ARAM’S SEASON PREVIEW COLUMN: CIF football playoff groupings set the stage for new rivalries, champions
RECRUITING RANKINGS: Bishop Amat football’s Trevon Sidney heads list of area’s top recruits
Quarterback Steven Nava, who left Rosemead for Bishop Amat earlier this summer has checked out of Amat.
Nava was in a three-way battle to be the starting quarterback for the Lancers, a position he held last season at Rosemead as a sophomore. Nava had fallen behind juniors Damian Garcia and Ryder Ruiz in the competition.
No word on whether Nava will return to Rosemead, but it seems that would be his only choice this season due to CIF rules. Nava would still have eligibility at his last school of varsity competition.
“Do I want him back? Of course, I want him back,” Paramo said. “Is he welcome back? Yeah, he’s welcome back. Obviously, the seniors want him back. They kind of felt hurt that he left.”
“I don’t know what happened over there. I don’t know the story, if it’s football-related, personal or financial.”
Nava threw for 1,199 and 13 touchdowns in eight games last season. With him, Rosemead would go back to being the Mission Valley League favorite thanks to a bevy of returning starters highlighted by a defense that has all but two regulars back.
Aram’s Take: I can just see Nava’s phone blowing up right now with calls from Cathedral. Anyway, as I said all along, I have NO CLUE why Nava would ever leave Rosemead. With him, they’re the MVL favorite and he would have an excellent season playing with that team around him and lots of success in terms of Ws and Ls. Hopefully, he can just resume his career with the Panthers as if none of this ever happened. I REALLY like this Rosemead team with Nava at QB.
Nobody will ever know for sure just how close the Bassett High School football program came to going the way of the dinosaur in 2011.
But with just 16 players on the varsity roster at the end of a 1-9 campaign, it doesn’t take a genius to realize things were about as bleak as they could get.
Enter Hector Spathias.
Today, thanks to Spathias, the Olympians are a thriving program, one that was a coin flip away from making the playoffs last season. The roster now has 50 players between varsity and junior varsity and although the stunning turnaround hasn’t come easily, things are clearly looking up.
“I’m a teacher on campus and they knew I had coached football before,” Spathias thinking back to how he took on the challenge of turning things around. “They would call me in and say ‘You know the kids here, you can relate to them, can you coach the football team?’
“And I would say there’s no way I’m going to coach here, there’s no support here. But when you have these kids in your class, you feel bad. You want to give them a fair shot on the football field.”
Spathias took the job and despite being offered a situation where he would be allowed to attend only a few practices a week because he had kids of his own playing sports in high school, he declined to do anything less than attack the challenge with less than the 100 percent he demands of his players.
The improvement in Bassett’s fortunes were almost immediate. Spathias took advantage of being on campus as a teacher and began rounding up the school’s top athletes. The varsity roster soon grew to 25-30 players in time for the 2012 season.
Bassett went from 1-9 to 3-7 in Spathias’ first year. The record may not look like much, but Spathias was laying the groundwork for what was ahead. That even meant simple things away from the football field that other schools take for granted.
Spathias instituted a policy that his players do not go home from school on game days. They arrive for school in the morning and don’t leave until after the game. Spathias cut deals with local restaurants to provide team meals before the games and made sure the players stayed hydrated throughout the day.
“We have a lot of guys who play both ways, so they would cramp if we didn’t keep them hydrated on game day and feed them a good meal before the game,” said Spathias, a 1981 graduate of Mountain View where he played football, basketball and baseball. “There’s no money in the budget, so I would pay for the meals myself or make arrangements with the restaurants. We go to Subway and order a sandwich tray or a local chicken place and get them rotisserie chicken, something they can play on.
“Many of the players don’t have money for cleats or food, so you arrange deals. They come from really good families. They just don’t have very much money.”
On the field, Bassett keeps things simple. Spathias has built his team around its offensive and defensive lines because. Last season, the Olympians bruised their way to a 5-5 record by being well-schooled fundamentally and playing with a chip on their shoulder after Spathias constantly reminded his team that they’re every opponent’s homecoming game when they play on the road.
