Azusa: Neighborhood football at its finest …

Here’s my column from Friday … drink it in.

I’ve always been a fan of freedom of choice when it comes to where an athlete wants to play high school football.

If a kid and his parents feel their best shot at greatness is playing for Uncle Greg, Captain Lou or Colonel Hagerty, then more power to them.

Who am I to argue with somebody who has four short years to make it all happen?

But when they leave their neighborhood for what they feel is a greener pasture, there’s a ripple effect. The neighborhood team doesn’t have the quality roster it should have had if only Little Johnny The Superstar stayed home.

That’s why what Azusa is doing this season is so refreshing.

Like most schools of similar ilk, Azusa could regale you with tales of the would-be star player who lived a half-block from the practice field but decided to go elsewhere. And if they don’t, I will.

Guess where former Bishop Amat linebacker and current Mississippi starter Jonathan Cornell called home? That’s right, Azusa. He’s just one of many not to don the baby blue.

It now seems everybody must be staying home because it’s finally Azusa’s time in the sun. It doesn’t happen often and it rarely lasts long, but when it does it creates the kind of excitement that reminds us why high school football is so great.

I’ve had the privilege of covering some pretty amazing teams from around these parts. I was on the field when Los Altos won CIF in 2003. I was on the field when South Hills won CIF in 2005. They were great moments to be a sports writer, who happened to jump on the bandwagon at the right time.

But you know what I enjoy even more than that? Getting on the bandwagon of a school that’s not tasted success in almost forever. And that’s where I am today.

I’m aware I’m arriving late to the party. The Aztecs have been strong the past two years, but this year feels different.

So what makes it so alluring? I can’t and won’t speak for the players and coaches, just the sports writer who hopped on the bandwagon. It’s the innocence and rawness of it all.

It’s knowing I discovered Azusa coach Joe Scherf several years ago.

Back then, I said Scherf was one of the best coaches in the area … but at the time he was the Aztecs’ girls basketball coach.

Fast forward a few years and the same guy who was trying to get teenage girls to break a press without throwing a ball 15 rows up in the stands is building an improbable area power in football.

Let’s see Richard Wiard do that.

Another part of the allure is knowing that after any of Azusa’s big victories, I won’t get an e-mail from some semi-anonymous person telling me the star tailback was recruited from Las Vegas and the stud linebacker is helicoptered in for every game.

It’s a whole neighborhood talent aspect that’s so rare these days when we’re talking about winning programs.

When Charter Oak wins a big game, its players breathe a sigh of relief because they know what’s expected. When Azusa wins a big game, the whole Aztecs contingent hits the blogs, screams from rooftops and puffs its chest out for anybody who will watch.

Love it!

In many ways, high school football has lost its luster. It’s become more of a business than the innocent sport it used to be. Parents are crazier than ever and the amount of media coverage is frightening even to me.

The Valley’s top programs and their coaches have an immense amount of pressure to continually produce a top-notch product. If they don’t, well, don’t sign on to any of the blogs if you don’t want to see the results of not producing.

It’s getting like that at Azusa now. Go figure.

Tonight, I will be at Bishop Amat to see the Valley’s most tradition-rich program take on another of the Valley’s stalwarts in Muir. I’ll see 20 of the type of players that I’ll only see one or two of when I watch Azusa.

Doesn’t make it any more or less sweet. It just makes what the Aztecs are doing that much more refreshing.

  • Sandy Gahring

    Thanks….this is what High School Sports are all about. Scherf and his coaches, as well as the Aztec Staff, students and fans are proud to be Aztecs!Hard work does pay.

  • What aboyt Schuster????

    Can I get some credit for taking Azusa to the next level!!!!

    Shoe

  • An oldie from Azusa High School 1975

    CONGRATS TO AZUSA AZTEC’S!AWESOME JOB BOYS, SEE YOU BOYS PRACTICE EVERY DAY!!!! LOOKIN GOOD, WOOOO HOOO! STILL THINK AZUSA HAS THE BEST COLORS!!!!

  • where were the fans

    I went to the game last night and was shocked at the amount of people in the stands for Azusa. Sad when your school can’t come out and support the team. Thank God the band was there or no one would have been watching!

  • azusa fan

    Thursday’s games are tough to make. It will pick and what matters you were their rooting!

    GO AZUSA!

  • AZTEC PRIDE

    Now that’s what I call SPORTS WRITING and Wow talk about some press coverage! This ranks right up there with the time SGVTRIBUNE placed AZUSA on the front pages, after winning COVINA in the Playoffs three seasons ago! When I went to buy the paper the following morning, I couldnt believe my eyes and bought several copies. I took that paper to work and showed everybody (BELIEVE THAT)! Aram this is another great article for the community of AZUSA, to read and show your family and friends if your son is playing for the team or not!

