Undefeateds offering the feel-good stories of 2011 …

Here’s my column from Friday, in case you missed it.

You don’t have to look too far to find the feel-good stories of the 2011 football season.

Just take a look at the records of Claremont, Duarte, La Puente, Los Altos and South El Monte.

Undefeated. All of them.

In addition to having no losses, all of these teams have something else in common. Each one has overcome adversity in some way, shape or form to be where they are.

For Claremont, the struggle began when a dynamic senior class graduated last summer and took with it just about all of the offensive production from 2010′s 7-4 team.

The Wolfpack coaching staff then spent the entire offseason grooming Matt Simko, likely a college prospect, to be their quarterback, only to have the 6-foot-3 junior leave the team just days before Claremont hosted its own passing tournament and transfer to Colony.

No problem. Claremont has rallied around Gabe Schaper, a 156-pound quarterback, to post a 4-0 record that has the Wolfpack full of confidence as Sierra League play approaches.

Claremont’s story is nice, but it doesn’t come close to what’s taking place at Los Altos. The Conquerors had been in shambles since legendary coach Greg Gano resigned after the 2007 season. Two coaching hires that split the alumni base in terms of allegiance set things back even farther and would-be players couldn’t leave the Hacienda Heights campus fast enough to play elsewhere.

Those who did stick around went through an 0-10 season last year and another coaching change. When Dale Ziola was hired during the offseason, few people knew who he was and just about everybody had one of the area’s storied programs dead and buried. There even was talk of Los Altos moving down in divisions so it could compete again.

Where are the Conquerors now, you ask? They are 4-0 and wondering what’s a better goal, winning the Hacienda League or simply making the playoffs. Los Altos has done it with hard work and a no-quit attitude.

The Conquerors worked extremely hard in the weight room all offseason. Even before Ziola was hired, the players were keeping each other accountable in the weight room and making sure nobody missed.

The sleeping giant has awakened in Hacienda Heights and it’s something that’s still hard to believe.

Down at South El Monte, the Eagles apparently had gone from dormant to good to dormant again. Only a half decade ago, South El Monte was every bit as good, if not better, than Mission Valley League heavyweights Arroyo and Rosemead. Heck, in 2005 the Eagles even hosted the biggest game in school history against area power South Hills in the semifinals of the playoffs.

Things have been in gradual decline since then and it culminated last year with a 1-9 record. That was enough for the school to let Ray Hernandez go and search for another coach.

When South El Monte decided on Ibis Aguilar, most people’s first reaction was “Who?” That’s right, Ibis Aguilar, a 29-year-old, first-year head coach who told this reporter in August, “There’s no question I can turn this program around.”

I didn’t believe him, and South El Monte now is 3-0. Aguilar enlisted the help of Bonita defensive coordinator Ray Medina during the offseason and the Eagles are allowing just 10 points per game.

Some of you may be wondering what adversity La Puente had to face in the offseason. True, the Warriors aren’t coming off several bad seasons. Their success isn’t really a shock to anybody. They’re starting to string together winning seasons under head coach Brandon Rohrer.

But all of that was threatened during the offseason when Rohrer was pursuing the open head coaching job at his alma mater, Glendora. It appeared just when La Puente’s program had found the right man, he was about to leave for home.

The drama of Glendora’s coaching vacancy lasted long into the offseason. Believe me, that wears on kids. They put so much trust into what their coaches are telling them, and if they start to get the vibe that coach may not be around when the pads come on, concentration and belief start to go out the window.

Well, Rohrer stayed and La Puente appears ready to take another step forward after back-to-back 8-3 seasons.

Finally, we come to Duarte, where there was some talk in the summer of 2010 that the Falcons may not be able to field a varsity team. The stampede out of Duarte by several top players was a highly publicized event that caused a crisis in confidence with the program.

The Falcons went 0-9 last season and scored just 13 points all season. They were shut out seven times.

Duarte is 2-0 this season and has scored a combined 82 points. They said this rebuilding project may have been too much, even for Tip Sanders. Not so. Things now are looking up at Duarte at a time nobody expected it.

If you look to our high school football fields for valuable life lessons, you certainly will be impressed by what you see no matter where you go. These five teams have overcome shortcomings and never stopped moving forward, even when life appeared to deal them bum hands.

Will we still be talking about these teams in November? Who knows? And it doesn’t matter, either.

The players on these teams already have shown their mettle. When somebody in the future tells them they’ll never find a job, never will get that girl or never will own that home, how do you think they’ll handle it?