The highlight of the season was a 27-13 win over nearby La Puente. The Olympians even had a shot at the league championship but a 21-20 fourth-quarter lead over Azusa turned into a 26-21 loss that ultimately kept them home for the playoffs despite a 5-2 record in league.
“We had to change the culture of the kids who are playing football at Bassett High School,” Spathias said. “When you’re getting beat down, you have to work on a lot of mental toughness. There are some plays where you’re going to get beat, like missed tackles. But it’s what you do after that. In the past, they’d put their head down but we didn’t want that to happen.
“In any of our games, no matter how bad we’re getting beat or how good we’re playing, we never quit.”
Spathias focuses on having top-notch line play, because as he puts it “We’re never going to have the fastest players on the field.” By design, no offensive linemen at Bassett play both ways. This season four of the starters are seniors and the other is a junior.
Although there’s a bevy of players back, the same cannot be said for the coaches. Spathias’ staff, which he gives a lot of the credit to, is in limbo as he waits to see if he’ll actually the money to pay them. In the meantime, Spathias has turned to freshly graduated players from last year’s team to help out as assistant coaches.
In order to keep the momentum going as Bassett enters the Miramonte League, Spathias is going to need an assist from yet another new administration at Bassett. Money to pay assistant coaches and fund team meals and equipment appears to be the biggest struggle the program faces today. That’s because on the field Spathias has everything covered.
“This year we have guys who have been in the program for a few years,” Spathias said. “We don’t have guys who have never played coming out for football in their junior or senior years just to try it. These guys have already gone through it mentally and physically.
“You want the kids to do well. You want them to have a little confidence in themselves before they go on to the next thing in their lives. This is one of the most satisfying coaching jobs I’ve ever had. We’d like to stay here as long as I’m getting administration support. But if I can’t pay my coaches, it’s going to be tough.”
There was a time when Greg Gano cared about where his next CIF championship ring was going to come from.
When you win four, it can be addicting. Those days have quickly gone, though. Gano, whether by choice or error, has been rapidly adding chapters to his career in recent years. And that’s not always a good sign for a coach.
The latest and perhaps final chapter for Gano is at Wilson High School. Yes, the same Wilson that’s just down the road from where Gano cemented his name with some of the industry’s best coaches at Los Altos.
Gano’s arrival at the Hacienda Heights campus is a culmination of events that has led the Valley legend to become reflective and less hell bent on wins and losses at a time when most his coaches his age would trying to salt their legacy.
“The only thing I can say is that I’m the same guy I was in 2002,” Gano said before practice on Monday afternoon. “But it’s not about me anymore. I want our kids to feel that I care about them. That is the main focus that I had coming into this year, is that the kids know I care about them and what they’re doing on and off the football field.”
Gano’s career has hit several speed bumps since he resigned his position at Los Altos following the 2007 season. After taking a year off, he was hired at Damien in a move that many thought would make the Spartans an area power and maybe more.
It didn’t happen. Following a 20-22 record in four seasons, Gano resigned and promised he wouldn’t be out of coaching long. He wasn’t. Gano was soon the head coach at Tustin. But that was over soon after it got started and Gano was out at Tustin after an 0-4 start in 2013.
“It didn’t work at Damien,” Gano said. “I was probably in the wrong place at the wrong time. So be it. We did some good things over there. We played some good people. Tustin was an unfortunate situation. Again, wrong place at the wrong time.”
The bitter endings at his past two stops have led some to wonder whether Gano should have ever left Los Altos after he was so successful following in the footsteps of another legend Dwayne DeSpain.
“Do I regret it?” Gano said. “There are times when I’ve thought I shouldn’t have left LA. Yeah, that thought’s crossed my mind. You always think the grass is greener on the other side and it’s not. But it was a year where I was really tired and I wanted to spend more time with my daughter Courtney.”
