By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
El Monte High School’s first league title since 1979 is going to have to wait until Arroyo High School quarterback Steven Rivera graduates.
The senior delivered another stellar performance in his Mission Valley League finale, leading the Knights to a 35-20 victory and their third-straight undefeated league title on Thursday. Rivera completed 31-of-43 passes for 381 yards and four touchdowns, and rushed for another TD on a record night in which he set the school’s single-season record for passing yards and touchdown passes in a season. (To continue click thread).
Arroyo 35, El Monte 20 — The Lions and Brandon Martinez will have to wait until next season, Arroyo and Rivera were too polished and experienced in championship games, and for Rivera, the records and legend continue to grow.
Azusa 50, La Puente 21 — The win doesn’t surprise as much as the final score. No way did I think the Aztecs would put 50 on L.P. Considering they started 0-3, I like their chances in the first round better than last year when they were 10-0 and killing everyone. They feel more poished now.
West Covina 42, Diamond Ranch 14 — Bulldogs look tooooo good right now, almost like a can’t miss. They’re the Servite of the Southeast. I know that’s know what Bulldogs fans want me to say, but it is what it is.
Charter Oak 38, Chino Hills 7 — Considering all the talk this morning of Travis Santiago’s freak ankle sprain and slim chances of playing, you knew he would play if he could, that’s who he is. When Mike the Cousin’s first update on the game was “Touchdown Charter Oak.” I knew it was over.
San Dimas 36, Pomona 31 — Saints won the all-important second guaranteed spot from the Valle Vista, but here’s the truth. Whoever gets these two in the first round is not going to be happy about their draw.
Damien 42, Ayala 15 — The Spartans showed grit after getting humbled by Charter Oak. It may not be pleasant in the playoffs being the third team from the Sierra, but no doubt the Spartans lived up to the preseason hype Aram put on them.
Los Altos 52, Diamond Bar 35
— What I said about Damien, I feel about Los Altos. They had moments in the season they could have tanked, but they rebounded, and took care of business in Week 10. Great job by Ziola.
Sierra Vista 27, Duarte 21 — Great finish by the Dons. They played Azusa and La Puente tougher than everyone else, so I was not surprised. But I’m not sure the Dons get an at-large, and the Falcons, despite a great turnaround, won’t make it either.
ovina 40, Northview 7C — They did what they were supposed to do, which is not always easy against your nothing-to-lose rival.
Bonita 47, Rowland 28 — Nobody, repeat nobody, will want to be the team that gets Bonita in the first round. In fact, I guarantee a first-round win.
Gabrielino 7, Mountain View 6
— Doesn’t sound like the most exciting one-point victory, unless you like this type of stuff.
South El Monte 33, Rosemead 31 — What I said about Damien and Los Altos is true of the Eagles too, though we haven’t given the Eagles enough credit or props all year. This is a team that nearly knocked off El Monte too, and has come a long way since last year’s miserable season. If they don’t get an at-large berth, then they got robbed.
Gladstone 21, Workman 20, 2OT– There was no playoff spot on the line, but they sure did compete like there was one. It’s what you love about high school football.
Wilson 42, Baldwin Park 26 — First thought was, “Oh my.” As tough as this must of felt for a proud Braves program, you have to feel good for Wilson, who ends the season on a good note after starting 0-9.
Watch Travis Santiago put anklegate to rest with a brilliant performance in the Sierra League championship over Chino Hills with the Inland Insider, Tom Kiss, who has highlights and reactions.
Diamond Ranch Roddy Layton is another impressed with the Bulldogs machine, all on TDro’s highlights and interviews.
Aram, Fred, Mike the Cousin and TDro talk about Thursday night’s championships…check it out on PREPXTRA Live’s postgame Rewind.
Rivera’s big night stretched his season total to 2,893 yards, breaking Dominic Salmon’s record of 2,796 yards, which he set in 2005.
Rivera’s four touchdowns gave him 32, another school record.
In fact, he’s only eight touchdown passes shy of the East San Gabriel Valley’s all-time record of 40 set by Los Altos’ Felipe Aguilar during the Conquerors’ undefeated championship season in 2000.
Who knows, with the Knights improving to 9-1 and 5-0 in the MVL and ranked second in the Mid-Valley Division, Rivera’s season could be far from over.
“You run out of things to say,” Arroyo coach Jim Singiser said. “He’s a special kid, he’s done this every year and in my opinion he’s the best player in the Valley because of what he does for us. Not just at quarterback, but on defense and everything. Everyone knows that.”
Rivera spread the ball around, Hunter Duran finished with nine receptions for 159 yards and a TD, Andre Kerkoff had seven receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown and Peter Aholoka had nine receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
Rivera’s 28-yard touchdown pass to Kerkoff in the third quarter stretched the Knights’ lead to 28-7.
“The start of the second half we got a couple turnovers and got a rhythm going,” Singiser said. “It was tough getting rhythm with the officials we had, but I thought we got going.”
The Knights did a good job containing El Monte junior quarterback Brandon Martinez, who threw for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
Both of Martinez’s touchdowns passes were to Abel Barrajas, a 25-yard strike that gave the Lions a brief 7-0 lead, and a 17-yard TD pass late in the third quarter that cut the Knights’ lead to 28-17 — though the Knights were always in control.
“He’s going to be a good kid,” Singiser said of Martinez. “It was his first big-time game in a situation like this. We tried to keep him in the pocket and he struggled some. But he’s going to be great next year.”
El Monte finished 7-3 and 4-1 to finish second in the Mission Valley. The Lions entered the week ranked eighth in the Mid-Valley and already have qualified for the playoffs. The pairings are on Sunday.
Rivera’s three first-half touchdown passes helped stake the Knights to a 21-7 halftime lead, but it was Rivera’s fumble on the opening series that allowed El Monte to strike first.
Martinez took advantage of the Knights fumble, hooking up with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Abel Barrajas just two minutes into the contest to go up 7-0.
Then it was all Rivera.
After completing a 15-yard pass on fourth-and-six, Rivera threaded an 11-yard touchdown pass to Aholoka to tie the score, 7-7 with 3:02 left in the first quarter.
Rivera’s hot hand continued, completing 10 straight at one point and finishing with nearly 200 first half yards. He put the Knights in front with an 11-yard touchdown strike to Kerkhoff for a 14-7 lead with 9:47 until half.