PRESEASON: Top 10 receivers in the SGV

So fast it’s absolutely necessary to get you the ball. But it was obvious you weren’t quite heavy enough to take the pounding of a running back. And so you were born: The High School Football Receiver. Some call you finesse. But it’s OK, receiver is a finesse position. Some call you play maker, and it’s true. When the team is down 10 in the fourth and needs something big to happen, who do they look to? When the game is tied and it’s 4th-and-8, they need you to come up with that pass over the middle. When it’s play action time, they need you to run by the corner who bit on the run. Ahh, but wait, you need a QB for any of us to see just how good you are. Then you need a coach who knows how to utilize you best. Are you the kind of guy who can’t beat anyone deep, but any jump ball is yours? Or, are you as good as gone with a little shake and some daylight? Or are you both? While I personally don’t condone any NFL team taking a receiver with a first round draft pick, I don’t completely discount the position either. It’s rare that you’ll see a championship football team at any level point to its receivers as the reason why they’re wearing the rings. Unless you’re the Detroit Lions, the position is kind of an afterthought. A football team needs a good QB. It needs a good offensive line. It needs a good running back. You got those things, and the QB has enough time to get the ball to the open receiever, who is only open because the defense concentrated on stopping the good running back first. And they say O-Line is a thankless position. Sheesh! Here we go …

1. Dorian Wells, South Hills – Who else, right? I stand by it, on any team, Wells is the best player in the SGV. Just so happens he plays receiver (mostly). Personally, I don’t think it’s a coincidence Wells ended up at South Hills. There’s probably no other place in the Valley that he’d be showcased better. Wells will be the No. 1 target for whomever is under center. The stats should follow, as should the wins. South Hills projects for a 14 game season and I’d expect Wells’ stats to benefit greatly from that. After this year, we’ll see Dorian on Saturdays.

2. Tommy Cogburn, South El Monte – If you’ve seen him play, you know that Cogburn could line up for just about anybody in SoCal. Talk about a nice blend of speed and hands. Mission Valley League coaches know that if Tommy has the ball in the open field, it’s curtains for their defense. Cogburn is another product of the SpeedKillz program and it should show. As good as the talent is in the MVL this year, it’s my belief that he’s your early favorite for league MVP. Cogburn had 1,195 yards receiving and 14 TDs last year. I’d expect some improvement on those already good numbers.

3. Mikey Harrell, Charter Oak – He caught the game winning TD in the final minute of CO’s win over Diamond Ranch last season. He caught CO’s only score in the championship game loss to El Dorado. Harrell made his bones last year as the No. 2 receiver behind standout Michael Johnson. This season, he’s the No.1 guy and gets the pleasure of having a fully developed Chris Allen to throw to him. Harrell might be the most fun to watch of any player on the list. They don’t come more elusive and he looks better physically after an off-season of maturity and working out.

4. Kyle Warren, Diamond Bar – Warren often gets lost in the fog of Diamond Bar’s overall struggles. But make no mistake, he’s got the frame and athletic ability to be called one of the top WRs in the area. I’m not sure how new coach John Martin is going to utilize him this year, but his 430 yards and 5 TDs in last year’s season from hell actually don’t seem so bad. I expect those numbers to imrpove along with the team. Warren is one of the top weapons around.

5. Dimitri De La Fuente, South Hills – Yes, the pitcher can play a little catch. DLF’s overall numbers may have taken a hit with Wells’ arrival, but there could be enough to go around this season. DLF goes from being the No. 1 target to a clear No. 2. But sometimes that means only big plays and he can certainly deliver those. South Hills’ WR depth goes very deep, but expect DLF to have some big moments.

6. Taylor Herrera, Damien – The more I think about this Damien team, the more the glass looks half full as opposed to half empty. Herrera can flat out fly. He’s got a great QB in Danny Pertusati to work with, too. Imagine this scenario: Pertusati gets flushed from the pocket, he makes a move to stay alive and sets up to go deep. There’s Herrera running all alone behind the secondary … TOUCHDOWN Damien! There should be a lot of that this year.

7. Kevin Jones, Northview – I’m Kevin Jones, don’t like you don’t know my name. Ain’t nothin’ changed … OK, sorry I couldn’t resist a “Back Then” Mike Jones reference. Anyway, we’ve discussed the skill position explosion taking place at NView and Jones is a big part of it. I like the Vikes passing game lots this year. QB Oscar Robles should love what he sees when he looks down field. It’s either Jones or Anthony Farmer. Ooooh, I like the upside of this team! It’s breakout time!

8. Darius Reese, Duarte – I’m going to place Reese on this list, but the truth is that he can and will do it everything for coach Wardell Crutchfield. Like Wells, Reese is the definition of an all-purpose player. Just like most of the names on this list, Reese + open field = points. An offensive Big Three of Austin Goldsmith, Chris Harris and Reese should have Duarte in store for another big season.

9. Tony Seanez, Los Altos – Little Tony Seanez … what can you say? The kid just gets it done. He won’t scare opposing secondaries, but they’ll have a hard time getting in position to make a good tackle on him. And therein lies Seanez’s biggest strength – he’s elusive. I’m not sure what to make of LA’s passing game yet, but Seanez is as sure handed as they come and he’ll deceive some DBs to the tune of embarrassment.

10. Anthony Farmer, Northview – Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Farmer have just as big of a season as Jones. There’s gonna be enough to go around at Northview as the offensive circus at District Field will now be conducted by the Vikes and not Covina.

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BREAKING NEWS: Dorian Wells headed to South Hills …

Found money …

The info: Former Bishop Amat football standout Dorian Wells, who is arguably the top player in the San Gabriel Valley, has checked into South Hills High and is enrolled in summer school there. He will evidently be a member of the football team this season.