It’s in his daughter Courtney, a former area softball standout who now plays at Washington, that Gano finds most of his inspiration from these days. And it’s through an unfortunate health issue that Courtney has recently encountered that Gano has gained perspective about what’s really important.
While running the bases during practice in March, Courtney Gano collapsed unable to feel her feet. She was rushed to the hospital and later given the diagnosis of Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, or CIDP. It’s a condition in which there’s progressive weakness and impaired sensory function in the legs and arms.
“It took its toll,” Gano said. “When you get a phone call from the head coach that your daughter is in the emergency room and they don’t know what’s wrong, but she can’t walk and can’t throw a ball five feet, yeah, it takes its toll. It’s kind of frightening.”
After undergoing treatment, Courtney Gano is on the path to recovery. She has one more round of treatment but is already rehabbing and on track to play this season for Washington. Meanwhile, her father is on track to hopefully rebuild a once-proud program that’s gone dormant. But it won’t be easy.
The struggles Los Altos incurred after Gano left are now a distant memory. Although the Conquerors haven’t added another CIF championship since Gano left, they’re back to being one of the area’s top programs. That’s going to make things very difficult at Wilson in terms of securing the school district’s top talent.
While Gano isn’t as bent on winning as he once was, his fuse is clearly still lit. The first challenge will be improving the program’s numbers, which sit at around 60 players between varsity and junior varsity, and about 40 at the freshmen level.
The next step will be improving the talent level, which Gano admits is considerably lighter than what he’s used to, but hopefully enough to compete in the Valle Vista League where defending CIF Mid-Valley Division champion San Dimas rules the roost.
Wilson ran a Wing-T offense under previous coach Nick Christos. Gano is switching the program to his pro-style attack. He’s doing so with a smallish coaching staff, but longtime defensive coordinator Lee Fair is back at Gano’s side.
Mark Sept. 12 on your calendars. That’s the night when Gano will play Los Altos for the first time since he left. And to add to the intrigue, the game is at Los Altos.
“I’ll say what I said when I took this job, Greg Gano doesn’t have the magic wand,” Gano said. “We’re going to coach the kids up and we’re going to have at it. We have to change the culture back to have the kids think highly of football at Wilson High School.
“I’ve been there, done that. I don’t need rings. I don’t need to win 500 games in the next five years and that’s okay. I need to coach kids and watch my daughter grow up.”
UPDATE: The Fresno Bee reports that Kurt Scoby will miss two weeks with a concussion.
Former Monrovia running back Kurt Scoby was having a dazzling scrimmage for the Fresno St. Bulldogs before suffering a serious head injury following a jarring hit during a carry.
Scoby had just ripped off a 68-yard run and on his next play was hit hard by a linebacker. He suffered a concussion and was taken to the hospital. Scoby finished with 94 yards on five carries.
Aram’s take: Our hopes and prayers are with Scoby for a speedy recover.
Jim Arellanes resigned as varsity football head coach at Marshall on Tuesday to become assistant principal at Duarte.
No word yet on who will replace Arellanes at Marshall as the job is being flown on the CIF-Southern Section website.
Arellanes was 6-14 in his two seasons at Marshall. Prior to that, he was briefly the head coach at Los Altos and before that the head coach at Northview.
Arellanes was a standout quarterback at El Rancho in the early 1990s before later playing at Fresno St. and then overseas in NFL Europe.
Arellanes’ departure leaves Marshall in a lurch with its first game mere weeks away on Aug. 29 against West Adams. Marshall will also play its first season in the Mission Valley League later this fall.
Everyone has heard the phrase “God made me do it.”
But rarely do you hear those words uttered so often when it comes to football than when they fly off the lips of new Maranatha High School football coach Steve Bogan.
Want to know how one of the Valley’s best-ever coaches winds up at tiny Maranatha? He prayed on it. Wondering whether a four-time CIF champion coach like Bogan is truly concerned about adding another ring to his pile? It will happen if God wills it.
