Aram’s reaction to Monrovia, West Covina, Claremont, La Puente and Ganesha passing game on Tuesday …

First off, I would like to apologize to anybody who was expecting me at Charter Oak on Tuesday to see CO, Azusa, Covina and Bonita throw it around. I got a call from Claremont coach Mike Collins WHILE I WAS DRIVING TO CO and he told me they were at WestCo … and when I heard that M-Town was also there, I had to go. The reasoning is simple: I’ve seen CO, Azusa and Bonita already. The reason I was going to CO was to see Covina. But I have not seen WestCo, Monrovia (with all its guns), La Puente or Claremont yet. So I killed more birds with one stone at WestCo. OK enough …

But first some news …

Sydney Jones: This kid was Diamond Ranch’s freshman team’s star receiver last year. He has transferred to West Covina and will be a sophomore this season. Coach Mike Maggiore says he’s going to be up on varsity. Big blow for D-Ranch right there.

De’Shawn Ramirez: He was not there. I was very bummed. Very bummed. Anyway, CIF needs some clarification supposedly into Ramirez’s whole summer situation. Ramirez’s fall eligibility is not in question (from what I hear), so rest easy M-Town fans. His summer situation is in question.

Claremont: I was expecting Claremont to be in a bit of trouble this season after losing QB Kessler and WRs Dockery and Kuramata to graduation. So much for that. I would not go so far as to say that the ‘Pack has reloaded, because you can’t really reload after losing the guys I just mentioned. But this team, however, is VERY TALENTED. I mean VERY TALENTED. New QB Matt Simko is a big kid with a very nice arm. He’s going to be a junior and has all the tools. With some seasoning, watch out. I was also impressed with receiver DeAndre Mannis, who Coach Collins is headed toward a D-1 scholly. Then there’s sophomore running back Cecil Flemming. Wow. This kid averaged 3 TDs a game as a frosh. He’s got a nice frame already with good height. Claremont looks very good skill-wise. Defensively, I thought that the ‘Pack was a tad slow. Especially for what type of skill they will be up against in the Sierra League and Inland Division. This team is not going to be in as much trouble as I thought.

West Covina: What can you say? I wasn’t impressed at all by the passing game. But when am I ever when it comes to WestCo in the summer? Remember, this team didn’t stick around long last year in the SGV Shootout and all they did was win 13 games and a CIF title. So I’m not sweating it. Anyway, Chris Solomon remains a specimen. As does Justin Meaders. Let’s end the competition now, Chris Caballero will be the QB next season. It’s still technically a race, but it’s really not. Caballero throws a nice ball, but WestCo’s routes were nothing special and most of the throws were very short. Long-range accuracy was lacking. But again, that’s not WestCo’s thing … during the summer or fall.

Monrovia:
This team is just ridiculously talented for being in the Mid-Valley Division. Super recruit Ellis McCarthy was out there and he’s simply the kind of talent you NEVER see around these parts. He’s an SEC defensive lineman in the SGV. It’s just unreal. And G5 (George Frazier) is also a D-1 body. He will very likely be playing LB on Saturdays. Anyway, enough fawning about M-Town’s looks. As far as the offense, it needs a lot of work. G5 was the QB and he throws a nice ball, but accuracy is an issue. He truly is an LB playing QB. And a D-1 LB at that. The receivers, led by Luke Williams, look fantastic. If you put M-Town in the Southeast Division, I would call them one of the top-three teams on talent. If you like to do a look test at passing games, which is all they are, then M-Town is a sight to behold.

Monrovia and West Covina: I was pretty disappointed in the fact that despite the amazing collection of athletes I did not see ONE play that made me say WOW. But, that really doesn’t mean anything. Both teams have two of the best staffs around and both staffs have rings. So I’m just not going to worry about the fact that I wasn’t wowed. I’m just simply saying that if you go to a Charter Oak passing game, you are pretty much assured of seeing two to three plays that make you say WOW.