Analysis: Wells’ arrival vaults South Hills into a whole different class. As you all know, I’ve ranked South Hills No. 1 in the SGV and believe they are the favorite to win the Southwest Division. But before Wells’ arrival, you could make an argument for Charter Oak or Los Altos to hold such expectations. Now, South Hills easily ranks with some of the top teams in SoCal. I truly mean this. It’s not crazy anymore to project an undefeated season, and if that happens, then what about a state championship bowl game? The Huskies already have three solid QBs, two excellent running backs, a defense that has a D-1 D-Lineman, two of the top LBs around, and scattered members of the vaunted frosh team from last season ready to play big roles. The offensive line is the only worry. South Hills is absolutely set for an amazing season. Granted, no game has been won or lost yet and the Huskies still have to go do it. But Wells is one of the top skill players in SoCal and he will be an excellent defensive back. Wow! That’s all I can say.
About Amat … I’m simply speechless. This could be the worst off-season I’ve ever witnessed. Obviously something happened for Wells and Amat to part ways. I still don’t want any speculation or commentary on this. For whatever reason, players are leaving Amat rapidly. This does not bode well for what was once a promising season. Amat simply can’t recover from losing Wells and Bryce McBride in the same off-season, then throw in Brandon Sermons and Tony Adams, too. The good news for Amat is the bad news for South Hills – no games have been played. Amat hasn’t lost to anybody yet. But you just have to shake your head. With Wells and McBride, the Lancers were a competent QB away from being a legit playoff team. I’d be very worried and perplexed if I were an Amat fan (and some people say that I am).

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Top 10 running backs in the SGV …

Gatorade, check. Oxygen, check. Smelling salts, check. Damon Kuklinski is playing running back, too!

If last year was the Year of the Quarterback in the SGV, then this year is the Year of the Running Back (that could be my lead for the football preview right there). I could go on and on with this list because the Valley is up to its eyes in talented ball carriers. Some teams even have multiple options at the position. I’m a little concerned about the fact that many teams may not have a good quarterback to go along with their stud running back, meaning it won’t take much to derail the seasons of several of the names on this list by stacking up against the run. Wasn’t it Mr. Miyagi who once said balance is the most important thing in life. Ahh, something like that. Anyway, here we go … I’m pretty rock solid on this list, but as always I’m open to a little spirited jousting where opinions may vary.

1. Bryce McBride, Los Altos – If LA doesn’t find a QB, then what should be a great season for McBride could be only just OK. It won’t take Charter Oak, Damien or South Hills long to figure out what they need to do to beat Los Altos. And you could see the blue visor go flying if LA isn’t capable of keeping the heat off with a little play action here or there. But the positives pointing toward McBride having one of the best seasons around is the fact that he should simply run away from many of the opponents on LA’s docket. Then there’s the advantage of having guys like Nick Longoria and even tight end Ray Rodriguez clearing the way for him. Conqs coach Greg Gano is savvy enough to get McBride the ball in every which way and even tailor an offense around him if the QB situation doesn’t get better.

2. Chris Harris, Duarte – Harris led the SGV in rushing last year as a junior. Granted, much of that was against inferior competition, but he did rack up 166 yards against Glendora, 241 against La Canada and 189 against Santa Clara. Even the 95 yards against Verbum Dei looks respectable. Don’t expect the numbers to change much this year and they could get slightly better even though tackle Mike Harris is now at UCLA. The presence of QB Austin Goldsmith means that teams can’t just gang up on Harris without facing the prospect of getting beat deep. Harris also figures to move forward physically and the speed is already there to turn a crease into a breakaway.

3. Nico Barbone, San Dimas – Barbone was the worst kept secret in the SGV last year. He was hyped going into his sophomore season and delivered in spades by rushing for 1,330 yards and 12 TDs. The bad news for opposing defenses is that Barbone has evidently put in his time this off-season. He got faster and more agile by taking in part Jimmy Nolan’s SpeedKillz camp. He’s also reportedly gotten stronger via the weight room. Add it all up and Barbone is going to be an even bigger load this season … one who might run away from a few more people, too.

4. Tim Gilmore, Wilson – Some coaches I’ve spoken to believe Gilmore might be the best athlete in the SGV. I’m not totally sure how the Wildcats are going to use him this year. I’d expect him to get a lot of carries, but also some receptions. Gilmore is extremely fast and capable of winning some games all by himself. Against CO or LA, the solo act won’t work. So it will be up to ‘Cats OC Greg Willig to complete the package with other options.

5. Kanaan Snowden, Charter Oak – The Chargers are legitimately three deep at RB this season. But I expect what started late last season to continue this year, and that’s Snowden getting the bulk of the carries. Snowden’s best attribute isn’t speed or breaking tackles, it’s the fact that he hits the right whole and rarely messes with any east/west movements. Snowden has improved physically this off-season and should be ready to build on last year’s late-season emergence.

6. Brian Spirlin, Diamond Ranch – Spirlin was the Panthers’ original starter last year before getting hurt very early in the season. His off-season has been confusing, just like everything else Diamond Ranch. There were rumors of Spirlin transferring to Colony, but it didn’t happen. If healthy, he’s a compact runner with good speed and the ability to shrug off tacklers. Spirlin is expected to be the Panthers’ workhorse and the presence of other weapons should make it so that he doesn’t have to deal with opponents focusing solely on him.

7. Evan Heard, South Hills – I still can’t get over Heard’s physical maturation. The D-1 frame is in place for the versatile junior. But I keep hearing talk of Damon Kuklinski sharing time in the backfield. Given Heard’s versatility and ability to catch the ball, he could play an all-purpose role that will see him line up all over the field. I don’t think Heard will be totally shutout of the carries, and if anything, he should see the bulk of the load since Kuklinski’s first priority is linebacker. Expect another major step forward by Heard this season.

8. Howard Martin, Northview – Just like all members of the Vikings’ ballyhooed Class of ’09, Martin will be expected to take a major step forward this year. There are so many skill players poised for breakout seasons in Northview’s offense, it’s hard to believe there’s enough yardage to go around. But the base of Northview’s offense will be running the ball and Martin should be a force in that department. He’s arguably the top breakout candidate on the list.

9. Damon Kuklinski, South Hills – When I visited Huskies practice, Kuklinski was working with the RBs. How can the area’s top linebacker pull double duty at running back, especially the way Kuklinski plays LB. You could look at Kuklinski’s frame and see it as being possible. This is yet another player who has certainly improved his appearance during the off-season. Wow! Kuklinski has always had the footwork to make for a good running back. I worry about his endurance playing two demanding positions. But he should be good for 10-15 carries a game and that could be enough for some excellent numbers. Kuklinski got carries last year, so this will be nothing new.

