Los Altos’ Tyler Nevens gets inspiration from above …

neveins
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

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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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Bonita’s defensive stats need some serious adjusting …

Bonita’s defensive stats are making even Sierra Vista and South El Monte. The Dons and Eagles in recent years were well known for some amazing offensive (rushing in the case of Sierra Vista) and defensive stats (in the case of South El Monte). But even they may have been outdone by whomever is doing Bonita’s defensive stats this year.

Take a look at the tackling leaders

Cruz Garibay 203
Ed Ostashay 148
Nathan Smedley 117
Cameron Liscano 110
Danny Gelalich 108

FIVE players with more than 100 tacklers and one of them has over 200! And, there’s FIVE other players with 50 or more tackles!

With numbers like these, how did Bonita allow 27 points per game this year?

Central Division championship to be played at Cerritos College

Colony High School’s football program has already scored on Los Altos before a snap has been taken.

The CIF-Southern Section office ruled Tuesday that Saturday’s Central Division championship game will not be played at Los Altos High due to concerns over stadium capacity and field conditions. The two schools agreed to move the game to Cerritos College. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.

“These are not home games, these are (championship) games run by the CIF-Southern Section and the CIF-Southern Section bulletins clearly state that host schools can host these games if their facilities can safely handle the anticipated crowd and it’s a safe playing facility for the two schools involved,” CIF spokesperson Thom Simmons said Tuesday afternoon. “After touring the facility, Glenn Martinez, in his capacity as administrator of football for the CIF-Southern Section, determined that Los Altos did not meet those requirements.

“And that required us to ask them to consider other possibilities.”

Colony almost immediately balked at the idea of playing the game at Los Altos. Following Monday’s luncheon for teams in the finals, Colony officials went to Los Altos and walked the field and took pictures which were sent to the CIF-Southern Section office for review. Los Altos officials were unaware of the visit.

Martinez toured the stadium on Tuesday afternoon and met with officials from both schools before deciding that the venue needed changing.

Los Altos resisted the idea of moving the venue, partly because it plays on a natural-grass surface which is more conducive to the Conquerors’ style of play. Los Altos is a run-first team with a sizable offensive line. Colony runs a spread offense and is predicated on speed, which makes the Titans better suited to artificial turf.

“The playing surface shouldn’t really matter,” Los Altos head coach Dale Ziola said. “Two of our three playoff games, we had to go and play on the road on artificial turf despite practicing on a natural grass surface. Now, it’s our home game, so why should it have to be different the other way around?”

Two-time Tribune Coach of the Year Bill Zernickow steps down at San Dimas …

Two-time Tribune Coach of the Year Bill Zernickow, who led San Dimas to two CIF championships, resigned on Monday.

Zernickow inherited a Saints program in 2005 that had been through rough waters with previous head coach Roland DeAnda. He stabilized things and went on a run that included four Valle Vista League championships and CIF titles in 2009 and ’13. He was 87-37 in 10 years.

Zernickow intimated that he is not done coaching and would entertain the thought of coaching a team in a higher division. Zernickow was a standout player at Glendora High in the early 1990s.

VIDEO and STORY from Monday’s CIF Championship Press Luncheon … Los Altos and Pomona carry the local flag …

LONG BEACH — With their opponents seated just mere feet away, members of the Los Altos and Pomona high school football teams ate well and smiled large on Monday afternoon while knowing the rest of the week would be all business.

The Conquerors and Red Devils were the local representatives at the 39th CIF-Southern Section Championship Luncheon held at The Grand in Long Beach for teams playing in division championships this weekend.

“I’ve never seen anything like it and I actually loved it,” Los Altos defensive back Daniel Valdez said of the luncheon. “All the food was pretty good. I stuffed myself, I had two plates.

“Los Altos hasn’t been in this place in a long time and for us to be in this spot, it’s a great life experience for all of us and I hope we just get the win.”

Los Altos (8-5) will host Colony (11-2) in Saturday’s Central Division championship. A site for the game has yet to be cemented. The Conquerors would prefer to play at home, but Colony has balked at the idea due to concerns over the playing surface.