La Puente:
I’ve got to say, LP’s coaching staff does a fantastic job. You can just tell by watching that these guys are schemed very well. The players are coached up pretty well and they’re running good schemes. Get it? Schemes. Is LP as talented as Azusa? No way. But they do a lot of things right in terms of schemes. Get it? Schemes. I was impressed that by what I saw of LP against Claremont. The Warriors had a nice, deep pass for a touchdown. The defense had a nice pick inside its own 10 because the player was in the right spot in the right defensive call. What was funny, though, was a sequence in which an LP defender leveled a Claremont receiver on a play. The very next play, Claremont threw deep for a 40-yard (that’s all they play in passing games) for a TD. That was a good example of an upper-division team cutting a lower-division team back down to size. But still, I really liked what I saw from the Warriors.

Walter Thurmond III:
WT3? OK, maybe not. Anyway, one of my favorite SGV athletes of all time, Walter Thurmond III, is back in town. He’s going to bid for a starting a cornerback role for the Seahawks when the NFL gets back to work, but for now, he was helping the WestCo DBs during Tuesday’s throw. Great to see Walter. Please watch the video above for a very entertaining video with Walter with some GREAT MEMORIES of his local playing days.

Dan: WestCo fan/blogger was out there. Always great to see Dan. He’s O.G. blogger and great fan of the Dawgs. I urged Dan to blog his takes on Tuesday’s games in this thread. Hopefully, he obliges.

DENIED: CIF denies Ben Kane eligibility at South Hills after transfer from Amat …

So much for that.

CIF has denied Ben Kane eligibility at South Hills after he transferred recently from Bishop Amat. Kane, a junior defensive end, who transferred to South Hills from Amat under a hardship, stood a good chance to be a starter on defense and possibly offense for the Huskies.

According to CIF’s website, Kane has limited eligibility (meaning he cannot play on a varsity team) in both football and basketball until 4-28-12. The reason for the denial is because Kane opted to go to South Hills rather than his home school, which would be Northview.

Kane very likely would have had his hardship approved if he had chose to attend the school in his home district, which is Northview, a CIF official said. He can still appeal the decision, but given the circumstances it looks like a longshot that he’ll win.

This is all very interesting considering that last season South Hills lost three players to Amat — QB/TE Brock Booth, LB Randall Varela and DB Ajee Montes — and all three played last season despite South Hills protesting their transfers to CIF.

Aram’s take: On the surface, it looks like South Hills cannot win with CIF. When they lose guys like Booth, Varela, Montes, Vaughns and Gilchrist, they end up playing right away at their new schools. When they gain guys like the Canadas or in this case Kane, they end up being denied. I’m sure that’s how they’re feeling today, but Kane can and will appeal (from what I hear) and maybe he’ll get his eligibility restored.

IMPORTANT DATES: Feel free to add to these by commenting …

June 24-25: Bonita Air Assault (Charter Oak WINS)

June 24: Hall of Fame All-Star Game at West Covina HS (East WINS)

June 25: West Covina Linemen Competition (Villa Park WINS)

July 9: SGV Shootout (@Arroyo) Passing Tournament

July 9: Tournament of Champions @Santa Fe and Linemen Tournament (38 teams)

July 15-16: Claremont Passing Tournament

July 16: Ayala Passing Tournament

July 16: Los Osos Linemen compeition

July 16: Arroyo Linemen Competition (Azusa, Covina, Gladstone, West Covina (3 teams), Villa Park, Los Altos (2 teams), Monrovia, Baldwin Park, La Salle, Temple City … I probably missed a few.

July 23: Ayala Linemen competition

Former Santa Fe stud LB and current JV coach Freddie Estrada passes away …

Former Santa Fe High School standout linebacker Freddie Estrada died of a heart attack on Sunday. He was 32 and is survived by his wife, son and daughter.