You know the answer.

That’s why whatever good things happen to these teams the rest of the season is just gravy.

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

Billy The Kid update: Grade 2 shoulder separation …

If Aram had to bet, Billy The Kid ain’t playing on Friday.

Covina Colts quarterback Billy Livingston has not practiced or thrown a ball this week and remains a game-time decision for Friday’s Valle Vista League opener against Pomona.

Livingston injured his right shoulder in last Friday’s win over Walnut. An MRI revealed a Grade 2 separation. The senior has stopped taking pain medication and his arm is no longer in a sling.

But whether he’s under center when the Colts visit Pomona on Friday is in serious doubt.

“He’s really looking forward to playing,” Thomas said. “He is a game-time decision. He’s been at practice, but has not practiced. We’re going to still run whatever he’s capable of running.

“If he’s ready to go, he’ll be in. If not, he won’t. That’s the best I can tell you.”

If Livingston misses the game, senior backup Daniel Sifuentes will take his place. Sifuentes was the quarterback of the freshman team when the current Colts seniors were freshman. He also saw action last season when Livingston was injured.

It’s a family affair for La Puente’s Nick Barrientos …

Nick Barrientos knows that when it comes to his football endeavors, he’s got two groups of people he can’t let down.

One is La Puente High School’s football team and the other is his family, which is steeped in a football tradition of its own.

Try to keep up: Nick Barrientos is the youngest son of Jose Barrientos, who played football at Rosemead and graduated in 1984 … and wants it known that he wasn’t as good as his four sons.

Nick has three brothers: Steven (Class of 2009 at La Puente), James (’06 at La Puente) and Jose (’04 at Wilson).

Wilson fans may remember Jose Jr. for the game-saving tackle he made on a trick 2-point conversion at the end of the game to preserve a 28-27 victory over Villa Park in the 2003 playoffs.

Nick Barrientos is a major reason why La Puente is 3-0 and some people are thinking the Warriors may knock off Azusa in the Montview League.

The senior has rushed for 413 yards rushing, six touchdowns and has been the driving force behind the Warriors averaging nearly 40 points per game.

“He does a lot for us,” La Puente coach Brandon Rohrer said. “A lot of our offense does go through him. I can put him out in space or in the backfield. He’s a big part of our success.”

Family pride is a big motivator for Barrientos, who doesn’t want to disappoint the lineage of good players in the household. Not to worry, though, his brothers won’t let that happen. They’ve started a speed-training camp to help their brother Nick and other Warriors football players get better. For Nick, that meant spending every morning this summer working out at La Puente Little League park.

“They told me I have to live up to the family name because all my brothers were good and even my dad was good,” Barrientos said. “They all played tailback and they want me to be better than what they were.”

Barrientos’ play has helped the Warriors gain confidence with each passing and each gathered win. The Warriors’ latest victim was neighboring Wilson. In that game, Barrientos not only shined on offense, but he also made his presence felt on defense and special teams.

Defense has never been an issue for Barrientos, who started last season as a defensive back before dislocating his elbow. When he returned, he was handed the running back job and hasn’t looked back.

“They expected me to be good, but I don’t think they expected me to be this good,” Barrientos said of Rohrer and the Warriors coaching staff.

“I didn’t expect to be this good, to be honest. I was pretty nervous at first because I had to do better than my brothers. I trained for it the whole summer, so it’s come pretty easy.”

La Puente has enjoyed a resurgence under Rohrer. Including this year’s victories, Rohrer is now 19-6 at a school that before his arrival had seen quite a bit of coaching turnover and subsequent lack of success on the field.

With nonleague play now completed, the Warriors have their sights set on Azusa and the Montview League. La Puente figures to be favored in every game until the Azusa showdown in Week 10. Should the Warriors enter that game 9-0, they would likely be playing for a league title and possible No. 1 seed in the Mid-Valley Division playoffs.

Don’t think for a second that teachers and students around campus aren’t taking notice of what might be the best season at La Puente in recent history. Barrientos and his teammates are starting to feel it.

“Something’s happening,” Barrientos said. “The teachers congratulate me because they’ve read about me in the paper. I can see that fans want to come out more because they can see that we’re good now.

“It’s exciting for us because we’re actually 3-0. It feels pretty great. Some people doubted us. We’ve proved them wrong.”

As for Barrientos’ biggest critics – his family – here’s an ongoing push to make sure baby brother does even better than he already has.

That’s meant staying after practice working on speed drills with his brothers in hopes of making an already impressive season that much better.

