Los Altos head coach Dale Ziola on opening kickoff controversy: “No cheap shots. Just trying to rattle him.”

Most of the postgame talk coming out of Glendora High School’s 42-28 nonleague win last Friday night over fellow CIF-Southern Section Central Division contender Los Altos hasn’t been about quarterback Matt Fink’s huge game or the Tartans’ strong second-half defensive effort.

Instead, it’s the opening kickoff that has many fans still shaking their heads and wondering out loud about what exactly happened when Los Altos tried to bum rush Glendora kicker Caleb Watkins and block the kick.

Why was their no flag thrown for off-sides on the Conquerors? Was Los Altos’ being malicious by rushing Watkins during a part of the process that usually goes unnoticed?

On the play, Watkins kicks off as three Los Altos start toward him and one of them barely avoids making contact with him. The kick is fielded by a Conquerors’ return man and taken nearly to midfield.

Glendora coaches loudly protested that was there was no penalty for off-sides. Watkins demonstratively wondered the same thing on the field and later tweeted “So apparently there isn’t an offsides on kickoff anymore…how in the world is that call missed?”

“First and foremost, there was zero mal-intent,” Los Altos head coach Dale Ziola said. “If you notice on the film, our kid even turned away in order to avoid Caleb.

“Here’s the thought process: Caleb is a stud. He’s got a 99-percent touch-back rate on kickoffs and kicks field goals from all over the yard. So my special teams coach goes “It’s going to be a touch-back anyway, so what’s a 5-yard encroachment penalty? What if we go block the opening kickoff? Just to knock it down. Just to get the kid to go “what the heck?”‘

“And that’s kinda what we did … to see if we could get in his head and rattle him the rest of the night. Obviously, it didn’t work.”

On Watkins’ next kickoff attempt, after a Glendora touchdown for a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, the Tartans answered back by doing an onside kick, which they recovered.

“The onside kick kinda rattled ourselves,” Ziola said. “Our kids who were encroached were ended up not wanting to cross the 50 once the ball was kicked and it kinda backfired. But, we still get in his (Watkins) head and he kicked less touch-backs on Friday night than he normally does.

“That was the thought process. No mal-intent. No cheap shots. Just trying to rattle him.”

As to whether a flag should have been thrown, the answer is a resounding yes from Tracy McFate, who is the assigner for the Foothill-Citrus Football Officials Association.

“It’s absolutely a encroachment penalty and it should have been called as soon as the first (Los Altos) player stepped over the 40-yard line,” McFate said. “We make no excuses. There’s three officials who should have caught it. I think it was the element of surprise.

“I think the intent here obviously was not to cause injury, but the Glendora kid booms it into the end zone every time, so it’s gamesmanship. And I think there’s room for gamesmanship as long as nobody gets hurt. But my phone was ringing on Friday night. The officials know they didn’t get it right. And I did talk to Dale Ziola and he said he’s not going to do it anymore.”

Aram’s take: I speculated on Friday night that this is EXACTLY what Ziola was trying to do. And you know what? WHO CARES? I saw the play live, the Los Altos player held up and avoided Watkins. Nothing wrong with trying to rattle a kicker who you think might be a factor later in the game if it’s close. It didn’t work per se … partly because the game wasn’t close and Watkins wasn’t needed to deliver a clutch FG late. If you’re getting upset about this, then football may not be the game for you.

