Peaked in and listened to new assistant coach and former Cleveland Browns and USC star Daylon McCutcheon talk to a group of players during Wednesday’s practice at Bishop Amat. He was asking how many all-state and all-cif players were standing in front of him. I don’t recall seeing a hand raised, but he went on to talk about how important the traditions were at Amat, and what it represented to wear that jersey.
There is no doubt this is going to be one of the most challenging years in school history for the boys in blue. There are several reasons why so many players have left in the last year – some for disciplinary reasons – some on their own terms, and that’s where I should and will leave it for now.
But the list is long, gone are Tony Adams (Diamond Ranch), Dorian Wells (South Hills), Brandon Sermons (DRanch), Blake Tillis (Los Altos), Bradford Ray (South Hills), Junior Tamayo (Los Altos), Kevin Bonilla (Chino Hills), Bryce McBride (Los Altos), Adam Acosta (Montebello), and Ryan Henson (Mater Dei?). And by the way, former Amat standout Rodney Sermons is also at Diamond Ranch as one of coach Roddy Layton’s assistants.
But as coach Mark Verti reminded me, there is a lot in reserve when you talk about Marcus Wagner taking over in the backfield with either Nick Lenhart or Nick Iglesias starting at quarterback. Brent Seals is back at safety and big Steven Ochoa (tackle) and James Stremple (OL) are back on the lines.
But how will the losses of so many impact players affect them? And how good would they have been if everyone stayed? We’ll never know the answers to those questions. The Lancers open with Los Osos and Orange Lutheran at home followed by road games at Hart and Rancho Cucamonga. If the Lancers don’t win one or both of those first two games, you’re looking at another long and difficult road just to stay .500.
With the schedule Amat plays, it’s so difficult to compare them with anyone else in the San Gabriel Valley. I’ve always felt you could only compare Amat with Amat’s past glory, and while that might not seem fair, that’s how it is at any school with a great tradition.
There’s only one way back in my opinion. Now that the gap between Amat and the rest of the SGV has obviously closed, Amat needs to challenge and send out invitations to schedule Los Altos, Charter Oak, South Hills and other great local teams on a regular basis. And why not. The first step Amat needs to take to take to attract the SGV’s best players and restore its credibility locally is to schedule the area’s best teams, especially those where players are leaving to. Imagine the interest is would generate. In the 1980s and early 90s this wouldn’t have worked because other SGV schools didn’t have a chance, and Amat didn’t need to because it had all the area’s best players. But that’s not reality anymore. It’s great to play the Orange Lutheran’s and the Hart’s, but I don’t thinking scheduling Charter Oak or South Hills is going to hurt the Lancers’ chances of preparing for the Serra League. Do you? Amat is at a crossroads where it needs to re-establish itself locally, or players are going to keep filtering out to other schools already building on their own winning traditions. What do you think, could this ever happen, and should it? And would these schools agree to face each other. I don’t see why not, or how it couldn’t benefit all involved.