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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