Estrada, an all-Del Rio League linebacker at Santa Fe, was going to be defensive coordinator of the Chiefs’ junior varsity team this season.

“It’s really a great loss for Santa Fe football,” longtime Chiefs head coach Jack Mahlstede said. “He was a very intense, hard worker. He was a very big asset because he was such a good a motivator.”

Estrada served as defensive line and linebackers coach for the past two seasons at Wilson under former Wildcats coach Brian Zavala.

“I’m at a loss for words,” Zavala said. “I just feel so bad for his wife, kids and family. He was a good man and touched a lot of kids. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his family and friends.

“With coaches, we go to each other’s homes and celebrate each other’s birthdays and kids’ birthdays. When something like this happens, it really hits home.”

Estrada worked for Otis Elevator Company and coached in his spare time. He had suffered a minor heart attack, according to Mahlstede, about a month before his death.

Villa Park wins West Covina line competition … West Covina finishes 2nd and Azusa 3rd …

Villa Park won the 18-team West Covina line competition on Saturday with West Covina finishing second and Azusa taking third.

The top six were:

1st – Villa Park
2nd – West Covina
3rd – Azusa
4th – JW North
5th – Monrovia
6th – Sante Fe

Santa Fe won the bench press with West Covina second.
Azusa won the power cleam with West Covina second.

Top power clean of the day was Monrovia’s Ellis McCarthy at 305 pounds.

Aram’s take: It’s kinda nice to talk about something other than passing. Good sign that West Covina was able to place so well considering all it lost to graduation. It’s kinda scary hearing that Azusa took third when combined with what I saw of the Aztecs skill guys at Arroyo last Thursday. If throws and tire rolls are any indicator, Azusa looks poised to keep the roll going. What else can you say about Ellis McCarthy?

Charter Oak wins Bonita Air Assault … WITH AN ARAM’S TAKE …

Charter Oak, a late entry into the 30-team Bonita Air Assault passing competition, beat Valencia in the championship game on Saturday night at Bonita High School.

Led by quarterback Travis Santiago, the Chargers went 9-0 in the two-day tournament. They went 5-0 in pool play on Friday, then returned on Saturday as the No. 1 seed.

“I blame it all on my son (offensive coordinator Dominic Farr),” Charter Oak coach Lou Farrar said in reference to his team being a late entry into the tournament.

“On Wednesday, we threw at Oaks Christian, 65 miles away from campus, and it worked out real well for us. The next thing I know, Dominic and (defensive coordinator) Roger Lehigh called (Bonita coach and tournament organizer) Eric Podley and got us in this tournament.”

The Chargers were the only local team in the semifinals, which included traditional Southland stalwarts Loyola, Upland and Valencia. Charter Oak beat Loyola in the semis. The Chargers were one of 12 Valley or Whittier-area teams in the tournament.

“We don’t really look at the competition as much as we look our team and team’s growth,” Farrar said. “Coach Lehigh was really impressed with his kids. Coach Dom is really happy with Travis and the way he’s hooking up with his receivers.

“Something’s growing, I can feel it. After all these years, I just see something happening. We’ve got some kids who weren’t at the top of my Christmas list last winter and spring, but they’re starting to buy into the program. I’m happy to see this kind of growth with our kids.”

In addition to Santiago, Farrar also cited the play of receiver Chris Gilchrist, corner back Kurt Scoby and safety Khari Garcia as being key to Charter Oak’s success this weekend.

Two seasons ago, Charter Oak won the second of back-to-back CIF Southeast Division championship. Last season, the Chargers were moved into the Sierra League and Inland Division and finished 6-5 overall.

