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.

Continue reading “Southeast Division: West Covina anticipates tough game.” »

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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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