10. Marcus Wagner, Bishop Amat – If the Lancers coaching staff would definitively commit to Wagner being the feature back, then he’d shoot up this list. But like Kuklinski, Wagner also plays LB and I just don’t see how he can hold up doing both. Wagner simply looks painful to tackle. Think bowling ball with speed … and with a good offensive line clearing the way, wow! But coaches are treating the QB and RB scrambles like top secret info, so I have no clue what Wagner’s load will be.

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RUMOR: Mike DiFiori is after the Temple City job …

I want to CLASSIFY this as just being a rumor, but I believe it to be pretty reliable info or else I wouldn’t post it. Evidently, DiFiori has thrown his name in the hat (applied) for the vacant Temple City gig. If it’s true, DiFiori’s break from coaching (at least in the head coach capacity) will have lasted one season (even though for that one season he was an assistant at La Salle). Anyway, DiFiori once coached at Temple City before his stint at Amat. Once again, can coaches please come with something better than “I want to spend more time with my family.” Let me get my hands on the “How to handle the media” guide from CIF and I will change that part.

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That’s two O-Linemen DEAD …

Bonita’s Kevin Normington and now South Hills’ Daniel Stroud, dead in car accidents. What’s that tell you? I know the circumstances might be different, but the bottom line remains the same. These guys are the big nasties. They’re the baddest dudes on the team, big uglies if you will. But not even they can survive a catastrophic car accident. PLEASE BE CAREFUL WHEN YOU DRIVE. YOU MIGHT HURT YOURSELF OR SOMEBODY ELSE. That’s for all of us, not just the kids. God rest the souls of these two hogs and let this never happen again! And may God be with both families during this horrendous time.

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PRESEASON: Top 10 Quarterbacks in the SGV …

Danny Pertusati, this is everybody. Everybody, this is Danny Pertusati.

Because summer passing league games are the next order of business and QBs will be at center stage, I feel now is an appropriate time to give out the SGV’s best at the position. It’s still early enough that I’d be willing to listen to any arguments, so feel free to plug away.I will probably fire back, but that’s what we’re here for. I think there’s a lot of guesswork involved this season. Not a lot seems very clear as it pertains to this year’s QB crop whereas last year we had McDonough and Mendrun and Chase and Castaneda and so on all returning. This year, there are several excellent established arms. And then there are some cases of major potential. As you know, I think that good seasons go hand in hand with good QBs. I’d be willing to bet gold that the team of every QB on this list will have a winning season. Do you want that action? The hard part about ranking them comes from the fact that some of the unestablished names have considerably more upside than some of the established names. Make sure you re-read and understand that last sentence before firing away. If you have any info, then please share it. Don’t be afraid … this isn’t a baseball thread. I fully expect some new names to pop up once certain schools make their choices on starters. Undoubtedly, you can expect opinions to change and new ones to be formed once the summer begins to play out. I’m not going to lie to you, I have mixed feelings about the overall crop of local QBs. Welcome to the 2007 season …

1. Danny Pertusati, Damien – I know what you’re thinking … Yes, this is officially Pertusati’s first year under center. I know it’s hard to understand my putting him ahead of other more established names. But let me explain something, Pertusati is the best pure athlete on this list. He’s going to run and throw opponents ragged. Because of this, I’m starting to re-think my original thoughts about Damien. It hurts losing Mark Mendrun, Travis Eschardies and Anthony Hile, but there’s no reason to think Pertusati won’t have comparable success to Mendrun … throw in a good O-Line/D-Line, experience back at RB, and maybe this team won’t drop off as much as previously thought. Pertusati is probably a better scrambler than Mendrun, but I don’t think he’s quite the passer (yet). Tons of upside.

2. Chris Allen, Charter Oak – The way Allen finished the season should mean big things for CO as it aspires to not only get back to the big game, but win it this time. Allen’s ability to calmly manage the game was as impressive as his passing. I think there’s major upside to him, too. With half a season and some key playoff experience under his belt, look for Allen to blossom even more this season. My only worry is that Michael Johnson isn’t around to burn opponents deep.

3. Brandon Parham, South Hills – Fans got their first glimpse of Parham two years ago when he got extensive playing time against D-I power Esperanza in South Hills’ 2005 opener. The natural progression was for Parham to be the starter last year in the wake of Kevin Mort’s graduation. It didn’t happen as Nick Lamaison upset him for the job and put together a fine season. Parham has returned as a specimen this year. He looks ready to stake his claim over two talented underclassmen. Parham’s athletic ability will likely get him a ride somewhere as DB, but he could be one of those fun-to-watch run/pass combos that make the HS game so fun to watch.

4. Austin Goldsmith, Duarte – The best nobody knows about? Goldsmith has the luxury of handing the ball off to last year’s Valley rushing leader Chris Harris. But with everyone in fear of Harris, the door could be open for Goldsmith to relentlessly burn teams who overcompensate against the run. Goldsmith has prototype body and skills and a nice set of receivers to work with. Duarte’s balance has the team headed toward another 12-13 game season.

5. Brian Partida, Arroyo – Talk about pressure … When Partida took over for Dominic Salmon, Arroyo fans wondered if their team would still be able to move the ball through the air. You see, Salmon was arguably the best passer in school history and the passing game was a considerably new angle to Arroyo football compared to seasons of the past. Partida’s performance over the past two seasons certainly eased those fears. He threw for 2,475 yards last season. Those used to be unheard of numbers for a Mission Valley League QB. But right behind him was South El Monte’s Jose Garay. I have a hard time separating these two, but I lean Partida beause he’s a senior and might have the better overall supporting cast … I didn’t say receivers, I said supporting cast. Partida gives Knights coach Jim Singiser the ability to let it all hang out, kinda like the 2004 season.

6. Jose Garay, South El Monte – I know there will be people in the foothill communities rolling their eyes when they see two Mission Valley League QBs ranked side by side. But Garay was truly remarkable last year, taking over for departed legend Lee Aguirre. Just when you thought the Eagles were headed back to obscurity, Garay lead them to a share of the MVL title. He’s only a junior and has one of the area’s best targets in Tommy Cogburn to throw to. Garay threw for 2,331 yards last year and could improve on those numbers as South El Monte makes its bid to stay on par with Arroyo and Rosemead.

