Guerrero and Rivera ready to put on a show for the West in Hall of Fame All-Star Game …

The last time Arroyo High School’s Steven Rivera and San Gabriel’s Andy Guerrero were on the field at the same time, they put on a offensive display that won’t soon be forgotten.

It was Nov. 25, 2011 in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division playoffs. Rivera was trying to quarterback Arroyo to the semifinals and appeared on his way to doing just that, but Guerrero piloted his team to an improbable victory punctuated by a thrilling finish.

Just moments after Rivera had given Arroyo a 38-35 lead on a 56-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Duran with 1:40 left to play in the game, Guerrero connected with Joey Villalobos on a 21-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-7 with under a minute to play to give San Gabriel a 42-38 win.

The end-game heroics from both quarterbacks were just one big chapter in stellar seasons for each player. Guerrero went on to be named the Pasadena Star-News Player of the Year. Rivera earned the same honor for the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

And on June 22, the two players will take the field for the final time in their high school careers as teammates on the West squad in the Hall of Fame All-Star Game at West Covina High.

“I just feel like it’s Bird and Magic over here,” Rivera said of being paired with Guerrero as the West’s quarterbacks. “We feel that we’re going to be able to turn things around (for the West). We don’t come out here to lose.”

Guerrero and Rivera combined to throw for 6,669 yards and 67 touchdowns last season.

In their epic showdown, Guerrero threw for 233 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 140 yards and two scores.

Rivera wasn’t too shabby, throwing for 214 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for two more.

Memories of their playoff game still burn bright even to this day. For Rivera, it was the final game in a career that saw him leave as the valley’s all-time leading passer in career yards and touchdowns.

For Guerrero, the game sent his team on to the semifinals where they rode the momentum and upset San Dimas to earn a shot at Monrovia in the championship game.

Although San Gabriel was no match for Monrovia, Guerrero’s amazing season earned him the honor of being named the top player in the area.

Just as they may do someday as old men, Guerrero and Rivera can easily reminisce about their playoff classic.

Guerrero’s game-winning pass was set up by a long kickoff return by Alex Villalobos, also a West All-Star. But the Matadors didn’t do much with the good field position Villalobos gave them and found themselves with fourth-and-7 from the Arroyo 21 with less than a minute to play. Guerrero used his legs to escape Arroyo’s rush and rolled to his right before firing a pass to the end zone where Joey Villalobos made the catch as Rivera and another Arroyo defender rocked him. Villalobos held on and it was bedlam from there.

“It was a big play,” Guerrero said. “It was fourth down and it was either we do or we die. If I didn’t get that play done, we would have been out of the playoffs and he would have moved on.”

Unfortunately for Rivera, he won’t be able to forget the play during preparations for the All-Star game because it’s one of the play calls in the West’s arsenal.

“When we ran the play in practice, it’s called `Gator,’ ” Guerrero said. “Alex Villalobos reminded him that this is the play we won on. “It was just laughs and good memories.”

As much as the San Gabriel loss stung, Rivera has turned it into a positive.

“They pulled it off, but I wouldn’t want to go out any other way because I knew we gave it all we had and they gave it all they had,” Rivera said.

“Game week, we knew it was going to be a battle. We said to ourselves that if we look at our team, it’s a duplicate of San Gabriel.

“We were not very athletic. We were just a bunch of 5-foot-10 Mexicans running around in helmets and shoulder pads.”

And that’s exactly what the West will be in several spots on June 22 against an East team that has dominated the series in recent years because of its combination of dominant line play and speedy defensive players.

To combat this, both Guerrero and Rivera may have to use their legs to buy time or turn broken plays into something big. Both quarterbacks said they’re willing to do just that no matter what the ramifications might be.

The game won’t be the last for either player. Rivera will play next season at Whittier College. Guerrero plans to play at East Los Angeles College.

Unlike their last time on a field together, when somebody had to win and somebody had to lose, both players are hoping to go out a winner this time around and give fans one last taste of two of the top signal callers in Valley history.

“With two good quarterbacks, it’s going to be a real good game,” Guerrero said. “I don’t know who exactly is playing on their team, but I know they’ve got some real good players. The West is always chosen to lose because the East has all the talent out there. But it’s going to be a real good game.”