Aram’s take: This has become the Summer of Santiago. I’ve heard nothing but great things about Santiago and when I’ve seen him, he’s impressed. This was a nice win for CO. But I can’t help but ask myself “Didn’t we already know CO had skill guys?” Maybe these guys are going to be even better than we thought. But skill guys aren’t the X factor for CO, linemen are. Line, line, line. If CO has a line to go with these skill guys, then we may be looking at a Sierra League champ and the unthinkable — a first-round win in the Inland playoffs. Anyway, you can expect both Santiago and CO to move up my QB and team rankings, respectively. There were some good names in this tourney and CO wowed a lot of people. It’s only passing league, but for June 25 it doesn’t get any better.

NEW AND UPDATED Bonita Air Assault pairings …

At Bonita HS
Pool play: Friday, 3 p.m.
Bracket play: Saturday, 3 p.m.

Pool A: Upland, Valencia, Villa Park, Arroyo Valley, Jurupa Hills, Pasadena
Pool B: Arroyo, Citrus Valley, Corona Santiago, Charter Oak, Jurupa Valley, Northview
Pool C: Hart, Anaheim Canyon, Kaiser, Glendora, La Serna, Riverside Poly
Pool D: Loyola, Walnut, Chino Hills, Eisenhower, San Gabriel, Webb
Pool E: Crescenta Valley, Bonita, Corona, Culver City, South El Monte, Whittier

Aram’s reaction to Alhambra, Arroyo, Azusa, D-Bar passing game on Thursday …

Diamond Bar: After ranking Diamond Bar as highly as I have in the All-Encompassing SGV(N) Top 25, I was very interested in seeing just how the Brahmas are progressing under first-year coach Ryan Maine. Keep in mind that on Thursday, the Brahmas were the upper-division team being from the Southeast and throwing against three Mid-Valley teams. D-Bar did have the most raw talent there in terms of pure numbers. Anyway, having seen Bonita and now D-Bar, there isn’t much separating either team in terms of skill guys. However, I was disappointed in D-Bar’s lack of toughness. That’s something that Maine says he and his staff are working on. There was very little mean streak to these guys and that absolutely will not fly in the Hacienda, let alone the Southeast. More specifics in the part about D-Bar vs. Arroyo (see below). Speaking of Maine, I got to meet him for the first time. Didn’t realize he won two CIF rings as a QB at D-Bar in the late 90s-early 00s. He brings a lot of energy and passion and you can tell he’s pouring his heart into getting that program to succeed. It ain’t gonna be easy at 28-years-old and I hope that the D-Bar staff knows what they’re up against while sharing a league with Maggiore, Podley, Layton, Snyder and O’Shields. That is no joke. Just being on-par with those guys talent-wise isn’t always enough. I’m sure Maine and his staff will be up for the challenge.

Azusa: The Aztecs were a very pleasant surprise to me. As we all know, they lost a lot from last year’s 10-1 team that was the No. 1 seed entering the Mid-Valley playoffs. Well, they’ve pretty much reloaded. Quarterback Jake Martinez looked very good, as did his receivers Luis Nunez, Jesus Arteaga and James Figueroa. These three combined to make plays deep and Figueroa had a nice one-handed grab for a touchdown against Arroyo … well, I think he was out of bounds, but they called it a TD (I think). Great play, nonetheless. Also, running back Desmond Reed looks like he’s ready for a big season. On defense, the Aztecs look like they’re still trying to find their way assignment-wise. But I was very impressed with the bodies I saw. I didn’t catch his name, but they have a defensive end who looks like a smaller version of West Covina’s Justin Meaders. It is only passing league and I did not see any linemen, BUT I just can’t see there being another Montview League team with this much talent. And as for the division, outside of Monrovia, the Aztecs look like they fit right in again.

Arroyo: What else can you say about Knights QB/S Steven Rivera. He truly is special . Nothing new there. I’ve heard talk of the Knights being a one-man show this season, and admittedly I saw very little on Thursday to sit there and argue when people say that. But Arroyo’s one man is good enough to lead them to another big season. The rest of the Knights need some polish and I’m sure they’ll get that. Arroyo was without WR/CB Brandon Jauregui again, so all the woes I saw on one side of the field at corner worry me less.

