My column from Saturday: Charter Oak’s rout of Corona Santiago is something the entire 626 can be proud of …

As the teams made their way to the locker rooms at halftime of Charter Oak’s 63-21 rout of Corona Santiago on Friday night, an excited Chargers player could be heard yelling, “They want no piece of Valley football.”

That statement should resonate with you, if you call yourself a San Gabriel Valley football fan.

There is no better stage than the playoffs for teams to represent their areas to the fullest. On Friday at Charter Oak, the Chargers represented the Valley to near perfection.

Charter Oak, the only team with a 626 area code in the Inland Division’s postseason field of 16, sent a resounding statement that although the Valley may be smaller and much different demographically than areas to the east, it still can play the game of football pretty darn well on occasion.

“Frankly, their guys during warmups said all they were going to do was intimidate us,” Charter Oak coach Lou Farrar said. “You can’t intimidate me while you’re standing around exercising. Our kids are trying to believe in themselves and make believers out of everybody else.

“You can only put 11 people on the field. We’re just trying to get some respect, I guess.”

Corona Santiago certainly was intimidating during warmups. It had what looked like double the roster size of Charter Oak and considerably more size along the offensive line. But once the ball was kicked off, the only team doing the intimidating was the Chargers.

Less than two minutes into the game, Charter Oak’s all-everything quarterback Travis Santiago hooked up with receiver Aaren Vaughns for a 61-yard touchdown pass. Santiago later found receiver Bryce Bobo three times for touchdowns.

Safety Jonathan Thropay returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown. Kurt Scoby ran so hard over Santiago defenders in the second half the popping sound made the crowd ooh and ahh.

How’s that for intimidation?

What happened on Friday at Charter Oak was a crescendo moment. A program that enrollment-wise doesn’t belong in the Inland Division wanted to send a message with its first Inland Division playoff win.

The message was sent loud and clear. The Chargers led by nearly 50 points at one point and that was before the fourth quarter.

Once the fourth quarter started, the running clock rule for blowouts of 35 or more points was implemented. Who’d have thunk it?

“It is kind of special because we’re the same Royal Oak/Charter Oak guys standing around playing football and just playing the with guys who show up at practice,” Farrar said. “This doesn’t happen overnight. This is a lot of weight room (work), exercising and training. It started two weeks after the season was over last year.”

Farrar has won five CIF championships, but even he admitted Friday’s win holds a special place. The little program he has built into an area powerhouse was given a tall task by the CIF two years ago after it was taken out of the Southeast Division and placed in the Inland.

Corona Santiago had the right idea before Friday’s game. Intimidate the smaller school. Let them know the 909 (or 951) had come to town and it’s a much different animal when your school attendance is pushing 4,000 kids. Intimidation truly was Corona Santiago’s only card to play.

The only problem was Charter Oak wasn’t buying it. Not after Farrar, his coaching staff and their players already had gone through the nightmare last year.

Now, Charter Oak is one of the final eight teams remaining in the division. They Chargers still are the smallest and the biggest underdogs. No matter what happens next week against Upland, Charter Oak has proven its point. It did so over and over again this season, starting with a 4-1 nonleague record, 5-0 Sierra League mark and now one of the most lopsided wins anywhere in the Southland in the playoffs.

They won’t hang a banner at Charter Oak for Friday’s win and Farrar won’t add more hardware to his sizable collection. But everyone who was in attendance when the Chargers broke through for their first Inland Division playoff win will go home with the memory that at least for one night an Inland team wanted no piece of Valley football.

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

Top 10 People and Places where the PRESSURE is on this postseason …


Santiago and Rivera, the stage is yours.

1. Steven Rivera, Arroyo — No disrespect to Arroyo’s other players, but the Knights are only going as far as Rivera takes them. All that’s missing from Rivera’s stellar career resume is a playoff win (or two or three). Rivera has won three league titles. He’s shared the league MVP award the past two years and will likely win it by himself this year. But, what separates the good from the great is postseason performance. Rivera and Arroyo got a nice draw in the Mid-Valley Division playoffs, facing Sierra Vista in the first round. Maranatha or San Gabriel will await in the second round, either of which aren’t impossible tasks for the Knights. Rivera has thus far put together an amazing season. He leads the Valley in passing and is among the leaders in tackles and interceptions. With Tribune Player of the Year honors on the line, he needs a big postseason.

2. Travis Santiago, Charter Oak — As Santiago goes, so goes Charter Oak. Santiago has had an excellent season thus far against strong competition. But even though his team is 9-1 and is ranked No. 1 in the SGV, not everybody is fully sold on Charter Oak. The Chargers need a win in the Inland Division playoffs to validate that they truly belong among the big boys. Santiago is the kind of player that can make this happen. He will have to be sparkling on Friday against Corona Santiago to get his team into the second round. Like Rivera, Santiago has Tribune Player of the Year honors on the line. The postseason is when the special players rise up. Santiago already has one CIF championship ring. He doesn’t need to win another to prove his worth, but he does need to get Charter Oak what would be one of the biggest wins in program history on Friday against Corona Santiago.