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

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St. Francis and Monrovia will finally meet, but if I’m ranking the Star-News in 2012, I’m starting with the Golden Knights and Jimmy “UCLA” Bonds

Until there is a new editor in charge, I’m sneaking in and giving my preseason top ten for 2012. Feels like I never left this place. St. Francis has been a dominant force for years and despite Monrovia’s title, I would have ranked St. Francis ahead of Monrovia last season based on quality wins, schedule and the division it played in. Monrovia’s a monster that gets better and better, but not sure if the Cats are on par with St. Francis, just yet. Monrovia and St. Francis will finally meet in Week 5, so the answer will come soon enough, and it’s about time. I always thought Monrovia, St. Francis and Muir — the top three in most years, should play each other every season. This is a start, and to start the year, I’m going with St. Francis No. 1 because year in and year out, they own the best wins on the resume and play the toughest schedule. Look at St. Francis’ record and opponents in 2011 and tell me I’m wrong. In any case, here is how I would rank football starting in 2012.

Rank, Team, Last year’s record
1. St. Francis (9-3)
2. Monrovia (11-3)
3. Muir (8-5)
4. Arcadia (9-3)
5. Rio Hondo Prep (13-1)
6. Maranatha (8-3)
7. San Gabriel (9-5)
8. Pasadena (6-6)
9. Alhambra (9-3)
10. San Marino (7-4)

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And the beat goes on ….

With Miguel Melendez officially leaving on Friday, we’re in transition at the Star-News office until a replacement is named. During the interim, Keith Lair is in charge and working on the Spring all-area teams. Steve Ramirez, Aram Tolegian and I will post over the summer to deliver up-to-date football news and coaching changes.

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I’m hitting the snooze button to pursue my next dream.


Above: Just another day in the office interviewing Rose Bowl MVP Andy Dalton.

I don’t know if my career in journalism has come to an end. What I do know is I’m getting off this amazing roller coaster ride I’ve been on for nearly 12 years. It’s time to get in line for the next ride.

Today is my last day at the Pasadena Star-News, and I leave a dream job as a sportswriter in pursuit of my childhood dream of one day going to law school. The road there is long and filled with challenges, but I overcame a similar path when I started my career in journalism at 17.

The dream started in high school, and it wouldn’t have been realized without the help of a lot of people I’m thankful to this very day.

I was 15 when my math teacher, Dr. Roz Collier at Alhambra High, asked why I always asked for her L.A. Times. I told her I loved reading the sports section and that I one day wanted to be a sportswriter. From that day forward until my senior year she saved the sports section for me every day.

I was 16 when TJ Simers at the L.A. Times replied to my email seeking advice, and he did more than send back a short message. He offered his home phone number and a plan on how best to break into the business. It was his advice that led to an interview with Art Wilson, my first editor who I can’t thank enough for hiring me fresh out of high school.

Doug Spoon, my first sports editor at the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, was encouraging as I learned the ropes and was always up front with me, a quality I always admired. Like the time I was offered a plush freelance gig at the L.A. Times. He said he couldn’t pay me as much as The Times but would do everything he could to give me more writing assignments and more shifts on the sports desk to help make up the difference.

It was that mix of experience that undoubtedly helped me land my first big boy job at The Orange County Register where David Bean hired me at 20, and I knew how lucky I was when my colleagues there were surprised to hear how young I was to be a staff writer at what was then the 34th largest newspaper in the nation. Greg Gibson and Todd Harmonson became two of the best editors any writer could ask for. They partnered me with seasoned writers at the Register to polish my writing and ultimately fulfilled my dream of helping cover the Angels and Lakers, among other plush assignments they threw my way.

In March when I informed Steve Hunt, my managing editor, about my plan to leave in June he presented a couple options for me to stay. I was moved by the appreciation shown towards me, and it proved what I knew all along: that I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by great people who cared and found a way to show it.

My life in one word?

Lucky.

In what world would an 11-year-old kid have his favorite watch stolen at knife point while on his way to a corner market in Lincoln Heights also have the chance to one day cover a press conference for The Boston Globe.That’s my claim to fame, when I camped out Scott Boras’ office in Newport Beach as negotiations intensified between the Red Sox brass and Boras’ new client,Daisuke Matsuzaka. I was transcribing a long press conference with a tight East Coast deadline. I wasn’t sure how to spell Daisuke, so to save time I spelled it “Dice-K”. I filed the story forgetting to change Dice-K to Daisuke.The next day, there was a poll on the Boston Globe’s website asking readers to weigh in on what Daisuke Matsuzaka’s nickname should be, and “Dice-K” was one of options. Sure enough, that’s how Matsuzaka was referred to on ESPN, too.

