Mission Valley League Prediction: Arroyo is the safe bet obviously, but Rosemead not far behind

The Mission Valley League is what it is, a two-horse race between defending league champion Arroyo and Rosemead. If you thought the distance between the two and the rest of the field was growing last year, they might be lapping the field this year. No disrespect to South El Monte, El Monte, Gabrielino and Mountain View, but it’s clear they’re playing for third until they can prove otherwise. And that’s what it’s all about really, there always is a surprise, and there needs to be. The Mission Valley stumbled last year, falling behind the Montview in terms lowest rated league in the Valley. Let’s see if they can bounce back, here’s how we think it will unfold.

Above: Arroyo QB Steven Rivera

1. Arroyo -- Cleary, they have a quarterback in Steven Rivera that is an absolute stud. We talk a lot of Glendora’s Chad Jeffries, Charter Oak’s Travis Santiago, Rowland’s Michael Ball and Bishop Amat’s Rio Ruiz, but believe me when I say at the end of the year Rivera will lead all in touchdowns and passing. Doesn’t mean he’s the best, but he belongs in the conversation, and there are just too many teams on the schedule he’s going to torch.

2. Rosemead – As much as we like Rivera, the Panthers have a stud at running back in senior Matt Fregoso. Just like Rivera, he may be among the area’s leading rushers when all is said and done, and is a reason why the Panthers might upset the Knights. PIck your poison, do you go with the quarterback or running back in a game that matters. I’ll bet most coaches would gamble on the RB. And the Panthers have the guys on D to scare Arroyo. However, it’s still the Knights league to lose.

3. El Monte — Mark this down, the Lions could be a sleeper. QB Manual Santa Cruz did well over the summer, and threw for over 1,000 yards in just four games. They also return 14 starters from a team that went 1-9, but that was because they couldn’t stop anyone, which they have to shore up. Offensively, this team has weapons and can score points. If they prove they can defend, watch out.

4. South El Monte – It was clearly a rebuilding year for the Eagles, who normally are in the league title chase conversation. They also gave Rosemead a great game before losing 31-28 last year, but also finished 3-8. I’m not expecting that again, coach Ray Hernandez is better than that, and will prove it this year. While the Eagles sort out their QB, RB Billy Valencia could hold the keys, because the Eagles have to establish some sort of run game. And defensively, they need to get after it much better.

5. Gabrielino – Kind of a mystery under new coach Harold Sanin, and would be great to see them return to the days earlier this decade when they competed for league titles, but have to see it before we believe it. They have some talent like Eduardo Moreno and Isaac Garcia and have some key returners back. But depth has become a big issue, and the Eagles have little of it.

6. Mountain View -- One of the great things new coach James Wilson said is you don’t want to dwell on going 0-10, but you don’t want to forget it either. Let’s face it, futbol not football is king at Mountain View, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. The Vikings usually have problems in the trenches, and thus have a difficult time stopping anyone or blocking for impact players. Will it change? That remains to be seen.

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Believe it or not, the Smudge Pot is Friday …

It isn’t just the Bonita High School football team that’s had to adjust in the wake of quarterback Garrett Pendleton’s elbow injury. San Dimas, which opens the season against the Bearcats on Friday night, also has had to do some adapting. The Saints were preparing on defense for Pendleton, but with the senior expected to miss 4-6 weeks backup Greg Spathias will be the man under center. There could be some wildcat formations coming San Dimas’ way, too.

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Tribskin Pick’em, your predictions and ours

For the fourth consecutive year, Steve Ramirez and I will go head-to-head throughout the season for our annual end-of-season who pays the dinner bill bet. Steve beat me in 2007, but I came back and won 2008 and ’09 by going 189-44 to Steve’s 173-60 last year.

