Monrovia’s backfield is getting more crowded …

PHOTOS: M-Town back in pads

The Monrovia High School football team’s embarrassment of riches continues.

Running back was supposed to be an area of concern for the Wildcats this season after graduating leading rusher Marquise Bias in June. That worry didn’t even last until spring ball thanks to the transfer of Covina leading rusher Gevontray Ainsworth, who figured to be in a battle with only Jacob Bueno for the starting job this fall.

Well, you can add another name to the fray and he could be the best of all three. Darrione Jones, a junior who didn’t play last season but was the leading rusher on the Wildcats’ freshmen team two years ago, has been turning heads thus far in practice and may play his way into a big role in this year’s offense.

“It’s possible,” Monrovia coach Ryan Maddox said when asked if Jones could end up being the starter. “It’s just a matter of if we’ve got multiple players who are good we will find some sets and formations where we can get those kids on the field.”

Calling the running game an area of concern is true nitpicking. Yes, the leading rusher has to be replaced, but Ainsworth ran for over 1,000 yards last season for semifinalist Covina. But given how loaded Monrovia is everywhere else on offense, sweating the running game happens by default.

Maddox said that senior quarterback Blake Heyworth is considerably better than what he was at this point last season, which is scary considering Heyworth threw for 2,377 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2011.

“With Blake returning, more can be put on his plate,” Maddox said. “He’s world better than last year and we thought he was pretty dang good last year. With his experience and ability to get the ball out of his hands, it’s pretty incredible.”

The Wildcats open the season on Aug. 31 against upper-division Ayala, which plays in the Sierra League and Inland Division. The game is part of Maddox’s attempt to beef up Monrovia’s nonleague schedule. The Wildcats will play four upper-division teams in the nonleague, culminating with arguably the game of the year in the Star-News area on Sept. 28 at St. Francis.

“I would say it’s a better start than last year,” Maddox said of his team’s attitude in practice. “It’s just because of the senior leadership. They’re just such a phenomenal group. I’ve never had a group of kids like this. They’re high character and leaders. They’re out there working when we’re not.

“So far, there’s been no motivational issues. They’re out there busting their butts and working hard.”

St. Paul has special needs in practice …

By Keith Lair
Staff Writer

PHOTOS: ST. PAUL PRACTICE

SANTA FE SPRINGS – The St. Paul High School football team is loaded with players bound for college football programs.

So when the Swordsmen open practice every day, many of those standout players are watching from the sidelines.

First-year St. Paul coach Elijah Asante brought out the punting team at the start of Tuesday afternoon’s drills, just like he does at every practice.

“Every game starts with special teams,” Asante said. “Have you ever seen a game that starts without a kickoff?”

The Swordsmen took punt after punt before breaking down into offensive and defensive drills. They began their team meeting on Tuesday afternoon discussing special teams, just like they always do.

“We put a heavy emphasis on special teams,” Asante said. “We want everybody to know how important special teams are to us. If we put special teams at the end of practice, you kind of diminish it and we don’t want to diminish it.

“It’s where you win or lose the game the most often.”

Asante has been with St. Paul – he had previously coached at Carson – since December and he was able to put his offensive and defensive schemes in place long ago.

“It’s going smooth,” senior quarterback Paul Telles said. “We’re just trying to get ready for La Mirada (on Aug. 24). We caught on pretty quickly to what he wants to do.”

But Asante said he will never entirely be sure how his team is faring until that Aug.24 game.

“It appears they have adapted,” he said. “You really don’t know. It’s an experiment that hasn’t been tested yet and the test is on the 24th against La Mirada. We’ll have to see how we adapt to someone with another jersey on.”

It probably won’t happen on Friday night either, in the Swordsmen’s annual intrasquad scrimmage.

“You know what happens at this time of the year,” Asante said. “Everyone looks good because they’re going against themselves. If your offense does well, did they do well because your defense did poorly? Or did they do well because they’re good? And the same thing about the defense. Did they do well because the offense didn’t do well or did they really do well?”

“You really don’t know.”

Asante does know he has a solid quarterback in Telles, who passed for roughly 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns the past two seasons.

“There is no pressure,” Telles said. “The senior class had this pressure since our sophomore year. We’re up for the challenge.

“For me it comes down to making the right reads.”

