Bray leaves Colton game at halftime; future in doubt

Thanks to a very good San Diego Torrey Pines football team and a bizarre set of circumstances that led to the halftime resignation of head coach Rick Bray, Friday was a very bad night for the Colton High School football program.

Any lasting satisfaction left from last year’s CIF-SS Central Division title disappeared in the span of two quarters, as the Yellowjackets were whipped by Torrey Pines 35-7 and might have lost their coaching staff in the process.

Bray, last year’s All-Sun Coach of the Year, left the game at halftime after addressing his team in response to his son, assistant coach B.J. Bray, being pulled from the sidelines in the second quarter by the Colton High School administration. Another one of Rick Bray’s sons — Richard Bray Jr. — led a shaken team in the second half.

“They pulled my brother off the sidelines and my dad isn’t going to allow one of us to be treated like that, so he left too,” Richard Bray Jr. said after the game. “He talked to the kids at halftime and asked the rest of us coaches to get the kids through the second half.”

According to Richard Bray Jr., B.J. Bray was disciplined Friday as a response to his actions at the Colton Joint Unified School District’s school board meeting May 5, the one where Rick Bray’s contract to coach the Yellowjackets was renewed after a lengthy soap opera in which the school district opened the job because Bray, a campus security officer, is not a credentialed teacher.

At the meeting, B.J. Bray emotionally defended his father, yelling at the parents of former CHS running back Tyler Irvin, who criticized Rick Bray during the open forum session.

When asked why the Colton adminstration waited until Friday to mete out punishment, Richard Bray Jr. didn’t have an answer.

“I’m really not sure what to say and what I can say,” Bray Jr. said. “All I know is that this team might not have a coaching staff. I really don’t know what the next move is. This is a tough night for all of us.”

Colton athletic director Harold Strauss did not comment when asked about the situation.

Sun preseason top 10

1. Redlands East Valley
The Wildcats had an uncharacteristically early exit from the playoffs last year, but they went undefeated in the Citrus Belt League with a junior-dominated team. Fifteen returning starters, many of whom play in the trenches, and depth at the skill positions made the Wildcats my No. 1 pick. How quarterback Austin Decoud matures could make the difference between a short and a long playoff run.

2. Upland
The Highlanders ran into the Corona Centennial freight train in the playoffs last year, but there is a lot coming back to Upland. Wide receiver Kenny Lawler, a soft commit to Arizona State, is the top recruit in the county while running back Donta Abron is also legit. The Highlanders should also be legit on defense, led by defensive end Christian Pwwell, should be salty as well.

3. Summit
I was tempted to put the SkyHawks No. 1, as they return 13 starters from a team that went to the Eastern Division championship game. Only reason I didn’t is because I want to see how the Summit compensates for the loss of Devon Blackmon and Montigo Alford from the offense. That being said, there’s a lot of talent here and this may be the year which Kaiser’s hold on the Sunkist League is broken.

4. Colton
The one team to win a CIF title last year, the Yellowjackets lose a lot of studs from last year’s team, namely RB Tyler Irvin and all-everything LB Devan Hussey. But Colton is well-coached, reloads extremely well and has the size to ram the ball down people’s throats as it loves to do. Colton might not play to this ranking early, but I wouldn’t want to mess with the Yellowjackets come November.

5. Rancho Cucamonga
They may be three spots removed from Upland in these rankings, but the difference between the Cougars and Highlanders is razor thin. Rancho returns a host of starters and contributors from last year’s Inland Division semifinalist. If they can find a workhorse offensively to replace Sateki Finau, they could easily switch spots with Upland in these rankings.

6. Cajon
The Cowboys were a failed 2-point conversion away from possibly being a CIF champion last year, as they lost to Colton in a Central Division semifinal classic. The Cowboys actually won the SAL last year and led by WR/DB Damontae Kazee, have the personnel for a repeat. Cajon tends to start slow but come November, I expect this team to be a beast.

7. Chino Hills
The Huskies gave Corona Centennial a better game than anyone else in Southern California could last year, losing to them in a relatively-close semifinal game. They do lose some big-time players in WR/DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, RB Nate Harris and DE Auston Johnson, but Chino Hills has gotten to a point in its program where it just reloads. Don’t sleep on the Huskies.

8. Serrano
The Diamondbacks are one of the most consistent high-achieving programs in the county, as they’ve won 11 Mojave River League championships since 1997 and have been to the semifinals or better the last three seasons. Serrano has a host of RBs and a deep, experienced offensive line. If they can get some typical D-back production out of a young defense, they could be a dark horse CIF title contender.

