By Aram Tolegian
Nobody will ever know for sure just how close the Bassett High School football program came to going the way of the dinosaur in 2011.
But with just 16 players on the varsity roster at the end of a 1-9 campaign, it doesn’t take a genius to realize things were about as bleak as they could get.
Enter Hector Spathias.
Today, thanks to Spathias, the Olympians are a thriving program, one that was a coin flip away from making the playoffs last season. The roster now has 50 players between varsity and junior varsity, and although the stunning turnaround hasn’t come easily, things are clearly looking up.
“I’m a teacher on campus and they knew I had coached football before,” said Spathias, thinking back on how he took on the challenge of turning things around. “They would call me in and say, ‘You know the kids here, you can relate to them, can you coach the football team?’
“And I would say there’s no way I’m going to coach here, there’s no support here. But when you have these kids in your class, you feel bad. You want to give them a fair shot on the football field.”
You gotta give it up to El Monte football coach Joel Sanchez and staff for answering the ALS challenge this morning. What a fun way and good cause to celebrate Hell Week and two-a-days leading to the Aug. 29 season openers. Coach Sanchez called out Arroyo coach Jim Singiser, Rosemead coach Marc Paramo and Mountain View coach Victor Ambruso. Boys, you’re on the clock and have 24 hours to respond …
There has been a flurry of activity since San Dimas football and coach Bill Zernickow called Aram and I out Monday to take the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge.” Aram and I accepted and got dumped on by the Saints’ football team and called out Bishop Amat coach Steve Hagerty, Bonita coach Adrian Medrano along with two of our biggest contributors during the football season, Mike the Cousin and Tom Kiss. On Tuesday, Bonita’s Adrian Medrano accepted and paid the $100 donation, then quickly called out Glendora coach Jerry Lewallen. Bishop Amat coach Steve Hagerty got dumped on along with Tom and the Cousin during Amat’s practice Tuesday. Hagerty called out Damien coach Mark Paredes and Upland coach Tim Salter. Mike called out the Scouting Guru, James Escarcega and Tommy called out our very own Stevie Ramirez and the Bulletin’s Clay Fowler. Those called out today have 24 hours to respond or reach into their pockets … whatever you choose, it’s a win-win for all.
— Gabriel Escovar (@gescovar) August 13, 2014
When you take the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” to raise awareness for Lou Gehrig’s disease, you can either have an ice bucket of water dumped on you and shared to YouTube to spread awareness or donate $100. We challenged Bonita coach Adrian Medrano and Bishop Amat coach Steve Hagerty after San Dimas and coach Bill Zernickow challenged us. While we all got dunked on, Medrano chose to donate $100, which is what this is about really. Medrano followed by challenging new Palomares league rival in Glendora football coach Jerry Lewallen, who is on the clock and has 24 hours to respond. Find out who else Medrano challenged as well. Congrats to Medrano for reaching into his pocket and answering the challenge. We’re waiting on Bishop Amat coach Steve Hagerty to answer the challenge tonight along with Mike the Cousin and Tommy the Inland Insider Kiss
— Bill Zernickow (@BillZernickow) August 13, 2014
By Aram Tolegian
There was a time when Greg Gano cared about where his next CIF championship ring was going to come from.
When you win four, it can be addicting. Those days have quickly gone, though. Gano, whether by choice or error, has been rapidly adding chapters to his career in recent years. And that’s not always a good sign for a coach.
The latest and perhaps final chapter for Gano is at Wilson High School. Yes, the same Wilson that’s just down the road from where Gano cemented his name with some of the industry’s best coaches at Los Altos.
Gano’s arrival at the Hacienda Heights campus is a culmination of events that has led the Valley legend to become reflective and less hell bent on wins and losses at a time when most coaches his age would trying to salt their legacy.
“The only thing I can say is that I’m the same guy I was in 2002,” Gano said before practice on Monday afternoon. “But it’s not about me anymore. I want our kids to feel that I care about them. That is the main focus that I had coming into this year, is that the kids know I care about them and what they’re doing on and off the football field.”
Gano’s career has hit several speed bumps since he resigned his position at Los Altos following the 2007 season. After taking a year off, he was hired at Damien in a move that many thought would make the Spartans an area power and maybe more.
It didn’t happen. Following a 20-22 record in four seasons, Gano resigned and promised he wouldn’t be out of coaching long. He wasn’t. Gano was soon the head coach at Tustin. But that was over soon after it got started and Gano was out at Tustin after an 0-4 start in 2013.