This week’s games: Steve and I differ on several right off the bat. I like Glendora, San Dimas, Rowland, El Rancho and Santa Margarita while Steve goes with Charter Oak, Bonita, Baldwin Park, Los Altos and Diamond Ranch, a difference in five games. It just goes to show how exciting zero week has become. I like Glendora because of the experience of QB Chad Jeffries, and the uncertainty of Charter Oak’s defense, especially with top notch DBs like Brandon Golden, A.J. Powell, and linebackers Keith Smith and Leon Youngblood graduated. I feel good about San Dimas because Bonita won’t have QB Garrett Pendleton, and the Saints are unveiling a hurry-up offense, like the Wing T wasn’t already tough enough to prepare for. Rowland, across the board is too tough for Baldwin Park, and can’t wait to see QB Michael Ball return. Diamond Ranch is still a question with so many starters graduated, and a tough roadie to Orange County won’t make it any easier. El Rancho is a tough Whittier area school, and with all the uncertainly still at Los Altos, I couldn’t pick’em yet. And oh yeah, there’s Bishop Amat, which we both agree on. But this won’t be a slam dunk. Garfield reminds me of Amat two years ago, a hungry team with something to prove and if you think Bishop Amat are a bunch of hard-hat kids, expect that an then some from the East L.A. hosts.

Thursday’s game
Ganesha at Montclair, 7 p.m. — Robledo (Montclair); Ramirez (Montclair)
Friday’s games
Charter Oak vs. Glendora at Citrus College, 7 p.m. — Robledo (Glendora); Ramirez (Charter Oak).
San Dimas at Bonita, 7 p.m. — Robledo (San Dimas); Ramirez (Bonita).
Rowland at Baldwin Park, 7 p.m. — Robledo (Rowland); Ramirez (Baldwin Park).
Garfield vs. Bishop Amat at ELAC, 7:30 p.m. — Robledo (BAmat); Ramirez (BAmat).
Covina at West Covina, 7 p.m. — Robledo (WCovina); Ramirez (WCovina)
Nogales at Diamond Bar, 7 p.m. — Robledo (DBar); Ramirez (DBar)
Ontario at Arroyo, 7 p.m. — Robledo (Arroyo); Ramirez (Arroyo)
Garey at Pomona, 7 p.m. — Robledo (Pomona); Ramirez (Pomona)
Los Altos at El Rancho, 7 p.m. — Robledo (El Rancho); Ramirez (Los Altos)
Ayala at Don Lugo, 7 p.m. — Robledo (Ayala); Ramirez (Ayala)
Chino Hills vs. Mayfair at Bellflower, 7 p.m. — Robledo (CHills); Ramirez (CHills)
Diamond Ranch vs. Santa Margarita at Saddleback College, 7 p.m. — Robledo (SMargarita); Ramirez (DRanch)
Bassett at Keppel, 7 p.m. — Robledo (Bassett); Ramirez (Bassett)

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Montview League Prediction: No secret, the bullseye is on two-time champion Azusa

The Montview race is going to be interesting, because unlike in previous years, the Montview is only guaranteed two playoff spots, with the rest hoping to earn an at-large, which could prove to be quite a chore. It will be important for the Montview to play well in the preseason, and it’s a league that improved mightily last year, and should be improved across the board. Azusa is head-and-shoulders above the rest, but several like La Puente, Gladstone, Sierra Vista and Workman are gaining on them.

1. Azusa -- In his first two years coach Joe Scherf has gone 21-4, won two league titles and has advanced to the Mid-Valley Division quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. It’s a completely mentality change that players have bought into. More players are staying at the school, players that didn’t normally go out for football and showing up in droves. This is the result of winning, and they’re doing it home-grown style. Kudos to the Aztecs.

2. La Puente — The Warriors were 8-3 overall and second in the Montview behind new coach Brandon Rohrer, who should give Azusa all it can handle in his second season. Senior RB Jose Perez should be a force in the Warriors’ Wing T, but defensively, they’re solid with LB Jesse Gutierrez and Pedro Candia.

3. Workman – I’m taking a shot here with new coach Scott Morrison, and like what they have returning in RB/S Gabriel Fychok and with lineman Steven Miranda and Ismael Villaviscencio. Morrison has won titles in much tougher leagues and like Rohrer, could turn around a team that already was on its way back after going 6-5 last year.

4. Gladstone — The Gladiators returned somewhat to form by going 7-4 overall and return plenty of talent for 12th year coach Albert Sanchez. They will be tough to compete with in the backfield with Jhossep Juarez and Joe Herrera and if they improve on defense, they could be competing for the No. 2 spot, but not sure they have enough to topple Azusa.