9. Redlands
The Terriers lost a heart-breaker to Redlands East Valley last year in what was a prime opportunity to win their first league title since 2006. Redlands will be younger this year, as the Terriers are depending on a host of juniors, but will be physical and hard-nosed as always. Senior WR/DB/QB Mike Stallone is the player to watch for Redlands. If they can keep him involved, they’ll be dangerous.

10. Kaiser
It feels weird to put the Cats this low and this is something I could easily regret in a couple of months. But Kaiser was ravaged by graduation after a wonderful 12-1 season last year, losing 18 of 22 starters. The Cats seemed to replace quality with quality and will probably produce another physical, hard-hitting behemoth, but their youth, combined with Summit, puts me in a wait-and-see mode.

As far as teams that barely missed the cut, San Gorgonio was a tough omission. They played as well as anyone in the county last year to finish second in the SAL, but I need to see how Monroe Offield handles things at QB before moving them in. Chino lost quite a bit of talent from its 11-1 season, but returns QB Sean Molles and RB Xavier Browne and looks to be the favorite in the Mt. Baldy League. Etiwanda should be as exciting as ever, with senior QB Larry Cutbirth and senior LB Chandler Scott returning.

Arroyo Valley hopes to profit from culture change

When it comes to discipline and doing things the right way, new Arroyo Valley coach Rock San Angelo is as rigid as his nickname. The Hawk players have learned that ever since San Angelo, a former assistant at Colony, Rancho Cucamonga and San Dimas, was hired in May.

“I’ve kicked a few seniors off this team that didn’t want to buy in,” San Angelo said. “The first thing the administration told me what they wanted me to do, even before winning games, was to change the culture. There’s going to be no more coming to practice whenever you feel like it and playing for yourself on the field. There’s no reason why this team hasn’t been more than a seven-win team with the talent in place.”

San Angelo isn’t bashful about his expectations for the Hawks, who have missed the playoffs two out of the last three years. After balling out in the summer passing league circuit, the new coach thinks that the sky is the limit for his new team.

“I don’t think anyone is really taking us seriously, and to me that’s a mistake,” San Angelo said. “There’s no reason why we can’t be a top team in this league if we play with discipline and purpose.”
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San Bernardino going with youth in 2011

San Bernardino coach Nick Monica can count the number of returning seniors he has on two hands. In a competitive San Andreas League, that makes for quite the challenge for the Cardinals as they strive to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

“We have about 8-10 seniors and roughly 43 juniors and sophomores,” Monica said. “Because of that, it’s taken a little bit longer than normal to come together and get that camraderie, that family atmosphere. We had a lot of seniors last year and we’ll have a lot coming back this year, but we are caught in the middle right now.”

Having a lot of juniors isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when they are guys like quarterback/safety Khleem Perkins. Perkins (6-4, 185) has already started receiving Division I recruiting interest and is rated among California’s top 25 for the 2013 class by ESPN.com.

“Khleem is a stud,” Monica said. “We are looking for big things out of him, both on the field and as a leader. He’s definitely a guy that we are going to lean on both on offense and on defense.”
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Eisenhower not intimidated by the CBL

Even though Eisenhower has only won two games in Patrick Lord’s first two years as coach, the Eagles are hardly gunshy entering the 2011 season. In fact, Eisenhower thinks that it is in position to turn some heads.

“The number one thing we are thinking about right now is playoffs,” Lord said. “We’ve spent the last two years building up the program and its numbers and we feel that we have a good shot of making a move this year. There’s no reason that we can’t play at a playoff level.”

The genesis of Lord’s confidence is based on a couple of factors. The Eagles have 14 starters returning from last year’s team that got valuable experience in Citrus Belt League play. But the real ace in the hole for Ike is senior offensive lineman/defensive lineman Lalotoa Laumea, who transferred from Compton High School over the summer.

Laumea (6-4, 246) is being recruited by Colorado, Washington, Fresno State and Colorado State, among others and already has been named a team captain, as his hard work has rubbed off on his new teammates.
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Sultana hoping that size does matter

If there was a competitive-eating competition involving high school football teams in San Bernardino County, Sultana would be one of the favorites. While many local coaches have commented on their lack of size, Sultans coach Blake Robbins has a plethora of big guys to lead the way.

“I’m really not sure what it is, but we have a lot of big guys in the program,” Robbins said. “I’m not complaining. If they can play up to their potential, we have a chance to be pretty good.”

