Championship picks

I must say that my picks so far have been brutal. If you are using these for anything more than amusement, then stop. Please.

I will press on anyway, just because I’m contractually obligated at this point.

Philadelphia (-3.5) at Arizona
It’s the classic matchup between the team on a late-season tear (Philly) against the team that is rallying due to a ‘no respect’ battle cry (Zona). I’ve picked against both in both of their games thus far, so I’m probably not the person to ask here. But honestly, can you really see the Cardinals in the Super Bowl? Seriously? I can’t either. A Super Bowl victory would cement Donovan McNabb’s legacy as a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback and while I’m not ready to call that, I’ll take Philly to make it to Tampa.
Philadelphia 28, Arizona 23

Baltimore (+6) at Pittsburgh
To be honest, the best bet in this game is to take the under. The current over/under is 33.5, but with the two best defenses in the NFL, the only way that this game goes over is if the defenses score on their own. With that said, I think the Ravens are being sold short in this game. They are banged up, but the Ravens have been tooth-and-nail with the Steelers in their previous two meetings, losing the last one on a controversial touchdown by Santonio Holmes. I’m getting a 2000 feeling about the Ravens, so I’m calling the upset.
Baltimore 14, Pittsburgh 13

Overall: 149-107-1. Record against spread: 119-135-3.

Roenicke one away from gold

Just got a text message from Tara Roenicke in Australia. Roenicke, who is representing the United States in the beach volleyball portion of the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney, told me that her and Summer Ross defeated Norway today (Saturday in Australia) to advance to the gold-medal game against the host Australians.

Roenicke and Ross, from Carlsbad, defeated the Norweigan duo of Linn Lehre and Mari Aase Hole (not a made-up name, trust me on this) 21-16, 23-21 on what Roenicke called a day with “crazy wind.” Roenicke and Ross will play Mariafe Artacho and Zina Stone in the final at 11:30 a.m. Sunday Australian time, which is about 5:30 p.m. Saturday here in California.

Roenicke regulating in Australia

Just received a call a little bit ago from Los Osos senior volleyball player Tara Roenicke, who is competing in the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney. Roenicke and beach volleyball partner Summer Ross of Carlsbad have cruised thus far, defeating teams from Australia, China and the United Kingdom to move to 3-0 in the tournament.

“It’s going pretty well,” Roenicke said. “The winds were really crazy and it was hard to get used to, but we are playing pretty well right now.”

Roenicke and Ross defeated Australia’s No. 2 team, 21-16, 21-14 ,and China, 22-20, 21-13 Thursday while adding a victory over the United Kingdom, 21-11, 21-11, Friday to move on in the playoff round, where they’ll next play Norway on Saturday. Play ends Sunday with the medal round.

The volleyball has been part of a whirlwind few days for Roenicke, who took a 14-hour trans-Pacific flight out of Los Angeles Sunday night that landed in Sydney Tuesday morning Australian time. Of course, losing a day was made up by the cushy ride, as Roenicke and Ross were upgraded to business-class seating.

“The flight out was nice,” Roenicke said. “We had these huge seats that we could stretch out, watch movies and sleep. It was weird losing a day, but we were ready to go once we got off the plane.”

Roenicke carried the United States flag in Wednesday’s opening ceremonies, giving her a chance to mingle with athletes from all 25 competing countries. And although Roenicke is no stranger to international competition, the experience of carrying the flag was something that will always stay with her.

“The opening ceremonies were so awesome,” Roenicke said. “They were so organized and everything was just so beautiful and well-run. It was such an honor to hold the U.S. flag and getting to meet the athletes from other countries and talk to them. It’s been such a rewarding experience.”

We’ll continue updating Roenicke’s progress at the Olympic Festival throughout the weekend, so check back. Results also can be found here.

All-CIF East Valley Division football team

Twentynine Palms dominates the locals here.

Superlatives
Offensive Player of the Year – David Mothander, QB, Sr., San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret’s
Co-Defensive Players of the Year – Alex Brolick, DB, Sr., St. Margaret’s and Jeremy Baileys, DL, Sr., St. Margaret’s
Coach of the Year – Harry Welch, St. Margaret’s