5. Sierra Vista — One thing I know for certain, and that is that coach Keith Locklear is one of the hardest working coaches there is. He gave up coaching the girls varsity basketball team, which he did wonders with, to focus on football. He loves to throw the ball around, but the Dons need to prove they can play defense after allowing an average of 25 points in 2009.

6. Ganesha — After dropping from the Valle Vista League, many are wondering what to expect from the Giants. They started improving last year, even beating Northview to end a long league losing streak. They will have more to prove in the Montview, a league that seems like the perfect fit.

7. Bassett – The Olympians finally settled on new coach Aubrey Duncan, a no-nonsense Pasadena High graduate who took over late, but seems to have a handle on thigns. This is a wait-and-see, but they do have some impact players in Michael Pena and Alejandro Camacho.

8. Duarte – The Falcons hope to return to be more competitive after going 0-10 last year after the departure of so many players to neighboring school following the firing of coach Wardell Crutchfield. The numbers are better and they will improve, but not sure they’re ready to climb out of the cellar just yet.

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We love our football in the SGV …PrepXtra Football Preview Magazine debuts Wednesday

Are you ready for football? Believe me, we’re tired of transfer talk and training camps, and like you, we’re ready for Thursday and Friday night football. Our first-ever preview magazine, TribXtra, hits newstands and home delivery on Wednesday. So, lets shift the focus to the games. These were my final words before the 2007 season, but the message is always the same. 2010, here we come.

For the players who started during the early days of spring and continued through the brutal summer of two-a-days, it’s lights, camera and action time.
But it’s also a time not to take for granted.
As any former football player worth his helmet can attest to, the wins and losses are never forgotten, but the basic lessons in life are applied forever.
You’ll know about sacrifice, unselfishness, brotherhood, camaraderie, and it will be taught and drilled into your head from coaches who will go down as some of the best role modes you ever had.
So are you ready, because the next 15 weeks are yours.
Enjoy it, soak it up, and revel in it.
The stage is yours to perform in, so take it with class, integrity and a passion for the game that inspires those little kids peaking over the fence who someday hope to wear your jersey.
After all, it’s never too early to be a role model.

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Athletically motivated transfer trend continues

The Times’ Eric Sondheimer has been busy reporting on one athletically motivated transfer after another, and it appears coaches are growing tired of the rule and how it’s enforced. Just today, The Southern Section has declared junior quarterback Chase Favreau from Huntington Beach Edison ineligible for this season, ruling his transfer from Santa Ana Mater Dei was athletically motivated. “We’re pretty much in shock,” Coach Dave White said. White said the lack of the consistency in how the Southern Section decides whether a student moved for athletic reasons concerns him. That’s a shocker, a player transferring from Mater Dei to another school declared athletically motivated. Maybe I’m wrong, but doesn’t that mean Mater Dei would have had to challenge the transfer? White told the O.C. Register they’re not accepting CIF’s decision quietly. “We’re going to fight this one … to the hilt,” White said. “It’s totally ridiculous. … We’ve got some angry people at Edison.” Earlier, Norco had three players declared ineligible for athletically motivated reasons.. “This year, schools are really taking time to protest the transfers,” said Southern Section spokesman Thom Simmons.

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Sierra League Prediction: Chino Hills gets the top spot in the area’s most anticipated league race

Can you imagine a scenario where Greg Gano, Lou Farrar and Steve Bogan all don’t make the playoffs? Obviously not likely, but it wouldn’t be a shock either considering the depth of the new Sierra League, where if you had to pencil in the worst team on paper, it might be Ayala or Damien, teams that would compete for a league title in any other league in our area. It’s great banter and what you want to see from a fans perspective, quality and traditionally rich teams going head-to-head every week knowing half of them won’t even make the playoffs. Even finishing third is not ideal, not when a playoff bid likely means facing a monster seed in the first-round of the Inland playoffs. But hey, it’s going to be fun isn’t it. Here’s how it shakes out.

