Friday Countdown: Covina ready to take on Katella in first championship game since 1995

When Covina High’s football players and coach Joe Brown passed by Katella’s table at Monday’s CIF Southern Section champions luncheon in Long Beach, they couldn’t help but notice the Knights’ behemoth quarterback, Nathan Arrington, who is listed at 5-foot-11, 215 pounds.

Turns out they haven’t weighed him in a while.

“Someone asked me what it’s like to have a 215-pound quarterback,” Katella coach Fred DiPalma said. “And I said, ‘I don’t know, he’s more like 240 or 250 pounds.’”

If fourth-seed Covina (11-2) is going to win its first championship since 1995 and sixth in school history, it’s going to have to find a way to contain Arrington in Friday’s Division 11 championship against Katella (12-1) at Covina District Field at 7 p.m.

“He’s a big kid but don’t let that fool you, the kid can play and the kid can sling it,” Brown said.

He’s got that right. Arrington has thrown for 2,568 yards and 16 touchdowns and he’s obviously a dual threat. In last week’s 35-28 semifinal victory over Rancho Mirage, he completed 23 of 26 attempts for 224 yards and a touchdown and also rushed 16 times for 114 yards and a touchdown.

“The first thing you notice is his size, he could probably be our nose guard or something,” Brown said. “You got to stay low and rally to him because one guy isn’t going to bring him down, and when you hit him you have to wrap him up.”

* MORE STORIES: Covina football thrives with leaders Tauvao and Maae and some sportsmanship from Cuellar

Katella is riding a 12-game winning streak and hasn’t lost since its season opener to Kennedy, 14-0, which is probably a game you can throw away.

Katella, looking for its first title in school history, had experimented with the pistol offense over the summer, but when that failed miserably against Kennedy, it immediately went back to the spread and hasn’t lost a game since.

“Almost immediately you could sense relief among the kids,” DiPalma told the Orange County Register about switching back to the spread after the loss. “The new kids on the team didn’t know anything was different, but Nate (Arrington) knew the difference and the offensive line knew the difference.”

Covina presents its problems for Katella too.

*MORE STORIES: Covina’s Nin Burns II chasing a football title that his dad won with Covina in 1995

Sophomore quarterback Nin Burns II has thrown for 2,440 yards and 30 touchdowns, and sophomore back Erik Cuellar set the school’s single-season rushing record with 2,145 yards to go with 19 touchdowns.

Combine that with the Colts’ experienced offensive line and that has Katella’s attention.

“They’re very well coached,” DiPalma said. “It’s a young backfield but it’s a very good backfield. It seems they’re always calling the right play or making the right moves. It’s not a lot of complicated stuff, but what they do they do well.”

DiPalma is also impressed with the Colts’ athletic defense.

Even though Covina gave up a lot of points in last week’s 57-56 overtime victory to knock off top seed Culver City, DiPalma said the victory was impressive.

*MORE STORIES: Covina football enjoyed Monday’s luncheon, then turned attention to CIF-SS championship game

“Defensively, they’re (Colts) a little odd,” DiPalma said. “You’re not sure where they’re coming from, but they’re athletic and they’re good. It’s not an accident they got to the finals.

“What they did last week beating Culver City was impressive because Culver City is a very athletic team but they (Colts) ran the ball all over them. We don’t usually see a lot of teams from the (San Gabriel Valley), but what we’ve seen has been very impressive. It should be a great game.”

Brown said the same thing. After all the hoopla, he’s ready to put his headset on and it get started.

“After all the fanfare and hype it comes down to a football game,” Brown said. “You can say this, you can say that, but at the end of the day the two best teams are here and one of them is gonig to win it and we hope that team is ours.”

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Friday Countdown: St. Francis football hoping to end 53-year drought in title game

LA CANADA – St. Francis head coach Jim Bonds won a CIF Southern Section championship as a player with Hart High School in 1986 when Hart defeated Temple City 40-26 for the Northwestern Division championship. He was also named the Northwestern Division player of the year. To this day, those memories are still fresh in his mind.

“I remember the celebration after the game,” Bonds said. “I remember mostly, the locker room after the game, the hugging, my head coach (Rick Scott). I loved playing for him, he had our team so ready we would have run through a wall for him.”