Those are the themes of Bogan’s sentiments as he starts what very likely will be the final chapter of a career that’s seen him win more CIF titles than most of his colleagues can dream of, more league titles than one man deserves and enough games to ensure area fans will remember his name for a long time.
“For me, it seemed like the lord was saying ‘Go do this,’” Bogan said while winding down after holding one of the first fall practices of what he hopes will be a productive tenure at Maranatha based on winning and spirituality.
“It’s been a really enjoyable experience, so far. No negatives, so far.”
The new, rejuvenated Bogan coaching on a field lined with pine trees with a koi pond nearby is a refreshing sight for those closest his to him. When he resigned from South Hills in January of 2012, Bogan was a shadow of the charming, energetic and positive coach that most knew him to be during a wildly successful 20-year run with the Huskies.
Instead, he seemed to be a man worn down by the rigors and dramas of running a present day top-flight high school football program. After a very public spat with CIF over the eligibility of some controversial player transfers was followed by back-to-back 3-7 seasons, it became very clear that Bogan needed a break.
“I was burned out, I’m not going to deny that,” Bogan said. “It’s kind of like with a computer when you check the battery and it says 25 percent. When I checked it, it said one percent and I was like okay, let’s juice the battery again.
“Things were bothering me the last few years there that I would say 10 years ago wouldn’t have bothered me. It’s part of being human. It was time to step away, but I’m in a different place now.”
Bogan sat out the 2012 season and was South Hills’ freshmen team coach last fall. When former Maranatha coach Jude Oliva left following last season, Bogan and Minutemen athletic director Brian DeHaan talked and the prayed about the opening.
“It may sound weird to people, but we both prayed on it,” Bogan said. “When I prayed about it, it was just something right.”
Bogan describes himself as an “inclusive Evangelical Christian.” Maranatha’s spiritual backdrop made the two a perfect fit. Plus, it helps that Maranatha is making a push to become one of the area’s top athletic schools and Bogan, one of the best coaches around, just happened to be available. He will remain a teacher at South Hills and commute to Maranatha’s Pasadena campus each day for practice before returning home to Walnut.
Maranatha went 8-3 last season and won the Olympic League. The Minutemen are thin on numbers this season with a smallish roster that does include several talented players for Bogan to work with.
With a whopping 31 postseason wins and 13 league titles to his credit at South Hills, it’s not hard to see why Maranatha fans are thinking big things are in store for their program.
But for Bogan the success of this phase of his career won’t necessarily be judged by wins and losses. Nor will the lofty expectations of others weigh on his mind. Determining Maranatha’s success, as one might expect, will come in far more divine ways than just wins and losses.
“The goal is to be part of the team that God wants and take it to the level that God wants it to be,” Bogan said. “If that’s just a great, small Christian high school that’s competitive, then that’s what He wants it to be. If that’s something different, then that’s what we want it to be.
“Wins, league titles and CIF championships, they can be in the mix, but those are indicators. You do set goals, He want us to. But they’re open ended. I want to do it better at Maranatha than I ever did at South Hills.”
The Duarte High School football program continues to give every indication that it’s on the verge of something special and new head coach Travis Brown is confident he’s the man who will get the Falcons over the top.
Brown, a former standout receiver at Los Altos in the early 2000s, is conducting his first fall camp as a head coach and the excitement is starting to build that the beginning of something big for both the Falcons and their rookie head coach is about to happen.
“We have a lot of guys that not too many people know about,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t expect us to be anybody’s favorite. But I will say that we’re going to turn some heads this year and we’re going to make a lot of noise.”
Brown did just during his playing days. He was a receiver on Los Altos’ 2002 and ’03 CIF championship team and earned Tribune All-Area honors in ’03. He then starred at New Mexico where he was an all-Mountain West selection in both his junior and senior seasons.
The success continued into the early days of what he hoped would be an NFL career. Brown was atop the depth chart for at one wide receiver spot for the Cincinnati Bengals entering the preseason in 2008.