Above: Charter Oak coach Lou Farrar won the “Drive for Five” with last year’s Southeast Division title, but the drive for a playoff spot in the Sierra could prove just as difficult for Farrar, South Hills coach Steve Bogan and Damien’s Greg Gano. Enjoy it, it’s not that often that you get the area’s three winningest coaches with 13 CIF titles between them all competing in the same league.

1. Chino Hills – This team has grown on me. Just about every person you speak with, including some coaches in the Sierra, say this is the team to beat by far. Nate harris and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu combined for 23 rushing touchdowns, with Edpre-Olomu also hauling in 45 receptions for 712 yards and seven TDs. They dominated lineman camps over the summer, finished in a three-way tie for the Sierra and finished 10-3, beating Elsinore and Etiwanda easily before losing to Upland in the semifinals of the Central Division last season. If you remember, Charter Oak struggled to a one-point victory over Etiwanda, and that was with a far superior team than they have this year, while the Huskies return a majority of impact players that produced last year’s great season.

2. Charter Oak – Even with everything said about Chino Hills, I was prepared a week ago to put the Chargers on top, then they lost some depth with Chris Gilchrist and Aaron Vaughns declared ineligible. Josiah Thropay and Dennis Rufus will still be a potent combination for QB Travis Santiago, but outside of Andy Orozco, they have a lot to prove on both sides of the line. But what the two-time defending Southeast champs have on the rest is confidence, and a coaching staff as good as any from top to bottom that the southern section has to offer.

3. South Hills – You’re kidding right? They just lost four players to neighboring schools and WR Jamie Canada could be out the season with a knee injury. I’m buying because two-way lineman Sioasi Aiono, Jeff Vargas and Peter Nonu are as legit as it gets, and you can’t advance in this league without the horse’s up front, which they’ve got. Vince Hernandez will be among the area’s best QBs, and Jamel Hart among the area’s best RBs. The Huskies will once again be extremely tough on defense, and if they get Canada back by league, they might even scare Charter Oak or Chino Hills. Your biggest concern if you’re a Husky fan is the swag. Do they still have it after back-to-back losses to Diamond Ranch in the playoffs? Do they have it after watching players flee the program? We’re about to find out.

4. Claremont — People are telling me, including Aram, that this could be the second best team in the Sierra after Pomona High RB Taj Teague transferred to the Wolfpack last week, giving them the one missing piece they sorely needed. Teague could be a monster and is a Division I prospect, and a perfect complement to QB Daniel Kessler, who threw for 2,419 yards and 24 touchdowns last year. This is a team supposedly getting relief by going from the Baseline to the Sierra, but I picked them in this spot because I couldn’t ignore some nonleague losses last year, particularly a 24-0 loss to Damien and just a squeaky 31-28 win over Bonita. They got crushed by everyone in the Baseline except 0-10 Alta Loma, whom they defeated, 45-21. I’m not buying the hype until I see them beat quality teams. And they have to prove they can play better defense.

5. Ayala – The Bulldogs stay out of the cellar and get the edge on Damien because of defense, where they return six starters on a team that lost just 14-7 to Chino Hills, and allowed an average of just 15 points a year ago. They might be offensively challenged again, but coach Tom Inglima’s team rode its defense to a title two years ago, and that seems to be this team’s M.O., once again.

6. Damien – If you listen to coach Gano, he’ll tell you this is too generous. I know he doesn’t really believe that, but on paper it sure looks like they have the least amount of impact players on the roster. RB/WR James Ramirez and LB/RB David Griffith could emerge, but they will have an inexperienced QB, and will have a lot to prove on both sides of the line. But Damien’s always has depth, and with a coaching staff as good as this one, something tells me they will compete, and might even surprise a few.

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CIF apparently reverses decision on Charter Oak’s Chris Gilchrist, he’s cleared

It’s late and I don’t know all the details, but a blogger alerted me to CIF’s website, where in fact Charter Oak WR/DB Chris Gilchrist has been granted a valid change of address transfer on Friday after being denied by Southern Section officials earlier in the week after South Hills wrote a letter to CIF, alleging that Gilchrist’s transfer to Charter Oak was athletically motivated. This is great news for Gilchrist, but another confusing decision from CIF. Why would CIF declare Gilchrist’s transfer athletically motivated, then have an immediate change of heart a few days later? While it takes some schools weeks to get a hearing to make an appeal, apparently something happened within a matter of days for the Section to change its decision. The bottom line is, however, another kid was spared a horrible rule that needs changing.