    Aram Ive been watching some of these kids for years now, from grade school programs, parks & recreations, AZUSA RAIDERS, High School Football and now watching two young men playing for Citrus College. As a matter of fact both players that are pictured in the front page I was talking about are the ones playing for Citrus. This should motivate some of these players to try out for College ball and see what they could do.

    Ill also mention who is playing outstanding JC ball is, RAULEY ZARAGOSA, EXPLAYER FROM AZUSA, who is the starting receiver for Citrus College, and already has a touchdown in the first game for Citrus. This player has become an outstanding receiver folks and one heck of a player. Theres been several scouts looking at him, and hes definitely going to a D1 school. His brother is also playing for AZUSA right now and Im sure his parents are very proud!

    Well Ill end with this, and say Ive been on here for a couple years now stating AZUSA is becoming a force and beginning to turn the program around for the best. You know its been an up hill battle, as some of you fellow AZUSA FANS can see. But now that AZUSA has been doing something it hadnt done for awhile, look what you see NOW!

    THANKS FOR THE PLUG ARAM, AND IM SURE ALL THE PEOPLE OF AZUSA APPRECIATED ALSO!

    WELL AZUSA YOU HAVE BECOME FRONT PAGE NEWS, SO LETS KEEP THE PRESSES ROLLING!

    BEST OF LUCK TO YOU THIS SEASON AZUSA COACHES AND OF COURSE THE AZUSA AZTECS! LET THOSE TEARS ROLL DOWN FOR CELEBRATING AND NOT DISAPPOINTMENT, IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN!!!

    ~AZUSA AZTECS BACK TO BACK MONTVIEW LEAGUE CHAMPIONS! ~

    AZTEC PRIDE! ~

  • http://rgd2626 old timer

    Aram-
    A fantastic article. I would rather read stories like this than those stories about (transfers , were all this), (were all that),( were in this division and your not.)
    I really have to laugh when these people get on here talking tradition.They act like there there the only ones with tradition. And when you talk about there school it has to be called in a certain way. Again- great article

  • Use Trojans

    What happens if Azusa losses first round in the playoffs?

  • Aztec

    if Azusa looses in the 1st round it dont matter, did you not read the article stupid. we understand the difference in competition with nearby schools. Azusa is not saying they can compete with Charter Oak, San Dimas, and or Glendora but will surely compete with what is in front of them. Once you get to CIF it is a different animal, to all schools dosent matter what you do in leauge, and Azusa is well aware. Stop degrading the success of our players and go back to school and learn how to spell looses, not losses idot.

  • say that again?

    Aztec, you’re also wrong. You BOTH need to pick up a dictionary. So funny. Duuurrrrrrrrrrr…

  • Eric Martin

    Joe has done a great job with the football. I have known Joe since 1987 and it doesn’t surprise me that he has found success at our alma mater. Good luck Azusa and finally bring home a CIF championship in football.

  • Anonymous

    I like this article and it is very true. How can schools like Bishop Amat, South Hills and Charter Oak recruit players from smaller schools, that don’t have a rich tradition in football or a high profile coach? I will tell

    you. CIF lets Bishop Amat give out scholarship to students and student athletes that have a very high IQ or in this case a great athlete. So, parents that are not able to afford to pay the money for there child to

    go to a school like Bishop Amat can send there child there for a good education and boost a so called tradition rich football and/or basketball program. I can understand the student athlete wanting to get a

    better education and/or win a championship, but these schools are getting and taking an unfair advantage of a situation for there own personal gain. The same may be said about Charter Oak and South Hills in

    many ways. You may not need a scholarship to attend these schools, but kids want to go to these schools from other areas, because of a certain coach or the so called tradition of that school in football or

    basketball. Not to mention that these schools are also in nice neighborhood also. South Hills is in up scaled area of West Covina and Charter Oak is in a nice area of Covina. How is this fair to these so called non

    traditional football/basketball school? It isn’t! The storied high school programs in Football in the San Gabriel Valley are really not that. They are bought by Bishop Amat or Charter Oak and South Hills basically

    buying players for a championship and so the kid will be noticed more in the news paper and get a college scholarship. This is an unfair advantage for these school and should not be happening. The CIF needs

    to change there rules and look into this, because this is a real problem and not fair to school like Azusa ect.

