2015 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW — Twenty years later, Bishop Amat is still waiting on next CIF championship

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WE ARE STARTING TO ROLL OUT OUR HS FOOTBALL PREVIEW ONLINE. THE MAGAZINE WILL RUN IN LATE AUG.

It started moments after the Bishop Amat High School football team’s heartbreaking one-point loss to Corona Centennial in last year’s CIF Southern Section Pac-5 semifinals.

Through the tears and frustration came a prevailing notion that next year would be different. Next year wouldn’t come up inches short. Next year Bishop Amat would be back on top.

The Lancers had just lost to eventual division champ Centennial, 38-37, in a game that ended with Amat being stopped inches shy of the goal line on a two-point conversion to win the game.

It was a loss that put the once-powerhouse program back on the radar in the CIF-SS’ highest division. It was also a loss that set the stage for legitimate championship expectations this season, which just so happens to be the 20th anniversary of Amat’s last CIF-SS championship in 1995.

Important vote about playoff changes looms …

The CIF-Southern Section executive committee will meet Aug. 13 to vote on whether to proceed with a proposal that would base playoff divisions for high school football on teams, not leagues.

Currently, the 13 divisions of the Southern Section football playoffs are based on leagues. The new system would produce constantly evolving divisions that would change annually based on the previous two seasons’ data.

“It’s going to be a paradigm shift for the entire section, if it passes,” CIF-Southern Section information director Thom Simmons said. “What you’ll see in August won’t be a finished product but certainly good enough to base a vote on. They’ll decide whether it’s worth going forward with.”

The executive committee is made up of 23 members, which includes representatives from each area in the Southern Section. The proposal would look and feel much like the one currently being used for basketball, meaning teams from the same league would likely be playing in different divisions once the playoffs started.

If the executive committee decides to proceed with the proposal, an official vote will be taken in January and the new system would be in place in time for the 2016-17 school year.

The new system would see teams move up and down in division based on their success, or lack thereof, from the previous two seasons. It’s unclear whether divisions would go back to be being labeled by numbers instead of names, but the top division would certainly be a mix of established Southland football powers and upstarts, much like the open division is in basketball.

Conversely, teams that play in upper division leagues now, but have unrealistic chances at winning their playoff division, would see their chances of winning a section title improve greatly.

Exactly how teams would qualify for the playoffs remains a bit fuzzy and is likely to be addressed at the meeting. Currently, league champions, second-place and in most cases third-place teams are automatic qualifiers or the postseason.

Season’s greetings! Fall practice begins … “It’s go time”

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Nothing says the start of a new football season like a team’s first fall practice.

For several area high school football teams, Monday signaled the beginning of a new campaign that will hopefully culminate four months from now with league championships and deep playoff runs.

“It’s go time now,” said second-year Duarte head coach Travis Brown. “There’s a sense of excitement. The kids are are locked in. You have spring ball season, your 7-on-7 season, but today was a different fit. There was no complaining and the guys were focused.”

The Falcons began official preparations at 8 a.m. on Monday for their Week 0 opener against Diamond Bar on Aug. 28. Duarte went 2-8 in Brown’s first season, but the former Los Altos standout receiver is hopeful his team will give a better impression this season.

“You want to avenge a bad season, but the one thing we’ve preached is that last year doesn’t matter,” Brown said. ‘We’re a new team with new identities. I think it took me getting a season under my belt to appreciate the entire process. We’ve got guys on this team now who are 100 percent bought in.”

Duarte did mostly conditioning drills on Monday and returned to the field at 3:15 p.m. for more of the same. Brown also said the team worked on installing its offense and first few plays.

Across town at El Monte, the vibe wasn’t atonement, more like greed. The Lions want even more success after finishing second in the Mission Valley League last season. El Monte is considered one of the favorites to win the league this season thanks to the return of standout quarteback Edward Dominguez and dangerous running back Roy Barajas.

“The excitement is kind of unreal right now,” El Monte head coach Joel Sanchez said. “They’re so fired up to get going. For a lot of these guys, it’s their third (varsity) year now and it’s amazing how things have changed.”

