New Fiesta Bowl format is more attractive

The third annual Fiesta Bowl will have a different flavor on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Whittier College and a format change that matches the Inland Empire against Los Angeles County senior all-stars. Wait, didn’t that already happen? The format is similar to the “Gridiron War” held a few weeks back at Long Beach City College, which also matched the Inland Empire against L.A. County in a game that ended with 11 minutes remaining after a fight broke out between the teams. The ending of that one should make Saturday’s game interesting, especially with the L.A. County team comprised mostly of players from the San Gabriel Valley and Whittier.

The first two editions of the Fiesta Bowl matched Southern Section all-stars against Los Angeles City all-stars at East L.A. College, a game that was sponsored by the U.S. Army but didn’t necessarily draw well at the gate.

The Army wanted to expand this year’s game to the Inland Empire, which was fine with Fiesta Bowl officials because of the Army’s financial backing.

But the Army pulled out as a sponsor because of funding, and with all the participants of both teams already notified, Fiesta Bowl officials decided to keep the format and will use a wait-and-see approach before deciding on next year’s format.

With the inclusion of the Inland Empire, the game is expected to be a much better draw and the game’s timing doesn’t interfere with other high school all-star games.

“My goal every year is to make this game bigger and better,” said Fiesta Bowl chairman Michael Aldapa. “By using this format, we kept the L.A. City kids involved with the County team, and now we get to see them matched up with a powerful team from the Inland Empire.

“Hopefully this is something that works out. You see the great all-star games in Texas and Florida. I would love to have something along that magnitude in the future. We will continue to fine tune and make this a great event.”

L.A. Roosevelt’s Javier Cid is coaching the Los Angeles County team with a staff that includes Alhambra’s Gil Ruedaflores.

Rosemead High School running back Tra Sumler, Rowland defensive back Brandon Stansell, West Covina’s Albert Cid (OL), Los Altos’ Jorge Perez (DB), Bishop Amat’s Joseph Guerrero (OL) and Duarte’s trio of Desmond Hayes, Tim Starr and Durraie Williams will participate for the County team.

When the game was announced, Cid wasn’t sure how it would be received, but he has learned the San Gabriel Valley has deep ties to the Inland Empire.

“There are so many young families that I know that have moved to the Inland Empire from the San Gabriel Valley,” Cid said. “A lot of these kids went at it when they were very young, and now get a chance to go at it one more time in an all-star game. There is sort of a natural rivalry that I didn’t expect when we were setting up the game.”

Cid said last month’s “Gridiron War” in Long Beach has added fuel to Saturday’s game, but he’s hopeful it will end more friendly.

“What happened there was unfortunate,” Cid said. “The format of our game is kind of unique for an all-star game. We’re exchanging offense and defensive game plans and we’re not blitzing. We want a lot more offense, we want the kids to line up, make plays and have fun.

“That’s what an all-star game is, we want to showcase the best players. We’re not trying to out-coach each other. Our number one priority isn’t to win the game, it’s a celebration of these guys. We want them to be able to show the fans what they’re all about.”

Some of the County’s players, such as Rowland’s Stansell, had a key punt return in the East’s 34-9 victory over the West in the Hall of Fame game on June 26, .

“We recruited Brandon right out of the Hall of Fame game. You saw his punt returns, he’s an exciting player,” Cid said. “All the kids I have been around have been great. I have never been around so much talent and they’re all having a great time.”

Last year the Fiesta Bowl and Hall of Fame game were on the same weekend, which watered down rosters on both sides.

The two weeks between games worked much better this year.

“There was bad communication last year,” Cid said. “I have the utmost respect for Jim Brownfield (former Muir coach and Hall of Fame organizer). We did it right this year, the dates worked out well and hopefully we have a great game at Whittier College.”

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