Inland Empire Challenge: Is it a true county championship?

You can see videos above of two of the top San Bernardino County runners on Saturday at the Inland Empire Challenge: Alta Loma’s Koby Pederson, who was third in the boys sweepstakes and Serrano’s Kelly Fairchild, who was third in the girls sweepstakes.

I’ve covered this event several times over the years and the organizers, which include Alta Loma’s Rich Morales and Rancho Cucamonga’s Terry Tierney (and formerly included former Rancho Cucamonga girls coach Mark Cushman), bill it as a battle between the counties and to crown county champions.

They know it’s not really determining who is best in each county. They’ve tried hard to get more of the top schools from the two counties to commit. The problem is, it’s also the same weekend as the Clovis Invitational, run on the same Woodward Park course that hosts the state meet.

So, programs that are among the top 10 in the county perennially, such as Yucaipa and Ayala don’t go to the Inland Empire Challenge. Many of the top Riverside County teams also don’t come for the same reason.

Serrano coach Ken Quinn said he would love sometime to have his teams go to Clovis, but they can’t afford it. And he loves the IE Challenge, because as he says, “it’s closer than some of our league meets.”

He’d love to see the IE Challenge moved to the third Saturday in October, the same weekend as the Orange County Championships, because there would be fewer conflicts for San Bernardino County schools.

It will continue to be a great event, regardless. But to be true championships for both counties, something needs to change.

This time, no nightmare for DeZhontaey Fletcher

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DeZhontaey Fletcher, the senior RB from Oak Hills proudly displayed his cast after beating Serrano. Why?
If you read my feature story on him a few weeks ago (here it is: http://bit.ly/1rwFUwm) you’d know that Fletcher broke his ankle in the Serrano game last year.
It was on the very first play of the game, it ended Fletcher’s season, and Oak Hills lost the game and a chance at the Mojave River League title.
This time, Fletcher decided to bring the cast to the game (he doesn’t usually do that), to remember what happened a year ago.
Now he can forget about last year as Fletcher ran for 163 yards and a touchdown in Oak Hills’ first-ever win over Serrano, 24-21.

Week 6 High School football predictions

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Week 5 was a light week in terms of high school football, so there were fewer games to pick. In all, I went 18-7-1 for the week (Aquinas tied), and overall for the year, I am 143-51-2. This week, everyone has league games.

Ambassador League
Linfield Christian 28, Aquinas 14
Arrowhead Christian 42, Riverside Notre Dame 38
Ontario Christian 28, Western Christian 26
Baseline League
Chino Hills 48, Rancho Cucamonga 42
Etiwanda 35, Los Osos 10
Upland 42, Damien 14
Citrus Belt League
Carter 21, Cajon 17
Yucaipa 35, Citrus Valley 16
Redlands East Valley 38, Eisenhower 14
Redlands 24, Miller 7
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Rooting for Sonnyboy Orfiano

As a sports writer, I generally don’t root. I need to stay unbiased and neutral.
I am just an observer of athletes, coaches and sporting events.

But, there are times in which I feel differently about a subject.
One of those is my latest feature on San Bernardino High senior quarterback Sonnyboy Orfiano. You can read the whole story here, along with other photos and videos: http://bit.ly/10RUpQZ.

Now, there’s a difference between rooting for someone to win a game, and rooting for someone in life. I would like to see Orfiano succeed in life. That could mean winning a few more football games, but really, it’s about more than that. It’s about him getting a break. I root for all athletes in the area to have success after high school, but many of the other athletes don’t need the breaks that Orfiano needs, or deserves.

Up until now, he’s made enough breaks of his own.

He was dealt a rough hand, from growing up in Stockton with little to no money in small living quarters to someone who made his own break, moving in with his brother in San Bernardino.

While things are better in San Bernardino, they’re still not easy. He’s worked hard to help his team to a 4-1 record, and has gotten interest from at least 1 school, Western New Mexico although he hasn’t committed anywhere.

As hard as he has worked, someone still has to offer him a scholarship. He can’t make anyone give him a scholarship. So getting a break would be getting a scholarship to play football, because otherwise, there’s a good chance he won’t be able to go to college and play football.

Sometimes, the biggest question in recruiting a player (especially one from outside the area), is going to stay there or if he’ll get homesick and return home.

