Athletically motivated confusion rages on …

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

It didn’t take long for me to get a response from the CIF-Southern Section after this newspaper’s blogs posted the replay of the Tuesday PrepXtra Live broadcast, in which a panel that included myself, Fred J. Robledo, Steve Ramirez and Pasadena Star-News Editor Frank Girardot discussed the ongoing drama in the high school sports world that centers around two words: athletically motivated.

During the segment, which still is available for viewing by going to any of our prep sports blogs, Girardot asserted the controversial athletically motivated rule equates to communism. That didn’t sit well with the CIF-SS, nor has much that anybody recently has to say about the topic. That’s because it’s become very clear, at least to this sportswriter, that whenever people open their mouths about this controversial rule they really don’t know what they’re talking about. Myself included.

Can you blame us? It’s confusing. The rule is confusing. It sounds simple enough: if a student transfers to another school and the reason is deemed to be athletically motivated, then that student has limited athletic eligibility.

But just what does “athletically motivated” mean? The Orange County Register’s Steve Fryer asked that question point-blank to new CIF-SS commissioner Rob Wigod back in August and the answer he got was, “Steve, I do not (have an answer).” Wigod went on to say the rule, or definition of it, essentially is deciphered on a case-by-case basis.

Wigod, just like the rest of us, is in a bad spot. The rule and its interpretation leaves plenty of gray area. So when you hear four writers sitting in front of a camera discussing it, you can be rest assured we don’t have all the answers. When you hear parents discussing it, you can be certain they’re missing important pieces of information. And when you hear coaches address it, it’s a lock they’re not grasping the full complexities of its meaning.

The rule came into play at the start of the 2009-10 school year. I asked CIF-SS Director of Information Thom Simmons what the official reason was that the rule was enacted.

“I’m only speaking on what I think the membership felt and that’s if you’re going to be transferring, you should be transferring for academic reasons and not for athletic purposes,” Simmons said. “Secondly, and people forget about this when they say kids should be able to transfer to whatever school they want to transfer to, they forget the cost to the person who is already there at the school and has already put in three years on the junior varsity or frosh/soph level, and he’s worked his butt off and kept his good grades and has been a good citizen, and now a guy with a better skill set comes in and this kid finds himself on the bench. He’s suddenly replaced after all the years of loyalty to that program.

“That’s the human cost on the other end that nobody ever talks about. Now that kid thinks to himself, `This isn’t fair, so I’m going to go to another school.’ And then he takes the spot of another kid who has been there all along. And so the dominoes keep falling and falling. Where does it stop?”

When Simmons refers to membership, he’s referring to schools that comprise the Southern Section. They make the rules for the CIF-SS to act on. Now you know who to blame for the rule in the first place. How does your local high school feel about this? Have any of you gone down there or called and asked how the school or its league voted on this issue? I doubt it.

According to a Los Angeles Times article this week, the Trinity League is expected to introduce a proposal at the next Southern Section Council meeting it hopes eventually would eliminate the rule state-wide. Yes, that means when a player leaves School A’s football program to go to School B, School A cannot stand in the way by claiming the move is athletically motivated. Other longstanding rules, like valid change of address or hardship request, still would apply.

The earliest a change to the rule could be enacted would be the 2012-13 school year. That’s assuming the process goes smoothly. Personally, I hope it goes through, simply because I’m tired of the confusion. I’m tired of either myself or others being only half right because we didn’t have the actual case file in front of us. I’m tired of parents and athletes having to apologize for making athletics an important reason why they left one school for another or decided to attend one school instead of another at the outset of a high school career.

Parents and student-athletes have four short years to make it all happen.

Nothing beside some very basic guidelines should stand in their way while making the decisions they feel are best for their own individual situation.

When buzzwords like communism start being thrown out, right or wrong, you know we’ve reached a point when something has to be changed. It’s coming.

That much I can assure you. People are fed up. The question is whether anybody will be able to tolerate a reversion to how things were before 2009.

Back then, there was a whole different group, call them traditionalists, who cried bloody murder when kids refused to play for their neighborhood school.

But at least then, we all understood the rules, rulings and interpretations.

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

All-Encompassing SGV(N) Top 25 after Week 2 …

They’re talking about LA again … but this time it’s about winning.