San Dimas coach Bill Zernickow called Aram and I out at today’s practice to take the ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) challenge, which gives you 24 hours to answer the challenge or donate a $100 bucks to the cause. While it’s always great to donate money, the evolution of the ALS challenge is to spread awareness on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms about ALS. Watch coach Z get dunked and call us out. We answered two hours later by getting dunked in front of the San Dimas football team as well. Check out who we called out, they’re next up. Going forward, lets use this as a countdown to the Aug. 29 season opener. If anyone wants to call out their coach or another player on a football team in the SGV, send the video to Aram or I and we’ll post it. Let’s start this craze at football practices throughout the SGV and beyond. Now, check out our video and see who we challenged next…
But rarely do you hear those words uttered so often when it comes to football than when they fly off the lips of new Maranatha High School football coach Steve Bogan.
Want to know how one of the Valley’s best-ever coaches winds up at tiny Maranatha? He prayed on it. Wondering whether a four-time CIF champion coach like Bogan is truly concerned about adding another ring to his pile? It will happen if God wills it.
Those are the themes of Bogan’s sentiments as he starts what very likely will be the final chapter of a career that’s seen him win more CIF titles than most of his colleagues can dream of, more league titles than one man deserves and enough games to ensure area fans will remember his name for a long time.
“For me, it seemed like the lord was saying ‘Go do this,’” Bogan said while winding down after holding one of the first fall practices of what he hopes will be a productive tenure at Maranatha based on winning and spirituality.
We’re nearly three weeks from the prep openers and the fifth PrepXtra Football preview magazine, which debuts on Aug. 28. The first weekend is great, opening with Rosemead and Northview on Thursday night followed by Monrovia and San Dimas the first full Friday capped with Covina taking on South Hills Saturday night. Other intriguing games the first Friday is Bishop Amat on the road against Santa Margarita, how Arroyo fares at San Marino, and how Wilson and Greg Gano will do in his debut against Workman.
Thursday, August 28
Rosemead vs. Northview at San Dimas HS.
Friday, August 29
Alta Loma at Rowland, 7 p.m.
Arroyo at San Marino, 7 p.m.
Baldwin Park at El Monte, 7 p.m.
Bassett at Maranatha, 7 p.m.
Bonita at Schurr, 7 p.m.
Diamond Bar at Montebello, 7 p.m.
Diamond Ranch at Nogales, 7 p.m.
Duarte at Cerritos Valley Christian, 7 p.m.
Gladstone at Jurupa Hills, 7 p.m.
Keppel at Ganesha, 7 p.m.
Monrovia at San Dimas, 7 p.m.
Pasadena at South El Monte, 7 p.m.
Roosevelt at Pomona, 7 p.m.
Santa Margarita vs. Bishop Amat at Saddleback College, 7 p.m.
Santa Monica at Los Altos, 7 p.m.
Sierra Vista at La Puente, 7 p.m.
Walnut at Don Lugo, 7 p.m.
West Covina at Colony, 7 p.m.
Wilson at Workman, 7 p.m.
Saturday, August 30th
Covina vs. South Hills at San Dimas HS, 7 p.m.
By Aram Tolegian
The Duarte High School football program continues to give every indication that it’s on the verge of something special and new head coach Travis Brown is confident he’s the man who will get the Falcons over the top.
Brown, a former standout receiver at Los Altos in the early 2000s, is conducting his first fall camp as a head coach and the excitement is starting to build that the beginning of something big for both the Falcons and their rookie coach is about to happen.
“We have a lot of guys that not too many people know about,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t expect us to be anybody’s favorite. But I will say that we’re going to turn some heads this year and we’re going to make a lot of noise.”
Brown did just during his playing days. He was a receiver on Los Altos’ 2002 and ‘03 CIF championship team and earned Tribune All-Area honors in ‘03. He then starred at New Mexico where he was an all-Mountain West selection in both his junior and senior seasons.
The success continued into the early days of what he hoped would be an NFL career. Brown was atop the depth chart for at one wide receiver spot for the Cincinnati Bengals entering the preseason in 2008.
Baldwin Park football photo gallery
By Aram Tolegian
New Baldwin Park High School football coach Daniel Algattas isn’t bashful when he talks about his goals for the Braves’ program.
“We want to be recognized as a team that can play with the best of them,” Algattas said. “Our kids want to be No. 1 in the Valley. Whether that’s realistic or not, somebody can tell me that in 5-10 years. We want to get there one day. Not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But we want to play to our full potential.”
It doesn’t end there. Algattas is hopeful that he can take Baldwin Park on such a run that the Braves will “earn our way into Charter Oak’s league.” And if you remember him as a standout quarterback at Walnut, it’s not a wise idea to bet against it happening.
When last seen by most Valley prep football fans, Algattas was firing the game-winning touchdown and two-point conversion pass in the final seconds of the 2003 Hall of Fame All-Star Game.