7. Cameron Deen, South Hills – With Parham likely to get the nod as coach Steve Bogan’s main man, Deen, a junior, will have to wait his turn until next season. So why put him on the list? Because he does qualify easily as one of the Valley’s best, even as a backup. Don’t believe me? Go watch a South Hills passing league game and then ask yourself “Would he start at my place?” You’re forgiven.

8. Oscar Robles, Northview – Robles got his feet wet last year as a sophomore. He certainly had his moments and will have many more starting this year. Northview’s skill players look like some of the best around. This could be a Covina 2005-06 breakout in the making. I don’t think coach Jim Arellanes will get that crazy, but the Vikes are going to put up some numbers. The offensive line could hinder Robles’ progress, but he’s going to start making a name for himself this season.

9. Drew Kaluzny, Glendora – Tartans coach Mark Pasquarella took some heat last year for getting Kaluzny reps during key times in close games. But that’s a new technique being used by many coaches these days. South Hills did it with Kevin Mort, giving him reps as a sophomore in the second quarter while starter Philip Guerrero watched. The thinking is that you put the backup in when it’s still a game and not mop-up time. Wait, does Glendora ever have games with mop-up time? Alright, anyway, Kaluzny has some experience and I expect him to fit right into the Garrett Crook mold. He won’t mess anything up and will make the big throws when he has to. With Glendora’s defense expected to be great, should it be any other way?

10. Chris Willison, South Hills – Like Deen, you’ll ask how a likely non-starter is on this list. Check back in two years and you’ll understand. Although I think fans will start to get a taste of Deen and Willison this year. Bogan is likely to throw both of them reps. Again, this guy is a starter on almost any other Valley team, no matter how good you think you are. And technically, right now, he’s not a backup.

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Gary Brown says hello from Boston …

Diamond Bar’s stud SS/OF just called from Boston where he worked out today at Fenway Park for the Red Sox. He’s hoping to sneak into the first round of Thursday’s MLB draft. He won’t last past the first few rounds. By the way, he struck out SIX TIMES in THREE SEASONS!!! He’s committed to Cal State Fullerton, but could sign if the que$o is right. Brown said he can’t get a flight out of Boston until tomorrow because of the weather. He hit .612 this season!!!

“I couldn’t quite get one over the monster, but …,” Brown said.

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Amat upholds its end of the bargain!!!

The Lancers can finally celebrate.

I’m back: The situation in the press box wasn’t pretty. We had one wireless connection and one dial-up. Special thanks go out to Scott Galetti for his pinch-hit blogging. What a great night it was. Amat got after Eddie McKiernan. The depth was just too much. The Lancers have hitters throughout the lineup and having two pitchers like Maverick Olivares and Chris Eusebio really helps keep both guys fresh. The umps were absolutely atrocious, but fortunately the right team won. TAKE NOTHING AWAY FROM THESE LANCERS, THEY TOOK CARE OF BUSINESS!!!

This is Scott Galetti helping out Aram with updates from the Bishop Amat/Monrovia title game at UC Riverside.

Amat closing in on a celebration at UC Riverside

Top of the First: Curtis Cowell gets hit by a pitch, but is later retired on a double play.

Bottom of the first: Bishop Amat takes a 1-0 on a single up the middle by Maverick Olivares, who led off with a infield single and went to second on a sacrifice by Sergio Munoz. 1-0 BA

Top of the second: Erik Allen and Patrick Greene led off with singles. Following a ground out, Clint Fraijo tied the game at 1-1 with a single to left. The Wildcats loaded the bases, but Olivares got Curtis Cowell to ground out to short to end the threat.

Bottom of the second: Amat gets a single by Andrew Mistone, but he is stranded at third when Jordan Fox struck out looking. 1-1.

Top of the third: Eddie McKiernan singled with one out and stole second. He would later score on a single to right-center by Patrick Greene. 2-1 Monrovia.

Bottom of the Third: Fox leads off with a double to left and Munoz reached first on a fielder’s choice. With runners at second and third and one out, Olivares then popped one down the third-base line in foul ground. Monrovia shortstop Vince Vega made a diving catch. He alertly got up and ran to third base to force out Fox. He then threw to first, but it was ruled that Munoz tagged before advancing to second. Chris Eusebio doubled to right-center to score Munoz to tie the game. Tommy Reyes followed with a double down the right-field line to give the Lancers a 3-2 lead after three.

Top of the Fourth: Monrovia goes down 1-2-3. 3-2 BA

Bottom of the Fourth: Little ball remains the key for Amat. Bryan Seymour singles and is sacrificed to second. Fox doubles to right to score Frank Lopez, who was running for Seymour to make it 4-2. Munoz doubled to right field to make it 5-2. Olivares singled down the right-field line to make it 6-2. A single by Eusebio ended McKiernan’s out with two out in the fourth. Monrovia reliever Richard Kilbury walked Tommy Reyes to load the bases and then Mistone to score a run. Kilbury struck out Nick Bergara to end the inning. 7-2 BA

Top of the Fifth: Monrovia gets back-to-back two-out singles, but can’t cash in. 7-2 BA

Bottom of the Fifth: Kevin Bonilla walked, stole second, stole third, but was out 2-1 trying to score. 7-2 BA after five.

Top of the Sixth: Monrovia loads the bases with one out. Olivares is relieved by Eusebio. Eusebio hits Cowell to score a run and Rocky Tavera knocks in a run on a ground out toe second. 7-4 BA after 5 1/2.

Bottom of the Sixth: Amat goes down 1-2-3. 7-4 BA heading into the seventh.

Top of the Seventh: Eusebio walks the first two batters, but gets a 5-4-3 double play. After Greene scored on a passed ball, Eusebio strikes out Chris Sanchez looking to end the game.

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Do you guys want LIVE BLOGGING again tomorrow night?

It’s Amat Time in the desert. Wait, is Riverside the desert?

I shouldn’t put down Riverside, because truth is I probably couldn’t afford to live there either. Anyway, I want to know from the Amat fans ARE YOU GUYS GONNA MAKE YOUR WAY EAST ON THE 10 MANANA AND PICK UP YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP? I want to hear from you LancerNuts. I better see nothing but blue out there and a bunch of “A” bumper stickers in the parking lot.

