.
Despite a slow start to the season, many still consider Monrovia (4-3, 2-0) the team to beat in the Rio Hondo League, leaving others to dub any kind of league race as “the race for second place.”
South Pasadena (5-2, 2-0) and San Marino (5-2, 2-0) clearly are the two teams vying for the second guaranteed playoff spot into the Mid-Valley Division playoffs. That there’s a race at all goes to show the giant strides made at both San Marino and South Pasadena. The last time the Titans made the playoffs was under D.R. Moreland in 2009 when they reached the second round.
It’s been much longer for the Tigers. They lost to Serra of Gardena in 2003, so when South Pasadena got off to a strong start this season, some wondered if the Tigers finally were ready to compete for a playoff spot, and so far they’ve shown they’re definitely in the hunt.
“We put the pressure on ourselves,” said South Pasadena coach Martin Konrad earlier this season. “That’s the one thing these guys have to adjust to, expectations. You win games and people start expecting things about you and you have to be able to handle the pressure.”
The Titans host Monrovia this week, a tall task in itself, while the Tigers take on Blair on Thursday. Regardless of the outcome, next week no doubt will have great significance because not only are South Pasadena and San Marino rivals, but the game could have playoff implications on the line.
Above: Muir has some talent, too.
Now that the fun and games are over, it’s time for Muir to get down to some serious business.
The last two weeks have been light for the Mustangs (4-3, 2-2) after facing Hoover (0-7, 0-4) and Glendale (1-6, 0-4). Muir won those football games by a combined 91-10. It’s usually in those games the Mustangs experiment and iron out offensive sets while players rack up yardage.
This week will prove to be much more difficult when Burroughs (4-3, 4-0) comes to town Friday. The visiting Indians have arguably the most explosive weapon around in running back Zander Anding, who has amassed 1,800 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Arcadia (5-2, 3-1) and Pasadena (4-3, 3-1) each had trouble stopping Anding. Against the Bulldogs, he rushed for 312 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. He also hurt Pasadena on special teams with a 99-yard kickoff return for a score. Against the Apaches, Anding rushed for 303 yards and five touchdowns on 33 carries. He scored three touchdowns in a span of 2:35 in the second half, so it’s no surprise why Burroughs is unbeaten in league.
Muir hasn’t faced a team with a run-first mentality, although the Mustangs did shut down San Gabriel in the season opener. Against Rancho Cucamonga, Muir had trouble stopping the pass and it wasn’t until the second half that Rancho pounded the ball on the ground after wearing down Muir.
As it stands, it’s still too early to tell which team will vie for the fourth and final playoff spot out of the Pacific League, but Muir sits there now with tough games coming up that also includes Burbank and of course Pasadena in the 58th Turkey Tussle at the Rose Bowl.