In order to win the Mission Valley League, the Lions will have to beat Arroyo for the second consecutive season and then find a way to get past defending champ Rosemead. Sanchez said his players know exactly what the task at hand is.

“Everybody’s No. 1 goal is to beat Rosemead,” Sanchez said. “Usually, everybody’s goal is to beat South El Monte. We’ve beaten Arroyo and South El Monte, but I think the Rosemead game, they’re looking forward to it. We didn’t play well last year and the year before we got our butts kicked. They know what they need to get fired up for.”

The Lions also got their pads on Monday, but won’t be able to use them until Thursday. Same with all teams that began practice on Monday. El Monte opens the season on Aug. 28 against reigning Almont League champion Montebello.

Later this week, Los Altos will renew what’s become its annual tradition of starting fall camp with a midnight practice. Late Wednesday night and into early Thursday morning, the Conquerors will take the field in preparations for the 2015 season.

What Los Altos does for an encore to its improbable 2014 playoff run is anybody’s guess. The Conquerors made it further in the playoffs than any local team by advancing all the way to the Central Division championship game where they lost to Colony.

Should any local team actually win a CIF championship this season, a trip to the state championship bowl game playoffs await. Under new CIF rules, all 13 CIF-Southern Section champions automatically qualify for the state championship bowl game playoffs.

That means the season could potentially be extended by two weeks to 16 games instead of the usual 14.

NEW! All-Encompassing SGV(N) Top 25 … (Post passing circuit) …

NOTE: This may or may not be the last Top 25 before the season. Depends how much I find out during August. Regardless, this will take a focus on what was learned (heard) during the spring/summer passing/linemen competition circuit.

1. Bishop Amat — Most athletic Lancers defense in some time.
2. Charter Oak — Pac-5 level talent in the skill spots.
3. La Mirada — Reloaded. Only concern is chemistry.
4. Glendora — Even with Fink, not impressive on passing circuit.
5. St. Francis — Word is Knights are down a notch.
6. West Covina — Promising better pass attack.
7. La Habra — Offensive skill talent is scary.
8. La Serna — LB Campos looks like special talent.
9. San Marino — No real word on if defense is better.
10. Monrovia — Line play looking real strong.
11. Northview — Word is line play is down from ’14.
12. Damien — Word is there’s minor improvement in talent.
13. Los Altos — Weight room numbers are scary.
14. Muir — QB and line concerns remain.
15. Bonita — About the same as last year.
16. South Hills — Guessing game in several key spots.
17. San Dimas — My, how soon we forget.
18. Diamond Ranch — Talent lacking in key spots, I’m told.
19. El Rancho — Not getting much info on this team.
20. La Salle — Talent level didn’t drop too but it’s young.
21. St. Paul — Mystery team due to skill talent questions.
22. Montebello — Defense and running game still look good.
23. El Monte — Two very legit skill players at QB and RB.
24. Arroyo — Strong line play. Like really strong.
25. Rosemead — Word is Panthers way down along both lines.

Don’t underestimate Los Altos …

Consider yourself warned.

After Los Altos made a huge run to the Central Division championship game last season, it was easy to look at the roster and conclude the Conquerors will fall off this season (and maybe beyond) because of all the talent lost to graduation.

That’s probably not going to happen. Los Altos’ junior class went 10-0 as freshman and allowed 18 points all season. That group includes running back Tyler Nevens, who freaked as a sophomore last season by rushing for 1,683 yards and 15 touchdowns.

But the depth of talent for the junior class, which looks like it will dominate this year’s starting roster, goes beyond Nevens. Here are the numbers …

— Eight players who can squat over 400 lbs.

— One player who can squat over 500 lbs.

— Of the two players who can squat over 400 lbs., one of them is Nevens and the other is receiver Art Vargas. Five are O-line starters.

— QB Michael Campbell (a rare senior on the roster) is thought to be the best QB since head coach Dale Ziola has been there.

— Current junior is technically (weight room) stronger than last year’s senior class as seniors, which was technically the strongest class in school history. Yes, stronger in the weight room (numbers-wise) than the Cody and Harwell teams.