It was the culmination of a stellar prep career that saw Algattas lead Walnut to the CIF championship game against South Hills in 2002. He parlayed his high school career into a scholarship at Colorado St.
But before Algattas’ freshman season in Fort Collins, CO,, he injured his shoulder and suffered a serious concussion in car accident that came as a result of another driver running a red light.
By Fred J. Robledo
Ask Azusa Pacific’s Mayra Almazan about her most memorable moments over the past few years and it’s no wonder she has to pause and think for a while.
Was it scoring the game-winning goal in sudden-death overtime to lead Azusa Pacific to the National Christian College Athletic Association national championship with a 2-1 victory over Dallas Baptist last fall?
Was it being named the most outstanding offensive player of the tournament, or being named the NCCAA national player of the year?
“It was all humbling,” said Almazan, who also starred at South Hills high school. “Really humbling.”
It could get even better.
Almazan is competing with Costa Rica in the Under-20 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada this month. Costa Rica is in Group D and opens with France Wednesday followed by games against Paraguay and New Zealand in hopes of advancing past the group stage.
“I’m really excited,” Almazan said. “Nobody expects much from us, we’re one of the (sleepers). Hopefully we can surprise a few teams and get to the next round.”
The season is just under a month away for teams with Week 0 games and that means just a few weeks to tighten the screws in preparation for the long grueling campaign.
At San Dimas, the defending Mid-Valley Division champion Saints held their first practice under the watch of head coach Bill Zernickow. San Dimas opens the season in arguably one of the top games of the year against Monrovia on Aug. 29.
“It went fine,” Zernickow said of Monday morning’s practice. “Our guys were extremely excited to be back out there. You could see their posts on Twitter saying ‘Can’t wait for football’. That ended after about an hour.
“Nobody got hurt. I think we caught a little break in the weather. I think Sunday was a lot more humid.”
Bishop Amat released this statement: The Bishop Amat Family welcomes Mr. Joseph Hoggatt as teacher and Head Varsity Baseball Coach. Mr. Hoggatt comes to Bishop Amat as an experienced and successful Division I high school varsity baseball coach (from Canyon High School) with thirteen consecutive CIF playoff appearances, six league championships, and two trips to CIF finals. Thirteen of Coach Hoggatt’s student/athletes have gone on to play at the Division I college level. In addition to his coaching responsibilities, Mr. Hoggatt will serve as a full-time member of the faculty.
Fred’s thoughts: Don’t know a lot about Hoggatt other than he had a successful run at Canyon. But his reasons for leaving are unclear according to the Register’s Steve Fryer: Joe Hoggatt’s tenure as Canyon’s baseball coach has ended after 12 seasons. Canyon’s athletics website states that former Comanches player Matt Morris is the school’s varsity head coach. Canyon athletic director Patrick Bendzick said he could not discuss school personnel matters, so the reasons for Hoggatt’s removal are unknown for now. I will say that Bishop Amat’s first choice was Clemente Bonilla, but sources said they couldn’t come to agreement on the salary
By Fred J. Robledo
As expected, Damien High School hired former Bishop Amat coach Andy Nieto to take over its baseball program on Thursday.
Nieto, one of the winningest coaches in Southern California over the last decade, resigned less than a week after earning his fourth championship in eight years at Bishop Amat.
The Lancers ended the season with ten straight victories culminating with a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over top-seed Palm Desert for the CIF-SS Division 3 title at Dodger Stadium in June.
Nieto said he was leaving to pursue other opportunities, and soon after he announced he was leaving, Damien fired coach Al Leyva, prompting speculation that Damien would target Nieto.
Damien’s principal Merritt Hemenway was the principal at Bishop Amat when it hired Nieto, and the two remained close.
“I think it’s probably easier to say third time’s the charm,” Nieto said. “He (Hemenway) hired me at Cantwell (Sacred Heart) many moons ago when I was finishing my degree at USC. It’s a great relationship that we built and I owe the start of my teaching career to him and I owe a lot to him helping me establish my career as a coach and teacher.”
Leyva was 107-61 in six seasons at Damien, but never won a league championship. His best year was his first in 2009 when Damien finished 21-9 and advanced to the CIF-SS Division 2 semifinals. Damien was 17-10 this past season, finished in a tie for third in the Sierra League and was ousted in the first round of the playoffs.
Nieto thinks he can take Damien to the next level.
“I have always had the utmost respect for Damien, they never lacked talent or ability,” Nieto said. “For me this place has endless possibilities. When you combine the athletic facilities and resources, Damien is a sleeping giant.
“This program, there’s no fixing here, it’s on solid ground. For whatever the reason, they’ve always played well and they’ve knocked on the door of a championship. They’ve been knocking on the door for many years, lets figure out how to go through it and win this thing.”