Alhambra: Word is out that junior QB Joshua Mendoza has a booming arm. That’s pretty much true. As far as Mid-Valley QBs go, Mendoza will be one of the better ones and that should put Alhambra squarely in the mix in the Almont League. The Moors also have a pair of nice receivers in Demetrius Russell and Essien Frank. Frank has some good height and if he learns the position better, he could be very dangerous. If you’re expecting the Moors to take a step forward this year, I would not argue with you just going off what I saw on Thursday.

Arroyo vs. Diamond Bar:
OK, as we all know, passing league sucks. It’s pretty much a machismo contest, which means little when we’re you’re mentioning skill players and machismo in the same sentence. BUT, every now and again you can get a window into a team’s character (at least at this point of the offseason) and anybody watching D-Bar and Arroyo got just that on Thursday. I was a little worried about Arroyo after I saw Azusa pretty much have their way with them. The Knights were lackluster and pretty disinterested. Coach Jim Singiser obviously sensed this and lit into his team as D-Bar was coming over for their game. On the first play of the game, as I’m talking to Maine and he’s telling me that linebacker Menandro Gelua is going to be a good one, Gelua promptly blows up a Arroyo receiver on the sideline. Well, the El Monte in Arroyo came out after that. It’s like a light switch went on and the Knights got the mean streak you want to see out of a football team. Rivera led two touchdown drives. Granted, the first one was an easy pass to a wide-open Hunter Duran after D-Bar’s corner got confused on a blitz. OK fine, but Rivera saw it right away and painted the Brahmas for a score. Later, Rivera leveled a D-Bar receiver and then picked off a pass in the end zone. My point is that when hit, Arroyo started hitting back and did so by hitting back HARDER and OFTEN. Meanwhile, D-Bar went in a shell. The Brahmas started dropping passes over the middle and clearly had no answer. Yes, the game got chippy. Maine picked up on what happened as you hopefully saw in the video and the great news is that when something like this happens in June, a team can learn from it and hopefully fix it. Diamond Bar MUST DO THAT if it’s to build on last year’s 6-4. Come this fall, the pads will be on and the blows won’t be coming from Arroyo, but rather West Covina, Diamond Ranch and Bonita. It was a very interesting moment. As for Arroyo. The Knights simply cannot afford to ever let their guard down. Not even against Mountain View. That’s just how it has to be and Singiser knows it. But convincing teenagers is another story. The Knights must always have a chip on their shoulder and play like they have something to prove. If that’s not there, even for a a few plays against a Rosemead or a San Dimas in the playoffs, then they just can’t trust that they’ll be able to make up for it on pure talent.

Garduno’s: On my way home, I stopped in at Garduno’s on Valley Blvd. If you don’t know Garduno’s, then you don’t know. Rosemead coach Matt Koffler called me just as I was in the drive-thru waiting for my grub and he started laughing when I told him where I was. Koffler knows. By the way, I love living in The ‘Dena, but it’s seriously lacking when it comes to good Mexican or Asian foods.

UPDATED: Bonita Air Assault … Charter Oak IN, Damien OUT …

IMPORTANT NOTE: Because of Charter Oak’s arrival and Damien’s defection, tournament organizers expect the pools to change a bit because some are more overloaded with top-notch teams than others.

Friday: 3 p.m., pool play begins
Saturday: 3 p.m., bracketed play begins

Pool A: Upland, Valencia of Valencia, Villa Park, Charter Oak, Jurupa Hills, Pasadena

Pool B: Arroyo, Citrus Valley, Corona Santiago, Glendora, Jurupa Valley, Northview

Pool C: Hart, Canyon of Anaheim, Kaiser, Glendale, La Serna, Riverside Poly

Pool D: Loyola, Walnut, Chino Hills, Eisenhower, San Gabriel, Webb

Pool E: Crescenta Valley, Bonita, Corona, Culvery City, South El Monte, Whittier