Charter Oak’s Zion Echols named Offensive MVP of U.S. Army All-American All-Combine Team


Charter Oak all-purpose threat Zion Echols was named Offensive MVP of the U.S. Army All-American All-Combine Team this weekend in San Antonio, Texas. The event is designed to showcase next year’s top football recruits while this year’s get ready for Sunday’s nationally televised all-star game.

Echols, who already had plenty of recruiting interest, may see his stock really take off because of what he did at Friday’s combine. Bishop Amat’s Tyler Vaughns, a the Tribune’s Player of the Year, was chosen as honorable mention on the All-Combine offensive team.

Echols rushed for 1,141 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. He also had 553 yards and six touchdowns receiving. Echols was named co-MVP of the Hacienda League after helping the Chargers to the league title.

Improved All-Star Game guidelines lead to bigger talent pool and more participation … Colony’s Randall to coach East, CV’s Schilling and Maranatha’s Bogan to coach West … Game is Jan. 30 at West Covina HS

Two CIF champion coaches and one legend have been selected to coach the upcoming San Gabriel Valley All-Star Game on Jan. 30 at West Covina High School.

Colony’s Steve Randall, who guided the Titans to a 12-2 record and Central Division championship, will coach the East team. Crescenta Valley’s Paul Schilling, who led the Falcons to a 14-0 record and the Southeast Division championship, will join forces with four-time CIF champion coach Steve Bogan of Maranatha to coach the West.

The game, which has traditionally been played in early summer, was moved to winter by game organizer and West Covina coach Mike Maggiore in order to provide players with one last recruiting showcase before signing day and hopefully lure some of the area’s top talent.

The borders have also been changed and expanded. Instead of using the 605 Freeway as the dividing line to determine East and West rosters, Azusa Avenue will be the new divider. This means that area powers like Bishop Amat, Los Altos and Northview will be part of the West’s talent pool. The West’s boundaries expands to the Burbank area.

The East has also expanded out to the 15 Freeway and that will mean the inclusion of the entire Baseline League. The expanded borders have led to some impressive early returns in terms of nominations, according to Maggiore. Roster are expected to be finalized in early January and there will be four practices for each team.

“The nice thing is that this year everyone is nominating their best players,” Maggiore said. “We’ve had more nominations than we’ve ever had and more Division I kids than we’ve ever had, so I think it’s going to be a more high-level game than we’ve ever had.”

La Mirada WR/DB Tony Brown commits to Texas Tech …

La Mirada WR/DB Tony Brown gave a verbal commitment on Thursday to play at Texas Tech next season.

Brown, who transferred to La Mirada from Servite for his senior season, had offers from Colorado, Nebraska and UCLA but chose the Red Raiders because he developed a close relationship with Red Raiders assistant coach Darrin Chiaverini, who played with La Mirada head coach Mike Moschetti at Colorado.

Brown caught 46 passes for 993 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.

Monrovia’s Octavius Spencer commits to UCLA …

Monrovia WR/DB Octavius Spencer has committed to UCLA, thus ending any suspense long before Signing Day about where he’ll play on Saturdays.

Spencer caught 31 passes for 691 yards and eight touchdowns. He also averaged 49.4 yards on kickoff returns and 23.9 yards and punt returns. Spencer recorded 44 tackles and had two interceptions while on defense. He was an all-Rio Hondo League selection on both offense and defense.

SOURCE: Hardy out as head coach at Muir … Mustangs post COACH WANTED ad on CIF website …


It appears John Hardy is out and Muir High School’s varsity football program is in the market for a new head coach. A source close to the team said that Hardy was let go on Friday.

Mustangs athletic director Milica Protic posted an ad on CIF’s website Friday saying that the school is looking for a new head coach with a teaching position available for the interested candidate. But when contacted, Protic said she is referring all questions about Hardy to the school’s principal.

Hardy was 25-11 in three seasons as Mustangs head coach. He led the Mustangs to their best season in recent history in 2013 when Muir went 11-2, swept the Pacific League and advanced to the semifinals of the Southeast Division playoffs.

Hardy played at Muir under legendary former head coach Jim Brownfield.

Aram’s Take: I truly hope Muir has a good reason for this as Hardy did an outstanding job with a program that isn’t easy manage. Not only that, he was slowly but surely keeping key portions of the local talent at home. Hardy’s no-nonsense demeanor was perfect for Muir and the record showed it. Hope there’s a good reason for this.

San Dimas promotes Mark Holman to head coach …

San Dimas High School moved fast to replace recently resigned varsity football head coach Bill Zernickow by promoting Mark Holman to the top job on Thursday.