Nieto won back-to-back titles when he first arrived at Bishop Amat in 2007 and ‘08, and added another banner in 2011 to go with seven consecutive Del Rey League championships.
Nieto finishes with a career record of 196-55-1 at Bishop Amat and in 2011 the Lancers finished the season ranked sixth nationally and won the prestigious National Classic.
Nieto arrived at Bishop Amat with huge expectations after previously serving as an assistant coach at USC from 1997-2006.
Nieto won a national championship with the Trojans in 1998 and went to the NCAA college World Series in Omaha three times with the Trojans in 1998, 2000 and 2001.
Nieto also served as an assistant baseball coach at Glendale community college in 1996 and was a recruiting coordinator for East Los Angeles College in 1995.
Bishop Amat was Nieto’s second high school head coaching job, having coached at Cantwell Sacred Heart from 1991-94 where he led the Cardinals to three league titles with a 62-35 overall record.
Nieto earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from USC in 1991 and master’s degree from Azusa Pacific and is a 1982 graduate of Schurr High.
The Chino Hills basketball community grieved Wednesday for Nnamdi Okongwu, a member of the boys team that went to the CIF Southern Section Open Division championship game in March and a Pac-12 prospect. Okongwu was critically injured in a skateboarding accident Tuesday.
Conflicting reports surfaced as to the player’s condition Wednesday evening and early Thursday morning.
A message on the player’s instagram account was posted early Wednesday evening showing “Nnamdi Michael Okongwu, September 20, 1996 – July 16, 2014,” but that same account had a subsequent post after midnight saying, “Please stop telling nnamdi is dead please just pray for him.”
Three television stations and another print publication cited a school official who had confirmed that the player had passed away.
“He was a big presence as a basketball player and an even bigger presence as a person,” said Chino Hills coach Steve Baik, who was on vacation in Hawaii. “It’s kind of staggering to think about right now.”
Okongwu was at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton. Details of the accident were not available.
Baik out of town, so was assistant coach Don Grant. Another assistant, Mel Simms, found out about the accident from a text his daughter received.
Gomez, 31, had been a mainstay on Layton’s staff, joining it in 2006 as head junior varsity coach, only to be elevated to assistant varsity coach two weeks later.
He was part of a staff that took the team to CIF championship games in 2008 and 2009.
He had been the team’s defensive coordinator the last three years.
Gomez, who also teaches Spanish at the school, took the team through spring and summer drills and has retained many of the assistants so he expects the transition to be easy.
“We’re all on the same page and it has been a pretty seamless transition,” Gomez said. “I know the players and they know and respect me so we’re ready to move forward.”
I thought for sure with two weeks away from this place Andy Nieto would be at Damien by now and Bishop Amat would already have replaced Nieto at Amat? I also thought the Lakers would have added at least one free agent but it’s like time stood still. Or maybe a million things happened and I was so far out of sight, out of mind that I need some of you to get me up to speed on what’s happening around the Valley, what rumors are out there and what stories need looking into??? Best news I heard while gone is that we struck a deal with MaxPreps to provide localized standings, schedules, leaders and updated scores on our websites. Best part is our website should provide daily schedules and results through MaxPreps and we hope everything comes together by the fall. Other than that, time to make some phone calls and get back in the groove, football starts in just over a month.
UPDATE: Source confirms Bishop Amat coach Andy Nieto HAS interviewed at Damien this week.
UPDATE: Bishop Amat AD Michael Manzo said he expects the Lancers to announce its next baseball coach next week.
UPDATE: San Dimas has hired Northview graduate Omar Diaz as its next wrestling coach. Saints also looking for a boys and girls varsity soccer coach.
UPDATE: Los Altos baseball has hired assistant coach Hector Gutierrez to take over the program following last month’s resignation of Andrew Formano.
RUMOR SPECULATION: Despite an email and tweet telling me that super Northview baseball freshman Jacob Amaya is transferring to South Hills, Northview coach Dan Roddy said there is no truth to it. He says he’s heard the rumor too, but has been told by Amaya’s family he isn’t going anywhere. Amaya is already committed to Cal State Fullerton. South Hills already has benefited by getting a transfer from Bishop Amat, Christian Moya.
Chino Hills BB coach Kyle Billingsley via twitter confirming he has been let go. Was only coach the school had ever had. More to come!
— Michelle Gardner (@MGardnerSports) July 9, 2014
I’ll be getting hitched and on vacation at some far-away-beach over the next two weeks so send all tips and breaking news to firstname.lastname@example.org or his twitter @steverramirez. And keep Stevie honest, it’s his job to update the blog and keep you talking while I’m gone.