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Breaking News from Whittier: St. Paul’s Marijon Ancich reinstated after hazing allegations

Our very own Andrew J. Campa has been all over the St. Paul story for the Whittier Daily News, breaking the news that Ancich is returning. St. Paul High School principal Kate Aceves confirmed the Swordsmen will have a near full coaching staff at tonight’s 3-way football scrimmage as nearly the entire varsity staff has been reinstated after a school-imposed eight-day suspension prompted by an investigation by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles into an alleged hazing incident.

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You want bigtime, La Verne Lutheran hoops will show you bigtime … Way to represent the SGV

It has been confirmed that during Sept. 9-11 coaches from Duke, North Carolina, UCLA, USC, UNLV, Arizona, Stanford, Pepperdine, Wake Forrest, Washington, Arizona State, Loyola and UC Irvine will be visiting La Verne Lutheran’s campus to take a look at hot basketball prospects, 6-foot-9 junior forward Grant Jerrett and sophomore guard Eric Cooper Jr., the son of coach Eric Cooper. Both players are nationally ranked at their positions and graduating classes. While most coaches will likely be assistants, we have been told there could be some prominent head coaches visiting as well. Those are just the underclassmen, senior C.J. Cooper already has been offered scholarships at UC Irvine, UTEP, Boise State and Montana State. Senior Bruce English, who hit the game-winning shot in the Trojans’ CIF championship game, has been offered by Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine.

In other La Verne Lutheran news, the team is competing in three prestigious out-of-state competitions in December. They are competing in the Myrtle Beach tournament in South Carolina, the Pro Bass tournament in Springfield MN., a showcase game in Las Vegas, and are hosting their own showcase at the University of La Verne in January, which will include San Diego high powers Lincoln, Hoover, and three schools from up north, including Oakland High.

Safe to say, we’ve finally got a true national power in the San Gabriel Valley.

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Hacienda preview from our Highlander Weekly

The newly formed Hacienda League provides for some interesting football matchups here in the San Gabriel Valley. The seven-team league features a combination of former San Antonio League affiliates West Covina, Rowland and Walnut in addition to Miramonte League affiliated Bonita, Los Altos and Diamond Ranch, along with the former Sierra League Diamond Bar. The new league will continue to pit the former league teams against each other so the Walnut-Rowland rivalry will continue as well as the Bonita-Diamond Ranch rivalry and so on.

“Our kids are Diamond Bar kids, so we’re all gonna play with kids from both sides. I know people from both sides and both sides want this game. The connection to Walnut is because they are in the district, but I don’t think it will be as big as the Diamond Bar-Diamond Ranch game because these are kids who grew up playing together when they were younger and it is for city rights. It is going to be gauntlet style to see who wins. We’re excited for it. It is a game I’ve been wanting since I became the coach at Diamond Ranch.”Diamond Ranch coach Roddy Layton on facing Diamond Bar

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Bishop Amat scrimmage at Upland Tonight, 5:30

I can’t be there tonight, we have a meeting with our correspondents, but would love to hear what Amat nation thinks of tonight’s scrimmage. Tomorrow night Aram and I are headed to Damien to watch their scrimmage against Bonita at 6:30 p.m.. Also, Diamond Ranch coach Roddy Layton texted to say Saturday’s Black/Blue scrimmage is at 11 a.m., and all the public is welcome. If there are any other scrimmages tonight through Saturday, feel free to post the time and locations.

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Valle Vista League predictions: C’mon, it’s San Dimas and you know it clap your hands

I ran into a Northview lineman at Tijuana’s, one of my favorite taco joints on San Bernardino road in Covina. He said some interesting things on how well Northview is doing under new coach Marcel Perez, and that the new atmosphere is paying off. But then he followed with something like “we’re going to take league and CIF,” and said it so convincingly that I didn’t have the heart to tell him they really have no chance. But that’s what two-a-days and the summer are supposed to produce, optimism. But here we talk reality, and the reality is the defending Mid-Valley Division champs aren’t gong anywhere. Here is how the Valle Vista shakes out…On Friday we break down the rough and tough Sierra.

