Head coach Vinnie Lopez leaves El Ranch for Pacifica

Vinnie Lopez, who guided El Rancho High School’s football team to the Del Rio League championsip last season, has left the school to take over as the new varsity football head coach at Garden Grove Pacifica.

Lopez, 38, was named the Whittier Daily News Coach of the Year in 2014, after helping El Rancho to one of its best seasons in recent memory. The Dons went 8-3, swept the Del Rio League and made the playoffs before a shocking first-round loss to Burbank.

“It was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my professional career,” Lopez said. “It’s not something that I took lightly. I love the kids at El Rancho, I love the community and I’m very thankful for the opportunity the administration gave me when they hired me.”

Lopez was 19-13 in his three seasons at El Rancho. The Dons made a big splash last season by beating perennial power La Serna on their way to the league championship.

Pacifica is part of the Garden Grove School District, which is one of the top-paying school districts in the Southern Section. The opportunity for Lopez to improve his income was too much to pass up. But he knows things won’t be easy at a school that has won just four games combined in the past two seasons.

“It was really difficult making that decision, going from a program that had just won a league championship and now what, now we’re going to start all over,” Lopez said. “We’re going back to square one, I guess. But I watched Pacifica on film before I accepted the position and the potential is there. The kids play hard and they play fast. They just need a little different direction.

“I really feel like we can go in there and be competitive right away. Sure, they were 2-8 last year but they were in almost every football game.”

The vacancy at El Rancho will no doubt be a popular target for would-be coaches. The Dons lost a lot of production to graduation but also have several key players back, like defensive standout Malachi Allen, who is being heavily recruited.

There are also several former El Rancho assistants from past coaching staffs who are still coaching in the area and may like to take a crack at the job.

“You always want to leave the place in a better spot than when you took over and I really feel like we did that,” Lopez said. “They were struggling in league and the past three years we’ve gone 11-4 in league and won a league championship.

“You think about that and it makes it a little bit easier, but it really doesn’t because it’s never an easy decision to walk away from great kids and a championship-level program.”

La Puente promotes defensive coordinator Erick Williams to head coach …

La Puente High School announced Wednesday that it has promoted defensive coordinator Erick Williams to varsity football head coach.

Williams replaces Scott Morrison, who left after two years as the Warriors’ head coach to become head coach at Corona Santiago. Williams, 38, has had assistant coach stops at La Puente, Workman, Esperanza, Pioneer and Arroyo, but this will be his first head coach position.

“I’m honored and blessed, especially to follow someone like Coach Morrison,” Williams said. “To be underneath him for the past four years, he’s helped me grow as a coach and a person.

“To be at La Puente where it’s a good football atmosphere, I can’t complain.”

Morrison, who is still the school’s athletic director, was part of the hiring committee. He estimated about 20 applicants tried for the job but since the school couldn’t guarantee an on-campus teaching position, interested parties from as far away as Maryland and Texas had to be turned away. Williams will be an off-campus coach.

“As the former coach, I hope that I left the program in a better place than I found it and I found it in a good pretty good place,” Morrison said. “As the athletic director, I hope I found the guy who is going to to make it ever better. The continuity factor is nice, but we want to be able to grow and move ahead.

“Coach Williams answers the continuity aspect but also brings the fire that will continue to move this program in a positive direction.”

La Puente was 7-4 in both of Morrison’s two seasons. Prior to that, the program enjoyed success under former coach Brandon Rohrer, who left to take the head job at Etiwanda and is now offensive coordinator at Glendora.

Williams expects his coaching staff will have many familiar faces from last season and says tactically the Warrirors won’t change much despite a few tweaks here and there.

Glendora QB Matt Finks ends suspense by picking USC

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The brief recruiting frenzy that saw Glendora High School quarterback Matt Fink go from relative unknown to national sensation in a matter of months ended early Monday afternoon when the standout picked USC as his college destination.

“They were, let’s just say, the team that showed me the most love,” Fink said. “And the team that showed me they were going to be a part of my family and not just coach me through four years. I felt like the coaches are committed to USC, they’re not leaving. Plus, they’re a good tight family that would bring me in and consider me as family.”

Fink passed for 1,386 yards and 10 touchdowns to go along with 725 yards rushing and 10 more touchdowns as a junior. He entered the offseason as a prospect with limited offers but a high upside due to his natural abilities.

Fink, who does not play on a travelling seven-versus-seven team for exposure, received offers from Boise St. and Washington toward the end of his junior season and set a goal to really make a splash among recruiters this offseason.

That’s exactly what happened after Fink wowed recruiters in February when he took home offensive MVP honors at the Blue/Grey All-American Southern California Regional combine in Ventura.

That showing set off a frenzy of college offers for Fink, with virtually a new school offering Fink each day and week following the combine. Before anyone knew it, USC, Notre Dame and a host of others were hot on the trail of the 6-foot-5 senior to be.

“It is an amazing feeling, it really is,” Fink said. “It kinda shows me how much work I put in. It humbles me in a way. I didn’t go on to those 7-on-7 teams. I didn’t go to that type of level just to get my name out there. I just put in the right amount of work and went to the right amount of camps. I didn’t do those 7-on-7 things and think they’d get me exposed because it just wasn’t my thing.”