Zernickow resigned on Dec. 1 after a successful 10-year run at the school. Holman served as an assistant on Zernickow’s staff, coaching the offensive line and also being the offensive coordinator although Zernickow called the plays.

“I was a little shocked at first, but I’m real grateful,” Holman said. “This a big job, a big opportunity and I’m excited.”

San Dimas will be Holman’s first head coach job. He has worked on Zernickow’s staffs at both Northview and San Dimas and doesn’t plan to change too much although the Saints’ offensive strategy likely won’t mirror what it was under Zernickow.

Zernickow turned San Dimas into an area power after taking over a troubled program from previous head coach Roland DeAnda in 2005. Zernickow led the Saints to CIF championships in 2009 and 2013.

“I wouldn’t have applied for the job if I didn’t think I could it going,” Holman said of San Dimas’ success. “There’s always going to be pressure. In any big job, there’s going to be pressure but that’s what makes it fun, too.

“At San Dimas, there’s already some good things in place, no doubt. But there’d be pressure to win anywhere.”

Holman is hoping to retain whichever members of last year’s coaching staff wish to remain. With Zernickow having publicly stated that he’s looking to get back into coaching at a higher division, keeping the staff in tact maybe easier said than done for Holman.

“I have my staff pretty much in place, but these guys are my friends and they’re Coach Z’s friends,” Holman said. “I feel like I’m lucky to have a good staff in place, but Coach Z right now, he’s in limbo and we’ll have to see what does and we’ll see where guys go.”

Hey CIF, I’m gonna help you out … next year’s Open Division/Pac-5/D-1 field should be …

Hopefully CIF commish Rob Wigod’s plan to have an open division (and others divisions, too) in football gets fast-tracked through so that we can have it in place in time for next year. But since these things take time, I will help senors Wigod and Glenn Martinez out by telling them what the field of 16 in the open division should be. All they’ll have to do now is just handle the politics part of the plan and get it passed.

Alemany — Barely a fit, but decent power rating.
Bishop Amat — Pseudo Pac-5 champs in ’14 after nearly beating Centennial.
Centennial — First try in Pac-5, Huskies win it all. True D-1 power.
Crespi — Really nothing other than 2014 to deserve this, but so be it.
JSerra — Claim to fame is finishing 2nd in Trinity. Meh. In.
LB Poly — The factory stays in D-1, rest of Moore league to the Southeast.
Mission Viejo — One year out of D-1 and they win “D-2″. Welcome back.
Mater Dei — Beat Pac-5 champ in regular season. Lost in playoffs. In.
Paso Robles — “D-3″ champs. Have to have one travel nightmare in here.
St. Juan Bosco — Trinity champs, D-1 runner up.
Santa Margarita — Strong power rating team. In.
Serra — Claim to fame is scoring 64 on Centennial while allowing 68.
Trabuco Hills — “D-4″ champ. You’re in.
Tesoro — Meh. Welcome back.
Upland — Won their league … Made semis. In.
Vista Murrieta — League champ and runner-up in D-2. You’re in.

Colony starts fast, never looks back against Los Altos …



CERRITOS — It wasn’t painless, but at least it was quick.

The Los Altos High School football team fell behind early to Colony in the CIF-Southern Section Central Division championship at Cerritos College and never recovered in a 35-7 loss on Saturday night.

“Colony is a good team and they did a helluva job tonight,” Los Altos head coach Dale Ziola said. “We knew they were fast, we just didn’t get the push we thought we’d get some times. The lead just got too big and the rest is history.”

Los Altos, which needed to win its final two regular season games just to make the playoffs as the Hacienda League’s third-place team, finished the season 8-6. The Conquerors were bidding for the 12th title in school history while making the program’s 15th finals appearance.

Colony (12-2) was just too fast and it was apparent from the start. The Titans scored on a 63-yard touchdown run by Ryan Kinard on the game’s third play and didn’t look back.

Los Altos’ offense went three-and-out on its first two series and by the time the Conquerors were stopped on downs at the Colony 34 on their third drive, it was already 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.

“We had a couple of three-and-outs and that hindered the run game a little bit,” Ziola said. “When we did start to move the ball, we just didn’t help ourselves with penalties. It made it tough.”

By the time it was halftime, the lead had swelled to 28-0. Los Altos came out firing on its first drive of the second half and quickly got in scoring position. The drive stalled, however, and the Conquerors fumbled at the Colony 5-yard line.

Josh Thompsons’s second touchdown pass to Tommie Dorsey made it 35-0 midway through the third quarter.