1. San Dimas – This is a team that loses QB Shawn Kennedy to an injury, then learns of the fortunate news that a quarterback from up north transfers into the program, and from what I hear he’s pretty darn good. Why we’re talking QBs on a team that runs the Wing T to perfection tells you how stacked the Saints are. Jordan Taylor and Allen Brown are a handful in the backfield, Kevin Kolbeck is a money go-to-receiver, and coach Bill Zernickow is one of the best. ’nuff said.

2. Baldwin Park — This is the only team that has a shot to knock off San Dimas, and it’s a real opportunity. James Heggins’ teams have been knocking on the door and Wardell Crutchfield III is probably the best linebacker in the league, plus he can run the ball too and will be asked to do a lot more. After sitting out a year after transferring from Duarte, Demetrius Jackson is set to go. You add him to the line strength the Braves had, and this very well could be a team that competes for it all.

3. Wilson – This is a case of buying or selling and I’m buying. I really believe coach Brian Zavala is a program guy and has been licking his chops for the opportunity to move to the VVL. RB Moses Vega is a stud, but what this team will do is play defense. There’s a big difference from facing Charter Oak and Diamond Ranch in the Miramonte to going head up with San Dimas and Baldwin Park. Something tells me the Cats are going to be in the mix.

4. Covina — All conversations start and end with QB Billy Livingston. He’s only a junior but proved last year he’s talented and is a perfect fit in coach Darryl Thomas’ spread offense. They also have the fastest high school sprinter in the country in Remontay McClain and a WR/DB named Randy Robledo, so what’s not to like about them.

5. Pomona – I would have penciled them in at No. 3, but with the recent loss of RB Taj Teague to Claremont, Pomona loses a first-team all-leaguer from a year ago. New coach Anthony Rice did wonders at his previous stint at Colony, and a few of those players are now at Pomona. But Pomona also lost a few with Rice’s arrival, so this is a wait and see.

6. Nogales -- When the Nobles coaching job opened up, some coaches told me this was the best opportunity in the Valley because of the kids on campus, especially the ones who weren’t playing. Well, that opportunity belongs to new coach Sebastian Hernandez. I kind of felt bad for the Nobles last season in the San Antonio. There was no way they could compete with South Hills, West Covina, then had to deal with Walnut and Rowland during one of their good cycles. Going to the VVL is surely relief, and I won’t be surprised if they compete for a playoff spot. I’ve heard great things from people on campus raving about the work they’re putting in, but lets wait until the lights turn on.

7. Northview -- Is this as good as it gets for the Vikes? It was just a couple years ago this was a top ten team in the Valley, but they slipped so far last season, going 1-9 and 0-5 in the VVL, which included that remarkable 16-10 loss to Ganesha. I wanna believe the kid who tells me they’re fighting for a league title and want to believe Perez is up for it, but he’s a coach, not a miracle worker. BTW, watch out for RB Marquise Thomas and a sophomore named Javon Taylor.

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Tough comments from CIF on South Hills

“Just because you change principals doesn’t mean you should change principles,” Southern Section Director of Information Thom Simmons said. “As members of CIF, South Hills has the right, responsibility and duty to make the rules as part of the organization which they are members of.”
“It’s disappointing that South Hills took so long to do this,” Simmons said. “I can’t remember challenges ever happening this late. I can’t say it’s never happened, but I just don’t remember any happening this late. I know one thing for a fact, no school has ever challenged as many as South Hills. The rule has only been in a place for a couple of years, so there’s not a lot of history. But in those two years, nobody’s challenged as many.”

… In fairness, I believe Duarte challenged as many if not more last year.

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Just a thought given all this transfer talk, if you ranked the top five public schools based just on home-grown talent, who would it be?

I’ll take a shot, this is how I would rank the top five public high school football teams if everyone had to use its own home-grown talent. Kind of an interesting thought, isn’t it? Don’t know Chino Hills or Ayala area’s well enough, so sticking with our traditional schools.