Not that I’ve had a lot of time to think about it while trying to keep the future Mrs. Robledo calm in the final stretch and watch World Cup soccer at the same time, but here’s my stab at the Tribune pre-season Top Ten Football Rankings and who else do you think I’d start at No. 1? Uh, duh. In any case, would love to hear your thoughts on a top ten, what teams you expect to do well and what players to watch for this fall. We’re beginning production on our annual PrepXtra Preview football magazine and over the years your input has always helped.
TRIBUNE PRE-SEASON TOP TEN FOOTBALL RANKINGS
1. Bishop Amat — How often do we not start a season with Amat No. 1. It is what it is, area teams don’t beat them, they compete in the Pac-5 and have powerful juniors returning like Tre Sidney and Tyler Vaunghs. But will it make the playoffs? That’s a different story.
2. Glendora — They were 7-3 and return the areas best quarterback in Matt Fink. Let me say that again, the best quarterback. When you throw for nearly 1,500 yards and 12 TDs as a sophomore against the type of schedule the Tartans face, you’re going to be dangerous your next two years. And now that Glendora is in a league and playoff division they can compete in, get out of the way.
3. Charter Oak — Juniors Kamden Brown (quarterback) and Zion Echols (RB/WR) are the future and the Chargers should go back to dominating the Hacienda now that they’re finally out of the Sierra and Inland division. Good for Big Lou, would love to see him dominate and enjoy his final years at the school.
4. South Hills — Like Charter Oak, the Huskies should enjoy the drop from the Sierra to the new Palomares where Bonita and Glendora are likely their toughest competition and back in a playoff division they can compete in. Quarterback Garrett Fonseca should be ready to have a big senior season and coach Albert Rodriguez, or fuzz as they call him, has shown he gets the most out of his players, especially defensively.
5. Damien — Here’s the deal, competing in the Baseline is brutal because they barely hung in the Sierra. If anyone can handle the move it’s probably coach Mark Paredes but you can’t do anything without players and there hasn’t been an off-season buzz about players transferring to give you an idea they can compete at this level. But hey, in our little fishpond, they’re top five no doubt about it.
6. San Dimas – Can we just pencil in a back-to-back Mid-Valley title already? I don’t know if the Saints are legitimately better than the others ranked below, but they’ll dominate the Valle Vista and be favored to win a division that Monrovia is no longer part of. Look, coach Bill Zernickow is a master, he’s already proved it, it’s plug-and-place at San Dimas so get ready for another 14-week season.
7. Diamond Bar – The Snoop Dogg show is gone and so is coach Ryan Maine but they’ve got Antonio Noodles Hull and quarterback Tyler Peterson returning for their senior years and a new coach who’s been a winner everywhere he’s gone. I’m telling you now, don’t sleep on the purple.
8. West Covina — It’s felt like forever since the Bulldogs won back-to-back championships and were dominating everyone not named Bishop Amat or Charter Oak but something tells me coach Mike Maggiore will have the boys ready for the new Hacienda and its renewed rivalry with Charter Oak.
9. Bonita – The Bearcats lose a bunch but they have a bunch returning. This is a program that is solid year-after-year and has a lot of players in the program. It’s probably time for them to get their act together again.
10. Diamond Ranch — This is a pure guess because Roddy Layton is no longer coaching and a new coach hasn’t been named yet. But everyone knows there are talented football players at the Ranch and to have a top ten without them in it would be silly.
2014 ALL-AREA TRACK AND FIELD
ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
THADDEUS SMITH, DAMIEN, JUNIOR; KAYLA RICHARDSON, WALNUT, SOPHOMORE
Consistency is usually the key to success in athletes, and it proved to be the key ingredient for Damien’s Thaddeus Smith and Walnut’s Kayla Richardson, who proved to be the area’s best.
For their efforts, Smith and Richardson are the Tribune Boys and Girls Track Athletes of the Year.
Smith, a junior, was the area’s top sprinter. He placed in Division 3 in the 100 and 200 at the CIF-Southern Sectoin finals and qualified for the CIF-SS Masters in the 200. At the divisional meet, he was sixth with a time of 10.77 seconds before taking third in the 200 at 21.36. At the Masters Meet, he was ninth at 21.94.
“Overall, I was pretty happy about the season,” Smith said. “My goal was to make it to Masters, so I did that. I broke the school record for the 200, so it was a pretty successful season. I wanted to make it to state, but it didn’t happen. I’ll just have to try next year.”
Richardson, a sophomore, was also the area’s top sprinter, placing in Division 1 in the 100 and part of Walnut’s 4×100 relay team, which was the area’s only representative at the CIF State championships near Fresno.