After spending time on the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams practice squads, Brown’s pro football days were officially over in 2010. That’s when he decided the next chapter of his football life would be in coaching.
Brown started as an assistant coach at Diamond Bar in 2009 and then worked under his high school head coach Greg Gano at Damien for three years before eventually winding up at Ayala after Gano’s stint at Tustin following his resignation from Damien lasted only four games.
After trying to land a head coach job at other schools in the area, Brown finally got his chance earlier this year when Duarte hired him to replace the departed Jason Martin.
Duarte isn’t exactly a bad place to start for Brown. The Falcons were 7-5 last season, picked up a playoff win over Maranatha and it’s not like the cupboard is empty this fall.
Despite the mild success, Brown has had to implement some changes in the way the Falcons do business.
“It took a little longer to change the culture than I initially anticipated,” Brown said. “When I got here, consistently for the first two months, there were about 15 guys. We have about 65-70 guys in the program now.
“In the past, guys came and went as they pleased. I had to crack the whip and let them know that if you’re going to be a part of this program you’re going to be all in or not in at all. There’s not going to be any ‘I show up for a week, I miss a week.’”
With a consistent base of players, Brown can now turn his attention to Xs and Os. He has hired former 2002 co-Tribune Player of the Year Randall Brown, who also played at Los Altos, as his running backs and defensive backs coach.
Former Los Altos and Monrovia standout running back James Davis is the defensive coordinator. Brown hopes to add more to his staff and promises that by next season it could be quite a collection of former Los Altos greats.
In the meantime, Brown and his staff have the pleasure of fine tuning an offense that could be a force thanks to an offensive line whose lightest player is 240 pounds. Quarterback Isiah Scott is also back and receiver Kamar Watson is expected to do big things.
But getting Duarte over the hump will probably require even more talent than what’s on hand now. And that means not bankrolling other teams around the Valley, including nearby Monrovia, with Duarte talent.
Brown knows he must keep the city’s top players home, but that’s been easier said than done for previous Duarte coaches. Playing and beating Monrovia might help. Brown is hopeful to do just that soon.
“For me, it’s Los Altos-Wilson type of deal,” Brown said. “They’re (Monrovia) just right up the road kinda like how we (Los Altos) were right up the road from Wilson but we just so happened to be the more talented team on a consistent basis.
“Monrovia’s in the driver’s seat right now, but I think that just takes one season to turn around. This is an ideal time for that to happen. This is a game that will be scheduled in the next couple of years if I’m at Duarte. And when I say the next couple of years, the sooner the better.”
Before Duarte can think about taking back local supremacy from Monrovia, it must figure out how to get past Azusa in the Montview League, and even more dauntingly new league foe Baldwin Park, who most believe is the Montview’s new favorite.
Brown is confident about not only that happening but also continued postseason success. If he’s right, the potential of Duarte football is scary.
“The only people that beat us this year will be ourselves,” Brown said. “There’s not a team in our league, with all due respect to everyone, that I see being able to stop us.
“I believe in our players wholeheartedly. And I don’t think that if we come out and play our game that there’s a team that we play that can stop us.”
New Baldwin Park High School football coach Daniel Algattas isn’t bashful when he talks about his goals for the Braves’ program.
“We want to be recognized as a team that can play with the best of them,” Algattas said. “Our kids want to be No. 1 in the Valley. Whether that’s realistic or not, somebody can tell me that in 5-10 years. We want to get there one day. Not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But we want to play to our full potential.”
It doesn’t end there. Algattas is hopeful that he can take Baldwin Park on such a run that the Braves will “earn our way into Charter Oak’s league”. And if you remember him as a standout quarterback at Walnut, it’s not a wise idea to be against it happening.
When last seen by most Valley prep football fans, Algattas was firing the game-winning touchdown and 2-point conversion pass in the final seconds of the 2003 Hall of Fame All-Star Game.
