South Pasadena looks set to build on last year’s breakout season

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You’ll have to excuse the South Pasadena High School if it’s overly excited about the upcoming season.

The Tigers are bent on building on last season’s coming out party when they went 8-3 and were in league championship contention deep into the season. With several key starters back, who can blame them for the optimism?

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“Our philosophy this year is ‘next step'” South Pasadena head coach C.B. Richards said. “Last year, we put in a couple things, got my system set up and set the culture of the program. We did a lot of things in the offseason. We increased the weight room. Guys are a lot stronger. And also our numbers are up.”

Numbers are key for South Pas. Richards said last year’s varsity roster was 24 before junior varsity players were brought up for Friday nights. This year, there’s close to 40 players on the roster. And many of them are important returners.

All-purpose weapon Jalen Ross is the headliner of the group. He was an All-Area selection last season and can do a multitude of things on offense in addition to being a shut-down corner back on defense.

Quarterback Adam Arellano is also back and he’s set to work behind what could be one of the bigger offensive lines in the area. All-league center Franco Pineda. The size comes at the tackles where Ben Martinez (6-foot-3, 270 pounds) has the left side and coaches are trying to sculpt Jacob Wilson (6-5, 300) into the starter at right tackle.

South Pasadena also has back one of the Rio Hondo League’s better defensive players in linebacker Ben Quirk.

Arguably, the best news the program got came in the offseason when CIF altered how it does playoff divisions with teams from the same league being placed in different divisions. Last season, South Pasadena played in the Central Division along with eventual champ San Marino and Monrovia.

The Tigers were blasted by Glendora in the first round. But this season, South Pasadena is in the more doable Division 10 while San Marino is in Division 6 and Monrovia is in Division 7. That means the Tigers really need to place an emphasis on a top-three finish in league in order for a chance at playoff success.

“It’s better than it was,” Richards said of his team’s division placement. “It’s perfect for our situation because we’re trying to improve and be successful in the playoffs on our level. If we can make the playoffs, it gives us a chance to maybe have a little more success, which may lead to more guys on our campus who weren’t thinking about playing football coming out.”

Richards has beefed up South Pasadena’s nonleague schedule. Whereas last year’s early games saw the Tigers play Glendale and Hoover, this year it’s Rosemead and Bonita.

Rosemead is the first game of the season in Week 0 on Aug. 26 and will surely let the area know whether the Tigers are indeed ready to take the next step.

“We picked up Rosemead because I know they’re going to be a tough-minded football team and it’s going to be a great test for us,” Richards said. “We love going against Rosemead because we know they’re going to test us. I wanted to set the tone right out of the gate that this is the level of football we expect to play.”

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It’s Aug. 1 … Practice begins!

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To some, Monday was like a holiday.

With the calendar turning to August 1, it signaled the start of high school football as several teams returned to practice field in preparations for Week 0 games, which take place the final week of the month.

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And with the first practice came plenty of high expectations as everyone is undefeated and hopeful a long offseason of hard work in the weight room and passing tournaments will pay off in the win-loss column. Nowhere is that more apparent than at Arcadia.

The Apaches started bright and early on Monday morning with a strictly conditioning practice before returning at night for a more normal workout that included gear handed out earlier in the day.

“It’s always exciting, the first practice of the year,” Arcadia head coach Andrew Policky said. “It’s like Christmas. Everybody was fired up and excited to be out there. We got all the boring stuff done, and the paperwork out of the way. I feel pretty good about it.”

Arcadia went 5-5 last season and was competitive in the Pacific League race before some close losses kept the Apaches from the playoffs. But with some key players back, optimism abounds on Duarte Road.

“I think we’ve got a shot to be pretty good, but everything is just talk now until we get the chance to play some games,” Policky said. “The kids have kind of seen what it could be, now it’s just a matter of us putting it all together and putting in the work required. Everything right now is just potential. We’ve got to turn that into some results.

Policky reports Arcadia has about 40-45 on the varsity roster. The Apaches open the season on Aug. 26 at Bell Gardens.

Under current CIF rules, coaches are limited to just 18 hours of practice a week in order to reduce injuries or overexertion.

“The days of practicing for three and a half hours two times a day are over,” said El Rancho head coach Adrian Medrano, who held his first official fall practice back at his alma mater. “The good thing about it is that this week it’s not 100 degrees. But we had some guys who were feeling the heat a little bit and struggling a little bit with our conditioning.”

With what Medrano estimates is just over 70 players between the varsity and junior varsity roster, and over 60 on the freshmen team, the Dons are bent on turning things around after last year’s 1-9 record. Two seasons ago, El Rancho went 8-3 and won the Del Rio League.

Medrano’s team will condition for the first three days of this week before getting serious with the equipment on. El Rancho opens the season on Aug. 26 against with a home game against Norwalk.

“We have a good core group of players who care about this football program,” Medrano said. “I wouldn’t say we have a whole lot of flash, but we do have a group that really cares and have bought in.”

Across town at San Dimas, the Saints waited until mid-afternoon to hold their first workout. With 80 players on the roster between the junior varsity and varsity teams, and 60 on the freshmen team, there was no shortage of athletes to whip into shape.

Saints head coach Mark Holman said that Monday would be all about running and condition … and, surprisingly, throwing the ball. That’s a shock, considering San Dimas’ bread and butter is running the ball.

“We don’t have shoulder pads today, so there’s not a lot of run blocking that we can do,” Holman said.

San Dimas didn’t win the Valle Vista League last season, but made a huge run in the playoffs to reach the Mid Valley Division championship game before losing to Sierra Canyon. The Saints open the season on Aug. 26 against arch-rival Bonita.

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Monrovia’s top three returners transfer out

Monrovia is on shaky ground as the season approaches after losing what would’ve been the team’s top three players after they transferred to other schools.

Izaiah Adams (WR/DB) and linebacker Malcom Weston have transferred to, guess where, Cathedral. And defensive back Canaan Chandler has left for Grace Bretheren. Adams was considered to be Monrovia’s biggest talent. Weston had 68 tackles and seven sacks in 2015. Chandler scored four touchdowns last season and had five sacks.

The players were reportedly with the team through spring but left when the school year ended. Monrovia is headed by new head coach Jerry Chou, who won back-to-back CIF championships at Eagle Rock in 2005 and ’06. The Wildcats now have just TWO returning starters. They open the season at Burbank on Aug. 26.

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Sounds like somebody wants this kid to go to St. John Bosco …

DISCLAIMER: It’s unknown who the voice in the video is. It could be a Bosco coach. It could be a Bosco parent. It could also be one of the many loser hangers-on that Bosco has. You know, the kinds of guys who call themselves a “community activist” and “leader”, yet walk around as grown men with hoody nicknames. Or, it could just be two guys talking. Anyway, so take it for what it’s worth.

FYI: The player in question is Darion Green, a Class of ’20 prospect who appears to be at Mater Dei.

And then there’s this from the kid’s instagram acct comments …

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