ALSO: Do you guys want the live blogging again tomorrow? I can see it got some hits tonight, but Saturday’s can be tricky. Plus, I’m gonna have Fred bugging me the whole time. Anyway, let me know and I’ll go to Riverside packing (that’s sports writer lingo for bringing a lap top).

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The Chargers win the pennant! The Chargers win the pennant!


11:02: Predictably, I got lost. Even a call from Big Reg (Time Warner Cable Television) couldn’t help me find my way back without getting a tour of L.A. that I didn’t want.

Bot 7th: Garkow gets Santa Monica 1-2-3. CHARTER OAK WINS THE CIF-SS DIVISION IV CHAMPIONSHIP, 7-1.

Top 7th: CO puts up nothing, but does it matter? CO leads 7-1.

Bot 6th: Garkow has been nails. Santa Monica can’t get to him consistently. CO survives another inning. THREE MORE OUTS AND THE TITLE IS THEIR’S. CO leads 7-1.

Top 6th: Add two more runs to CO’s tally. McVey and Nyeholt have absolutely brutalized Santa Monica. This game might be out of reach now. CO leads 7-1.

Bot 5th: No problema – Santa Monica goes 1-2-3. Chargers six outs away!!! CO leads 5-1.

Top 5th: 1-2-3 go the Chargers. CO leads 5-1.

Bot 4th: Huge! Santa Monica loaded the bases with two outs, but Garkow got a groundout to escape. Nine more outs and we got ourselves a CHAMPION! CO leads 5-1.

Top 4th: Nick Torres singled in Nyeholt and McVey for a 5-1 lead. Torres got in a run down between 1st and 2nd and somehow made it back to 1st before the throw. Things are going CO’s way. They can put this game away with another big inning. CO leads 5-1.

Bot 3rd: Gorgeous double play turned by JC Torres and Matt Winkler. No damage. CO leads 3-1.

Top 3rd: CO threatened, but nada. CO leads 3-1.

Bot 2nd: Garkow has settled in. He gave up only a two out single. No damage done. CO leads 3-1.

Top 2nd: Danny Tiffany singled in Cameron McVey, who singled and went to 2nd on a balk with two outs. Nyeholt followed with an infield hit to score Tiffany. The Chargers scored twice with two outs. CO leads 3-1.

4:52: Garkow may have settled down. He battled back to K the next two hitters. Not out of the woods, though. OK, flyout to end the inning. 1-1. I think I’m going to start breaking this down by inning and not time.

4:49: B-A-D! Routine pop up to left and two CO outfielders go for it. It goes off the CF’s glove. Santa Monica ties it and has 1st and 2nd with nobody out. 1-1.

4:47: No bueno. Santa Monica has runners on 1st and 3rd, nobody out. Garkow is a little shaky. Big game jitters, perhaps.

4:40: It’s begun. Keith Nyeholt started the game with a lead-off walk. Man, what has Nyeholt’s return from injury meant for CO? People forget, but Nyeholt was All-Area last year. Fans are having a tough time judging fly balls. But that happens in the major league stadiums. Nyeholt just stole second and went to third when the ball went into center. BOOM! Ryan Snow just drilled a single to right. 1-0 Chargers! Nice start.

4:17: Introductions. The Santa Monica crowd is booing CO. The CO fans didn’t boo Santa Monica back. Interesting. Damn it, this game should be CO vs. Northview.

4:11: I wonder if Bishop Amat girls hoops coach Richard Wiard is going to sit in his season seats? His wife Kathie is the principal at CO, so I expect they’ll be here. Not telling you where Coach Wiard’s seats are, but I doubt he’ll be in them tonight.

4:06: The Chargers are taking infield right now. They’re the road team. You gotta know the boys are feeling it right now. What an experience. Tyler Garkow is warming in the visitor bullpen. And look at that, the Cal State Fullerton game is on the TV in the press box and former Glendora star Wes Roemer is on the mound.

3:30 p.m.: I’m in but not without trouble. Most of the parking gates were closed, but I found one. I’ll be working the game with fellow staffer Steve Ramirez, who told me I couldn’t get into the stadium yet. But I did by showing my press pass and telling the guard who I am. Then, I entered thru an open gate, bypassing the media will call booth. Uh-oh. Unreal when you think about it. I smell hot dogs and Charter Oak is stretching right now. Not many fans here yet. This place gets me pumped.

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Nothing left to do now but win!

I never believe anything about wireless connections until I actually feel them. Not even at Dodger Stadium where LA.’s greats call Vin Scully Press Box home. But assuming it works and my computer obliges, I will be blogging live from the CIF-SS Division IV final between Charter Oak and Santa Monica. This won’t just be about game updates, but I will include those also. There will also be a A LOT of random musings. So if you can’t get off work early, which is not a good excuse if you’re from Charter Oak, then hit this site and I’ll keep you up to date.

OFFICIAL ARAM PREDICTION: Charter Oak 7, Santa Monica 2 (I’ve got a good feeling this is going to be a big weekend for our locals!)

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It finally happened …

I had a feeling this day in high school sports would come sooner than later. Let me first explain what’s going on and offer you some links to help figure it out. There is controversy swirling around Newport Harbor pole vaulter Allison Stokke. She’s an 18-year-old senior and one of the state’s top vaulters. But that’s not why she’s getting attention. It seems that pictures of Ms. Stokke have been circulating around the Internet and they’re not attracting eyes because of her good vaulting form. You can see what I mean by doing a simple google search with her name. I’ve decided against posting any of them here because I don’t want copyright hassles. There’s also a myspace fan page for her, which you can also find by searching either that site or google. Stokke has turned into an Internet superstar for obvious reasons – she’s a female high school athlete with movie star looks and has people toeing a very strange line. And Allison’s father, Allan Stokke, who is a prominent defense attorney, is evidently not happy about his daughter’s new found fame. He voiced his displeasure in a FRONT PAGE story in the Washington Post and more recently the OC Register. Remember, the girl goes to Newport Harbor, and the story is in the Washington Post!!! Think it’s gotten big? The Washington Post article prompted the popular Web site to say: “Giving an huge interview to The Washington Post about how you can’t stand everyone talking about your daughter — and including two more attractive pictures — is really the perfect way to get everyone to stop talking about your daughter.” And then there’s this from CBS.
The situation has become so gigantic that it’s making its way through several major blogs and the debate has begun. I would suggest checking Sportsbybrooks (scroll down) for another viewpoint. It’s currently the lead item on that blog and there’s more further down the page.