Offense
QB – Josh Amster, Sr., Brentwood
QB – Drew Blumberg, Sr., Bishop
QB – Max Moreno, Sr., Santa Paula
QB – Kevin Ramay, Sr., Huntington Beach Grace Brethren
QB – Matt Schilz, Sr., Pasadena Maranatha
QB – Tyler Stirewalt, Sr., Aquinas
QB – Terrence Wells, Sr., Desert
RB – Jared Demoss, Sr., Twentynine Palms
RB – John Murayama, Jr., St. Margaret’s
WR – John Carpenter, Jr., St. Margaret’s
WR – Terrell Cornell, Jr., Maranatha
WR – Montreal Harris, Sr., Twentynine Palms
WR – Jim Jones, Jr., Aquinas
TE – Justin Hale, Sr., Malibu
OL – Jeff Askin, Jr., St. Margaret’s
OL – David Esquivel, Sr., Fillmore
OL – Weston Mudge, Sr., Desert Hot Springs
OL – Elvis Percy, Sr., Twentynine Palms
OL – Andrew Rodriguez, Sr., Big Bear
OL – Colfax Selby, Sr., St. Margaret’s
OL – Chase Smith, Sr., St. Margaret’s
OL – Josh Villalobos, Sr., Desert
K – Zach Oliver, Sr., Ontario Christian

Defense
DL – James Batin, Sr., Yucca Valley
DL – A.J. Cabello, Sr., Arrowhead Christian
DL – Charlie James, Sr., Brentwood
DL – Jimmy Lohan, Jr., Ontario Christian
DL – Rusty Tausaga, Sr., Twentynine Palms
DL – Freddie Valencia, Jr., St. Margaret’s
LB – Colin Cadarette, Sr., Brentwood
LB – Rob Caldwell, Jr., Twentynine Palms
LB – Joe Camacho, Jr., Santa Paula
LB – Austin Cole, Jr., Twentynine Palms
LB – Anthony Erickson, Sr., Yucca Valley
LB – Jake Henderson, Jr., Aquinas
LB – Logan Markely, Jr., North Hollywood Campbell Hall
LB – Michael Schmall, So., St. Margaret’s
DB – Chris Adams, Jr., St. Margaret’s
DB – Tim Berry, Sr., Bishop
DB – Niel Christensen, Sr., Twentynine Palms
DB – David Jacquez, Jr., Yucca Valley
DB – Willy Kelsey, Sr., Big Bear
P – Joshua Soles, Sr., Big Bear

All-CIF Eastern Division football team

Quite a few local players on here, especially from the High Desert. Then again, that’s stating the obvious.

Superlatives
Co-Offensive Players of the Year: Caleb Herring, QB, Sr., Perris Citrus Hill; Deontae Cooper, RB, Jr., Citrus Hill.
Defensive Player of the Year: David Adams, LB, Sr., Citrus Hill
Coach of the Year: Doug Dubois, Citrus Hill

Offense
QB – Devon Blackmon, So., Summit
QB – Steven Saunders, Sr., Palm Springs
RB – Dionza Bradford, Jr., Serrano
RB – Jerrelle Green, Sr,. Barstow
RB – Rasheem Johnson, Sr., Indio
RB – Gavin Santos, Sr., Hesperia
WR – Maurice Brown, Sr., Silverado
WR – Maurice Culpepper, Sr., Citrus Hill
WR – Joe Dalacio, Sr., Palm Desert
WR – Jay Waddell, Jr., Hesperia
TE – Greg Smith, Sr., Citrus Hill
OL – Moises Barragan, Sr., Palm Springs
OL – Autry Horton, Sr., La Quinta
OL – Aaron Jeglin, Jr., San Jacinto
OL – J.R. Lafuela, Sr., Riverside Norte Vista
OL – Jesus Reyes, Sr., Barstow
OL – Alexander Soto, Sr., Hesperia
OL – Guillermo Villalobos, Sr., Citrus Hill
OL – Kyle Walsh, Sr., Serrano
Util – Jemeryn Jenkins, Jr., Silverado
Util – Damario Webb, Sr., Barstow
K – Mychal Kebeary, Jr., Palm Desert

Defense
DL – Galvin Emesibe, Sr., Hesperia
DL – Adam Labatos, Sr., Citrus Hill
DL – James Lynn, Jr., Silverado
DL – Kevin Pope, Sr., Serrano
DL – Josh Shirley, Jr., Kaiser
DL – Tulilo Tofi, Sr., Barstow
DL – Trent Wilder, Sr., Palm Springs
LB – Simon Martinez, Sr., Kaiser
LB – Lou Mele, Sr., Riverside Patriot
LB – Danny Reyes, Sr., Hesperia
LB – Dominick Sween, Sr., Ridgecrest Burroughs
LB – Donnell Welch, Jr., Palm Desert
LB – Daniel Zingg, Sr., Palm Springs
DB – Monroe Allen, Sr., Citrus Hill
DB – Trevor Bateman, Sr,. Palm Desert
DB – Jamaal Franklin, Sr., Serrano
DB – Adam Ramirez, Sr., Kaiser
DB – Derron Smith, Jr., Banning
DB – Curtis Webb, Jr., Barstow
Util – Domenic Betts, Sr., Banning
Util – Robert Hartfield, Sr., Indio
P – Ryne Clark, Sr., Palm Desert

All-CIF Inland Division football team

Next to the Inland Division. Lots of Riverside County players, but the CBL represented pretty well considering how outmanned it was.