NEW!!! All-Encompassing SGV(N) Top 25 … entering Week 4 …

1. Bishop Amat (3-1) — Still not %100 but looking good.
2. St. Francis (3-0) — Pulled away from Monrovia in 2nd half.
3. La Habra (3-1) — Heckuva win over Los Alamitos.
4. Glendora (3-0) — Finks runs/throws Tarty past Los Altos.
5. La Serna (3-1) — Bounced back to stymie South Hills.
6. Charter Oak (3-1) — Can Chargers finally upend Matt Fink?
7. San Marino (4-0) — Titans could break some records this fall.
8. Bonita (4-0) — Find out more about ‘Cats in Smudgepot game.
9. La Mirada (1-3) — We’ll see what Mats got out of nonleague.
10. Los Altos (3-1) — Offense went missing in 2nd half last Fri.
11. Montebello (4-0) — Got pressed a bit by Arroyo.
12. West Covina (1-3) — No match for Tesoro.
13. Northview (3-1) — Scary when D. Ramirez gets eligible.
14. Diamond Ranch (3-1) — Forgotten Hacienda contender.
15. Diamond Bar (3-1) — Got wake-up call vs. Brea.
16. San Dimas (2-1) — Can Saints stun rival Bonita?
17. St. Paul (3-1) — Good win over decent Fullerton team.
18. La Salle (3-1) — Piling up confidence vs. bad teams.
19. Monrovia (2-2) — Played well for awhile vs. St. Francis.
20. South Pasadena (3-0) — Will soft schedule hurt later?
21. Pioneer (4-0) — Anyone buying Titans in the Del Rio?
22. Damien (1-2) — Scary loss to Claremont.
23. La Canada (2-2) — Playing a solid nonleague.
24. Arcadia (1-2) — Got nice road win over Maranatha.
25. Maranatha (2-2) — Still a work in progress.

UPDATED: Photo shows La Canada’s Salazar being tended to by team trainer

salazarLa Canada safety Angel Salazar has white substance washed from face by trainer shortly after incident in which La Canada accuses a Salesian player of smearing some type of sports cream under Salazar’s face mask.

La Canada High School is pondering its next move, if any, after the CIF-Southern Section said it will take no action in regard to an alleged incident that took place during the two schools’ football game on Sept. 4, during which La Canada claims one of its players had some type of sports creme rubbed in his face by a Salesian player following a play.

On the play in question, La Canada alleges that a Salesian player reached under the face mask of Spartans safety Angel Salazar and smeared some type of white substance that La Canada claims is a sports cream, similar to Icy Hot.

Salazar immediately left the game in discomfort and had his face flushed on La Canada’s sideline by athletic trainers. The situation prompted La Canada head coach Ryan Zerbel to stop the game and tell officials what happened. However, no flags were thrown and no players ejected following about a 10-minute delay.

“He (Salazar) was late to the tackle and was one of the first ones to be getting up off the pile and the kid from Salesian comes over, and the film kind of shows, this kid making contact with him (Salazar) and putting his under face mask and kind of doing a rubbing motion,” Zerbel said. “Then you see Angel get up and kind of push him away. Then, Angel came off the field with a bunch of white sports creme all over his face.”

Both schools submitted information to CIF, but without any penalties called or subsequent ejections during the game, CIF had no choice but to refer the matter back to the schools. Salesian won the game, 27-0.

“There is nothing in the bylaws that allow us to go back and retroactively eject a player that wasn’t ejected during the game,” CIF-Southern Section spokesperson Thom Simmons said. “The officials conducted their own on-field investigation and it wasn’t conclusive. So basically, the only people that can remedy or put some type of sanctions together are the two schools.”

Salesian principal Alex Chacon said that following its own investigation, his school did not issue any disciplinary action.

“We feel as a school that we would be investigating any unsportsmanlike matter as it relates to any of our students or staff, regardless of whether or not a flag was thrown or a kid was ejected,” Chacon said. “And this is obviously a pretty significant allegation. The only reason I was involved is because I was personally at the game and was able to attest to whatever information was being given on both school’s behalf.

“We ultimately did submit our findings of the investigation after about six days of reviewing videos and watching the entire game. I think I watched the game four times on different types of media and video that was taken on the field.”

Beside what he claims is evidence of a Salesian player reaching under Salazar’s and doing a smearing-type motion, Zerbel said that the same Salesian player also had a white substance clearly visible on his black game pants. The La Canada Valley Sun’s website also reported that the Salesian player was seen washing his hands and removing his gloves after the alleged incident.

With CIF and Salesian taking no action, Zerbel said that he will meet with his school’s principal and athletic director to decide what the next step is. He was unaware whether Salazar’s parents were considering any legal action.

“It’s a bad situation to be in,” Zerbel said. “I feel as a coach that I have parents who entrust me with their young men. I look at these young men as my own children. We spend so much time together. And I just feel like the system is letting down the kids right now.

“There’s things in place to keep kids safe and keep integrity in the game. Personally, I don’t know of any other avenue to take. I don’t know what else I can do as a coach. During the game, I’m asking the official to go check the kid and no one does anything. What do we do from here? I know it’s an extremely frustrating process for me and I can only imagine how his parents feel.”