It was the culmination of a stellar prep career that saw Algattas lead Walnut to the CIF championship game against South Hills in 2002. He parlayed his high school career into scholarship to play at Colorado St.
But before Algattas’ freshman season in Fort Collins, Colorado, he injured his shoulder and suffered a serious concussion in car accident that came as a result of another driver running a red light.
Algattas soon found himself rehabbing and restarting his career at Mt. San Antonio College. He later wound up at UCLA as a backup quarterback. Algattas could have gone other places to finish his playing career, but he had his eye on the future. And that meant a career in coaching.
“I got a chance to learn a lot of stuff,” Algattas said.
Before he knew it, Algattas was back at Mt. SAC as an assistant coach. Soon, he also had a day job at the junior college, a position he still maintains while being a walk-on coach at Baldwin Park.
When Baldwin Park’s varsity football head coach job came available after Chris Williams left following a 7-4 season in 2013, Algattas jumped. After spending the 2008 season as the Braves’ offensive coordinator under then-head coach James Heggins, Algattas knew what he was getting into.
Now, there’s nothing left to do but build the Braves’ program back into an area power. That’s something Algattas is laying the groundwork for by hiring a mostly young staff that features former Glendora standout Mike Edwards as the receivers coach. Former record-setting Walnut quarterback Brandon Roach is the quarterbacks coach.
Even Mario Rodriguez, who was a top player at the school in 2010, is on Algattas’ staff despite being just a few years from graduation. There’s also a veteran presence in associate head coach Tom Roach and defensive coordinator J.T. Niuamata.
Despite the abundance of youthful energy on the staff, Algattas’ style is part old school and part new wave. The Braves are toning down their uniforms this year and won’t wear excessive extras like wrist bands. Players’ legs will also be fully covered by their uniforms.
Algattas will call the offensive plays and says not to expect any elaborate schemes. Baldwin Park will shun the ever-popular spread offense for the West Coast offense, which Algattas learned while at UCLA and Mt. SAC.
“The offense I brought to Baldwin Park is probably more complex than what we used at Mt. SAC,” Algattas said. “I feel our kids are so dedicated that they can learn it. They grow up playing football in this town. You know, they’re not all soccer kids.
“I get many a text message in the middle of the night asking about what’s on the script for tomorrow’s practice. I’m not happy about it a lot of times because it’s late, but they want to know.”
Algattas inherits a program that appears to be on the upswing after some down years following the departure of Heggins following the 2011 season. Standout receiver Raymen Barraza, who put up dazzling numbers last season as a sophomore, is back. So is receiver/defensive back Jayson Miller, who coaches think will play on Saturdays.
Baldwin Park opens the season on Aug. 29 against El Monte. After that, there’s a somewhat shocking date with Orange County power Fountain Valley. Later, an emotional night looms on Sept. 26 when the Braves host Algattas’ alma mater Walnut.
But don’t expect any warm and fuzzy feelings when the Mustangs come to town. Algattas felt shunned by the program he won so many games for after he was passed up for varsity coaching staff position at Walnut at the outset of his coaching career. He was told he could volunteer instead.
“For me, that game was on the cherry on top when I got hired,” Algattas said. “I wanted to coach there and they decided they would pay everybody else and if I wanted to, I could volunteer. I guess I wasn’t worth it, so I’ll remember that.”
After the Walnut game, the Braves begin their first season in the Montview League where they look like heavy favorites to sweep the league. If that happens, Baldwin Park could be looking at a high seed in the Mid-Valley Division playoffs and possibly some postseason magic to really kick start Algattas’ vision for the program.
“There’s tremendous pressure,” Algattas said. “But at Mt. SAC, if we ever lost a game, somebody would say ‘They’re going to get fired because they went 12-1 instead of 13-0.’
“I think we’re a sleeping giant. There’s enormous potential here. There’s over 100,000 people in Baldwin Park and it’s split between two schools. Without saying any names, I think we all know who the perennial powers are. Hopefully, one day we can be recognized as one of those.”