Los Altos finally got on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter when quarterback Lorenzo Silva hooked up with Amir Avery on a 45-yard touchdown pass with 6:11 left. The fourth quarter was played with a running clock.

“We were in the finals, not many people can say that,” Ziola said. “Hopefully this is a launching pad. We’ll let this one sit for a little bit and get back to work … get moving in the right direction. Day in, day out. It’s a never-ending process.”

Los Altos’ Tyler Nevens gets inspiration from above …

One of Los Altos High School running back Tyler Nevens’ biggest fans won’t be in attendance on Saturday night when the 15-year-old standout tries to carry his team to a championship.

Sherman Nevens lost his chance to be a part of moments like this in his son’s life when he was killed in a Compton drive-by shooting in 2007. But he’s still very much alive in his son’s Tyler’s thoughts.

Holding his dad’s memory near to his heart is the way Nevens is hoping to share the experience of winning the CIF-Southern Section Central Division championship on Saturday night against Colony at Cerritos College. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.

“I know he’s really proud of me right now,” Tyler Nevens said of his late father. “A lot of people have told me that. It’s truly an honor that I have people who support me and acknowledge that he would be proud of me.”

Nevens lived in Inglewood at the time of his father’s death. The violent nature of such a tragedy was enough for Nevens’ family to pack up and leave that part of the Southland for the relative serenity of Hacienda Heights.

The transition wasn’t always easy for Nevens, who is a self-described loner who has trust issues and prefers to work alone. Although all of that is gradually changing, largely because his teammates and coaches have tried to help fill the void Nevens’ father left.

“It’s pretty devastating for me,” Nevens said. “I’m pretty much growing up without a father figure in my life. It’s just me, my mom and my two sisters. It’s hard.”

Although he’s only a sophomore, Nevens carries both the present and future hopes of the Los Altos program. Without Nevens’ mid-season emergence, there’s no way Los Altos is playing a 14th game. And without Nevens’ outstanding prospects for the next two years, there’d be little reason for Conquerors fans to think a postseason run like this one will be possible in the near future.

“With all of the great players who have come through here, I think he has the ability when it’s all said and done, to be the best running back this school has ever seen,” Los Altos head coach Dale Ziola said. “He’s already close to the single-season rushing record. He’s already had the best sophomore season to date that the school’s ever seen. So the sky’s the limit and the best part is he’s a good kid.”

Nobody knew exactly when Nevens’ coming-out party would be, but Los Altos coaches knew it would come sooner than later. As a freshman in 2013, Nevens helped Los Altos’ freshmen team go 10-0. He scored on the first play in seven of the Conquerors’ 10 games that season.

Nevens began this season as part of a deep mix of running backs vying for carries on the varsity team. But as the season wore on, Nevens clearly separated himself from the pack and that just so happened to coincide with Los Altos playing its best football.

In Los Altos’ semifinals win over Bonita, Nevens rushed for 300 yards and two touchdowns. In the Conquerors’ quarterfinals win over No. 2 seed Monrovia, Nevens ran for 309 yards and five touchdowns.

Nevens has rushed for over 100 yards in six of Los Altos’ past seven games, including 169 against South Hills, 154 against Diamond Ranch and 177 against Charter Oak. All totaled, Nevens has 1,611 yards and 15 touchdowns this season.

“I didn’t expect this at all,” Nevens said. “I know the first part of the season, I wasn’t the football player that I am now. I’m very confident in what I do and I think that’s one of the keys as to how I progressed this season.

“I’ve been focusing on the playoffs. I can’t take my foot off the pedal. I’m going to keep watching film and watching myself to see where I can get better.”

Nevens had thoughts of playing his high school ball elsewhere. There were persuasions from friends for him to go to Bishop Amat among other schools. But Los Altos’ strong history convinced him that playing for the neighborhood team was the best option.

“A couple of friends of mine wanted me to go to Bishop Amat,” Nevens said. “But that’s a private Catholic school and I’m not Catholic. I chose the high school that’s closest to home. I heard they had a great football program, so I came here.”

Before Ziola got things turned around, Nevens was the type of talent who likely would have bypassed Los Altos and went elsewhere. His decision to stay has certainly worked out for everyone involved. It’s also the latest proof that Los Altos is back among the Valley’s elite and keeping its talent home.

“He’s a local kid and we’re glad he came here from Orange Grove (Middle School),” Ziola said. “He probably could have gone to any high school he wanted to in the San Gabriel Valley and we’re happy he stayed at home. We’re extremely thrilled that he’s here. I’m just happy that the kids who are supposed to be here are here.”