You’re welcome, Boston.

When I came here in 2008 I was excited to be back where it all started. I’ve known and worked with Fred J. Robledo, Aram Tolegian, Steve Ramirez and Keith Lair since I was 17. Believe me when I say this group is passionate about covering preps. They continue to bring you the best coverage despite uncertainty and challenges along the way.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with great high school coaches, athletic directors, players, parents and teachers.

The best part about covering high school sports is seeing kids you’ve covered succeed at the next level.

I covered Matt Barkley as a freshman quarterback at Mater Dei High back in my Register days, and now he might be leading USC to a preseason No. 1 ranking.

I covered Steve Johnson as a talented freshman tennis player at Orange High. He’s now a two-time NCAA singles national champion at USC.

There are some seniors I’ve covered here at the Star-News since their freshman year, and I’m excited to see how they’ll do in college, maybe even the pro’s.I’m talking to Bowdien Derby and Ellis McCarthy, among others.

When I look back at my career and tell my friends about the places I’ve visited and teams I’ve covered they wonder why on earth I would leave a dream job. The answer is simple, I’m selfish and want to chase another dream.

If my path somehow takes a detour ahead and merges with journalism I hope I still recognize this industry I love and owe so much to. A lot has changed in 12 years. I’ve seen my friends fall victims to layoffs and buyouts, many of whom continue to work outside of journalism.

That being said,this decision is my own, and I leave with a bank full of fond memories and experiences I could only dream about as a homeless kid.

That I came to this decision ina seemingly bed-ridden economy, well, you can see now why I feel so lucky.

I don’t know what I’ll do Monday when I wake up and have nowhere to go, no phone calls to make and no interviews to conduct. I’m not scared about the uncertainty that lies in the short-term. In junior high I was held at gun point for simply witnessing a car theft.

That was scary.

This is exciting.

miguelmelendez83@gmail.com

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Boys Volleyball: Public vs. Private All-Star Game set for Saturday at Cal Tech. Juniors game at 2, seniors at 3:30.

PUBLIC VS. PRIVATE ALL-STAR GAME
Saturday at Cal Tech
Juniors Game, 2 p.m.
Seniors Game, 3:30 p.m.

JUNIOR PUBLIC TEAM
Coach: Simon Yu, San Gabriel
Daniel Jacobs, Burroughs
Daniel Marbach, Burroughs
BJ Lagmay, Burroughs
Andy Yu, Gabrielino
John Sullivan, La Canada
Charlie Diep, San Gabriel
Tyler Bui, San Gabriel
Richard Zheng, San Gabriel
Howard Wong, San Marino
Vincent Ma, San Marino
Andrew Boon, San Marino
Jason Qiu, South Pasadena
Robert, Adamson, South Pasadena
David Barker, South Pasadena
Brian Tang, Temple City

JUNIOR PRIVATE TEAM
Coach: Sean Beattie, Flintridge Prep
Donovan Gonzales, Bosco Tech
Kareem Ismail, Flintridge Prep
Ben Dalgarn, La Salle
Dennis Grover, Pasadena Poly
Cody Hirdo, Rio Hondo Prep
Kevin Horton, Rio Hondo Prep
Luis Aranda, Salesian
Charles McCarthy, St. Francis
Christopher Thompson, St. Francis
Will Frankian, Village Christian
Will Pryburn, Village Christian
Robbie Robles, Village Christian
Brandon, Sao, Village Christian

SENIOR PUBLIC TEAM
Coach: Chris Kwan, San Gabriel
Dake Ying, Arcadia
Ike Nwachi, Burroughs
Robbie Rutecki, Burroughs
Hugo Ayala, Burroughs
Ling Wang, Gabrielino
Peter Gilmour, La Canada
Stanley Young, San Gabriel
Timmothy Luu, San Gabriel
John Silk, San Marino
Dean Ohashi, San Marino
Ali Jabalameli, South Pasadena
Ben Hillman, South Pasadena
Thomas Adamson, South Pasadena
Josh Chan, Temple City
Victor Hsieh, Temple City

SENIOR PRIVATE TEAM
Coach: Mark Mina, Pasadena Poly
Alex Schuster, La Salle
Peter Nuguid, La Salle
Rob Flewelling, Maranatha
Colin Woolway, Pasadena Poly
Michael Saeta, Pasadena Poly
Jackson Saldana, Providence
Amir Lugo-Rodriguez, Salesian
David Sanchez, Salesian
Mark Villaroel, Salesian
Shane Whittington, San Gabriel Academy
Michael Bacall, St. Francis
Wes Coffey, St. Francis
Thomas Banks, St. Francis

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Good news: Public vs. Private All-Star Softball Game is set for June 14 at Live Oak Park in Temple City.