1. Glendora
2. West Covina
3. Bonita
4. Charter Oak
5. Rowland

There have been some good points brought up on this thread. If we opened this conversation up to the entire SGV, Muir would be No. 1 hands down, followed probably by Monrovia then West Covina.

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Bonita QB Garrett Pendleton receives good news, only out 4-6 weeks, no cast required

I just spoke with Bonita’s 6-foot-4 quarterback Garrett Pendleton, who feared he could be lost for the season after suffering a fracture near the right elbow of this throwing arm last week. After seeing doctors, it was determined he has a hairline fracture and does not need a cast. He is expected out 4-6 weeks and there is a good possibility he could return by the start of Hacienda League play. “I have been better but it could have been worse,” Pendleton said. “When it first happened, I thought all the hard work I put in was for nothing. Now to learn it might only be four weeks and maybe six, and that I might be back for league is great news. I’m hoping to be back as soon as I can.” Interesting Note: About two hours after posting this, I got a call from a Pac-10 coach asking about the health of Pendleton, and what we thought of him. The coach said he is someone they’re taking a close look at.

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Enough of transfergate, lets get into predictions: West Covina No. 1 in the Hacienda League

If we’re to assume the best teams in the area are Bishop Amat, Charter Oak, Chino Hills, Glendora and possibly South Hills, and that the Pac-5 and the Inland Division are far superior than the Southeast or Mid-Valley Divisions, then the Valley’s best mid-major is the new Hacienda League. I’m not saying Diamond Ranch, West Covina, Bonita and so forth couldn’t compete with teams in the Sierra or teams in the Inland (I won’t go there in the Pac-5), but they have to prove they can dominate and win championships, such as Charter Oak, to be among the discussion of top programs. The Hacienda will be an interesting race, bringing West Covina and Diamond Ranch closer together, creating a huge rivalry between the Diamond schools, and including the area’s winningest program of all-time, Los Altos, a school easy to forget because of its recent struggles. So how’s this going to shake out. Let’s take a look. I will rank the Valle Vista on Thursday, Sierra on Friday, Montview Tuesday, Mission Valley Wednesday, Serra and Baseline Thursday, and let the games begin on Friday.

1. West Covina – The size up front on both sides, a third-year starting quarterback and enough running backs to give new meaning to the word depth. If the Bulldogs aren’t plagued by injuries, such as they were last year, this is the team to beat. Not just in the Hacienda, but in the Southeast.
2. Diamond Ranch — Coach Roddy Layton is on a mission, and now that Charter Oak is gone there are no excuses. This is the team that beat South Hills two straight years in the playoffs, not many schools can say that. Although they graduated a few players, it was obvious at a recent practice that this is a program that reloads, not rebuilds. I mean, athletes everywhere, and the spirit was there. With their nonleague schedule lighter than years past, I don’t expect them to start 1-5 or 0-5 like years past.
3. Rowland – Yes, the return of quarterback Michael Ball. This kid was so sensational as a sophomore, then broke his collarbone in the league opener against Walnut as junior. Think of it, Ball battled eventual champion Charter Oak in the semifinals as soph, that experience is invaluable. Even with Ball going down, the Raiders competed, have a lot returning and coach Craig Snyder is not to be undervalued as a coach, in fact, he’s one of our best.
4. Diamond Bar — Yes I said it, the Brahmas check in here over some other notable teams. Even though they got spanked by Walnut and West Covina in nonleague games last year, I like the Brahmas in this spot. This is a team that didn’t have problems scoring points, and returns senior QB Andrew Cameron, who averaged 179 yards a game. They have a lot returning and the new league is a chance for them to reinvent themselves, especially with Diamond Ranch in it. Remember, back in the 80s the purple was among the valley giants.
5. Bonita – Oh I can hear it now, what are you thinking Fred J? I hope K.C. (inside blog joke) is settled in for this but it’s pretty simple, if they don’t have 6-foot-4 QB Garrett Pendleton healthy by the start of league, then No. 5 is pretty generous. Even with Pendleton, I would have ranked Bonita No. 4 behind Rowland. Having said that, this is a wait-and-see. From everything I’ve heard (from Bonita supporters) if Pendleton is ready by league, this is a team capable of winning league. They might wind up being the area’s biggest surprise, but after watching them the past two years, I’ve got to see it before I believe it.
6. Walnut — This is a balanced league when you’re ranking a Walnut at No. 6. My issue is, I thought Walnut was good enough to compete for the San Antonio last year after starting 5-0, then what happened. A 27-7 loss to a Rowland team that lost Ball during the game. A 31-11 loss to West Covina and another spanking to South Hills and the playoff dreams were over. And guess what, this team isn’t as good as last year, though they do have some playmakers. Again, let’s wait and see, they did beat Bonita in a non-league finale.
7. Los Altos – Ouch, the winningest program in Valley history picked last. It’s the sign of the times, I guess. There would be no better story than new coach Jim Arellanes somehow bringing the Conqs back to glory, or even contention in his first season but it doesn’t appear they have the horse’s. Simply put, the rest of the league is just better.