3. Andrew Elfers, Maranatha
— When the Los Angeles Times’ Eric Sondheimer stamped Elfers as the best QB in the Southland this summer, he put the junior signal caller in some pretty rare air. Elfers will be one of the top QB recruits on the West Coast next season. But before that happens, he needs to cap his all-important junior season with a special postseason. Maranatha doesn’t play in a world-beater division. The Mid-Valley Division is mostly a locals only division, thus there are no elephants out there for Elfers and his team to overcome. If Elfers is the players everybody says he is, then that should be enough to take Maranatha on a deep run, if not challenge for the whole enchilada.

4. Ellis McCarthy, Monrovia — Shaun Cody and Brigham Harwell were both highly recruited defensive ends who led their teams to CIF championships. McCarthy has done it himself already. But as McCarthy enters his final postseason run at Monrovia, the expectations need to be turned up quite a bit more on him. Last year, people will mostly credit QB Nick Bueno as being the face of M-Town’s playoff run, This year, McCarthy needs to be “the guy”. He won’t touch the ball as much as Bueno did, but the Mid-Valley is not known as an offensive lineman’s division, meaning the stage is set for McCarthy to dominate. However, the Mid-Valley is a quarterback’s division this year. McCarthy could ruin the season of several top-notch signal callers by brutalizing them with his pass rush. Cody and Harwell dominated in the postseason, much the same way McCarthy did in last year’s championship game vs. Whittier Christian. Monrovia might still be a team searching for its identity. McCarthy could be that identity. He’s the best recruit in the area and one of the best in the country. The pressure is on him to dominate the postseason to the degree his recruiting rankings say he should. This isn’t the PAC-5 or Inland divisions. McCarthy should wreak havoc against this level of competition. If he does that and M-Town brings home another title, McCarthy will certainly go down in history with the best of them.

5. Covina — The Colts have become the overwhelming favorite to win the Mid-Valley Division after going 9-1 and sweeping the Valle Vista League. This senior class is “the class” the school was pointing to for quite a while and now they have four weeks to validate the hype. Unfortunately, though, the Mid-Valley is loaded with landmines. Defending champ Monrovia is on Covina’s side of the bracket. And if it’s not Monrovia, then Pomona or Whittier Christian could be there to block Covina’s path to the finals. Once in the finals, Covina may have to face San Dimas for the always dangerous second time in the same season, or perhaps a team like Maranatha and it’s all-everything QB Andrew Elfers. Covina’s fantastic regular season put the bullseye on its back, now the Colts have to prove they’re worth the ranking.

6. Santa Fe — The Chiefs have a chance to send longtime head coach Jack Mahlstede out in style. They were given the No. 2 seed in the Southeast Division and the expectation is that they will reach the championship game. It won’t be easy, starting with Muir. But Santa Fe is rolling right now and storybook ending is there to be written. Now it’s up to the players to make it happen.

7. Arcadia — Most Arcadia fans will tell you this is the best Apaches team they’ve seen in years. Certainly, skill position-wise that’s true. With QB Myles Carr and WR Taylor Lagace now seniors, the time is now for Arcadia. The Southeast Division isn’t as good as it was last year. The Apaches have the skill players to knock off anyone in the division, even West Covina. All of that means anything less than a trip to the semifinals and a good showing vs. West Covina will be a major disappointment.

8. Pomona — From opposing coaches to our very own Fred J. Robledo, anyone who has seen the Red Devils raves about their talent level. So far it’s meant only a nice nonleague win over Chino and a third-place finish in the Valle Vista League. If Pomona is as talented/dangerous as they say, then the Red Devils should put forth a good showing, if not beat defending Mid-Valley Division champion Monrovia, right? Pomona coach Anthony Rice has assembled a nice collection of talent mostly through transfers. This is his team’s final chance to show the world just how good they are, and what better a venue than at Monrovia to do it.

9. West Covina — The Bulldogs are on the verge of doing something truly special. Back-to-back Southeast Division championships would be an amazing way to remember what’s been an amazing senior class. But this year’s postseason is bigger than that. West Covina’s program is on the verge of something very special when you consider the amount of talent that will be coming back next year. Historically speaking, West Covina looks set to put together one of the best eras in Valley football history. But, anything short of a championship this year and it won’t happen.

10. Mike The Cousin
— Over the next four weeks, Mike The Cousin and his coveritlive broadcasts will be counted on by thousands as the information hub of the Valley. On Friday night, it should be pure madness for Mike The Cousin as everyone joins his coveritlive to not only follow/report on their own games, but also monitor how their potential next-round opponent is doing. Or to simply monitor how the rest of the Valley teams are doing. Fortunately, The Cousin has proven plenty of capable of delivering in the clutch. This year should be no different, but man, so many people will be relying on him for crucial updates. It’s kinda scary.

