Football: Rio Hondo Prep has one of the coolest uniforms, programs in the West San Gabriel Valley.

Above: Rio Hondo Prep’s football program cover

Say what you want about Rio Hondo Prep and how small the school is and its reason for being successful (that a bulk of its championships came from 8-man football or that it plays in the Northeast Division). But you have to give credit where credit is due, that the Kares have one of the coolest, sleekest uniforms in the West San Gabriel Valley. Check them out above on the cover of the Kares’ football program cover. Rio Hondo Prep is officially fitted by Nike. The Rio Hondo Prep crest on the helmet gives it a big-school feel rich in tradition. It’s not often, if at all, you’ll find a school of Rio Hondo Prep’s size (99 students) that have the majestic showmanship with full-black uniforms. Rio Hondo Prep isn’t all talk. The Kares in these playoffs have outscored their playoff opponents, 116-0.

Here’s the second page you’ll find in the program, by the numbers:

44: Seasons of prep football

33: CIF playoff appearances (.778 winning percentage in CIF playoffs, 74-21)

22: League championsips

19: CIF championship game appearances

12: CIF-SS championships

6: Times named California small school team of the year

5: Undefeated seasons

2nd: Only to Long Beach Poly (18) in CIF-SS fotball titles won

1: Smallest school in California that plays 11-man football

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Football: Ellis McCarthy is no joke. Just ask Glendora.

This is what Covina is in for when the Colts host Monrovia on Friday in the semifinals of the Mid-Valley Division playoffs. Ellis McCarthy, a 6-foot-5, 306-pound defensive tackle who is a five-star recruit with over 30 Division I offers, is a big fella who can make giant strides, pick up steam and really make some damage when he levels his shoulder. Check out a healthy McCarthy in action early this season against Glendora. So all that talk about McCarthy doing zilch against Arcadia? This is what can happen when you wake a bear.

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Southeast Division: There’s a lot on the line for Muir; Travonta Herod, Darick Holmes Jr. are little big guys.

Above: Muir D-line needs to rally to the ball, clog lanes.

It’s what up front that counts, as far as Muir football coach Dave Mitchell is concerned.

“I don’t care if you’re running the spread, pro or Wing-T offense, you have to win the battle in the trenches because that’s where games are won,” he said.

Muir (8-4) will have its biggest test to date when it faces a dominant line in La Serna (9-3) in the CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division semifinals on Friday at California High.

The numbers don’t lie. The Lancers have recorded 22 sacks, and constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks has resulted in 12 interceptions.

La Serna, the third-place team out of the Del Rio League, is led by Faris Nesheiwat, who has a team-leading six sacks. Chris Jones and Isiah Osorio each have four.

Muir’s success in the playoffs largely is credited to a stout offensive line that has provided quarterback Joshua Muema-Washington with solid protection. Muema-Washington is a pocket passer, and the time he has had to sit in the pocket and go through his reads has had a noticeable impact in how the Mustangs go about executing their offense.

Once again, the pressure falls on an offensive line Muema-Washington often credits after each victory. It features center Addison Farmer, left guard Jeremy Rogers, left tackle Laurance Lopez, right guard Bobby Estrada and right tackle Jamil Weaver.

“You’re exactly right,” Mitchell said. “Their defense up front gets after it. We’re looking at them on tape, and while they don’t have a lot of team speed they are physical and athletic up front.”

La Serna has produced some stellar offensive numbers and features a balanced attack. Lancers quarterback Frankie Palmer, only a sophomore, has become an effective passer under pressure. He’s completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,536 yards and 14 touchdowns.

“They move him around and he is really good throwing on the run,” Mitchell said.

The La Serna running game is led by OJ Medina, who has 1,410 yards and 18 touchdowns.

“We’re going to have to make plays when we get the opportunities,” Mitchell added. “La Serna likes to do a lot of fast shifts before the snap. They’ve gotten teams at crucial times.”

The responsibility of not over-committing falls on a Muir defensive line that last week wreaked havoc against Diamond Ranch with five sacks and forcing four turnovers. The Mustangs also had four interceptions.

Lamarr McDaniels, Raul Gutierrez, Jajuan Brown, Dean Trevino Iracheta and Miguel Quinonez proved to be a wrecking crew last week. Though undersized, Mitchell says the defensive line counters that with speed, mobility and tough, physical play.