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Shrine Game canceled ….

First of all, I blame you. We’ll get back to that in a second. I wrote an article today that ran in all three of our publications. I suggest you read it. Basically, the Shrine Game is taking a year break due to a lack of orginization. Supposedly, this is only a year break and not an altogether cancellation of the event. But if you’ve been tracking the game’s recent struggles – poor attendance, limited TV coverage and controversial selection process – you know that it’s unfortunately on its last leg. It will be a very sad day in SoCal high school football if the Shrine Game becomes extinct. And who’s to blame for all of this? Well, to be blunt, everyone is at fault. Fans for not attending. Players for not playing. Game organizers for not running things properly i.e. changing with the times. Did you go to last year’s game? I did. It was at Citrus College. I don’t think I saw you there because I truly didn’t see anyone there. I do know that I saw some players on the roster who weren’t legit all-stars. Second team all-leaguers selected to play because of connections or coaching preference. So what can be done to revive a game that used to get massive crowds decades ago? I got a call today from Jay Johnstone, who read my article. He’s interested in taking a shot at preserving this part of SoCal sports history. Will anybody else step up?

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I know that it’s kind of a hectic time with two teams playing for CIF championships this weekend, but the (baseball) All-Star game is this Sunday at Mt. SAC at 6 p.m.

Red Team (I think)
Max Valerio Arcadia
Corwin Kim Arcadia
Mark Larini Arroyo
Omar Soto Baldwin Park
Maverick Olivares Bishop Amat
Sergio Munoz Bishop Amat
Chris Eusebio Bishop Amat
Matt Baudino Bonita
Nick Torres Charter Oak
Mark Mendrun Damien
Chris Sandez Duarte
Andrew Viotti Duarte
Greg Cuevas Nogales
Tony Gracia Nogales
Robert Rodriguez Northview
Will Davis Northview
David Leonard San Dimas
Angel Marti South Hills
John Salazar South Hills
Matt Rueda South Pasadena
Joe DePinto St. Francis
Evan Simontisch St. Francis
Matt Quintero St. Francis
Justin Franta Walnut
Ed Caraza West Covina
Nick Field West Covina

Blue Team (I think)
Jacob Giambalvo Alhambra
Bryan Davila Alhambra
Javier Estrada Alhambra
Julio Raymundo Azusa
Cesar Beltran Blair
Adrian Farfan El Monte
Michael Ortega El Monte
Danny Macias Gabrielino
Ricky Pokorny Gabrielino
Mitchell Maseredjian La Canada
Scott Vincent La Puente
Frank Moreno Los Altos
Evelio Ahumada Los Altos
Eddie McKiernan Monrovia
Nick Fabanish Monrovia
Erik Allen Monrovia
Chris Galaviz Montebello
William Loza Montebello
Leander Benjamin Mountain View
Demaris Ellis Pasadena
Matt Forgatch San Marino
Braulio Velasquez Sierra Vista
Adrian Franco Sierra Vista
Mike Mendoza Temple City
Kyle McDonald Temple City

And the softball game is on June 6 at Mt. SAC 6 p.m.

Baldwin Park- Amber Frame
Charter Oak-Delaney Baylor, Jennifer Fontan, Ashley Comeford
Covina-Becky Hernandez
Duarte-Justine Goldsmith
Glendora-Ashley Paul
La Canada-Lise Leibl, Kristen Oechsel
Monrovia-Krissy Mihm, Courtney Mihm, Katie Mc
Samantha Rogers, Brittany Bateson
Northview-Serena Palacios, Casey Mc Phail, Vanessa Gutierrez
Rosemead-Danielle armenta, Leanna San Angelo
San Dimas-Jennifer Bustillos, Jessica Frusher, Gabby McNellis, Amanda
Ratliff, Lauren pulley

Bishop Amat-Lauren Mirabal
Diamond Bar-Brianne Bagwell, Alyssa Walters
El Monte-Jazmin Velazco, Desiree Avila
La Puente-Vanessa Palomino
Los Altos-Samantha Perez, Kim Valdivia
Nogales-Jessica Purcell, Cindy Fonseca
Rowland-Heather Ortiz, Christina Banuelos
South Hills-Tara Olson, Jacquelyn Holtzclaw, Jacqueline, McGrade
Walnut- Britany Matlock, Kristin Lane
West Covina-Shauniece Knight, Desiree Perez, Jordan Augino
Wilson-Jessica Bracamonte

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PREDICTIONS: Monrovia vs. Amat …

I don’t know if Freddie Robledo and his boys are just sandbagging, but there seems to be little belief on the westside that Monrovia can defend its title and take down Amat. It will be ace against ace on Saturday night when Eddie McKiernan and Maverick Olivares oppose each other in a game that will probably take only an hour to complete. Below you’ll find the musings of those who have either covered or coached against both teams in Saturday’s finals. I’d imagine Saturday’s crowd is going to be huge as everyone in the Valley will head east for the showdown. I know, I know, it sucks to go all the way to Riverside to play a game that very easily could’ve been played locally with a lot less money spent on gas. But, just look at Saturday’s game as the only good reason anyone could ever have to set foot in Riverside. Now, on to those predictions … Aram Tolegian: “Amat scores only twice and Monrovia once. McKiernan is dominant, but so is Olivares. Both teams flash leather and do the little things, but Amat does them slightly better. I’ve said it all along, Amat is just top-to-bottom better than anybody in the SGV. That doesn’t mean they can’t be beat, but I’ve seen a lot of teams who have one or two great players, three good ones and the rest average. Amat is just good up and down – batting order, starters and bullpen. Plus, when you watch this team, you can tell Coach Andy Nieto has taught them well. They’re fundamentally sound.” Yes, I just quoted myself. Brian Baiotto: “I definitely think Bishop Amat is going to win because they’ve kind of been cruising through the playoffs. They’re just too sound of a team. I just don’t think McKiernan can beat them alone, as great as he is.” If anybody should know, it’s Northview coach Darren Murphy. He’s played them both. Murphy: “That’s a tough matchup. I like Bishop Amat’s overall depth. They’re better than people assume. When you see Amat, you know you can play with them, but you hope your kids aren’t blown away with the Amat mystique. I like pitching in the playoffs, and Monrovia will be in it with McKiernan. The fact McKiernan has won a championship, and Amat hasn’t, that’s makes it a great game. Overall, though, I’d have to go with Amat’s overall depth. You think they’re beatable, but they find a way to pull out wins.”