31 years later, Bonds will lead his St. Francis Golden Knights (12-1) to what could be a historic evening at Friedman Field as they host Rancho Verde High School (11-2) for the Division 3 championship game on Friday at 7 p.m., a game that will be shown delayed on Fox Sports Prime Ticket at 8 p.m.

The Golden Knights have not won a section championship since winning back-to-back titles in 1963 and ’64, defeating Claremont for its last title 53 years ago for the Division 3AAA crown, 14-0.

“I feel good,” commented Bonds. “We’ve had a good week of practice – the kids are focused. I just want to continue playing our best football at the right time. We just want to pick up from where we left off last week.”

*RELATED: St. Francis quarterback Darius Perrantes overcomes obstacles to lead Golden Knights

While most teams might be intimated with all the distractions that come from playing a game of this importance, this team is different.
“They’ve played in big games,” Bonds said. “If anything about this group, it kinds drives me crazy, they’re gamers.

“They love the bright lights. Maybe it’s this generation that they’ve grown up watching, but they love the moment. I think they’ll be at their best tomorrow night.”

They’ll be facing a Rancho Verde team that is coming off a huge win over top-seed Charter Oak High School, 41-22.

The Mustangs are coached by Jeff Steinberg who had successful stints at Ridgecrest Burroughs, A.B. Miller and Corona Santiago, prior to joining the Mustangs.

*RELATED: St. Francis football more than just a high-powered passing team

“What makes this unique is that we are a pretty young team,” Steinberg said. “They’ve really grown during the season.”

The game will feature two of the top underclass quarterbacks in Southern California.

Rancho Verde’s Brock White, a sophomore, has thrown for 2,734 yards with 35 touchdowns and only six interceptions. According to Steinberg, there is a lot to like about his gunslinger.

“Brock has really grown during the course of the year,” commented Steinberg. “He’s a sophomore quarterback which everyone knows that when you have a sophomore quarterback, there’s a lot that goes with it. The thing that Brock has brought to the table, we always say that a quarterback needs to know his limitations. He knows what he does well, he will manage the game and manage the offense. He knows that he doesn’t have to go out there and do it all by himself.”

*RELATED: St. Francis football enjoying first championship week in 53 years

St. Francis features junior Darius Perrantes. A transfer from Crespi, Perrantes has been sensational during the playoffs. He has thrown for 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns in his last four games.

Both coaches agree the pace of the game will be key to their team’s success at the end of the night.

“We are different in styles of play,” Steinberg said. “You have two contrasting styles of offense and defense. We are going to have our hands full – that’s how should be going in for a championship.”

“I honestly thing we’re two evenly matched teams, just the way we approach the game,” Bonds said. “You can really tell that those guys are really well coached. They’re going to be ready to play. We’re fortunate that we get to play at Friedman Field at home. We going to have a packed house here pulling for us.”

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Damien will take on Bishop Amat in Friday’s Covina/Sierra Vista boys basketball tourney semifinals

Schedules for this week’s boys basketball tournaments for San Dimas and the Covina/Sierra Vista tournament. Scores will be updated at the end of the night. The knockout rounds begin on Thursday and conclude with Saturday championship games.

Sierra Vista/Covina Boys Basketball Tournament
Monday’s round robin
At Sierra Vista

El Rancho 78, Don Lugo 56
Claremont 63, Sierra Vista 31
Keppel 70, Locke 42
Walnut 65, Mountain View 27
At Covina
Covina 76, Garey 53
Bishop Amat 56, La Puente 31
Colony 92, El Modena 50
Adelanto 76, Gabrielino 53

Tuesday’s round robin
At Sierra Vista

Claremont 48, LA Roosevelt 43
Walnut 48, Alhambra 40
Colony 78, Schurr 51
Damien 105, Don Lugo 28

At Covina
Locke 62, Duarte 60
Bloomington 69, South El Monte 66, OT
Bishop Amat 71, Verdugo Hills 26
Monrovia 62, Adelanto 53
At Northview
Keppel 71, Northview 42

Wednesday’s round robin
At Sierra Vista

LA Roosevelt 51, Sierra Vista 32
Alhambra 63, Mountain View 57
Garey 46, South El Monte 40
Damien 94, El Rancho 48
At Covina
La Puente 61, Verdugo Hills 36
Gabrielino 63, Monrovia 58
Schurr 59, El Modena 40
Bloomington 71, Covina 66
At Northview
Duarte 63, Northview 34

Thursday’s Quarterfinals
At Sierra Vista

Keppel 57, Claremont 36
Colony 61, Walnut 53
At Covina
Bishop Amat 62, Adelanto 26
Damien 105, Bloomington 38

Friday’s semifinals
At Covina High

Damien vs. Bishop Amat, 6 p.m.
Colony vs. Keppel, 7:30 p.m.