Little big guys

Senior Travonta Herod and freshman Darick Holmes Jr. complement each other while sharing duties in the backfield, and the duo have posed huge problems despite their size.

Herod and Holmes Jr. both are 5-7, but have provided the Mustangs a strong 1-2 punch on the ground.

Herod has started at running back much of the season while Holmes Jr. has jumped from slot receiver to quarterback and now running back. Darick Holmes Sr. is the offensive coordinator, and it appears the winning formula equates having Holmes Jr. at running back with Kevon Seymour, Tairen Owens and Marceles Clash at receiver.

It all appears to have fallen in place on offense for the Mustangs, who have dispatched playoff opponents by the combined score of 87-7.

“Running back is his natural position,” the elder Holmes said of his son. “We were trying to make sure we had all the right pieces in place.”

Herod and Holmes Jr. each scored last week, and the manner in which they scored showcased their skills. Herod scored on a 3-yard run up the middle. Holmes Jr. utilized his speed and toughness to break tackles, bowl over a defensive back and score on a 59-yard run.

“We have a couple of small backs but they hit the holes like lightning bugs,” Mitchell said. “Before you know it they’re into the next level and that’s been why we’ve been successful.

“Maybe our speed will offset their aggressiveness up front.”

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Southeast Division: West Covina anticipates tough game.

By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer

Things feel eerily familiar around the West Covina High School football team this week.

It was at this point in last year’s playoffs that the Bulldogs faced a Mayfair team that pushed them to the brink before earning a hard-fought 28-19 victory en route to a CIF-SS Southeast Division title.

Just change the name Mayfair to La Mirada and the Bulldogs’ coaching staff thinks the game they expect on Friday could be a similar fit.

“They’re big, physical and well-coached,” West Covina Mike Maggiore said. “If people think it’s going to be easy for us, I think they’re wrong. They’re going to be similar to Mayfair last year.

“It does remind me of that game and I hope the results are the same.”

Most local fans were hoping for a matchup of West Covina (11-1) and Arcadia, but La Mirada (8-4) sprung a mild surprise and beat the Apaches to earn itself a home game with the Bulldogs in Friday’s semifinals. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at La Mirada.

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Mid-Valley Division: Covina faces sizeable task vs. ‘Cats.

Above: Monrovia super recruit Ellis McCarthy anxious to put the hurt on.

When top-seeded Covina (11-1) plays host to defending Mid-Valley champ Monrovia (9-3) on Friday at 7 p.m. at Covina District Field, the Colts will face a top recruit in defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy, a 6-foot-4, 305-pounder who is being courted by USC, Oklahoma, Florida and Oregon, among others.

“His size is unbelievable,” Colts coach Darryl Thomas said. “His strength, his size, he’s the biggest kid we’ve ever gone against.

“He can be a game-changer. You have to adjust your blocking schemes, get more side-to-side because he takes up a lot of space.”

Many consider the Colts the most athletic and physical team in the division, but the Wildcats stack up well, too.

“They have great skilled players as well as a sizeable line,” Thomas said. “Year in and year out, they have division one prospects. You don’t see that too often in our division.”

– Fred J. Robledo

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Mid-Valley Division: San Dimas road has air of familiarity.

By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer

If San Dimas High School wins its second CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division football title in three years, it will do it the hard way.

The Saints were without a home field for the 2011 season and played home games at Citrus College or Bonita High School while San Dimas’ football stadium underwent improvements, including the installation of an artificial surface, and will be ready in 2012.

Even more challenging, however, is what lies ahead in the playoffs.

When San Dimas routed Azusa, San Gabriel and Monrovia in consecutive weeks in September by the combined score of 131-16 – including a 59-6 win over San Gabriel and a 31-14 win over defending Mid-Valley Division champion Monrovia – who would have thought the Saints might have to do it all over again?

San Dimas (10-2) already has taken care of one rematch.

After beating Azusa 41-16 in the second week, San Dimas fought off the Aztecs again in the quarterfinals with a 30-23 victory to set up another rematch on Friday.

San Dimas (10-2) will visit San Gabriel (8-4) in Friday’s semifinals at

7 p.m., with the winner advancing to next week’s title game.

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Mid-Valley Division: Eric Alvarez makes brilliant switch from QB to OLB; Matadors ready for San Dimas tempo.

