Players like Eric Barriere don’t come along too often. And they simply can’t be replaced.
The former La Habra High School quarterback who guided the Highlanders to a CIF championship last season is now at Eastern Washington. In his wake, head coach Frank Mazzotta is faced with one big question entering the season: who will replace one of the most decorated players in school history?
“It could be Zach Fogel, but I don’t know, we have another kid in the mix in Joe Hernandez,” Mazzotta said. “It’s actually a very live competition.”
Fogel, a junior, has been getting the majority of the reps while Hernandez recovers from an injury. Hernandez, a senior, is expected back soon and could make a late push for the job.
No matter who gets it, coaches are guarding either player against the notion that they have to be Barriere, who in addition to big stats also was a clutch player as evidenced by his last-second touchdown pass to beat San Clemente in the Southwest Division championship last season.
“We’re not trying to make the next Eric Barriere,” Mazzotta said. “And so the next quarterback can’t think that he’s got to be Eric. He’s just got to be himself. And whatever that is, we’ll make the most of it.
“Eric is irreplaceable. For sure. You can’t replace all the things that he did.”
Whomever wins the job is in good shape in terms of talented skill players to work with. Receiver Prince Ross, who was on the other end of the game-winning touchdown pass against San Clemente, is back. Pervis Henderson is another strong target.
The run game is loaded with talented backs, led by likely starter Eli Anderson. And the offensive line is supposed to be a formidable unit.
Because of La Habra’s success, the program was placed in Division 2 when the CIF Southern Section revamped the divisions this offseason and grouped teams based solely on competitive equity.
La Habra will prep for a potentially difficult postseason by playing a strong nonleague schedule that includes games against Division 1 teams in Mission Viejo and Tesoro.
“It’s a huge challenge,” Mazzotta said of being in Division 2. “But, it’s also a great honor. What an honor that we get to play in Division 2 with such great teams. Division 1 has 18 teams and Division 2 has 19 teams. So, we’re in the top 37 of 550-something Southern Section schools?
“That’s definitely a tribute to the legacy of the kids who played here before. And we need to honor that by working hard and playing our best. It’s going to be the biggest challenge our school has ever faced.”
The news late last week that Loyola High School will challenge the transfer of standout running back Drake Beasley to La Canada has been met with surprise and disappointment by the Spartans coaching staff and the school’s athletic department.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Loyola will protest Beasley’s transfer, thus threatening his eligibility for his senior season, on grounds of undue influence by La Canada. Loyola is a Division 1 program with a storied history and plays in the powerful Mission League. La Canada is in Division 12.
La Canada head coach Ryan Zerbel declined Monday to talk about any specifics related to Beasley, but expressed his bewilderment about the charge that he or someone on his staff unduly influenced the transfer.
“Right now, it’s in the best interest of the kid to let the CIF policies play out,” Zerbel said. “That’s what they’re there for and we’ll let it play out. It’s horrible that all of this stuff is said. It’s not like we’re landing kids all the time or we’re a factory over here.”
Beasley made a name for himself locally during his youth football days with the La Canada Gladiators. He went to Loyola for the first three years of his career and earlier this month left for La Canada due to undisclosed reasons.
Beasley is considered to be one of the top running backs in the state, having rushed for 1,647 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. He currently had 12 college offers, including UCLA, Boise St., Arizona and Cal.
If eligible, Beasley shoots La Canada from Rio Hondo League afterthought to one of the favorites. And there’s no telling what the Spartans could do in the second-to-lowest playoff division should they make the Southern Section postseason.
According to CIF Southern Section director of communications Thom Simmons, Loyola had not submitted any paperwork regarding the case of late Monday morning. Once Loyola files its case against La Canada and Beasley, La Canada will have a chance to conduct its own investigation and respond.
In all likelihood, the Southern Section will have to make a decision on whether there was a violation. And that decision needs to be solid enough to hold up in court if matters go that far. The range of penalties if undue influence can vary due to the severity of the infraction.