“There’s a lot of pressure because I’m the last one. They don’t want me to (fail), so I’m doing the best I can.”

So far, so good.

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

Glendora, West Covina come to an agreement …

Fred Robledo spoke to both coaches this morning and this is what he conjured up.

Glendora coach Todd Quinsey and West Covina coach Mike Maggiore said that an incident in Friday’s game that resulted in Tartans player J.R. Smith suffering a broken nose and facial lacerations due to an alleged altercation between players has been discussed and reviewed on video by the schools. However, any action or suspensions that may have resulted due to the alleged incident will remain a private matter, both coaches agreed. Both coaches were also satisfied with how each side handled the situation. Quinsey said the parents of Smith are not seeking legal action and that both teams and parties are moving forward and want to put the incident behind them.

Glendora/West Covina Update: Parents of Glendora center J.R. Smith waiting to see what disciplinary action West Covina takes …

The parents of Glendora football player J.R. Smith, who suffered a broken nose and facial lacerations after allegedly having his helmet ripped off and being punched by a West Covina player during Friday night’s game, are waiting to see what disciplinary action West Covina administrators take before deciding on any legal action, according to a source.

Smith was taken to an emergency room for treatment following Friday’s game, sources say, and was treated for his injuries. Meanwhile, the West Covina player was reportedly removed from the game and the Bulldogs coaching staff apologized to Glendora’s staff for the incident after the game.

There has been speculation that Smith’s family will seek some sort of legal action, according to sources. But another source says that won’t happen if they deem West Covina’s punishment to be just. The administrations of both schools will be working closely today to resolve the matter, a source says.

All-Encompassing SGV(N) Top 25 after Week 3 …

Saints make HUGE leap after whipping Monrovia

1. Charter Oak (3-1) — Stood toe to toe with one of the Inland’s best, and had their chances.
2. Bishop Amat (3-1) — Sloppy first half vs. Damien shows Lancers haven’t hit their stride yet.
3. St. Francis (3-0) — As always, the real proof will be found once Mission League play begins.
4. La Habra (2-2) — Another big effort vs. a Trinity team, but a loss is a loss.
5. St. Paul (3-0) — Swordsmen have allowed just 21 points all season.
6. West Covina (3-1) — Not a bad record considering all the injuries the ‘Dawgs have had.
7. Arcadia (3-1) — Can Apaches live up to their favorite status in the Pacific?
8. Chino Hills (2-2) — Huge challenge looms this week vs. unbeaten REV.
9. San Dimas (3-1) — Big rise after routing Mid-Valley contenders 3 straight weeks.
10. Covina (3-1) — Colts have to hope Livingston injury isn’t a long-term thing.
11. Maranatha (4-0) — Minutemen proved they can win the nail-biter.
12. Claremont (4-0) — Wolfpack are simply winning games.
13. Los Altos (4-0) — Feels like we’ve gone back in time.
14. Muir (2-1) — Are ‘Stangs ready to show Arcadia who’s boss in Pacific?
15. Monrovia (1-2) — Most disappointing team in the SGV has huge test vs. South Hills.
16. Alhambra (4-0) — Combined record of teams Moors have beat: 4-9.
17. Bonita (2-2) — Win over L.A. Marshall was expected, Hacienda opener vs. DR will be a test.
18. Damien (2-1) — Spartans have to stop with all the turnovers if they want to make noise in Sierra.
19. Arroyo (3-1) — Knights will be favored in every game the rest of the way. 9-1, anybody?
20. La Serna (3-1) — A loss to La Mirada is forgivable, but 31-0?
21. El Rancho (3-1) — Unbeaten since Los Altos loss, win over Montebello especially nice
22. South Hills (1-2) — Huskies need to take care of business vs. vulnerable Monrovia.
23. La Puente (3-0) — Still not ready to call LP the Montview favorite, but they deserve this ranking.
24. South El Monte (3-0) — Unlike Los Altos, this feel-good story isn’t getting much ink yet.
25. Whittier (3-0) — Competition has been suspect, but 3-0 is 3-0.

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

Weekend Quarterback … Legal action coming from Glendora-West Covina game? Sure sounds like it …

Note: I don’t know what to call this thing, because sometimes I write it on Saturday and sometimes I write it on Sunday. So we’ll just call it Weekend Quarterback because that gives me flexibility. Enjoy.