PUBLIC VS. PRIVATE ALL-STAR GAME
Practice and Game at Live Oak Park, Temple City
Practice:
Wednesday, June 13 (Private 5-6:30 p.m.; Public 6:30-8 p.m.)
Game: Thursday, June 14, 6:30 p.m.

If your name is on the list, all you have to do is show up to practice on the date/time above. I want to thank the coaches who are on board to help coach the teams and conduct practice. Also want to thank those who helped me put together rosters for both teams. Couldn’t have done it without your help.

PUBLIC TEAM ROSTER
Coaches: Dave Guzman (Monrovia) and Bob Ellingsworth (Temple City)
Lauren Cox, La Canada
Catherine Horner, La Canada
Alashanee Medina, Keppel
Vanessa Mendez, Keppel
Brianna Becerra, Keppel
Denise Gonzales, Alhambra
Kristin Hudak, Temple City
Sami Jakeway, Temple City
Nikki Guzman, Monrovia, Sr.
Alexis Watanabe, San Marino
Elizabeth Shelburne, San Marino
Cierra Newton, Marshall
Ruth Kamm, Marshall
Mikayla Tickey, Duarte
Kaysie Gatlin, Duarte
Marissa Baca, South Pasadena
Lisa Rosas, Arcadia

PRIVATE TEAM ROSTER
Coach: Jennifer Moulden and staff, Mayfield
Colleen McWilliams, La Salle
Victoria Baltazar, La Salle
Karlie Buller, La Salle
Madison Worley, La Salle
Katelyn Thordarson, Maranatha
Ellie Manriquez, Ramona Convent
Melissa Cendejas, Ramona Convent
Juliana Zovak, Mayfield
Heather Choi, Pasadena Poly
Julia Tsai, Pasadena Poly
Brenda Soto, Westridge
Jensen Barret, Rio Hondo Prep
Karah Kirby, Rio Hondo Prep
Nicole Holguin, San Gabriel Mission
Angela Preciado, San Gabriel Mission
Rachel Simon, Flintridge Prep
Lauren Torres, Flintridge Sacred Heart

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Baseball: Alhambra’s title bid falls short.

By Steve Ramirez, Staff Writer
twitter.com/DailyNewsSports

LOS ANGELES — It had been 85 years since Alhambra High School
played for a CIF-Southern Section baseball championship.

It’s going to be a little longer before the Moors bring home the top
prize.

Senior Justin Garza pitched a three-hitter and top seed Bonita took
advantage of four Alhambra errors to score its first CIF-SS title
since 1951 with a 5-1 victory over the Moors Friday in the Division 3
championship game at Dodger Stadium.

The Bearcats, also getting two hits and a RBI from Thomas Castro,
finished 32-2 to win the title after losing in the championship game
against Ocean View in 2010.

Alhambra, which got a steady four innings from Marco Briones,
finished 24-4. The Moors were seeking the school’s first CIF-SS title
and playing in a section championship game for the first time since
1927.

“Twenty four wins is a school record,” Alhambra coach Steve Gewecke
said. “We have a lot to be proud of.

“We’re going to walk out of here with our heads held high.There’s no
doubt about it. It stings today. But we still had a great season.”

But it good have been better, and the Moors might likely dwell on a
third inning that proved to be decisive for the Bearcats, who after
the teams traded scoring runs in the first and second innings, took a
5-1 lead, scoring four runs on five hits and two errors.

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Track & Field: Area athletes take talents to Fresno

By Keith Lair, Staff Writer

South Pasadena High School’s Claire Kieffer-Wright jumped 5 feet, 10 inches in a Rio Hondo League dual meet in March. Temple City’s Philippe Ueng cleared 15-8 in the pole vault at the Rosemead Invitational, also in March.

