Football: Five things Monrovia needs to get right.

1. KEEP HEYWORTH COMFORTABLE: Blake Heyworth is not a mobile quarterback. He has a quick release, which is what makes him a true passer. If he gets flushed out of the pocket that puts him out of his element. Any hurry, take down or sack will give San Gabriel momentum. Monrovia’s O-Line has done a superb job of giving Heyworth (2,276 yards, 24 touchdowns) plenty of time to go through his progressions. Keep it going.

2. ESTABLISH THE RUN: San Gabriel’s defensie front of Mackenzie Ferro, Carlos Purser, Hunter Garcia and Joshua Baca are a physical bunch. The fearsome foursome have 23 of San Gabriel’s 26 sacks. Marquise Bias can’t soley rely on his strength to get his yards. San Gabriel is a determined group, but if the Wildcats are to exploit the secodary holes they’ll first have to get the Matadors to commit stopping the run.

3. CONTAIN VILLALOBOS, GUERRERO: Alex Villalobos (1,818 yards, 19 touchdowns) is two inches short of being a legitimate Division I receiver. His numbrs say otherwise, but Villalobos has never let his size stop him. Even when he has been contained (like against Maranatha), Villalobos finds a way to make an impact, be it on special teams or defensively. Guerrero is another Nick Bueno. Guerrero has passed for 2,999 yards and rushed for 1,371 yards. He’s combined for 40 touchdowns through the air and on the ground. He may be the X-factor. If he gets out of the pocket, watch out.

4. MINIMIZE PENALTIES: Monrovia can’t get sloppy just because it’s the superior team. San Dimas lost last week despite rushing for 356 yards. How was that even possible? 17 penalties, that’s how.

5. STAY GROUNDED: OK, we all know Monrovia is heavily favored to win this game. But just because that’s the case the Wildcats can’t come into this game too confident. Respect your opponent and let your play show why you’re heavily favored. Monrovia coach Ryan Maddox said coming into this game over confident won’t be an issue. I believe Maddox when he says that, but you can never stress it.

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Football: Five things San Gabriel needs to get right.

1. CONTAIN THE BIG PLAY: Monrovia can put teams away with minimum plays. If San Gabriel can’t contain the big plays you can bet it’ll be a long night for the Matadors. Monrovia is capable of scoring easy with deep pass plays or on a run that gets away becuase of poor tackling. It’s that simple, and, yes, De’Shawn Ramirez and Marquise Bias are that good.

2. PROTECT YOUR QB: Andy Guerrero could take a beating if his line gets too overwhelmed. Guerrero’s success can be credited to an O-Line that’s found a way to give him just enough time to find the open receiver or open lanes. Word to Guerrero: throw the ball away and run for your life when 18 comes your way. Beware of giving away blind spots, take advantage of bubble screeens and keep the defense guessing.

3. COMMUNICATION: There’s no way San Gabriel can line up with man coverage against Monrovia. Just. No. Way. Monrovia’s size, speed and athleticism dwarfs San Gabriel’s. This is going to sound like a cliche, but total team effort is the ONLY way the Matadors have a chance. So when San Gabriel is defending in zone communication will be key. Where’s the receiver? What happens if….? San Gabriel is gonna have to rally to the ball and not allow for confusion to slip in. Joey Villalobos (140 tackles, three interceptions) will anchor the secondary, but he’s going to need help when receivers break loose.

4. CONTROL THE PACE: San Gabriel its offense to stay on the field. Three-and-out ain’t gonna cut it because San Gabriel doesn’t have the weapons to trade punches with Monrovia. For every Andy Guerrero and Alex Villalobos ther’s a Blake Heyworth, De’Shawn Ramirez, Marquise Bias, Luke Williams, Marquise Harris, Anthony Craft, Mason Bryant, etc. Somehow, some way, San Gabriel needs to keep this game close. If it’s withine two possessions in the third quarter, who knows? Upset alert?