San Dimas Boys Basketball tournament
Monday’s round robin
Diamond Bar 77, Kaiser 69
Villa Park 62, Rowland 58
Rancho Cucamonga 87, Alta Loma 48
San Dimas 60, West Covina 53

Tuesday’s round robin
Murrieta Valley 79, West Covina 52
Rowland 62, Patriot 57
Downey 63, Diamond Bar 60
South Hills 54, Alta Loma 41

Wednesday’s round robin
Downey 64, Kaiser 45
Villa Park 92, Patriot 47
Rancho Cucamonga 93, South Hills 47
Murrieta Valley 57, San Dimas 48

Friday’s semifinals
Downey vs. Villa Park, 6:30 p.m.
Rancho Cucamonga vs. Murrieta Valley, 8 p.m.

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St. Francis more than just a passing team

When most observers think about the offensive attack of the St. Francis football team, they point to the passing game under junior quarterback Darius Perrantes.

However, the Golden Knights can run the ball too. It’s one of the key components that has St. Francis (12-1) playing Rancho Verde (11-2) on Friday in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship at home.

St. Francis has rushed for 2,300 yards while averaging six yards per carry. At the forefront of the attack is senior Elijah Washington. Last year, Washington rushed for 582 yards and scored six touchdowns. It’s been a different story this season as the senior has rushed for 1,000 yards (which includes his 226 yard performance with five touchdowns against La Salle) while scoring 16 touchdowns.

“I’ve been a team player at St. Francis since day one,” Washington said. “I am not surprised on what I do any night. I just love going out there and winning as a team. That the good part about what we are doing.”

It’s a family affair for the Washington family at St. Francis. Elijah’s older brother Zachary played football at the school from 2010-2013 and his father Kyle is currently the head Junior Varsity coach for the football program.

“I watched my brother go through the program – I am all about the program and all about the team,” commented Washington.

It was the 2013 season that made a huge impact on Washington.

“That team might have been the closest team I’ve ever seen at St. Francis,” Washington said. “They lost to Serra in the semifinals. Joe Mudie in the backfield and I learned a lot of stuff from him. He gave me some pointers on how to succeed in high school and I’ve just taken it from there.”

It’s all come full circle for Washington as he mentors his fellow teammate in the backfield, Kevin Armstead. A sophomore transfer from Chaminade, Washington sees a lot of potential in Armstead.

“He’s a great athlete and he’s only a sophomore – he’s got his whole future ahead of him,” Washington said. “Bringing him in, I had to show him the ropes and he had to learn the playbook, -so I taught him a lot about that.”

The long drought is over

The last time St. Francis made a CIF Southern Section football championship game was in 1964. The Golden Knights defeated Claremont 14-0 to repeat as Division AAA champions. One of the members of that team was Terry Terrazone, who is currently the assistant athletic director at St. Francis. He also has served as Athletic Director for the school along with a stint as head football coach.

“In those days, you had to win your league to make the playoffs,” Terrazone said. “The game is so much different than today. It was a more physical game with less throwing.”

Terrazone said the game was all about having a punishing running game and winning the field position battle.

“We did a crossing pulling with our lineman,” Terrazone noted. “A more misdirection type of running attack.”

State playoffs?

If the Golden Knights win on Friday night, they’ll qualify for the CIF State Playoffs. According to Mark Tennis of Cal Hi Sports, he has the Golden Knights projected to play in the Division II-AA regional final against Tulare Union High School. The Tribe just won the CIF Central Section Division 2 championship last week, defeating Dinuba 49-21.

“If Valencia wins in Division 2 and Paraclete wins in Division 5, those two are pretty close to each other so there would be interest in the CIF for that similar to San Clemente and Edison last year,” Tennis explained. “It’s certain St. Francis wouldn’t be higher than CIFSS Division 2 or LA City (Narbonne) or San Diego (Helix or Mission Hills) and probably Paraclete (CIFSS Division 5).