Richardson was ninth in the 100 in Division 1 at CIF-SS finals with a time of 12.35, which was best in the area. She helped Walnut to a fourth-place finish in the 4×100 with a time of 46.83. The Mustangs were sixth at Masters with a time of 47.01. They were sixth in their heat at the state championships and didn’t advance to the event final.
She also scored four first-place medals at the Hacienda League finals, winning the 100 and 200 and helping the 400 and 1,600 relay teams to wins.
“I wasn’t really satisfied with my year,” Richardson said. “I didn’t drop my time as much as I wanted to. But I was glad I was able to experience the state meet and would like to be back there next year.”
When you think of the best sports principals in the San Gabriel Valley, South Hills’ Judy North use to come to mind. The Huskies had one of the best and longest tenured athletic coaching staffs in the Valley and there was a lot of on-field success during her tenure, but a lot has changed since her retirement a few years back. Since then, practically all the long-time coaches resigned or are no longer there due to other circumstances, including football coach Steve Bogan, baseball coach Kevin Smith, boys basketball coach Paul Reed, girls volleyball coach Charm Doyle, softball coach Scott Fisch, wrestling coach Rob Froh and some I may have missed, it’s hard to keep track. Just recently, Paul Reed, the boys athletic director and Kathy Reed, the girls athletic director, either resigned or were let go as the school’s athletic directors. When there is this much turnover in such a short period of time, you wonder what’s going on behind the scenes? While you’re busy mulling that, here’s another question, is South Hills athletics better or worse since North retired? With the quick and swift changing of the guard it may take a few years to know for sure whether South Hills athletics is taking a step forward or back, but from a coaching standpoint, there’s a new regime for sure.
Thursday update: A day after Al Leyva was fired at Damien, Mt. SAC and former South Hills coach Kevin Smith added Leyva to his staff at Mt. SAC as an assistant ….. The speculation that former Bishop Amat coach Andy Nieto could take over at Damien just multiplied following today’s news that, Long Beach State Baseball Hall of Famer, Don Barbara, has been hired as the new head coach at St. John Bosco. Nieto was finalist for St. John Bosco, but who knows, maybe he pulled out of the running now that Damien position is available. Stay tuned.
Wednesday’s Breaking News: Damien athletic director Jeff Grant said the school has parted ways with baseball coach Al Leyva and that an immediate search for a new coach has started. Damien will accept applications through June 27.
Leyva was 107-61 in six seasons at Damien, but never won a league championship. His best year was his first in 2009 when Damien finished 21-9 and advanced to the CIF-SS Division 2 semifinals. Damien was 17-10 this past season, finished in a tie for third in the Sierra League and was ousted in the first round of the playoffs.
“There wasn’t a single incident or something that led to this,” Grant said. “It’s a combination of small things and at the end of the day we wanted to move in a different direction.”
That different direction could be former Bishop Amat baseball coach Andy Nieto, who resigned at Bishop Amat last week after winning his fourth championship in eight years. Nieto has a close relationship with Damien principal Dr. Merritt Hemenway, who was previously the principal at Bishop Amat and who hired Nieto to take over the Amat baseball program.
Nieto has been rumored to be interested in St. John Bosco, but with Damien becoming available it could change things.
Grant admitted that Nieto and Hemenway are close, and Nieto always has said he has a lot of respect and admiration for his former principal.
“We’re opening the job for any and all applicants,” Grant said. “Obviously coach Nieto is no longer employed and he’s more than welcome to apply. But this is not a situation where the jobs already been promised to anyone.”
TRIBUNE SWIMMING ALL-AREA
SWIMMERS OF THE YEAR
DEREK KAO, WALNUT, SR.
Walnut has had a strong swimming tradition and Kao added to it with a solid effort at the Division 2 championships in Riverside.
He had one of the divisions best-ever efforts, scoring the 100 breaststroke title with a meet-record time of 54.91 seconds. The senior also finished third in the 200 individual medley with a time of 1:52.65. He helped the Mustangs’ 200 medley relay team to a third-place finish with a time of 1:35.07.
“Going into the race, I thought, just rely on my training,” Kao said. “I had to focus on what I had to do and just go for it.”
ALEXIS MARGETT, GLENDORA, FRESHMAN
Margett had the top performance by area swimmer at the Division 2 championships in Riverside.
She was the lone area competitor to score a title, winning the 100 butterfly with a time of 54.52. The freshman also helped the Tartans to wins in the 200 medley (1:47.63) and 400 (3:32.12) freestyle relays, keying the Division 2 title. Margett also finished 10th in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:07.18.
“I feel really accomplished,” Margett said after winning her event. “I feel like I applied the right technique to get that time, so it’s great.”