5. KEEP FOCUS: Last but not least, San Gabriel can’t get flustered by all the hype. They’ll have to find a way to keep their nerves calm, though it may prove easier said than done. San Gabriel is making its first finals appearance since 2003, but this team was barely old enough to really know that Santa Claus doesn’t exist the last time the Matadors were here. Jude Oliva and Don Bernard were part of the 2003 coaching staff. They’ll have to do everything they can to tell them every detail and what to expect on Saturday. This will truly be a home game for Monrovia with the game actually at Monrovia. A lot of green everywhere and a huge sign on the scoreboard to remind San Gabriel whose division it belongs. Keep the miscues to a minimum. Monrovia can really exploit that and make you pay for them. Penalties negating plays and pushing San Gabriel back will only make the uphill battle that much steeper.

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Football: San Gabriel calls it “The Matador Walk.”

Above: San Gabriel’s majestic entrance is a thing of beauty.

I meant to write this story for the paper this week but I just couldn’t get to it in time so here it is on the blog.

San Gabriel, in my opinion, has one of the coolest entrances to a footbal stadium. I first witnessed this in the opener against Muir and I was really taken by surprise. I enjoyed it because, hey, what Mexican doesn’t like mariachi music. The crowd went wild and Muir looked on wondering what was going on. Can you imagine the look on the other team’s faces? Maranatha also saw this when it played at San Gabriel in the playoff opener.

If you haven’t been to a San Gabriel home game, press play on the YouTube video I posted and picture this:

The mariachi music comes on as the football players are met with a roaring applause. They march in a single line from the top of the home stands, in between the boosters sitting on the 50-yard line and proceed down onto the field. It’s usually Vicente Fernandez’s music blaring from the speakers. On any given home game they’ll play one of his most popular songs. From “Duelo a Caballo” to, one of my personal favorites, “El Rey.”

So how did it start?

It started three years ago during San Gabriel’s homecoming game. There were pre-game fetivities on the field, so the Matadors thought they would warm-up on an adjacent field and then head to the locker before making their way back onto the field.

One problem: The gates to get back onto the field were locked. A quick check at another gate also revealed a locked gate. Keith Jones, the head coach at the time, had left his keys in the locker room, so the Matadors had no choice but to walk up and enter the stadium where fans make their way onto the home bleachers. San Gabriel proceeded to march down the bleachers closest to the scoreboard.

“Everyone started going nuts,” Jude Oliva recalled. “They went nuts because it was homecoming and they thought we planned some kind of special entrance.”

Oliva’s mind went to work.

“I had seen where the University of Clemson came down in very similar fashion, through the tunnel and down the hill,” Oliva said. “The fans were surrounding them and giving them a lot of love. I approached coach Jones and told him it’d be cool if we came through the middle of the stands where the boosters sit, close to the 50-yard line.”

The kids then asked for a soundtrack to their march, and the boosters took it from there.

“We saw how La Habra enters with what the Blue Man Group does with fire extinguishers,” Oliva said. “We added a fog machine and adding to it every week.”

So how did San Gabriel settle on mariachi music this season?

“A lot of our kids and coaches are Latinos and grew up in the Latino culture,” Oliva explained. “We all love mariachi so that seemed natural. The kids thought it’d be cool to come down like boxing prize fighters.”

San Gabriel is predominantly Latino, with the exception of Mackenzie Ferro, Maurice Le, Donald Toung, Quy Thong, Jimmy Nguyen and twins Wayne and Daniel Pollock.

Ferro, a senior linemen, grew up his whole life with senior wide receiver Alex Villalobos, so he embraces the Latino culture.

“And I know we have a few Asian kids,” Oliva says, “But they always tell me, ‘Coach, I know we’re Asian but we have a brown heart.’”

No way Monrovia plays mariachi for San Gabriel on Saturday, but if the Matadors pull off the biggest upset in school history, don’t be surprised if they’re marching back to the bus singing in full-lung capacity “….pero sigo siendo El Reeeeeeeey”

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Football: Remembering San Gabriel’s magical run in ’03.

Editor’s Note: San Gabriel’s run up to the 2003 CIF-SS Division VII title game against South Hills was a memorable one. The Star-News takes a look back at the events that led up to the big game.

The setting was intimidating.

San Gabriel High School had never in its then-49-year history won a playoff game prior to 2003. So you can imagine the nerves as the Matadors made their way into The Grand in Long Beach to take part in the CIF-Southern Section press conference and luncheon, where suddenly they stood among some of the elite high school football programs in the Southland.

San Gabriel earned an invitation after making an improbable run to the then-DivisionVII title game against powerhouse South Hills.