According to sources, Glendora center J.R. Smith, who suffered a broken nose and facial lacerations and was treated at a local hospital, is considering legal action for what he and his family feel was a cheap shot by a West Covina player. A source says that a West Covina player took Smith’s helmet off and punched him in the face during Friday’s game. No flags were thrown. But sources say there is plenty of video footage, hence the call to the attorney to consider legal action, the source says. Another source says that West Covina’s coaching staff has apologized to Glendora’s staff and promised they will handle the situation from within. Stay tuned … My crazy colleague and friend Fred J. Robledo, he sometimes gets a bit too excited. Last night FJR wrote “Let’s be clear, the Warriors, not the Aztecs, are the Montview League favorites.” Yikes. Has La Puente really done enough in your mind to claim favorite status in the Montview League? The Warriors are 3-0 while Azusa is 0-3. The combined record of LP’s opponents? 2-10. The combined record of Azusa’s opponents? 10-2. Think about that, Robledo. And then ask yourself if Azusa would be 3-0 right now had it played La Puente’s schedule. Charter Oak out-gained Rancho Cucamonga, but that wasn’t the most frustrating part of the night as far as I’m concerned. The Chargers twice had what looked liked interceptions going the other way, one by Josiah Thropay and the other by Chris Gilchrist, but the ball went through each player’s hands and was caught by Rancho receivers. I’ve covered a lot of CO games, but stunningly I’ve never seen Big Lou so ticked about a loss. Of course, I haven’t covered many Big Lou losses either. Good to see South Hills head coach Steve Bogan and defensive coordinator Kevin Smith at the Rancho-CO game last night. Bogan and Smitty left at halftime to go watch Damien-Amat … bet they wish they stayed. Things couldn’t be breaking any better for San Dimas. If Covina QB Billy Livingston has to miss considerable time, then San Dimas may have a chance to run the table and secure the No. 1 seed in the Mid-Valley Division. I’ve always thought that the most important part of a passing game is confidence. Of course, you have to have talent. But after that, you simply need the QB to confident in what he’s doing and where the ball should be going. I expect Monrovia to get that once it gets into Rio Hondo League play. I promise you, M-Town’s passing game, and subsequently its entire offense, will look much better in November. Speaking of the Rio Hondo League, San Marino got a dose of reality on Friday. The Titans hadn’t allowed a point, but gave up 23 to Rosemead in a loss. The Panthers can really play defense, and they can run the ball. Don’t look now, but South El Monte is 3-0. All three wins over Mid-Valley Division teams. You probably didn’t read this in the preview issue, but I noted how new South El Monte coach Ibis Aguilar sought out help from Bonita defensive coordinator Ray Medina during the offseason. Medina really knows his stuff. And Aguilar obviously listened as the Eagles are running a new defensive formula this year. Can’t say enough about Los Altos. The Conquerors’ win over Ayala is the biggest proof yet that they’ll be able to hang in the Hacienda. West Covina and Bonita may be a tall order, but the Conqs can certainly handle the rest and reach the postseason. Our two local teams in the Mission League, St. Paul and St. Francis, figure to be the No. 1-ranked teams in their respective coverage zones come next week. St. Francis gets a huge test on Friday from undefeated West Ranch. Allow me to play a little prevent defense here: Pomona. There, I mentioned the Red Devils. Bishop Amat’s task in the Serra League continues to get tougher and tougher. Loyola, which didn’t win a league game last year, now looks like the favorite. And with Crespi and Alemany still formidable, the task for Amat will be difficult. By the way, Arroyo’s Steven Rivera threw for 340 yards in the Knights’ lopsided loss to Hart on Friday. Before anybody goes getting too down on Damien, they should consider just how high the Spartans might be ranked going into next season. Think about it, who in the area has more returning? Pucci, Hernandez, Savage, Boykins, Trailer. And that just names a few. Combine that with what coaches think are solid lower levels, and you’ve got a pretty good nucleus. Does Diamond Bar have any chance against West Covina on Friday? The Brahmas have been a mild disappointment thus far. But one could argue they caught Brea in the wrong year. OK, I’ll shut up.

Covina QB Billy Livingston has bruised shoulder, may miss Pomona game …

Covina Colts quarterback Billy Livingston, who left Friday’s game against Walnut with a shoulder injury, may miss this week’s Valle Vista League opener against Pomona.

According to Livingston’s dad, there is no dislocation and the injury is officially being called a bruised shoulder. There may be a separation, but that won’t be known until Livingston visits an orthopedist this week.

Covina led 14-0 when Livingston left. The Colts went on to rout Walnut.

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