By Fred J. Robledo
Walnut boys basketball coach Josh Cameron resigned on Wednesday to become the assistant principal at Norco High School.
Cameron coached eight years at Walnut and turned it into one of the premier programs in the San Gabriel Valley, earning area coach of the year honors this past season after leading the Mustangs to an undefeated Hacienda League title.
The Mustangs finished 22-6, setting a school record for victories in a season and also a school-record 14-game undefeated streak.
Cameron took over a team that had just won four games prior to his arrival in 2006 and turned it around, advancing to the playoffs for six straight years, reaching the CIF-SS divisional quarterfinals once and the second round four times.
Cameron finishes with an overall record of 128-90 at Walnut. He was 21-31 in his first two years, but finished 107-59 in his last six seasons.
“The opportunity at Norco came up and I went for it, it’s a great job,” Cameron said. “It’s a little bittersweet leaving Walnut because of the program we built up. It’s a great place to coach because of the players and administration.”
Cameron’s leaving the program on a high note and with a young team that’s built to continue what he started.
“That’s what’s great about it, the program is at one of the highest points it’s been in a long time,” Cameron said. “I’m certainly not leaving the cupboard empty. I wouldn’t of left Walnut for any other coaching position, but with a chance to become an assistant principal, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
By Fred Robledo
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Janell Wheaton, San Dimas, Sr.
San Dimas coach Don Pollard remembers when Janell Wheaton was a freshman and wondering if all that talent would blossom.
“There are some players that come in as a freshman and you say to yourself, ‘she’s going to be great as a senior,’ and then they never really live up to the hype.”
That wasn’t Wheaton.
“Not only did she live up to everything, she exceeded it,” Pollard said. “I’m not just talking about her talent, but her softball IQ, how she plays under pressure and the work she does in the classroom. She’s the most complete package I’ve ever been around.”
Wheaton, who signed a national letter of intent to play at National champion Florida, has been selected the San Gabriel Valley Tribune player of the year.
“She’s everything she’s advertised to be,” said San Dimas coach Don Pollard. “She deserves all the accolades she’s getting.”
Wheaton did it all at San Dimas, winning four straight Valle Vista league titles and earning three straight league most valuable player of the year awards.
Wheaton was named to the all-area first-team a year ago, then set her sights even higher.
“The girl who was chosen for player of the year last year (Bishop Amat’s Lexi Gonzalez) went to Oregon State,” Wheaton said. “I said to myself, ‘that’s my goal, to have a good season, to win league again and get player of the year and go off on a good note.’ I’m pretty happy with my career at San Dimas.”
The catcher’s senior season numbers were off the charts. She led the area in average, RBIs and hits, batting .617 with 44 RBIs and 58 hits. She also had five home runs and likely would have finished with double-digit homers if San Dimas had a fence.
“That’s true, she would have had seven to ten more with a fence,” Pollard said. “Everyone played her back and she still hit bombs over their heads that would have been gone at any other park.
“She made adjustments at the plate and hit a lot of line drives. She finished with a lot of extra base hits (10 doubles and six triples).
Wheaton also led San Dimas to the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 quarterfinals, and for all her offensive prowess, she was an equal force defensively behind home plate.
“Nobody stole on her and anyone that tried found out quickly it wasn’t going to work.” Pollard said. “I can’t remember the last time she let a ball get past her that wasn’t a wild pitch, she has that kind of skillset.
“The other thing is, she calls her own game. She’s been calling her own game the last three years because she’s got that IQ and understands pitchers and hitters very well.”
Wheaton will either play first base or catcher at Florida.
“They have some established players ahead of her, but they’ll find a place for her,” Pollard said. “I have no doubt she’ll go on to do great things at Florida and whatever else she chooses to do in life.”
COACH OF THE YEAR: Nacho Hernandez, Los Altos
No team improved more over the course of the season than Los Altos, a young group that was beaten soundly early in the year, losing three of their first five games, and getting hammered in two of them. But the Conquerors stayed the course under their fourth year coach, who needed wins over Bonita and West Covina in the second half of Hacienda League play to earn a co-league title with Bonita, giving Hernandez his second league championship.
The Conquerors finished league with a dramatic come-from-behind 4-3 victory over West Covina, then shocked South Hills 1-0 in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 playoffs. The Conquerors won 10 of their final 12 games to finish 16-7, and for their efforts, Hernandez has been selected the Tribune 2014 softball coach of the year.
NATALIE LUGO, South Hills, Freshman, Pitcher
The only freshman on the all-area first-team was arguably the area’s best pitcher and is already verbally committed to NCAA champion Florida. She earned Sierra League first-team honors, finishing 16-6 with a 0.98 ERA with 197 strikeouts in 150 innings. She also helped the Huskies reach the Division 2 playoffs.