“That’s four teams in front and there you have it with Tulare in next division which is D2-AA. I would think St. Francis would be ahead of CIFSS Division 4 (Downey vs. Cajon) and San Diego Division 2 (Ramona) champion. I would have Tulare with home game (CIF Central Sec D1 team is likely traveling) but they could look at computer ranking and give it to a higher ranked team.”

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Like father, like Son, Covina’s Nin Burns II trying to win a championship like his father

When Covina High School won its last championship in 1995, beating Lompoc 23-21 for the CIF Southern Section Division 7 football title, then coach Dick Sheehan had a simple reason why the Colts won and ran the table that year to finish 14-0.

“We had Nin Burns on the team and they didn’t,” Sheehan said.

Burns was the Division 7 player of the year that season and earned a scholarship to the University of Utah.

After 22 years, Covina (11-2) returns to the championship on Friday against Katella (12-1) at Covina District Field for the Division 11 title, and guess who’s leading the way?

Burns’ son, Nin Burns II, the sophomore quarterback who has thrown for 2,440 yards and 30 touchdowns.

When Covina won its last championship in 1995, it also was at Covina District Field.

“It’s kind of cool I guess,” Burns II said.

Burns II isn’t the only sibling on the team. His younger brother, Damon Burns, is a freshman receiver/defensive back that has been called to varsity for the playoffs, and his time will come.

Burns II, however, has been the difference maker for the Colts all season, and he’s managed to take it up a notch in the playoffs, particularly the last two games.

He threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 131 yards and a touchdown in a quarterfinal win over Westminster, and he was at it again in the semifinals, throwing for 250 yards and two touchdowns in a wild 57-56 overtime victory over Culver City.

He’s so young and so experienced that Covina coach Joe Brown just shakes his head sometimes.

“The kid just understands football,” Brown said of Burns II. “His football IQ is phenomenal and he wants to make every play, every time. It’s hard for him to just throw the ball away because he’s super competitive.

“One of the things I told him at the beginning of the year is that we’re really young. We have a couple sophomore receivers and a sophomore in the backfield (Erik Cuellar) and at times Nin gets frustrated. I just told him, not everyone is at your level yet, that’s your job to bring them to your level, and he’s done a great job of that.”

Sheehan has kept tabs on the Colts this season and see’s the similarity between father and son. They were different players. Burns, the dad, was a do-it-all receiver that returned punts, kickoffs and was a monster on both sides of the ball.

“The similarities are how elusive both of them are,” Sheehan said. “And they both seem to have that extra gear that when people think they’re closing in they are able to kick it into a higher gear and separate themselves from others.”

Colts assistant coach Kevin Glaspy is the only person on the Colts staff who was an assistant with Sheehan in 1995 and remembers how special dad was.

“He was so electrifying,” Glaspy said of Burns. “His game-breaking ability was phenomenal. People held their breath every time he touched the ball. Sometimes he only touched it five times a game, and those touches would be a punt return, kick return or an interception for a touchdown. He had that ability to change a game all by himself.”

Glaspy remembers Burns II on the freshman team last year. He was later called in at the end of the season because the Colts starting quarterback was injured and he led the Colts to a playoff victory.

What Glaspy remembers is what Brown also shared, that he understood the game far beyond his years. That, along with his ability is what makes him so dangerous.

“He was one of the smartest freshman players I’ve ever seen and to be a quarterback, that’s special.” Glaspy said. “He had some games where he’s calling his own audibles and making plays for touchdowns. He could call a game all by himself. It’s amazing he’s only a sophomore and doing what he’s doing.”

And if he can do it one more time he’ll have what his dad earned two decades ago, a championship ring.

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St. Francis, Covina reach titles games; Charter Oak, South El Monte bow out

St. Francis headed to first title game since 1964: After a 53-year hiatus, the St. Francis football team is back in the CIF Southern Section Final.And they can thank junior quarterback Darius Perrantes. The transfer from Crespi was 21 of 25 for 273 yards and four touchdowns as the Golden Knights (12-1) defeated El Toro 52-17 in a CIF-SS Division 3 semifinal. The Golden Knights will play Rancho Verde next Friday night at a site to be announced.“It was an unbelievable performance by our whole team tonight,” St Francis coach Jim Bonds said. “We scored on every one of our possessions in the first half. Darius was hot, our running backs were hot and our defense did a sensational job.”