Matadors coach Keith Jones was flanked by a delegate of players, among them starting senior wide receiver/cornerback Juan Magallon, who recalled San Gabriel’s run up to the title game like it was yesterday when reached by phone on Wednesday.

“It was intimidating at first,” Magallon recalled walking into the luncheon. “We could tell all these other coaches and players had been there before. But they started talking about how great our team was, and it felt right us being there. Everything we had done we earned the right to be there.”

San Gabriel went unbeaten in nonleague play before an Almont League-opening loss to Schurr. But the Matadors didn’t lose hope, winning three of their next four games to make the playoffs.

Eight years later, San Gabriel finds itself in a similar position as the Matadors (9-4) prepare to take on Monrovia (10-3) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the CIF-SS Mid-Valley Division championship game.

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Football: Rivera, Holguin big-time for Rio Hondo Prep.

Above: Rio Hondo Prep’s Jake Holguin, left, and Colby Rivera have helped the Kares reach Saturday night’s CIF-SS Northeast Division title game.

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

ARCADIA – The last time Rio Hondo Prep produced a Division I college football player was in 2004 when Landon Goodwell signed with UTEP.

Who’s to say the Kares can’t do it again, maybe even twice in the same year.

It’s a common misperception that Rio Hondo Prep, with its small school size (99), doesn’t have the athletes, size, speed and athleticism to produce players at the next level.

Meet Colby Rivera and Jake Holguin, the next tandem who could put Rio Hondo Prep on the map. They’ve done their part so far, leading the supposedly rebuilding Kares (12-1) to the CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division championship game against visiting Desert Christian (11-2) of Lancaster on Saturday at 7 p.m.

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All-Star Volleyball game set for Sunday at Monrovia High

By Keith Lair, Staff Writer

Twenty-seven seniors will take part in the second West San Gabriel Valley All-Star volleyball match, to be played Sunday at Monrovia High School.

Thirteen players will represent the Private schools team and 14 players will represent the Public schools team. The two teams represent two CIF-Southern Section finalist schools and five teams that won league titles.

There will also be an underclass game with 29 participants, representing five league champions.

The seniors will play best of five and the underclass athletes will play best of three. The senior Private school team won last year’s inaugural match.

Tiare Tuitama, who coached La Salle to the CIF-Southern Section championship match, will coach the Private seniors team. Longtime Arcadia coach Charles Freberg will coach the Public seniors.

Pasadena Poly also reached a CIF-SS championship match. The Panthers will be represented by outside hitter Alexis Genske. La Salle will be represented by setter Katherine Haderlein and middle blocker Diamond Ridley-Pierce.

Mayfield, which also made a playoff run, will be represented by defensive specialist Alex Arnett and middle blocker Carrie Morris. Rio Hondo Prep, which also made the playoffs, will have middle blocker Devanie Davis and libero Daniella Sanchez. Also representing the Prep League will be Flintridge Prep outside hitter Kate Woolley and opposite Julia Miller.

From Flintridge Sacred Heart will be setter Alessandra Orlandini and defensive specialist Jessica Martin. From Maranatha will be outside hitter Brooke Forrester and libero McKay Weiler.

Freberg coached the Apaches to second place in the Pacific League.

Monrovia coach Wayne Teng will assist him.

La Canada, San Gabriel and Gabrielino all won league titles and will have six players in the game.

From La Canada will be libero Catherine Horner an setter Kristie Shurie. From San Gabriel will be outside hitter Anarose Bui and setter Am Lau and from Gabrielino will be outside hitter Jessica La and setter Joann Chac.

Eight other players also made playoff appearances. Representing Monrovia will be outside hitter Felicia Beeman and opposite Noralia To’omalatai, from Arcadia will be outside hitter Brittney Le and setter Brittany Woo, from San Marino will be middle blocker Kathleen Sloan and opposite Andrea Yen and from Alhambra will be outside hitters Magan Chiang and Marisa Baltazar.

Mayfield coach Megan Rush, with help from assistant coach Deon Jones, will lead the underclass Private team.

There are eight juniors on the team. They include Maranatha’s Skylar McLeod and Lauren Holstein, Mayfield’s Josie Luck, Madeline Watkins and Maggie Dunn, Flintridge Prep’s Bryn McFadden, La Salle’s Riley Spriesterbach and Flintridge Sacred Heart’s Colleen Degnan.