“Whatever we decide, we have to be able to defend in court,” Simmons said speaking broadly about undue influence decisions. “We have to be able to prove reasonably in a court of law that there has been evidence of wrongdoing.”
Simmons gave no timeline on how long it would take before a decision was made, but did say that undue influence cases can often take one to two months to resolve. Obviously, that would put Beasley in serious jeopardy of missing a good portion of the season. Or, La Canada could play him and risk forfeiting
“We try to clear them up as soon as possible, because when you’re talking about a student’s athlete’s eligibility, the last thing you want to do is hurt the kid if there’s no wrongdoing,” Simmons said.
Beasley will continue to practice with the team throughout the challenge prcoess. The Spartans open the season on Aug. 26 at Hawthorne.
UPDATE: It’s a total head scratcher, but Loyola, a Division 1 team in the Mission League, told the LA Times that it will challenge the transfer of running back Drake Beasley on grounds of “undue influence”.
Beasley is already enrolled at La Canada and practicing with the Spartans.
In what may be the biggest coup of the offseason, the La Canada High School football team appears to have hit the transfer lottery.
Drake Beasley, the standout running back at Loyola and a player who many consider to be one of the top ball carriers in the state, has enrolled at La Canada after leaving Loyola late last week.
“From what I understand, he checked in yesterday (Monday) and got his CIF paperwork,” La Canada head coach Ryan Zerbel said. “That leads me to believe that he will come out and play for La Canada. I’m going to take a backseat in all of this because I’ve got a team to coach. But if Drake Beasley shows up and says he’s here to play football, then great. He’ll be a great addition to what we have.”
Beasley playing at La Canada would automatically make the Spartans one of the favorites in what looks like a very interesting Rio Hondo League. San Marino has a record-setting quarterback and receiver to replace. Monrovia was hit hard by graduation and had some key returners leave the program.
The Spartans were thought to be one of the teams vying for a playoff spot. But adding Beasley, who rushed for 1,647 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2015, would give the Spartans arguably the top overall player in the area, let alone the league.
“I really want to see him in our pads, practicing and have the paperwork done, and from there I will get excited,” Zerbel said. “Who knows what’s going to happen? You’re talking about a high-profile kid. In this whole thing, there are so many factors. It’s really crazy, all the hoopla. I’m just trying to maintain a calm environment for my players. But they’re young and they see it all on Facebook.”
Beasley played for La Canada’s youth football program before starting his high school career at Loyola. La Canada went 4-6 last season and missed the playoffs due to a loss to South Pasadena, which ultimately determined third place.
The Spartans open the season on Aug. 26 at Hawthorne.
Aram’s take: If you’re South Pas and Temple City, you just threw up a little in your mouth. And that’s because your chances of finishing in the top three with San Marino, Monrovia and LC just probably grew real slim. And if you’re San Marino and Monrovia, the two perennial favorites, your stranglehold on the league title may be in doubt. Beasley immediately becomes the top talent in the league.
Tyler Sweet, who was arguably Bishop Amat’s top returning skill player, has left the school and transferred to Upland. Sweet’s younger brother, Terayon, has also left for Upland.
Both are the younger brothers of 2015 Tribune Player of the Year Torreahno Sweet, who is now at Western Oregon after a tumultuous senior season at Amat. Sweet was suspended for a game and a half early last season for undisclosed reasons. He was also “not part of the program” according to Lancers head coach Steve Hagerty for most of the offseason leading up to his senior season.
Tyler Sweet was a reserve last season thanks to the presence of several college-bound skill players. He was likely going to be Amat’s top deep threat at receiver. The timing couldn’t be worse for the Lancer who are now just two weeks away from hosting powerful Mater Dei in the season opener on Aug. 26.
Aram’s take: Bad optics for Amat. No other way to look at it. When your top offensive threat jets right before the season, it’s a bad sign. Obviously, the Sweets and Amat have been like oil and water. The timing seems like the ultimate “take that” with the season so close. Nobody really knows what Amat has under the hood yet, but it better be good because the Lancers are playing a very rough schedule.