1. Charter Oak (3-0) — Another big test looms for Chargers in Rancho, but offense looks ready.
2. Bishop Amat (2-1) — Back on track … Jalen Moore especially.
3. La Habra (2-1) — I spoke to Servite coach Troy Thomas on Sunday and he said he would rank La Habra above Amat, but it’s close.
4. St. Francis (2-0) — Arcadia win flatters Knights in a big way.
5. West Covina (2-1) — Jimmy Frazier on his way to All-Area honors.
6. Arcadia (2-1) — Apaches will be even scarier once they correct turnover problems.
7. St. Paul (2-0) — Routed Norwalk, but you knew that (before the game was even played).
8. Chino Hills (1-2) — Went deep into Orange County to learn the offense needs work.
9. Monrovia (1-1) — Here’s my take: De’Shawn Ramirez didn’t touch it enough vs. Arcadia
10. Damien (2-0) — Sparty hoping things are different this time vs. Amat
11. Covina (2-1) – We’re all just waiting for the Colts’ next legit test. And it may be a while.
12. La Serna (3-0) — Edged Bonita for some nice-tasting revenge.
13. Maranatha (3-0) — Who’s ready to lump Minutemen in with Monrovia and Covina?
14. Muir (2-1) — Couldn’t hang with Rancho, now ‘Stangs can’t let the loss linger.
15. Claremont (3-0) — Not sure about strength of schedule, but Pack still rolling.
16. Arroyo (3-0) — Needed Rivera heroics to edge up-and-coming Montebello
17. San Dimas (2-1) — Written off after Week 0, Saints are rolling again.
18. Alhambra (3-0) — Moors handle TC and now the momentum is really building.
19. Los Altos (3-0) – This ranking is dedicated to all those who transferred out. Tell us, is the grass really greener?
20. Diamond Bar (2-1) — Brahmas are on a short leash going to big Brea game.
21. Santa Fe (1-2) — Losses are to teams way above Chiefs’ level.
22. Bonita (1-2) — Two closes losses vs. unbeaten teams. Don’t forget about Bearcats yet.
23. Montebello (2-1) — Almost beat Arroyo, but got Rivera’d.
24. Glendora (1-2) — Losses are to CO and Monrovia. Broke through vs. Colony.
25. South Hills (1-2) — Defense was the concern all offseason and you can see why.

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

Amat got just what it needed in Servite drubbing …

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

The minute I laid eyes on Bishop Amat’s 2011 schedule, I knew things would be different.

Usually, it’s around this time of year that I have to write a column trying to temper the expectations of Amat fans – and some people in this office – so that they’re not totally off the Richter scale and out of touch with reality come mid-November.

Thank you, Servite, for doing my job for me.

What Amat got in Orange County last weekend was a reality check big enough in size to last an entire season.

Sure, a loss stings.

Sure, probably nobody in SoCal is beating Servite.

Sure, our Valley’s lone PAC-5 competitor knocking off the Friars would have been nice for everyone in the 626.

But truly, that isn’t what Amat, nor its fans, need right now.

There have been plenty of big regular season wins in recent years over SoCal’s best teams, but what Amat needs now is success in Week 11, 12 and maybe even 13. I’ll stop short of the hallowed Week 14 because that might be asking the world.

Believe it or not, losses like the one Amat incurred last week against Servite make that more possible.

Routing Muir does not.

This lesson was learned in spades last year. Amat played a nonleague schedule void of any games where you truly wondered about the outcome before kickoff. In layman’s terms, Amat was favored in every nonleague game last year.

The Lancers rode that wave and a weaker-than-usual Serra League to a 9-0 record. But when the two biggest games of the year came, Amat faced true adversity for the first time and wasn’t ready.

That won’t happen this year.

Amat has already had its nose broken. It doesn’t hurt as bad the second or third time it happens. This is a team that likely will be playing with a sense of its own mortality. And when that happens, teams tend to play with fear. There’s nothing better for a football team than fear.

It’s not the type of fear that means a player is scared of the guy in front of him. It’s the kind of fear that keeps you concentrating, on your toes and doing everything possible to make sure the scoreboard doesn’t start swooning against you.

No team goes into a game hoping to lose so that valuable lessons are learned. But it’s well known in football coaching lore that you learn more from a loss than you do a win.

So now it’s back to the drawing board for the Lancers. La Mirada comes calling tonight. Then Damien, Cathedral, Venice and the much-improved Serra League. With all the areas for improvement now known to coaches and the chances of a false sense of security greatly diminished, the Lancers should be a better team thanks to what happened against Servite.

It sure beats the heck out of routing Muir.