Here’s the what the boys from the ‘Dena think:

Fred J. Robledo: Will Monrovia start McKiernan and bring someone else in the seventh inning, or start Eddie in the second inning, and let him finish. I hope the latter is true. In any case, I’ve seen Monrovia and McKiernan enough to know that if Monrovia plays defense behind Eddie, they’re going to win. I watched Monrovia commit three errors in McKiernan’s only loss, a 4-3 setback earlier in the season against Northview. I watched the Cats self-destruct with six errors on Tuesday, but McKiernan came in the fourth inning and settled everything down, then threw shutout innings in the fourth, fifth and sixth to allow the Cat’s to rally and pull out a miracle, 15-14 over Woodcrest Christian in the semis. I’ll set the over/under at 2. If the Cats commit 2 errors or less, they win. Anything more than 2, and the Lancers walk away with the title.

Andrew Campa, Star-News correspondent “Bishop Amat,” Campa said. “Amat is a division one team playing in division five. They’ve been the most consistent team in this division, and they breezed through a relatively tough Del Rey League. You like Monrovia’s heart, but it can only take you so far.”

Scott Galetti, Star-News staff writer: “Bishop Amat,” Galetti said. “Eddie’s only available for six innings, and once they get past him, I’m not sure if the rest of Monrovia’s staff can hold Amat down. I witnessed a game where Amat scored ten runs after La Salle’s starter went out earlier in the season. After seeing what happened without Eddie against Woodcrest Christian, I’d have to go with Amat.”

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Amat and Charter Oak championship game bound!!!

I’d call this a fitting place to play a championship game.

Charter Oak 5, Torrance 1 (Playoffs: CO 45 runs, Opponents 9)
Amat 4, Temple City 1 (The Amat vs. Monrovia matchup is now reality.)
Santa Monica 5, Northview 4 (Horrendously tough loss for the Vikes. They led 4-1 entering the seventh, but had some problems and fell apart. No shame, though. Thanks go out to this team for an absolutely thrilling postseason.)
Female bases
Charter Oak and San Dimas. Congrats to both teams for two unexpectedly awesome runs.

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UPDATED: East All-Star roster for the Hall of Fame Game …

When: July 6
Where: Bassett HS

Head coach: James Heggins, Baldwin Park
Phillip Aguayo, WR, Bonita
Greg Benson, LB, Diamond Ranch
Todd Bruno, LB, Glendora
Jesse Cervantes, OL, Bishop Amat
Philip Chase, QB/DB, Rowland
John Cornell, RB, Claremont
Jon Couwenhoven, DL, Rowland
Nic Curry, DB, South Hills
Emilio De La Garza, OL, Charter Oak
Terrance Dennis, DB, Diamond Ranch
Ralph Diaz, DL, Covina
Jordan Edmond, RB, Glendora,
Travis Eschardies, WR, Damien
Eric Flores, OL, Gladstone
Rex Foss, WR, Los Altos
Eric Gomez, WR, Ganesha
Josh Gracieux, DL, St. Paul
Aaron Harris, RB, Baldwin Park
Evaristo Herrera, OL, Baldwin Park
Anthony Hile, LB, Damien
Michael Hooper, LB, Bonita
Ivan James, WR/DB, Garey
Jamal James, WR/DB, Covina
Jon Joe, WR, San Dimas
Michael Johnson, WR, Charter Oak
Sam Lavea, DE, Los Altos
Mishaun Marshall, RB/DL, Nogales
Greg Martinez, OL, Montclair
Mike McDonough, QB, Covina
Mark Mendrun, QB, Damien
Ricky Montoya, LB, Baldwin Park
Mike Natividad, OL, West Covina
A.J. Pasalo, LB, Charter Oak
Brian Percell, DL, Pomona
Jose Perez, OL, St. Paul
Shaun Rosenthal, LB, West Covina
Darius Ridge, DB, Claremont
Frankie Ruiz, TE/DE, Bassett
John Salazar, WR/DB, South Hills
Alex Silva, QB, Workman
Richard Skolaski, OL, Northview
Marvin Walker, DB, Chino
William Wallace, RB/DB, West Covina

NOTE: There are preliminary plans to have a Saturday afternoon practice/scrimmage with the snack bar open that will give fans a fun way to watch these guys scrimmage against each other. Heggins thinks it will be the team’s first time in pads. Should be cool. More on that later … The team will practice at Baldwin Park HS in the new stadium where a beautiful field turf surface has been installed. That stadium looks unreal, by the way.

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The shot heard around the SGV …

A familiar scene at Northview games this season.

Northview 4, Bonita 3 – R.J. Arnold delivers a walk-off, 3-run homer.
San Dimas 9, Lompoc 8 – These Saints are road warriors.
Charter Oak 16, Norte Vista 2 – Ditto.
Nogales 3, Alhambra 2 – Romano and the Nobles defy logic, win in 10.

Both dongs were hit to the same place (sorta).

ABOUT NORTHVIEW VS. BONITA: I’ve never seen such a stunning end to a prep baseball game. What amazed me was the silence right after Arnold went yard. The Bonita fans were obviously shocked, but I don’t think it even registered with Northview fans for about a minute. That’s probably because it happened so quick. Arnold came to the plate, took a cut, then took another and connected. Poof! Game over! Absolutely unreal!!!!

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Amat or South Hills … Where was Chris Rix on Monday?

ANSWER: If you said South Hills, you’re correct … keep reading!