Superlatives
Offensive Player of the Year – Taylor Martinez, QB, Sr., Cajon
Co-Defensive Player of the Year – Vontaze Burfict, LB, Sr., Corona Centennial and Will Sutton, DL, Sr., Corona Centennial.

Offense
QB – Juan Flores, Miller
QB – Tyler Shreve, Redlands East Valley
RB – Arthur Burns, Centennial
RB – Jonathan Diaz, Temecula Chaparral
RB – Jonathan Norton, Moreno Valley
RB – Cam Phillips, Redlands
WR – Antoine Arnold, Chaparral
WR – Dalton Hunkle, Murrieta Valley
WR – Alex Jefferies, Eisenhower
WR – Ricky Marvay, Centennial
WR – Terrance Miller, Moreno Valley Rancho Verde
Util – Lyle Negron, Murrieta Valley
Util – Bradley Randle, Vista Murrieta
OL – Michael Armijo, Miller
OL – Trevor Fox, , Chaparral
OL – Ryan Gann, Corona
OL – Dennis Johnson, Murrieta Valley
OL – Jordan Johnson, Santiago
OL – Omar Marroquin, Rancho Verde
OL – Brock Morris, Redlands

Defense
DL – Joshua Appel, Norco
DL – William Golston, Rancho Verde
DL – Stuart Heilscher, Murrieta Valley
DL – Andrew Hudson, Redlands East Valley
DL – Ben Letcher, Centennial
DL – Michael Poage, Redlands
LB – Maurice Cox, Riverside North
LB – Fontayne Fuga, Chaparral
LB – Jacob Guzman, Miller
LB – Jared Koster, Norco
LB – Eric Martin, Rancho Verde
DB – Marquis Cox, North
DB – Kyle Figgins, Murrieta Valley
DB – Trayvon Ralph, Miller
DB – Richard Spencer, Rancho Verde
DB – Daimion Stafford, Norco
DB – Zach Stephens, Chaparral
DB – Gary Walker, Redlands East Valley
P – Manny Szwabowski, Redlands East Valley

All-CIF Central Division football team

The All-CIF football teams were released today and, in less than surprising news, local teams cleaned up in the Central Division.

Superlatives
Offensive Player of the Year – Greg Watson, QB, Jr., Rancho Cucamonga
Defensive Player of the Year – Daniel Fonua, LB, Sr., Rancho Cucamonga
Coach of the Year – Nick Baiz, Rancho Cucamonga

Offense
QB – Richard Brehaut, Sr., Los Osos
QB – Josh Nunes, Sr., Upland
RB – Davion Fleming, Sr., Upland
RB – A.J. Johnson, Sr., Chino Hills
RB – Walter Kazee, Sr., Cajon
RB – Courtney Samuel, Sr., Ayala
WR – Wallace Gonzalez, So., Glendora
WR – David Quiroga, Sr., Ayala
WR – Tyrone Richardson, Sr., Hemet West Valley
WR – Irshad Stolden, Sr., Rancho Cucamonga
WR – Randal Telfer, Jr., Rancho Cucamonga
Utility – Arby Fields, Sr., Los Osos
OL – Josh Andrews, Sr., Colony
OL – Gary Berwick, Jr., Rancho Cucamonga
OL – Thomas Lilly, Sr., Glendora
OL – Michael Philipp, Sr., Arroyo Valley
OL – Matt Shinn, Sr., Los Osos
OL – Shane Sweeney, Sr., Chino Hills
K – Alejandro Maldonado, Jr., Colton

Defense
DL – Marcus Bennett, Sr., Rancho Cucamonga
DL – Quayshawn Buckley, Sr., Colony
DL – Andre Henderson, Sr., Menifee Paloma Valley
DL – Sione Kauvaka, Jr., Rancho Cucamonga
DL – Ibe Nduka, Sr., Etiwanda
DL – Jake Salter, Sr., Damien
LB – Jesse Gonzales, Sr., Los Osos
LB – Lawrence Larivee, Sr., Ayala
LB – Logan Lazscyk, Sr., Chino Hills
LB – Buddy Welka, Sr., Rancho Cucamonga
LB – Chad Young, Sr., Glendora
DB – Deveion Bauman, Sr., Chaffey
DB – Nat Berhe, Sr., Colton
DB – Derek Brandon, Sr., Ayala
DB – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, So., Chino Hills
DB – Osahon Irabor, Sr., Upland
DB – Taj Johnson, Sr., Upland
DB – Marlon Pollard, Sr., Cajon
Util – Justin Meng, Sr., Upland
P – Ethan Betance, Sr., Damien

Pollard, pool and the perfect school

Marlon Pollard had already decided that he was going to come back to UCLA, with whom he had originally verbally committed to before decommitting to Notre Dame, during his official visit on Saturday.