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

Refs make a statement: Rosemead and Rowland combine for 27 penalties in Thursday’s game …

Let me put it to you this way. Rowland-Rosemead kicked off at 7 p.m. After 16 first-half penalties thrown by a crew that seemingly wanted to make a statement just as bad as the players did, the game didn’t reach halftime until 8:49 p.m.!!!!!!!!!! The Tribune’s unofficial count when it was all said and done: 27 PENALTIES!!!!!!! It was quite honestly the worst officiating I’ve ever seen over the span of four quarters. The refs made it so that there was NO FLOW to Thursday’s game. I’ve never seen anything like it. I was horrified and angry. I spoke to a local coach who echoed the same sentiments. It was all everybody in the stands were talking about. Both coaches had comments, with Rosemead’s Matt Koffler putting it best by saying “Unbelievable, unbelievable.” Yeah, it was. I saw my first penalty for a horse-collar tackle that occurred FROM THE FRONT. And it didn’t result in an automatic first down, at least not according to the down marker. Unreal. I saw Rowland call a timeout and after 2 minutes for the coaches to talk to the players the refs decided to measure. LIKE MEASURE TOWARD THE END OF THE TIMEOUT. NOT DURING. NOT AT THE BEGINNING, BUT RIGHT AFTER. Amazing use of time. Never seen anything like it. These guys need to be told they’re there to MANAGE THE GAME, not GET IN THE WAY OF IT!

Also: Somebody please tell the Rosemead PA announcer to take the Jolly Rancher out of his mouth when he speaks. Excuse me, Holmes, but I don’t want to hear you sucking on something before and after you speak. BRUTAL. And I won’t even mention the profanity EVERYBODY in the stadium heard when he left his mic on. Oops, I just did mention it. OK, I won’t even mention that when you say “Rosemead will play San Marino Titans next week”, you need to stick in a “THE”. “Rosemead will play THE San Marino Titans next week.” Oops, I just mentioned it. Awful.

Damien QB saga takes a turn: Sophomore Gage Pucci to get the start for Spartans on Thursday against Chaffey …

Damien will start sophomore QB Gage Pucci on Thursday night when the Spartans visit Chaffey.

Pucci played the entire second half last week after senior starter Enrique Zaldivar was benched at halftime for being ineffective. Pucci wasn’t much better, but technically threw what proved to be the clinching touchdown on a 54-yard swing pass to Jalen Castille.

I say technically because it was pretty much a dump off to Castille, who did all the dirty work down the Diamond Ranch sideline before getting in the paint. It was Pucci’s only completion in five attempts. He was also intercepted (on his second throw).

Zaldivar was 3 of 10 for 30 yards and two interceptions in the first half.

Aram’s take:
Neither QB got it done vs. D-Ranch, but a lot of that could be that D-Ranch is pretty darn talented and has a nice, athletic defense. But here’s the thing, if the Spartans can’t throw it better, they’re in deep trouble. Coach Gano is no dummy; he’s got Pucci for three more years and Zaldivar for three more months. We all know that coaches will often take their lumps with a young QB by playing them as sophs so that the experience pays off for the next two years. That could be what’s going on here. Pucci is Damien’s QB of the future and the future could be now if Zaldivar doesn’t step it up. At any rate, I would expect another quick hook by Gano on Thursday if Pucci isn’t cutting it against Chaffey.

All-Encompassing SGV(N) Top 25 after Week 1 …

Don’t sleep on Cantwell. That’s all I’m saying.

1. Charter Oak (2-0) — Best win of the weekend.
2. Bishop Amat (1-1) — Lancers will grow from Servite loss.
3. Monrovia (1-0) — Got rolling behind two huge De’Shawn Ramirez TDs.
4. La Habra (2-0) — Highlanders have tall task the next few weeks.
5. St. Francis (1-0) — Knights gave Arcadia the late boot.
6. Chino Hills (1-1) — Huskies bounced back in a big way.
7. West Covina (1-1) — Injuries are piling up in a scary way.
8. St. Paul (1-0) — Week 1 was a strange time for a BYE, but season resumes Friday.
9. Damien (1-0) — Sparty falls after a win because more was expected.
10. Arcadia (0-1) — Apaches need to put St. Francis behind them quickly.
11. Muir (2-0) — Mustangs need to stay healthy and consistent.
12. Covina (1-1) — Colts begin steady climb back up the rankings ladder.
13. Maranatha (2-0) — The Crown belongs to the Minutemen.
14. Santa Fe (1-1) — Chiefs bounce back, now get St. John Bosco
15. La Serna (2-0) — Combined record of first two opponents is 0-4.
16. Claremont (2-0) — Have to hand it to the ‘Pack for big start.
17. Arroyo (2-0) — Knights, as expected, riding QB Steven Rivera’s hot hand.
18. Cantwell (1-0) — Defense shined in rout of Schurr.
19. South Hills (1-1) — Huskies get their crack at WestCo at perfect time.
20. Bonita (1-1) — Bearcats never got rolling against Claremont.
21. San Dimas (1-1) — Saints marched all over Azusa.
22. Pomona (2-0) — Devils should be 3-0 heading into game with Chino Hills.
23. Montebello (2-0) — Win over Rosemead is nice, but can Oilers stop Arroyo?
24. Alhambra (2-0) — Moors have put up 81 points in two games.
25. Azusa (0-1) — Couldn’t handle San Dimas, but Aztecs will learn from it.

