West Covina WON’T challenge the transfer of Northview RB Kevin Thomas

West Covina head coach Mike Maggiore said Monday morning that the school won’t challenge the transfer of running back Kevin Thomas, who left West Covina for Northview earlier this offseason, on grounds that the move was athletically motivated.

According to the CIF website, Thomas’ eligibility is still up in the air while CIF awaits “former school response”. West Covina not challenging the transfer would be clear a major hurdle for Thomas to be eligible to start the season. However, he still needs to satisfy the valid change of address portion of the CIF transfer rules.

Thomas, a senior, rushed for 780 yards and seven touchdowns for the Bulldogs last season. He would fill a serious void at running back for Northview and give the Vikings a scary trio of skill players along with QB Steven Comstock and all-purpose threat Antuwan Ayers.

Northview opens the season on Aug. 25 against Charter Oak at Covina District Field.

… as for West Covina, the Bulldogs aren’t exactly hurting at running back. Henry Martinez, a 1,000-yard rusher from two seasons ago, is back from an injury that cost him his junior season.

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Surprise, surprise: It’s Nogales!

Optimism is bliss across local high school football fields at this time of year.

Nobody’s lost a game. Everyone has league championship aspirations, if not more. However, precious few teams will actually their August goals in November. Nogales is bent on making sure that won’t be its story.

The Nobles, as the season nears, are arguably the area’s biggest mystery team. They’ve switched leagues from the difficult Valle Vista League, with Northview and San Dimas at the top, to the more doable Montview League.

And should the Nobles qualify for the playoffs, they’ll be in Division 13 … the lowest in the CIF Southern Section. It’s a much-needed reset for a once-powerful program and one that could pay off big starting this year.

“I think, as a staff, taking a look at the teams we’re going to play, it definitely brings a sense that there’s a chance to make something happen,” Nobles head coach Richard Salazar said. “I think the kids kind of see it, too.”

Another reason for a sunny outlook at Nogales is the return of 15 total starters (eight offense, seven defense) from last year’s team. That includes three-year starting quarterback Matt Olguin and a couple of outstanding in receivers in 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior La Renzo Williams and James Gray. The offensive line is also a veteran group led by senior Joseph Mantilla.

Nogales has to get better on defense, especially against class teams. The Nobles allowed nearly 30 points per game, but that number should come down against lesser competition. It also helps that standout defensive tackle Jonathan Guardado, an all-league selection in 2015, is back.

Nogales doubled its win total from two games in Salazar’s first season to four games last season. Baked in those results were some good performances in losses and also a confidence-inspiring win over Azusa, which is annually one of the favorites in the Montview League.

Based on talent, Nogales might be the favorite to win the Montview League. Just finishing in the top three would likely lead to a trip to the playoffs where, again, the Nobles have a fighter’s chance of making a deep run.

“The new division poses a real chance for us schools that need the opportunity to try be successful and build that morale,” Salazar said. “It gives us an optimal way of getting results so that we can show these kids there is an end-product to what we’re doing.

“I don’t care what division we’re in because a CIF championship is a CIF championship. I’ve been a part of a CIF championship as a player and a coach at La Habra and it’s something that doesn’t come easy. Even league championships these days are as tough as anything to get. But again, I tell these kids everyday that success is a byproduct of what you do. You’ve got to put in that work.”

Nogales opens the season on Aug. 26 against Garey.

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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?

PHOTOS

“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.

PHOTOS

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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