Ever since Andy Guerrero took over at quarterback at San Gabriel High School, there’s been one name that seemingly went into virtual anonymity:

Eric Alvarez.

Alvarez, a junior who once was the starter at quarterback, was in a fierce competition with Guerrero that started over the summer and didn’t come to an end until midway through the season. They shared duties until Guerrero’s sudden rise at the start of the Almont League season put an end to a two-quarterback system that was producing inconsistent results.

Guerrero’s statistics seem to validate his promotion. He has passed for 2,712 yards and 26 touchdowns while rushing for 1,251 yards and 13 touchdowns.

It’s that ability to be a dual threat that makes Guerrero and the Matadors (8-4) a much different and more dangerous team as they prepare to take on San Dimas (10-2) for the second time this season in the CIF-SS Mid-Valley Division semifinals on Friday at 7 p.m. at San Gabriel.

But Alvarez now is making a big impact by switching to defense. Alvarez, one of four team captains, is considered by San Gabriel coach Jude Oliva to be one of the smartest players on the team, a player who brings exemplary leadership skills as an outside linebacker with 48 tackles.

“It speaks volumes about his character and his versatility,” Oliva said. “Him being able to take a step back and get into a different role and make a big impact on our defense is huge.

“He’s one of those kids that will do anything for the team. He’s very intelligent and took that intelligence from offense to defense, helping us make our checks and calls.”

There’s no animosity now that Guerrero garners the attention. In fact, Alvarez has become a fan of Guerrero’s flashy style and helps him whenever possible from the sideline.

“He’s standing there watching from the sidelines,” Oliva said of Alvarez. “Whenever there’s a break he goes over to Andy and tells him, `Remember what coach said’ and this and that. He’s very helpful.”

Familiar foe

When San Gabriel met San Dimas in the third week of the season, the Matadors were in disarray. The offense wasn’t clicking, to say the least, and that was accentuated in a 59-6 loss.

Any coaching staff will say it’s never easy to beat an opponent a second time in the same season, and San Gabriel hopes that theory proves right. The Matadors, despite the early season shellacking, look back on that game as a lesson learned, and Oliva is glad he scheduled that game because he now has a better understanding of how San Dimas brilliantly executes the Wing-T offense with an impressive tempo.

“South Pasadena ran a similar Wing-T offense and Alhambra runs it, too,” Oliva said. “And no disrespect to those teams, but San Dimas really runs it to perfection.

“There’s not much deception of what’s going on, but they run it so darn effectively it puts a lot of pressure on teams.”

From running power plays to counter plays, the Saints make it tough for opposing defenses to stop. Then there’s the tempo.

“I think understanding the tempo in which they run it and seeing it first-hand will help us more this time,” Oliva said. “The first time we weren’t really ready for that tempo.”

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Northeast Division: Rio Hondo Prep dominant each way.

Above: This was the result the last time Rio Hondo Prep reached the finals back in 2009 on a soaking Saturday night. The Kares look to make new finals memories, but first must avenge a 2010 quarterfinal loss to Boron. Rio Hondo Prep so far has taken care of some serious business on the road there.


By Keith Lair, Staff Writer

Defense? That’s been a figment of someone’s imagination in the CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division playoffs.
Of the eight games played by the four remaining teams, only one, Desert Christian’s 14-7 win over top-seeded Bishop last Friday, has been a low-scoring affair.

That’s not to say there has not been spectacular defense. Of those eight games, four victories have been by shutout. Chief among those defensive efforts have been those by Rio Hondo Prep, which outscored its first two playoff opponents 116-0.

“We’re a really good defensive team,” Kares coach Ken Drain said. “We haven’t given up too many points in league (play), either.”

The Kares have had six shutouts this season en route to an 11-1 record. Two of their Prep League wins were shutouts.

All of which makes for an interesting situation in Friday night’s semifinal game.

The Kares play Boron (10-2) for the third consecutive year in the playoffs. The teams met earlier this season in a nonleague game, with Rio Hondo earning a last-second, 40-38 victory.

“I really expect a lot more defense than last time,” Drain said. “The first time we played, we were feeling each other out. I think when you get to the playoffs everything evens up. You’ve studied so much film. You know exactly what they’re going to do. That gives good defenses an advantage.

“I hope we score a lot of points. I could be wrong. Heck, I hope we score 50.”

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