Joining Spriesterbach are Lancers sophomore Caroline Knop and Haley DeSales, the lone freshman on the team. Joining the Tologs’ Degnan will be sophomore Katie Conley.

The other sophomores are Pasadena Poly’s Hannah Kaufman and Natalie Treister.

Teng will coach the Public underclass team. It will feature six juniors and six sophomores.

Arcadia’s Alexi Resch will be the lone freshman on the team.

Also on the team will be teammate Catherine Su, a junior; San Gabriel juniors Tiffany Ha and Jasmine Lau; Alhambra’s Taylor Warren; La Canada juniors Micaela Anderson and Kendall Walbrecht; San Marino juniors Amanda Yee and Felita Lin; Monrovia sophomores Kelsey Molnar and Kayla Howell; South Pasadena sophomores Claire Kieffer-Wright and Samantha Figueroa; and Gabrielino sophomores Michelle Vuong and Nahyma Castro.

The underclass game is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. and the seniors game at 6:45.

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Football: Monrovia’s Luke Williams catches on quickly.

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

MONROVIA – Luke Williams noticed a stark difference during an invitation-only combine workout at Arizona State in June.

Williams, a 6-foot-3, 189-pound wide receiver who at the time was a senior-to-be at Monrovia High School, had just finished running a route against one of the top high school cornerbacks in the nation.

Clearly this was another level.

“The corners weren’t just robots defending receivers,” Williams recalled. “They did more than just run with you. They did extra things to make it difficult for receivers. You have to learn (as a receiver) to move around and help your quarterback.”

Williams spent the rest of his summer working on conditioning and improving his speed. He often was found on the track running 100- and 400-meter sprints with track teammates on their own time. Williams ran routes and acclimated to quarterbacks George Frazier V and Blake Heyworth, who at the time were competing for the starting spot.

Still, it was that workout in Tempe, Ariz., that made a lasting impression on Williams. It’s a big reason why Williams became the go-to receiver for the Wildcats (10-3), who host San Gabriel (9-4) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division championship game.

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Football: Monrovia trainer is a 1987 San Gabriel graduate.

Above: Dr. Richard Cheung tending to an injured Evan Sanchez in 2010.

Dr. Richard Cheung has spent the last eight years as a doctor/trainer for Monrovia’s football team, helping Dr. Todd Adamson, who has been there for a decade.

Cheung, who has his own practice, Pasadena Chiro Center, is also a San Gabriel graduate.

Monrovia (10-3) hosts San Gabriel (9-3) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division championship game.

Cheung’s affiliation goes beyond graduating from San Gabriel in 1987. He spent several seasons as an assistant on the boys and girls tennis teams and the girls basketball team in the early to mid 1990s. He also was a long-term substitute teacher.

Spending nearly a decade wearing Monrovia colors on the sidelines has swayed a bit his rooting interest, though he’s still a contributing San Gabriel alum, he says.

“I’m absolutely elated that San Gabriel has made the finals again,” Cheung said. “But I think talent-wise Monrovia is playing the best football right now and that’s going to make it difficult for San Gabriel to win.”

The pick?

I want a good game, I don’t want a blowout,” he said. “How’s that?”

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Football: Desert Christian unsuccessful in moving site.

Above: Rio Hondo Prep hosting 2008 title game. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Cowell and James Sadana

Desert Christian lobbied to move the venue for Saturday’s game, arguing it would bring 800 fans. The argument was quickly shot down by the CIF-SS, according to coach Ken Drain, who said the CIF-SS looked into Desert Christian’s attendance of its last three games and determined a venue change away from Rio Hondo Prep was not necessary.

“Based on attendance CIF checked for the last three games they just don’t think it’s worth the money to go out and rent a place,” Drain said.

Rio Hondo Prep hosted the 2008 title game and was forced to move the game to Covina District Field, a move that cost $2,500 to rent the facility. Linfield Christian had said it would bring roughly 800 fans but only about 350 fans made the trip.

“It rained so that might have dampened some people’s spirits about coming,” Drain said. “We’re going to bring additional bleachers just in case for Saturday’s game. We’ll be able to take care of the crowd.”

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