Sunday Morning Quarterback: Thoughts and notes about the week that was …

Los Altos is now 2-0. I don’t care about the competition. If you knew how bad things were in recent years, the Conquerors players who have stuck things out and new coach Dale Ziola deserve all the praise in the world. Wilson is 0-2 but you don’t hear/read nearly the same uproar on the blogs about the Wildcats’ shortcomings this year compared to last. Why would that be? Here’s a clue: Pomona is 2-0. Call me crazy, but I like Bishop Amat’s nonleague results this year a lot better than last year. The Lancers will be a much better team for it come November. Call me crazy again, but West Covina’s season is teetering already. Injuries don’t heal during the season, they linger. South Hills will be taking no prisoners this Friday. Speaking of teetering, Glendora may be in deeper trouble than you think. The Tarts, as Charter Oak’s PA announcer likes to call them, have scored a total of 22 points in eight quarters, but only SEVEN of those 22 have come in the second half. Comments from new coach Todd Quinsey after losses to Charter Oak and Monrovia are nearly identical “I couldn’t have scripted it better in the first half,” Quinsey said after the Charter Oak loss. Following the Monrovia loss it was: “We completely outplayed them. We gave up that TD in the last minute. We probably should have been up 14-0 at halftime.” Yes, the second half has been a problem for the Tarts. The seven points they’ve scored in the second half this year came long after Monrovia had put the game away. Like I said earlier this season, once you crack the code of the Wing-T, which CO and M-Town obviously did sometime in the second quarter of their respective games, it’s all gravy from there. The flipside for Glendora fans, though, is their first two games came against the Trib’s top-ranked team and the Star-News’ top-ranked team. Speaking of Charter Oak. Don’t knock the Chargers because Roosevelt QB Aaron Crone played only one down on Friday. The Chargers’ offense did damage against Roosevelt’s defense and that had little to do whether or not Crone played. And the secondary I hyped all this summer had four picks. Jason David texted me to say that Aaren Vaughns could develop into one of the most exciting Charter Oak has had in years. That’s a scary thought. In case you haven’t heard, Pomona is 2-0. Arroyo QB Steven Rivera is building his case to be the Tribune Player of the Year. The senior has 10 TDs through the air and two on the ground. Huge bounce back by San Dimas against Azusa. Arcadia had a very nice showing in a tough loss to St. Francis. Now Apache and Monrovia fans can spend the week arguing about whether a loss final-minute loss to St. Francis is better than a big win over Glendora. Bad timing: I referred to Damien QB Gage Pucci as Kevin Pucci in my game story for Damien’s win over D-Ranch. No, his pops didn’t throw the TD pass. It’s kind of odd, but I was impressed by D-Ranch on Friday while not impressed by Damien. Is it possible to do both? Anyway, Hacienda League beware: the Panthers are better than I thought talent-wise and you can tell this team is going to be dangerous when it puts it all together. And signs are the Panthers are slowly getting better. I can’t tell whether Damien was that bad on offense or D-Ranch that good on defense. Still, Sparty needs a lot more out of its passing game. Muir is 2-0, and if the Mustangs aren’t the flavor of the week in what’s becoming a wide-open Southeast Division, they ought to be … for now. Claremont is 2-0 in the post-Matt Simko era. Montebello is 2-0 after taking care of Rosemead. You were warned all August long on this blog that Pete Gonzalez was putting something together down there. The scary part of La Habra’s schedule is set to commence. Schurr misses Aaron Cantu, obviously. And who wouldn’t?