Fink said he chose USC over Notre Dame and Washington. The chance to play at home close to family was the tipping point.

“I wanted to stay in California and wanted my family to have an easier time to see me,” Fink said. “I have four siblings and they’re all going to go off and do their things. I wanted to make it easier for my mom and dad to see me play at the college and not have to fly out for a couple grand just to see me play one game on a Saturday.”

Kurt Scoby BACK IN THE SGV! … transfers from Fresno St. to APU …

Former standout running back Kurt Scoby, who shined at several area high schools before spending one season at Fresno St. is back in the San Gabriel Valley.

Scoby has left Fresno St. and transferred to Azusa Pacific University, Cougars head coach Victor Santa Cruz confirmed on Monday.

Because Santa Cruz is limited with what he could say due to NCAA rules, all that was confirmed is that Scoby has signed a scholarship offer and will be enrolling at APU in the fall.

Scoby’s career at Fresno St. never got off the ground. He suffered a concussion during fall practice and never got a carry in a game this season. He projected to be one of several backups to returning starter Marteze Waller this fall.

Azusa Pacifc has thrived since being moved up to Division 2. The Cougars went 10-1 last fall and won the the Great Northwest Athletic Conference for the second consecutive season last year.

Area fans will remember Scoby very well. His prep career started at Charter Oak where he had a strong sophomore but shocked many by transferring to St. Paul. Scoby played half a season for the Swordsmen and by midway through his junior year was on his way to another school.

After stops at Duarte, Alemany and Cathedral, Scoby finally wound up at Monrovia where he ran for 2,206 yards and 35 touchdowns his senior season.

FIVE BURNING QUESTIONS entering Spring Practice …

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These days, spring practice for high school football means many things to many different people.

Of course, coaches have to present the image that the t-shirt and shorts workouts that take place over the next month or so will somehow have an impact on the upcoming season. In the past, that might have been truer than it is now.

With year-around workouts and conditioning and specialized training and private 7-on-7 passing teams, players rarely fall out of football mold, thus making spring practice a cute blip on the calendar the exact results of which are never known.

Skeptical as one might be, there are still developments that could happen and eyebrows that could be raised during said spring practices. There are situations that bear watching and we’re here to help point them out by asking the five burning questions of spring practice.

1. Will Torreahno Sweet rejoin Bishop Amat football team?

Perhaps the biggest development of the offseason was the dismissal of Sweet from the Amat football program. We don’t know the reason and have only heard speculation as to why this happened. But make no mistake, without Sweet, Amat isn’t going to live up to the lofty expectations this season.

When Sweet emerged as a viable force midway through last season, that’s when Amat took off. Sweet ran for over 851 yards despite starting half the season. It’s paramount Amat has a ground game to go with all that talent on the outside. Such was proven last season.

There are rumblings that Sweet will be reinstated soon, and if that happens, Lancers fans should breathe a big sigh of relief.

2. Who will be the starting quarterback at Bishop Amat?

We’ll stay in La Puente for the second question. Yes, it’s that important.

When last year’s original starter Damian Garcia got injured late in the season, backup Ryder Ruiz stepped in and won the biggest games of the season. With both players back and healthy, the question about who’s the starter looms.

This one likely won’t be answered during spring practice. It probably won’t even be answered during the summer passing circuit. But the race figures to be so tight that anything either player does no matter when will loom large.

Another thing to keep an eye on during this spring is any and all signs that Amat is planning to solve this luxurious problem by going to a two-quarterback system. Can you imagine a two-quarterback system with Amat’s fan base? Yikes!

3. Where’s Paco Perez?

Earlier this offseason, we wrote about the potential traveling plans of Baldwin Park standout offensive lineman Francisco “Paco” Perez.

At 6-foot-5, 300 pounds, Perez is a rarity around these parts. With college offers starting to roll in and still no head coach at Baldwin Park officially announced, who can blame Perez for looking around for a better place to play this fall?

And Perez has reportedly done just that, sniffing the linens at Bishop Amat, Cathedral and La Mirada this offseason. But supposedly he hasn’t left Baldwin Park yet. The key thing as the Braves begin spring football will be to see whether is an active participant. If he is, there’s a decent chance he stays. If he’s not, well, then you know a move is likely forthcoming.

4. Can Monrovia reload?

This one can be answered easily. Just simply show up to a Monrovia practice and see if the bodies match the same type of talented frames that have played for the Wildcats in recent years.

They’d better because San Marino looks ready to end Monrovia’s reign of success in the Rio Hondo League. Plus, you’d hate to see the Wildcats become something less than great especially after CIF moved the entire Rio Hondo League up on Monrovia’s behalf.

5. How will La Mirada’s new faces adapt?

Participating in “conventus” has to be a bit of a shock for the several players who transferred to La Mirada this offseason.

Think about it, for these new faces their first official team function is something as grueling as the 5 a.m. workout known as conventus … but it may feel more like Navy SEALS tryouts.

Head coach Mike Moschetti is adamant, though, that the players like it and nobody matriculates through his program without going through it. The bet here is some of them wish they waited a bit longer to transfer.

Once the Matadores make it to the field in a couple of weeks, it will be interesting just how talented this group is. La Mirada has a ton to replace from last year’s team, but word is that the talent level may be even better this fall.