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

FRESHMAN TEAM LEAGUE CHAMPS: Post them here

I want to know which FROSH TEAMS won league in the Whittier Daily News, Pasadena Star-News and Tribune areas.

Please post OVERALL records, too, if you can.

Here, I will start by going what I know.

Sierra League:
Damien
Valle Vista League: San Dimas
Hacienda League: Diamond Bar, West Covina tie
Mission Valley League: Arroyo
Rio Hondo League: San Marino

Dear CIF-Southern Section, …

… We at the SGVN realize you are very busy people these days. With so many divisions for you guys to decipher, we would like to offer our help as it pertains to the Mid-Valley Division and its at-large berths, strength of league ratings and top-four seeds.

You see, we are very familiar with the Mid-Valley Division participants and can aid you in making a fair field of 16. We won’t offer our help in terms of the overall bracket and its first-round matchups. But we would like to offer our advice on the structure of the top-four seeds and who the at-large berths should be. We believe our methods follow your formula, so there is no reason not to adopt our suggestions.

Without further delay …

The top-four seeds should be:

1. Covina (9-1)
2. San Dimas (8-2)
3. Monrovia (7-3)
4. Arroyo (9-1)

It is our opinion that Covina and San Dimas have proven to be the top-two teams in the division. Monrovia, by virtue of its loss to San Dimas, should be seeded below San Dimas, but on the same side of the bracket. Arroyo has certainly had a nice season at 9-1, with its only loss coming to Hart, but we rate the Knights below the three teams we have above them based on partly on observation, partly on overall body of work and partly on comparative scoring. The last two factors being the two of the three that you can consider.

The four at-large teams should be (in this order):

Pomona (6-4)
Maranatha (8-2)
South El Monte (7-3)
South Pasadena (6-4)

It is our opinion that the final at-large berth should be between South Pasadena and Sierra Vista. Given Sierra Vista’s nonleague schedule of Salesian, Keppel and Mountain View, we favor South Pasadena. The Tigers have a win nonleague win over playoff team Alhambra. They have losses against a league champ in San Gabriel and Maranatha, which should be a playoff team. South Pasadena’s league is stronger than Sierra Vista’s, in our opinion.

We rank the leagues in the following order:

1. Valle Vista
2. Olympic
3. Mission Valley
t4. Almont
t4. Rio Hondo
6. Montview

The Valle Vista has proven to be the class of the division this year. The Olympic is arguably the deepest, with little separating the top-four teams. The Mission Valley League’s overall body of work against the leagues we rank below it make it a slight choice as the division’s third-best league. Rosemead, a non-playoff team from the MVL beat Almont champ San Gabriel and the MVL, as a whole, did well against the Almont and Rio Hondo. The Rio Hondo League is largely supported by Monrovia’s prowess. Other than La Puente’s win over El Monte, we don’t find much to rank the Montview League higher than No. 6 when compared to its peers. Azusa’s nonleague losses to San Dimas and Maranatha bear this out.

Thank you for reading (assuming you did). We look forward to seeing this year’s Mid-Valley bracket.

Yours truly,
The SGVN Prep Sports Dept.

Amat QB Rio Ruiz status in doubt for next week’s PAC-5 playoffs … …

I spoke to Bishop Amat QB Rio Ruiz’s (Nine) father Rudy in the wake of Amat winning the coin toss to reach the PAC-5 playoffs and Nine’s status remains in doubt for Friday’s first round.

“It’s up to his therapist,” Rudy Ruiz said. “He feels good. He feels a helluva lot better than he did last Friday. I don’t know if he’ll get released by his doctor, but he’s been talking all week about how he wants to be out there.”

Ruiz hasn’t played since suffering a sprained knee against Loyola on Oct. 28. Sophomore Koa Haynes got the start last week against Notre Dame.

Aram’s take: Time for Amat to unveil the Santiago Offense. Nine in the shotgun. Very little moving around, gets ball out quick. Folds up like a cheap chair if there’s some heat on him. Hands off to Jalen most of the night. Anyway, just very happy Amat got in no matter who they play. It wouldn’t be a postseason in the SGV without the Lancers in it. This team deserved a little luck and got it.

Mid-Valley Division Playoffs Update: Whittier Christian loss likely makes Covina, Arroyo, San Dimas, Monrovia the top-four seeds … IN THAT ORDER …

Whittier Christian’s loss to Village Christian likely means that your top-four seeds in the Mid-Valley Division will be 1. Covina, 2. Arroyo, 3. San Dimas and 4. Monrovia.

Maranatha needs a win over L.A. Baptist on Saturday morning to clinch third place in the Olympic League. Maranatha would likely be one of the four at-large teams.

The at-large battle is between (in no particular order):

Maranatha (if they beat L.A. Baptist)
Village Christian (if Maranatha loses to L.A. Baptist)
Sierra Vista
South El Monte
South Pasadena
Pomona

The open letter to CIF will be coming tomorrow ….