    I am not from Azusa and don’t live in Azusa, not even a fan of Azusa. But, I lived in Covina for 21 years and my daughter attended South Hills for two years, before we moved to a nice area in La Verne. The

    school (Bonita High School) is a lot smaller, but real nice. But, they don’t get any respect from the San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Sports writers on there football team for 2010. They have all kinds of kids out

    with injuries and they just keep on winning. Beating the likes of San Dimas and Clermont by 21 and 22 points and a good defensive Santa Fe Springs by a point on there field. What ever the score was in that

    game. A win is a win and that is what Bonita did. They won! So, all of you so called local sports writers need to get off Azusa’s and others small school bandwagon when they are having a once in a life time

    football season and start reporting how these so called power football programs are getting the players they are getting and how these non power schools can keep there kids at home.

    So, I would like to give Azusa and other small schools props on how well they are doing under the unfair conditions, set down and not enforced by CIF and the state of California and allowed to contiue to go on

    year after year to build these so called tradition rich schools.

    Thank you

  • AZUSA Fan #13

    Dang only 12 hits? how many fans are in your stands?

  • SWOLE-MARK BATREZ #55

    YEAH SCHU YOU GET CREDIT FOR TAKING US TO THE NEXT LEVEL. I BELIEVED IN YOU AS A PLAYER AND YOUR GETTING NO RESPECT FOR TAKING OUR SCHOOL TO A WINNING SEASON AND A CIF SEED WHICH HADN’T HAPPENED SINCE 98′. WE HAD GREAT SQUADS BUT WERE RUN BUT INDIVIDUALISM RATHER THAN TEAM WORK. OUR 4-7 RECORD MARKED A START OF TEAMWORK THAT WAS WELDED AROUND OUR SENIORS SHOWED WHAT TEAMWORK IS ALL ABOUT TO THE UNDERCLASSMEN. FROM 06-PRESENT IS A DISPLAY OF WHAT OUR ALMA MATER IS AND WAS CAPABLE OF IF ALL PLAYERS CAME TOGETHER….NOW THE PLAYERS ARE ONE…AND LOOK AT WHAT WE CREATED…COACH SCHUSTER AND SENIORS 05′!!!

  • Former Aztec

    Tolegian,

    I would like to point out that not all the Star-Athletes that shun Azusa High School for other options feel that there is “greener pasture” elsewhere.

    In many cases Azusa gets shunned because of its racial intolerance towards student-athletes of African-American decent. The racial problem is so bad at Azusa High School and Administration does such a poor job of protecting it’s students that smart parents opt to send their children to schools they feel are better scholastically, athletically, and safety wise as well.

    I personally know 3 Azusa natives who are currently in PAC-10 Schools yet didn’t attend Azusa High because of its racial intolerance issues. Maybe plenty of “Little Johnny Superstars” who are from the neighborhood would attend Azusa High if they were granted the same safe learning environment, sadly, most often times, they are not.

  • 09

    All I got to say is that class of 09 deserves a lil more credit…we changed azusa football not cause of the coaches but cause we wanted it…nd each year each senior class steps up cause they saw us put in work nd work out with the freshmen to better the program…like I remember when u was a freshmen not one senior talked to me to help work out or anything but its all good cause we changed that…

  • 09

    All I got to say is that class of 09 deserves a lil more credit…we changed azusa football not cause of the coaches but cause we wanted it…nd each year each senior class steps up cause they saw us put in work nd work out with the freshmen to better the program…like I remember when u was a freshmen not one senior talked to me to help work out or anything but its all good cause we changed that…

  • ernie french

    Most Improved Player 97 season
    Hell yeah coach that’s the way to do it
    NEED TICKETS

  • Looking forward to a Covina – Azusa matchup

    I am very happy for the Azusa football team (having grown up in Azusa) but wonder how well they will do in the next round. There seem to be some strong negative undercurrents from many Azusa players about biased and unfair coach (not Scherf but Muncy??).

    After last week’s game against Gladstone many Azusa players were at a local eatery and seemed very upset about this Muncy coach and how unfair they thought he was. Some went so far as to say that Muncy runs the team not Scherf and there seemed to be a lack of respect for Scherf because of that. One told the others a story that Scherf came over and told Muncy to do something and Muncy rolled his eyes and mumbled something not so nice (nice guy supporting his head coach!!). Based on what I overheard the kids were talking about “their plays” and they all seemed to be starting players so I did not take it as disgruntled players.

    Bottom line is if the players feel there is bias and unfairness from the coaching staff it will lead to problems. I hope Scherf gets control of his team (and coaching staff) as I am from Covina and would love a head to head between Azusa and Covina in 2 weeks.

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