Another big performance by Nevens on Saturday might be enough to earn Los Altos its 12th CIF championship in school history. It would also vault the young standout into almost legendary status with two years of eligibility remaining.

As nice as all of that sounds, though, Nevens knows he’s also playing for the accolades of one of his biggest fans who will be there only in spirit.

“I imagine what it would be like if he was here,” Nevens said of his father. “I know that if he was here, I would make him proud. I do mostly everything for him. I use the situation as motivation to keep me going, even in the hardest times that I have.”

Los Altos lineman David Tolmachoff takes on car … and wins

The Scion.

There’s not too many people who can take on a car moving at 30 miles per hour and win. Los Altos High School lineman David Tolmachoff is one of the exceptions.

The experience wasn’t by choice. It certainly provided a scare and lots of pain. Yet the unintended consequences like adding to Tolmachoff’s almost folklorish presence at the school have been priceless for his teammates and coaches.

Tolmachoff will get one last chance to add to his legacy on Saturday when the two-way standout lineman leads Los Altos against Colony in the CIF-Southern Section Central Division championship.

“We really just keep him around for the entertainment value,” Los Altos head coach Dale Ziola said of Tolmachoff. “But he’s a huge asset to the team. We’re glad he’s on our side and not someone else’s side.”

And yet despite all of the big sacks while playing defense and huge holes opened for running backs while playing offense, the thing Tolmachoff’s coaches and teammates are likely to bring up is the time he took on a moving car and won.

It was May 21 of this year, the day after Los Altos’ school year ended. Tolmachoff and teammate David Jimenez were on campus to meet with University of Colorado recruiter Jim Jeffcoat. Following the meeting, Tolmachoff headed home on his bicycle. What happened next could have been tragic.

“I was right in front of the school, normally I cross (the street) right in the same spot and I guess I didn’t see the car because once I pulled out, there was a (Toyota) Scion and I took it head on,” Tolmachoff said. “After that, I just remember being airlifted and the lights in the hospital. I don’t remember anything beside that.”

Scoreboard: Tolmachoff 1, Scion 0.

Box score: Tolmachoff: Concussion, broken jaw, scrapes, bumps and bruises. Scion: Totaled.

The photo of the dented and cracked Scion are in Ziola’s phone and he shows them as a prop for the story. Whomever hears the story and see the picture of the car usually laughs in amazement. But the day of the accident still haunts Ziola because the outcome could have been much worse.

“It was right front in of the school and as I’m running down the street to see what happened, I saw the car before I saw David and all I was thinking about was how I’m going to have to call his parents and tell them he just got hit by a car and is dead,” Ziola said. “Then, I saw David alive and sitting up. He was bleeding profusely, but he was still responsive.

“It was pretty lucky that he just walked out of it with a broke jaw and scrapes and bruises. It wsa scary at the moment. Now, it’s a whole lot of fun. We even had a teacher for dress up for Halloween as David and walk around with a cardboard version of a Scion.”

Tolmachoff spent three days at USC Medical Center. When he got out, he still had to contend with a jaw that was wired shut for the next six weeks. For a lineman, that can be particularly problematic given their penchant for big meals. That’s also turned into somewhat of a joke for Tolmachoff and his friends.

The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder gladly shows video taken on his cell phone of what two Double-Doubles and fries from In-N-Out look like before and after they’re placed in a blender and eaten through a straw.

“It tastes exactly the same through a straw, you just can’t chew or anything,” Tolmachoff said. “You have to put a lot of liquid in there because you can’t blend it exactly. So I would put beef broth or vegetable broth in there.

“I was doing protein shakes at the same time, but after a while it gets tiring and you have to do new things. It’s a different experience. I wouldn’t eat dinner with my family because I would see them eat food, so that was a little hard. You always feel hungry.”

Tolmachoff was healed and ready to go by the start of the season. His previous claim to fame had been the freakish things he could do in the weight room, like flipping 45-pound plates in each hand as though they were cookie sheets. But after winning a head-on battle with a car, Tolmachoff’s legend had reached new heights.

A major reason why Los Altos is playing a 14th game is because of its line play. A major reason the line play has been so good is Tolmachoff, who has helped pave the way for a punishing ground game and racked up 88 tackles and 12 sacks while also playing defense.

“The first thing I wondered was ‘Am I going to be myself again?’” Tolmachoff said. “When I got hit, the first thing that went through my mind was ‘Am I going to die?’ I’ve hit cars before, but not like that.

“Now, when I’m on the football field and I get hit by someone, I’ll be like ‘that’s a weak hit, I’ve been hit by car.’”

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