Nothing says summer football like sunglasses, shorts and mohawks.
A couple of days ago, my Stepdad hit me with this riddle, “I drove by Gladstone High School the other day and guess what I saw on the field.”
“Uh, I don’t know,” I replied, knowing full well what was coming next.
I just said stared blankly at him because, again, I knew what was coming next.
“They’re starting earlier and earlier these days,” he said with an almost semi-disgusted tone before walking away.
You see, you have to understand that the Stepdad is old school. Part of me thinks he and Rowland coach Craig Snyder would make for great friends. Football to the Stepdad means the running game and leather helmets. It also means fall and winter, not the dead of summer.
How could I tell him that later that week I would be out at the very same field he drove by watching a passing tournament all the while fighting the same urges that led me to pronounce four summers ago that South Hills would win two or three CIF titles and reach a state bowl game all because of what I saw during a passing game?
So Saturday arrived and there I was — at Gladstone at the sportswriter equivalent to the crack of dawn — a little after 9 a.m.
And there they were, the new boys of summer. Across several fields were the skill players that will make the SGV football circuit go this coming season and the coaches who lead them into battle.
I’m not used to seeing them during the day. They usually play their games at night. And I’m certainly not used to seeing them in the football player’s equivalent to naked — t-shirts and shorts.
But here it was, the early part of July, and we had some very spirited competition taking place between the grid lines. There was Rosemead and Mid-Valley Division champion San Dimas squaring off right before my eyes.
I strolled up to Panthers coach Matt Koffler during his team’s close loss to the Saints and asked if they had no shot to win the division due to this outcome.
“Yeah, no way,” Koffler said.
Koffler’s sarcasm wasn’t the first of the day, nor was it the last. Sarcasm, especially when something went wrong, permeated every field all day long.
“That’s a sack!” a La Puente player yelled from the sideline just as Arroyo QB Steven Rivera burnt the Warriors deep for a touchdown.
Now, I don’t know what type of line Jim Singiser’s bunch has this year, but the kid was right. In a real game, Rivera would not have had all that time to let his receiver get all the way behind the defense before unleashing perfect pass to him in the back of the end zone.
Desperate to learn something, I turned to the one man who always tells it like it is — Covina coach Darryl Thomas.
“Is this the day you guys stamp yourselves contenders?” I asked Thomas, who fired a stunned look back at me before replying “Today?”
Thomas later pointed out his team had a lot of work to do. One of his assistants also pointed out that the Colts didn’t have starting quarterback Billy Livingston at the event.
“See you at 5,” I barked to Thomas in reference to what time the championship was scheduled for. To which he asked “You gonna be in Upland?”
Maybe there was another passing tournament in Upland that night or maybe that’s where Thomas makes his home.
At any rate, the Colts didn’t reach the finals. But Azusa and Monrovia did. And minus the marching band, cheerleaders and 50/50, they put on quite a show.
Azusa’s running game did little. But neither did Monrovia’s. I think that really hurt the ‘Cats. There were a couple times both teams were in field-goal range, but decided to gamble and go for it. What stones.
Azusa came away with the win and I couldn’t help but fight the urge to fly home and put on the blog that the Aztecs were now the favorites in the Mid-Valley Division. Monrovia should really try to run the ball more.
Just prior to the championship game I told Singiser, the event’s organizer, I had a wild a hair up my wheel route to write a sarcastic piece about passing league. For the first time ever he was speechless to something I said. After careful discussion, he relented and gave me permission. And yes, it was permission.
You see, Singiser is the new, old school. He isn’t one to extol the virtues of passing games at the expense of real football. But when it comes to either, he attacks the task at hand with the type of vigor that makes him one of the best around.
… Singiser also isn’t one to stand in the way of a sports writer making a jackass out of himself.
There’s no question, the benefits are obvious to having a day like this. Skill players get a chance to make reads. Defenders get a chance to make reads. Plus, they do it in Orange County, so we might as well, too.
I’m not so sure I buy the whole “timing” argument. Things might be a little different when there’s defensive ends bearing down on the quarterbacks or when the running game is stuck in the mud and the blitzes are coming from everywhere.
But when in doubt, check with the parking lot. It was full. And that’s where I rolled up on Baldwin Park defensive coordinator Wardell Crutchfield Jr. and his linebacker son WC3 at the end of a long day.
WC3 just glared at me like he was ready to rupture my spleen with one hit. Crutch Jr., half-sour after a loss to Wilson, told me he was going to blitz the hell out of everyone (something he couldn’t do on Saturday).
OK, it finally felt like real football.