CELESTE WOOD, Los Altos, Junior, Pitcher
She hit and pitched her way to the Hacienda League MVP after helping the Conquerors finish in a tie for the league title, then pitched a gem in a 1-0 victory over South Hills in the first-round of the Division 2 playoffs. Wood, who is committed to Michigan State, was 13-2 with a 2.38 ERA and just as dangerous at the plate, batting .536 with five home runs and 19 RBIs.
JENNA RODELO, Rowland, Sophomore, Catcher
Was the lone bright spot on a Raiders team that won one game all season. She earned Hacienda league first-team honors for her terrific season defensively and at the plate, where she was among the leaders in every offensive category. She batted .533 with 12 home runs and 35 RBIs. She was pitched around so many times, she did it all with only 60 at-bats.
MADELAINE TICKEY, West Covina, Junior, Utility
Tickey quickly proved herself after transferring from Duarte, turning into one of the areas best all-around players in the circle and the plate. She earned Hacienda league first-team honors after helping the Bulldogs reach the playoffs. She batted .394 with seven home runs and 31 RBIs. In the circle she was 12-5 with a 2.33 ERA.
AMANDA SANCHEZ, Bishop Amat, Senior, Infielder
The Del Rey league first-team third baseman earns her second-straight all-area first-team selection. On her way to the University of Missouri, she helped the Lancers reach the second round of the Division 3 playoffs and was one of the areas most feared hitters. She batted .442 with six home runs, eight doubles and 24 RBIs in a tough league that produced divisional champion St. Paul.
ASHLEY DIAZ, South El Monte, Junior, Infielder
She earned the Mission Valley most valuable player award for the second straight season after helping the Eagles to a co-league title with Arroyo and has verbally committed to the University of Arkansas. The shortstop produced sensation offensive numbers and was among the area leaders in the triple crown category, batting. 542 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs. She also had 11 doubles.
MONET MANNING, Northview, sophomore, Infielder
The sophomore shortstop had a breakout season for the Vikings to earn Valle Vista league first-team honors. She hit for power and average, batting .509 with eight home runs, 29 RBIs and seven doubles. She belted two home runs in a game twice, and only struck out twice the entire season.
ALICIA BROWN, Glendora, Senior, Infielder
The Tartans’ team struggled in the Baseline league, but Brown was one of the league’s best, earning first-team honors. She helped the Tartans to the San Dimas tournament title and batted .354 with eight home runs and 17 RBIs. The third baseman will continue her softball career at Loyola Marymount University.
CHLOE MELANSON, Bonita, Junior, Outfielder
The speedy right fielder earned Hacienda league first-team honors and is verbally committed to the University of Miami in Ohio. She helped the Bearcats share the Hacienda league title by hitting for average, power and was a threat on the bases. She batted. 522 with 12 home runs, six doubles and 20 RBIs.
ALYSSA BARRERA, Bishop Amat, Junior, Outfielder
The Del Rey league first-team selection led the Lancers in average and was tied for the team lead in runs scored. She batted an impressive .494 with a .553 on base percentage. She finished with 40 hits while also belting two home runs to go with three doubles, three triples, 12 RBIs and 21 runs scored.
BROOKE CLEMETSON, Charter Oak, Senior, Outfielder/Pitcher
The Sierra League first-team selection pitched, played outfield and is one of the areas best all-around players headed to Cal State Fullerton. She batted .423 with four doubles and nine RBIs but was most important to her team in the circle, finishing 12-3 with a 1.15 ERA with 73 strikeouts.
Pitcher: Kaelyn McFadden, Bonita, Senior
Pitcher: Princess Nava, Covina, Junior
Pitcher: Kaile Chavez, Charter Oak, Junior
Catcher: Melysia Ortega, South Hills, Sophomore
Utility: Ana Mejia, Northview, Senior
Infielder: Evelyn Sandoval, El Monte, Sophomore
Infielder: Jennifer Aguinaga, San Dimas, Senior
Infielder: Isabella Sierra, Covina, Sophomore
Infielder: Anissa Sanchez, Bishop Amat, Senior
Outfielder: Jocelyn Marquez, Northview, Senior
Outfielder: Alexis Gonzalez, West Covina, Senior
Outfielder: Sierra Hensel, Charter Oak, Senior
FINAL TOP TEN
1. Charter Oak (19-8)
2. Bishop Amat (18-10)
3. San Dimas (22-8)
4. Los Altos (16-7)
5. South Hills (21-8)
6. Bonita (17-7)
7. West Covina (16-12)
8. Arroyo (19-5)
9. Covina (16-8-1)
10. Sierra Vista (17-5-2)