Telles can hand the ball off to junior Kurt Scoby or pass it to three 6-foot or taller receivers, including returnee Zach Ramsey and newcomers Darrell Cloy, who was at Garfield last year, or Alec Dana, who was at Norco last year. Asante said Dana is the Swordsmen’s fastest player.

“We have some nice receivers and Paul is looking great,” Asante said. “Right now we’re just getting our chemistry and timing down.”

Players who have surprised Asante are lineman Jonathan Gravini and backup quarterback George Reyes.

Diamond Bar picks up transfer from Crenshaw …

I know there’s been a lot of chatter on the blogs about some transfer D-Bar picked up and how he’s gonna unseat Tyler Brown at running back and rewrite the school’s rushing records.

Well, you’re half right (for now). The kid’s name is Tyron Kelly and he played football at Crenshaw as a frosh, didn’t play last year and is now at Diamond Bar for his junior season.

However, Brahmas coach Ryan Maine said that Brown is still the starting running back and that Kelly will be in the mix for carries and also back Brown up on defense at corner.

Aram’s take: OK, so there you have it. Maybe this kid will turn into something special, but I think some of you are getting ahead of yourselves. By the way, D-Bar scrimmages at Baldwin Park on Friday at 6 p.m.

Sheldon McKinley named starting running back at Arcadia, Jake Medel to start at receiver …

Running back Jake Medel made quite a smash last season when pressed into action. The then junior ran for over 800 yards and 11 touchdowns, thus causing many to assume he will be the starter this season for Arcadia.

He won’t.

First-year Apaches coach Chris Long said Monday that Medel will line up at receiver and senior Sheldon McKinley will start at running back. Both players will see carries, though, Long said.

“I’m looking forward to having them both on the field at the same time,” Long said. “McKinley is the starter and Jake is starting at receiver.”

McKinley was the team’s original starter at running back last season and was on his way to a fine season before getting injured.

Quarterback is still a sweat for the Apaches. South Pasadena transfer Joey Harmon has been given full eligibility by CIF, according to Long, and is still battling with Zach Yee for the job. Long said Friday’s scrimmage against Silverado will go a long way in determining who wins the job.

Aram’s take: Am I the only one surprised by this? Medel made quite a splash last season and I truly thought he’d be the feature back this season. I understand the desire to have both on the field at the same time, but Medel can’t do nearly the damage he did last year if he’s lined up at receiver. That means less touches and less chances per game to change the game. Especially if the Apaches’ passing game is struggling. But hey, I’m not out there everyday with the team like the coaches. I just really thought Arcadia’s identity this season would be pounding Medel.

Amat tailback Dionza Blue tears up Blue and Gold scrimmage despite still recovering from strep throat …

Bishop Amat tailback Dionza Blue got stupid in Friday’s Blue and Gold scrimmage despite missing five days of fall camp and losing 12-15 lbs. due to strep throat.

Blue took his first two carries to the casa, one for 75 yards and the other for 50. The senior will replace standout Jalen Moore as the Lancers’ feature back this season.

Aram’s take: Like I keep saying, two years ago I was stunned when Blue didn’t win the tailback position after Jay Anderson left the team. But Jalen Moore was a beast and that’s how it goes sometimes. Behind Kurt Scoby, I consider Blue to already be the second-best back in the SGVN coverage area. That would make him the top back in the Tribune area, which you’ll see is where I have him in the preview issue. He is a VERY SMOOTH runner who can hit the home run when in the open field. Monster season coming!

It’s official! West Covina vs. Covina to be televised by FOX Sports West on Aug. 24 …

The season opener for Covina and West Covina on Aug. 24 will be televised live by FOX Sports West.

The game will take place at Covina District Field. The teams have played thrillers in each of the past two years, with each school winning a game.

Aram’s take: Awfully exciting for the players and coaches on both teams. Awfully exciting for the Valley. GREAT EXPOSURE for all. Congrats to both schools.

Monrovia’s Anthony Craft picks up offer from New Mexico St. …

Monrovia wide receiver/defensive back Anthony Craft received an offer from New Mexico St. on Monday.

The Aggies are Craft’s fourth offer. The senior also has UNLV, South Dakota and San Jose St. seeking his services.

Craft led the Wildcats in receiving last year with 562 yards and nine touchdowns. He also had 48 tackles and two interceptions on defense.

Aram’s take: My best memory of Craft from last season was him putting the clamps on whichever Covina receiver he lined up against in the semis. Thing of beauty it was.