If the game is moved, Walnut HS, Cal-State Fullerton and Mt. San Antonio College have emerged as the front runners.

Pomona (9-4) will be on the road in Friday’s Mid-Valley Division championship against Paraclete (10-3). The game will be held at Antelope Valley College.

“It was a great experience,” Pomona interim head coach Keith Richardson said of Monday’s luncheon. “The atmosphere is just great. It was a great spread. The kids enjoyed the atmosphere. It was a great place to be.”

Los Altos was represented by head coach Dale Ziola, assistant coach Steven Burke, athletic director Andrew Formano and principal Cheli McReynolds. The Conquerors players in attendance were senior quarterback Lorenzo Silva, senior lineman David Tolmachoff and Valdez.

Los Altos is bidding for the 12th CIF championship in school history and the program is making its 15th appearance in a championship game. Los Altos entered the postseason as the third-place team out of the Hacienda League, but no opponent has been with single digits of the Conquerors at the final gun.

Los Altos beat Palomares League champion South Hills, Rio Hondo League champion and No. 2 overall seed Monrovia and at-large Bonita to reach Saturday’s finals.

“It’s very special,” Ziola said. “I’ve never been a part of anything like this and neither have the kids or coaches. My father-in-law was a high school head coach for 35 years and was only here once. We’re just soaking up the moment.

“There’s not that much to say because it’s so awesome and it’s so tough to describe. To be here and soak it in with these guys, it’s just special.”

Pomona was represented by Richardson, athletic directors Anthony Rice and Albert Adu, and principal Roger Fastin. The Red Devils players in attendance were wide receiver/defensive back Shawny Wilson and wide receiver/defensive back Desmond Bobo.

Pomona, the No. 3 seed in the division, beat McAuliffe, San Dimas and No. 2 seed Sierra Canyon to reach Friday’s final.

Hey Charter Oak, take a good, long, hard look. IMMORTALITY is what you’re playing for …

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2009 Charter Oak CIF champions

Study the faces. Stare into the eyes. You hear them talking to you? “The ghosts” … Current Crescenta Valley baseball coach Phil Torres used to call them “the ghosts” when he’d refer to old pictures of teams that won CIF championships in the Temple City football locker room. Back then (early 90s), Torres was a JV football assistant coach at TC. Whatever. But it always stuck with me — you win CIF and you’re NEVER forgotten. Some day, maybe 100 years from now, when all of us are long gone, the current crop of Charter Oak players will look at the ghosts. Study the faces. Stare into the eyes. Immortality!

Hey Los Altos, take a good, long, hard look. Immortality is what you’re playing for …

LACIF
1999 Los Altos CIF champions

Study the faces. Stare into the eyes. You hear them talking to you? “The ghosts” … Current Crescenta Valley baseball coach Phil Torres used to call them “the ghosts” when he’d refer to old pictures of teams that won CIF championships in the Temple City football locker room. Back then (early 90s), Torres was a JV football assistant coach at TC. Whatever. But it always stuck with me — you win CIF and you’re NEVER forgotten. Some day, maybe 100 years from now, when all of us are long gone, the current crop of Los Altos players will look at the ghosts. Study the faces. Stare into the eyes. Immortality!

Hey Amat, take a good, long, hard look. IMMORTALITY is what you’re playing for …

amatCIFpic
1995 Bishop Amat CIF championship team

Study the faces. Stare into the eyes. You hear them talking to you? “The ghosts” … Current Crescenta Valley baseball coach Phil Torres used to call them “the ghosts” when he’d refer to old pictures of teams that won CIF championships in the Temple City football locker room. Back then (early 90s), Torres was a JV football assistant coach at TC. Whatever. But it always stuck with me — you win CIF and you’re NEVER forgotten. Some day, maybe 100 years from now, when all of us are long gone, the current crop of Amat players will look at the ghosts. Study the faces. Stare into the eyes. Immortality!

AmatLine
’95 Amat linemen