But before the Cajon senior cornerback officially announced that, he had another comeback to take care of first.

“I was playing pool with (UCLA freshman defensive back) Rahim Moore and the stakes were that if I lost, I had to commit right away,” Pollard said. “I didn’t make any off the break and then he sunk five balls in a row. I thought I was going to lose for sure.”

Pollard ended up making the miraculous billiards comeback, allowing him to keep his intentions quiet. But that’s not something that Pollard could do for along as Bruin players, recruits, coaches and parents gathered together at head coach Rick Neuheisel’s house.

“One of the other guys, I forgot his name, got up and announced his commitment 15 or 20 minutes later and I was like ‘What about me, coach? What about me?’” Pollard said. “The coaches let me announce the commitment and everyone was happy.”

Most importantly, Pollard is happy with being a Bruin, ending a nearly two-year recruiting saga. The 6-foot-1, 160-pound defensive back committed to UCLA coach Karl Dorrell before his junior year, only to decommit after Dorrell was fired. He then committed to Notre Dame over the summer, but UCLA kept up their pursuit. Stanford also joined in late.

“UCLA has been recruiting Marlon for over two years,” said Marlon’s mother, Rachael Pollard. “He was the youngest player ever to commit to UCLA. We just felt really comfortable with the players and coaches. We felt it was one big family. I’m very thankful to Stanford and Notre Dame for the interest they showed in Marlon.”

Rachael Pollard also cited the job security, or lack thereof, of Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis as a factor. But ultimately, it was where Marlon felt comfortable that won out in her mind.

“It definitely helped that coach Neuheisel is going to be there 3-4 years at the very least,” Pollard said. “But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this process, it’s that at the end of the day, it’s his decision. As a parent, you have your opinions, but it’s needs to be his decision. And Marlon is really happy about UCLA and I’m happy for him. It’s a comfortable, family environment with great education opportunities.”

With Pollard, UCLA has a big Inland Empire contingent, as he joins Los Osos quarterback Richard Brehaut, Bloomington fullback Jayson Allmond and Diamond Ranch cornerback Brandon Sermons as Bruin committs. That connection, plus bonds he made with other players in the class, was important.

“Richard and I talk a lot,” Pollard said. “I also have a pretty good relationship with (Carson TE) Morrell Presley and (La Puente Bishop Amat CB) Sheldon Price. I can’t wait to play with all those guys.”

Cajon, Etiwanda set to play at Staples

Two of the top girls basketball teams in the County, Cajon and Etiwanda, will play each other at 3 p.m. Saturday at Staples Center as part of a tripleheader that includes the Clippers’ game with the Milwaukee Bucks that night. The “Downtown Showdown” will start with a game between South Torrance and Palos Verdes at 1 p.m., followed by Cajon and Etiwanda at 3 and the Bucks-Clippers game at 7:30.

The 13-0 Cowgirls, the CIF-SS Division II-A champions a year ago, are led by 5-foot-9 senior point guard Layshia Clarendon, who has signed a letter of intent to play at California, and 6-2 senior center Darshae Burnside, who has signed with Arkansas. Clarendon averages 20.5 points, 8.8 assists, 8.5 rebounds and 3.9 steals per game while Burnside averages 19.8 points and 18.5 rebounds per game.

Etiwanda comes in with a 10-5 record but played the Cowgirls tough in the championship game of the Magnolia Classic on Dec. 20, falling 60-58. The Eagles are led by senior guard Amber Williams – who averages 17.5 points and 4.3 steals per game – junior guard Natalia Hawthorne (11.8 points, 3.7 steals) and 6-1 junior center Jasmine Bernard (10.4 points, 8.5 rebounds).

Tickets to all three games are $20 for upper-deck seats and $43 for lower-level seats prior to Saturday. On Saturday, they’ll be selling for $25 and $50, respectively. You can also click this link or call Rob Strikwerda at 213.742.7541 to order by phone, or via email at RAS@Clippers.com

All-star thoughts

As I mentioned in earlier posts, I covered the Inland Empire All-Star Football Classic last night, a game that didn’t go too well for the San Bernardino boys, who fell 38-7 to Riverside.

The San Bernardino team, coached by Los Osos’ Tom Martinez, didn’t have the full arsenal that Riverside had, as several highly-touted, Division I-committed players who were scheduled to play during the week dropped out. Among those were Arroyo Valley offensive lineman Michael Philipp – the No. 1 guard in the nation according to Rivals.com, Los Osos QB Richard Brehaut, Cajon CB Marlon Pollard, Upland CB Osahon Irabor and Upland CB Taj Johnson. Upland QB Josh Nunes also didn’t play, as a hand injury suffered in the Central Division title game with Rancho Cucamonga hasn’t fully healed.

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