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*Update on South Hills transfers

I had a brief conversation with CIF-SS spokesperson Thom Simmons, who officially confirmed that South Hills formally challenged the transfers of Aaren Vaughns and Chris Gilchrist to Charter Oak based on the belief these were athletically motivated transfers. South Hills also challenged QB Brock Booth’s transfer to Bishop Amat, who has already been denied eligibility on the grounds of an athletically motivated transfer. We also learned that Randal Varela’s transfer from South Hills to Bishop Amat has been officially challenged by the Huskies administration. So, here’s where we’re at with the other three players, noting that Booth is appealing his transfer denial.

… Gilchrist has been declared ineligible by the CIF-SS this morning based on an athletically motivated transfer.
.. Varela is cleared as of now based on a valid change of address, but that could change if South Hills can prove to CIF-SS officials that it was an athletically motivated transfer.
…CIF has not ruled on Vaughns as of today…

Finally, South Hills has taken some abuse on the blogs after changing its philosophy on challenging transfers that leave the school. So much that it provoked a one-liner from Simmons, the CIF-SS spokesperson who said, and I quote .. “Just because you change principals doesn’t mean you should change principles,” Simmons said. Read all of Simmons’ comments, he made some interesting points in terms of the system CIF has in place, in addition to criticizing South Hills for taking so long to file their paperwork.

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Breaking News: Bishop Amat soph RB Dionza Blue cleared according to CIF website

Bishop Amat sophomore all-purpose back Dionza Blue was expected to be one of the Lancers’ big up-and-comers after a sensational freshman year before transferring to Chaminade, where he was cleared to compete in March. However, Blue returned to Bishop Amat over the summer and as of Tuesday, was cleared to play for Bishop Amat by the CIF-Southern Section after a valid change of address transfer request from Amat was upheld. Amat coach Steve Hagerty said Blue had been practicing with the junior varsity because he wasn’t sure of his playing status, adding, “He came back late in the summer, is a good kid and will certainly add depth, Hagery said. “He is an athletic kid who can catch the ball and run the ball. He’s a good young hybrid player that can fill in a lof of places.” BTW, Dionza Blue? Why would you ever leave Amat with a name like that? You want video of the Blue Blur, here it is, see for yourself.

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Breaking News: Pomona RB Taj Teague transfers to Claremont, giving Wolfback another weapon

As soon as I post enough of transfergate, I get the tip an another this morning. Pomona first-year head coach Anthony Rice confirmed that Taj Teague, a Valle Vista Legue first-team running back as a junior after rushing for 800 yards, has transferred to Claremont High. Teague, 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, is expected to be among the Valley’s best rushers and would have been a key figure in Pomona’s Valle Vista league title hopes under Rice, who is hoping to reshape the program after success at his previous stint at Colony. If many of you are wondering if Pomona will challenge Teague’s transfer to Claremont citing “athletically motivated” reasons given what has transpired in recent days, Rice says no and wishes Teague well. “Let him play,” Rice said. “I don’t challenge anything, if he (Teague) wants to go to Claremont so be it. I wish the kid the best of luck and hope he has a great senior year. You hate to lose a kid of that caliber, but it’s his choice.”

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