Neither has hit that mark since. But the pair are hoping their fortunes change starting today. The jumpers are among 13 San Gabriel Valley and Whittier area athletes who have qualified for the CIF State meet at Buchanan High School in Clovis. It is one of the largest contingents of area athletes competing in the two-day meet in a decade.

Ueng showed what he is capable of doing in a practice session on Wednesday at Mt. SAC. He cleared 16 feet for the first time.

“He’s hot right now,” Temple City jumping coach Chris Branson said. “He’s been breaking new ground, and getting 16 feet with a stiffer pole and a 16-foot pole. That is a good sign.”

Ueng and Kieffer-Wright, if they piece together masterful performances, have legitimate shots at winning state titles.

“It has not been a rut thing,” South Pasadena jumps coach C.B. Richards said of Kieffer-Wright’s season of late. “She’s been doing a lot of different things. Now she is focusing on the high jump. We know what she has in her. She just has to put all the pieces together and have a good day.”

A handful of other area athletes have a shot at a state title.

Damien’s Jarrett Gonzales enters the meet with the state’s fastest time in the 300-meter hurdles. Cantwell Sacred Heart’s Adam Aguirre is making his second consecutive appearance in the meet.

“I know what I have to do already,” Aguirre said. “I’m just going to prepare the same.”

Arcadia’s Alex McElwee, La Serna’s German Fabela and San Marino’s Kyle Ezold are all among the state leaders in the 400, and Rowland’s Nick Rivera and La Salle’s Daniel De La Torre are among the state leaders in the 1,600.

“I’ve been waiting for so long,” Rivera said of making it to state. “I finally get my chance that I always dreamed of. At one point I thought I would never actually go out and do it.”

De La Torre will be the lone area athlete attempting a double. He will also run in Saturday’s 3,200, and will be joined by Arcadia’s Sergio Gonzalez, who qualified in both events, but opted to concentrate on just the 3,200. He won the CIF State Division I cross country championship just a few miles west of Saturday’s meet six months ago.

Maranatha’s Ebony Crear has lowered her own school-record 100 hurdles time in the last three races, running a time of 14.09 seconds in the CIF-Southern Section Masters Meet. Nikki Wheatley of Bonita qualified in the triple jump. Both are among the state leaders. Diamond Ranch’s Andrew Fischer has one of the top times in the 300 hurdles.

Kieffer-Wright has focused only on high jumping for the last month, and returns to the city were she went 5-8 in the indoor state championships in January.

“I do better when the pressure is on,” the sophomore said.

She will likely have to clear 5-5, which she did at the CIF-SS Masters Meet, in today’s qualifying session.

Ueng is finally over the ankle injury that created devastating results last year.

“He’s jumping well again,” Branson said. “He could go 16-6 and win it.”

Qualifying for all but the 3,200 is today, starting at 3p.m. In the running events, the heat winners and the fastest other competitors will round out the nine-athlete final. In field events, 12 athletes could advance if there are ties.

Saturday’s meet is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m.

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Softball: La Canada’s Catherine Horner a driving force.

CIF-SS PLAYOFFS
SATURDAY’S CHAMPIONSHIP
DIVISION 5

La Canada vs. Beaumont at Deanna Manning Stadium, 12:30 p.m.

By Keith Lair, Staff Writer

LA CANADA-FLINTRIDGE – It was a bribe that made Catherine Horner the player that she is today.

The La Canada High School senior was set to be a pitcher. Until older sister Kelly began pitching when Catherine was 10 years old.

“She was a very fast pitcher,” Horner recalled. “But she was not the most accurate. None of my other sisters or my dad wanted to catch her. He said he would pay me $5 to catch her.”

Horner, who will play at the University of Tulsa next year, is arguably the best catcher in the San Gabriel Valley this year. She has helped propel the Spartans to their second consecutive CIF-Southern Section Division 5 championship game.

They will play Beaumont on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. for the second consecutive year at Irvine’s Deanna Manning Stadium at Barber Park. Last year the Spartans scored a 1-0 victory.

“No, at first I did not want to catch,” Horner recalled. “But after my dad kind of bribed me a little bit, he gradually encouraged me to stay with it.

“I ended up loving it. Absolutely.”

In a 1-0 semifinal victory over Nipomo on Tuesday, Horner threw out four Titans baserunners.

“It’s not one season,” La Canada coach KC Mathews said of his catcher. “She’s been a force since her freshman year. We’ve counted on her each year.”

Horner said she was just doing her job in throwing out those Nipomo baserunners.

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