Sultana comes into 2011 with a monkey off its back, as it broke a 23-game losing streak with a win at Pacific last September and prevailed over Hesperia for the first time since 2006 in the “Key Game.” While Robbins is happy that those streaks are over, he feels that his team squandered an opportunity to do even more a year ago.

“We went 2-8, but we really felt that we should have won three or four more games,” Robbins said. “We played tough in most of our games but we weren’t able to make the big play. A lot of times we’d move the ball down the field and then commit a turnover or get a penalty that would ruin it.”
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Hesperia looking to find balance

The opening of Oak Hills High School in 2009 threw Hesperia High School for a bit of a loop. Going into the third season of coexistence, the schools still haven’t found a way to balance each other out.

“We are basically a team full of sophomores and seniors,” Hesperia coach Jeremy Topete said. “A lot of the 8th graders that were going to be freshmen two years ago went to Oak Hills and are juniors there right now. Hopefully soon both schools will stabilize a bit.”

The Scorpions hope that the stabilization will help the Scorpions get back to where they were pre-Oak Hills, as Hesperia won a combined 21 games in 2007-08, winning the Mojave River League title in 2008. Hesperia has struggled mightily in its first two seasons under Topete, winning only four games, only one of which came last year. And the Scorpions will go to ball-control to try to improve.

“We are going to try to shorten the game and avoid turnovers, especially early,” Topete said. “Too many times last year we committed the early turnover, got down real quickly and weren’t able to come back. We are going to try to prevent that from happening again.”
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Arrowhead Christian hopes crash course pays benefits

John Beck’s first year at Arrowhead Christian was a harrowing one, as a rash of injuries had him with an 8-man-team sized available roster that was filled with wet-behind-the-ear freshmen who were more suited to playing at the junior varsity level.

“Last year, we had 26-28 guys and I’d guess that 15 of them were freshmen,” Beck said. “It was definitely a hard situation and a lot of these kids had to learn on the fly against a really tough schedule. They were a gutsy group last year.”

The Eagles are hoping that the desperation of 2010 will speed up the building process in 2011. ACA is still low on numbers in the junior and senior classes, as there are only 13 kids in the oldest two classes on the roster. But a group of precocious sophomores with varsity experience and a large freshman class has Beck pretty excited about the future.

“I think the future looks really bright and I think the guys that had to play last year are really going to benefit from it,” Beck said. “If they stick with it, we’ll have some fourth-year varsity players in a couple years and that will help us out a lot.”
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Redlands depending on junior help in quest for CBL title

Redlands football has been pretty darn good over the past couple of years, finishing second in the Citrus Belt League. But with crosstown rival Redlands East Valley finishing ahead of them both years and owning a four-game winning streak over the Terriers, Redlands’ good has been good enough for them.

“There’s no question that REV has had our number and that we have to beat them to get to where we want to go,” Redlands coach Jim Walker said. “We’ve played them well and tough, but it hasn’t quite been good enough. This year we are hoping that we can stay healthy, that our junior can mature and that we can have a good season.”

While Walker is bullish on his junior class, it’s senior Mike Stallone who makes the Terriers go. Stallone (5-11, 180) did everything but sell concessions for Redlands last year, passing for 646 yards and five touchdowns, running for another 614 yards and five scores, catching nine passes on offense and an interception on defense while also recording 20 tackles.

“Mike is probably the best player in the CBL,” Walker said. “He’s a two-way guy that can do pretty much anything. We’ll play him in the secondary, throw him passes, use him as a Wildcat QB – whatever we can do.”
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Apple Valley hopes experience will move it upward

Despite having only a handful starters and a small senior class last year, the Apple Valley High School football team was able to qualify for the playoffs for the second consecutive season and for the fourth time in five years. Now that they have 14 starters back, confidence is high for the Sun Devils.

“I’m loving the competitiveness that we have going right now,” Apple Valley coach Frank Pulice said. “We have a good senior nucleus offensively and we have some juniors and sophomores that are getting after it. We have some depth issues on the line we have to work around, but all in all I’m pleased.”

The Sun Devils will also be getting a shot in the arm defensively with a more aggressive, attacking philosophy. They’ll be moving away from a 4-3 to a 3-5 defense to take advantage of the speed they have coming back and to try to improve a unit that gave up 25.5 points per game in 2010.

“We need to get better on that side of the ball and I think we will,” Pulice said. “Offensively we racked up a lot of yards and scored a lot of points, but we weren’t good enough defensively.”
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