To all those schools who might doubt whether Orfiano would stick, I can’t say definitively that he will. But consider this: he made the tough decision to leave his mother, grandmother and two younger brothers to move to San Bernardino (where he had no ties otherwise) to live with his brother.

He made a big leap of faith coming to San Bernardino and so far it’s worked out for him. Now he needs a school to take a leap of faith with him.

Week 5 high school football predictions

For Week 4, I was 24-8 (one game I picked both teams, so I’m not counting that one) and I’m now 125-44-1 picking games this season. In addition, I got the winning margin exactly correct on two games: I correctly said Arrowhead Christian would beat Crean Lutheran by 28 and Granite Hills would beat Indian Springs by 20, giving me three exact margins this season.

So, here are my picks this week.
Thursday’s Game
my prediction: Great Oak 42, Summit 28
(actual score, 42-21. You can check twitter to verify my prediction).

Friday, Oct. 3
Citrus Belt League
Cajon 21, Yucaipa 17
Carter 35, Citrus Valley 10
Eisenhower 28, Redlands 24
Redlands East Valley 41, Miller 7

De Anza League
Big Bear 35, Rancho Mirage 7
Desert Hot Springs 34, Yucca Valley 13

Desert Mountain League
Excelsior 36, Lancaster Desert Christian 27
Silver Valley 48, Riverside Prep 7

Nonleague
Arlington 21, Grand Terrace 19
Chino 31, Rowland 24
Chino Hills 56, Victor Valley 6
Damien 24, Ayala 14
Etiwanda 42, Rialto 6
Glendora 24, Kaiser 21
Granite Hills 28, Twentynine Palms 20
Los Osos 35, Silverado 31
Montclair 31, Hacienda Heights Wilson 13
Moreno Valley 17, Colton 6
Norco 31, Serrano 28
Ontario 28, Jurupa Valley 26
Pacific 35, Bloomington 20
Rim of the World 28, Barstow 14
San Bernardino 42, Indian Springs 16

Saturday, Oct. 4
Nonleague
Brethren Christian 20, Aquinas 16
Heritage Christian 41, Adelanto 34

Could San Gorgonio-Oak Hills result be best for both?

Last week, Oak Hills was impressive in knocking off my No. 1 team, San Gorgonio and giving the Spartans their first defeat of the season.
I think this could be good for both parties involved.
Last year, San Gorgonio went into the playoffs with a 10-0 record but came up short in a semifinal loss to Riverside Norte Vista. The Oak Hills game should be the last time the Spartans are tested. Had San G. cruised to a victory, it would not surprise me for San G to lose some intensity, an intensity the Spartans might not get back in time for the latter playoff rounds. The loss makes them realize how vulnerable they are and what they need to do in the long run.
As for Oak Hills, the knock on the Bulldogs is that they’ve been good, but haven’t been able to come through in the big game.
They haven’t beaten perennial Mojave River League rival Serrano yet, and Oak Hills has never been past the second round of the playoffs.
Now, next week’s game against Serrano will be bigger than the San G. game, but the San G. game proved one thing: that Oak Hills can win a big game.
The teams won’t see each other again this year, because they are in different playoff divisions. But they could both look back at that game as important in driving them toward a deep playoff run.

Week 4 prep football predictions

My record picking games in Week 3 was much better than week 2 with a 28-7 record, but I didn’t expect some of The Sun’s better teams (Carter, Chino Hills, Redlands East Valley) to beat out-of-area teams. Overall, I am 101-36-1 picking games, with 1 margin exactly right.

Here are this weeks picks:
Citrus Belt League
Cajon 31, Citrus Valley 14
Carter 28, Yucaipa 10
Eisenhower 38, Miller 16
Redlands East Valley 38, Redlands 7
De Anza League
Twentynine Palms 33, Rancho Mirage 28
Desert Mountain League
Desert 48, Excelsior 14
Silver Valley 35, Lancaster Desert Christian 20
Mammoth 34, Riverside Prep 13
Nonleague
Alta Loma 31, Grand Terrace 19
Arrowhead Christian 48, Crean Lutheran 20
Barstow 38, Ridgecrest Burroughs 27
Chaffey 28, Colton 16
Chino 21, Don Lugo 17
Colony 41, La Habra 38
Etiwanda 21, Heritage 14
Granite Hills 33, Indian Springs 13
Kaiser 21, Apple Valley 10

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