Covina reaches championship for first time since 1995 with thrilling overtime win: Covina didn’t want to give Culver City’s high-powered offense another shot. The Centaurs (11-2) scored on their first play of overtime on a 25-yard run by Kevin McGuire to defeat Culver City 57-56 in the CIF Southern Section Division 11 semifinal game Friday night.
When the Colts got their shot, they fed Erik Cuellar, who rushed for 292 yards and five touchdowns and the senior delivered again by punching it in from 1 yard out on Covina’s possession in overtime. Then, that’s when Covina coach Joe Brown faced a big decision. He got some help from senior running back Ailaoa Tauvao, who told Brown that the Colts should go for the two-point conversion and the victory right there and then.”
Covina didn’t want to give Culver City’s high-powered offense another shot.
The Centaurs (11-2) scored on their first play of overtime on a 25-yard run by Kevin McGuire to defeat Culver City 57-56 in the CIF Southern Section Division 11 semifinal game Friday night.
When the Colts got their shot, they fed Erik Cuellar, who rushed for 292 yards and five touchdowns and the senior delivered again by punching it in from 1 yard out on Covina’s possession in overtime.
Then, that’s when Covina coach Joe Brown faced a big decision. He got some help from senior running back Ailaoa Tauvao, who told Brown that the Colts should go for the two-point conversion and the victory right there and then.

Charter Oak loses quarterback, then game: Charter Oak’s misfortune continued in the semifinals for the second consecutive year, losing quarterback Jalen Palacios in the third quarter with everything unraveling after that.
Rancho Verde (11-2) pulled away following Palacios’ injury to end Charter Oak’s undefeated season, knocking off the top seed 41-22 to advance to next week’s CIF Southern Section Division 3 championship against St. Francis, a 52-17 winner over El Toro.

Fight after Charter Oak game:

South El Monte falls in semifinals for second straight season: The South El Monte High football team found itself in familiar situations again this year. The team hosted a second straight CIF-SS semifinal game and, like last year, found itself within striking distance of the championship game to start the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for the Eagles, this year’s game ended in defeat like last year as Santa Maria surged to a 35-14 win in the Division 12 semifinal on Friday night.
“The season was a great year,” said South El Monte coach Frank Gallardo. “The boys showed a lot of character all year long. Tonight was just meant to be the end.”

Friday’s High School Football Semifinals and Predictions
Division 3

Rancho Verde 41, Charter Oak 22
St. Francis 52, El Toro 17
Division 11
Covina 57, Culver City 56
Division 12
Santa Maria 35, South El Monte 14

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Feel good stories on Charter Oak coach Lou Farrar and St. Francis tight end Greg Dulcich

Legendary coach Lou Farrar talks about retirement and his love for Charter Oak football: When you’ve been around as long as Charter Oak football coach Lou Farrar, the rumors and whispers are obvious.
After more than four decades in coaching, will the 72-year-old Farrar finally hang it up after the season?
“I’m still enjoying it too much,” Farrar said. “I have one grandson (Louis Farrar) on the team who is graduating and his little brother coming in next year as a freshman.”There’s your first hint.

St. Francis receiver Greg Dulcich shows why he’s the ultimate team player: When Greg Dulcich arrived for his first summer of football at St. Francis High School, coach Jim Bonds remembered a couple of things.
“He was a curly-haired freshman when he registered,” Bonds said. “And his size made him stand out from the rest of the others in his class.”
Fast forward four years, and it is a more physically mature Dulcich, now a senior, who has added mental maturity to his repertoire. That combination of skill and toughness has helped lead the Golden Knights (11-1) to the CIF Southern Section Division 3 semifinals, where it will be home on Friday against El Toro (8-4), hoping to advance to the championship after five straight semifinal losses since 2000.

Friday’s High School Football Semifinals
Division 3

Charter Oak at Rancho Verde, 7 p.m.
El Toro at St. Francis, 7 p.m.
Division 11
Covina at Culver City, 7 p.m.
Division 12
Santa Maria at South El Monte, 7 p.m.

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