I stopped by both Amat and South Hills this afternoon to catch a glimpse of practice. I went to South Hills first because Capri Deli is strategically located nearby (roast beef and provolone, toss the bread). As soon as I got to Huskiesville, Director of Football Operations Jimmy the E dragged me into head coach Steve Bogan’s office, and there he was – Chris Rix. I asked Jimmy the E “What’s he doing here?” His response was “He’s just helping us out with the quarterbacks.” We all promptly made our way out to the field. Once there, I got a private moment with Coach Bogan to ask questions about the players. Then, I asked about Rix and basically got the same “He’s helping us out with the quarterbacks” answer. OK, Rix isn’t officially on Bogan’s staff yet, but he could be headed that way. Interesting …On to my impressions. First off, some attorney somewhere should consider legal action against the Huskies on the grounds that Bogan has a quarterback monopoly. With so many other Valley teams needing only a signal caller to have a big season, i.e. Los Altos or Amat, it’s comical that South Hills has three! All three of these guys would start almost anywhere in the Valley, and probably beyond our borders, too. Rix and former South Hills QB Kevin Mort were working with Brandon Parham, Cameron Deen and Chris Willison. This was one impressive site. I’m not kidding you, all three QBs have good size and good arms. You really don’t see three at the same place like this almost anywhere. If you have a chance, go watch a South Hills passing game. The rest of the team passed the look test, too. The one who impressed me the most was Evan Heard. Here I thought Heard’s role would diminish with Anthony Drake vying for time. But Heard’s physical development this off-season is just stunning. He’s morphed into a Michael Johnson-type frame and he’s only entering his JUNIOR season!!! Also, Damon Kuklinski looked much bulkier (in a good way) and his footwork is still all there. I could not be more impressed with what I saw. On to Amat … I was most interested in the QB situation. I can tell you, for what it’s worth, any one of South Hills’ QBs would be Amat’s frontrunner. That’s no knock, but it is what it is. I don’t really know names when it comes to most of Amat’s roster. But I saw four QBs in throwing drills and the smallest one (name?) looked the best by far. He threw the nicest ball with the most velocity. Looks like a good fit. What impressed me most were the bookend tackles – Dominique Austin was one of them and I don’t know who the other is. Amat has the makings of a very good line. I only saw Marcus Wagner play defense, but I’d hate to tackle him if he were a running back. This is another kid who looked as though he didn’t miss a weight room session. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t blown away by Amat’s talent as compared to South Hills or Charter Oak. I think the Lancers probably have more overall horses, but I saw a myriad of kids at both South Hills or CO who would definitely start at Amat. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. About the coaching, I’d like a tour of the players from head coach Mark Verti like I got from Bogan, but I’m not sure that’ll happen during practice. Verti remains very hands-on. I noticed the coaching staff was very intense. That’s understandable considering the pressure these guys are under.

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I will start this thread for those of you who have visited practices at any of our SGV schools. Please start by telling us where you watched from … were you that guy in his truck on the street? Were you two blocks away with binoculars?
Then, let everyone know what you thought, even if it’s a simple “So and so looked yolked.” I’ll decide what’s good enough to stay posted. Also, when/if I get out to a practice, I will post what I saw. We already have two solid reports. They’re posted in the comments section.

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If it feels like you’re being watched, it’s because you are …

Per my conversation today with an assistant football coach, who said he’s noticed people watching spring practice from afar and wanted to know if I had something to do with it: I must tell you all that I’ve never shunned insiders. If you’ve got something to say, want to call or email, I’ll listen. If it makes you feel involved, a part of the action, then do it! You know who I’m talking about … the guy by the fence who you don’t recognize. The guy who you look at and say “Is that Johnny’s dad?” and then your assistant coach says “No, Johnny’s dad is over there.” The guy who’s there one day, but not the next. Anyway, when I first started this beat I received sporadic phone calls from people who seemed to know a lot about certain programs, but weren’t exactly affiliated with the school. Insiders, if you will. Unlike other people in this business, I didn’t shun them because, as I found, their information was usually accurate. And so the amount of people feeding info to your’s truly grew. And now they blog. Or at least a lot of them do. I don’t know who they are, but they form a good network. One that I feel ultimately enhances the coverage because I can’t be everywhere at once. Maybe one more sandwich from Capri Deli and I’ll be able to, but not right now. Anyway, don’t sweat it. We all want the same thing – to know who’s got what and who’s going to crush next season. I feel better now that we got everything aired out.

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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS: This is why I love Division IV …

The “love” must be spread equally, according to some people.

Is it time for Charter Oak to take its Pill?

C-Town vs. CO on Thursday.

I’m sorry, there were a lot of other items to come out of today’s pairings announcements. But nothing could be better for the Valley than this. Anyway, Northview got the No. 2 overall seed and avoids Torrance (my biggest fear) in the lower bracket. Amat is the Numero Uno seed in D-5, no surprise there. This should be a very fun next couple of weeks.

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Did I say last week? I meant this week …

Pertusati … and … well, Pertusati. Damien is the hardest team in the area to gauge.


But first, some concept: Bill Walsh once said that quarterback is the most important position on the field. Take it from a guy who watches football non-stop, from Friday night until Sunday night, I believe this is the most profound statement about the game EVER! (And yet it’s so simple). It’s better than “defense wins championships.” Better than “ya gotta have a good running game.” There might be examples of both axioms being true, but the fastest way to having a good football team, especially in high school, is having a good QB. And it doesn’t matter if he’s a runner (Philip Chase) or a thrower (Matt Castaneda) or both (Mark Mendrun). You see, I truly believe that life isn’t complicated. Complications come only when we make them. I believe everything can and should be simplified. High school football is no different than anything else. Good coach + good QB = good team. It’s just that easy for me. Having watched a lot of high school football, my biggest philosophy is that if a team has an effective passing game, it’s got the foundation for a good season. I’ve seen too many teams handicapped by bad QB play. The reason for this is that very few coaching staffs can make up for a lack of a good QB by running the ball well and being creative. Eventually, you need to throw. I’m not saying a team has to be Ty Detmer and BYU, but I am saying it has to be able to at least throw fear (literally) into the opponent. So now that you know my criteria for preseason rankings, you have a little insight into why the rankings are what they are. Believe me, they can and will change. This is the best guideline I can provide SGV fans entering spring practice. I will insert the anonymous opinion of SGV insiders here and there. I’ve heard some very interesting things thus far and it’s only May! Obviously, your comments and input are appreciated.

1. South Hills – I’m not sure many of you will understand this, so I’m just going to say it. Things like the 35-0 loss to Charter Oak, the loss to Rowland, injuries to key players and the overall inability to get on a roll last year have South Hills poised to take no prisoners this season. As one SGV assistant coach put it “Charter Oak woke up the sleeping giant.” They did, and now the San Antonio League and Southwest Division are going to pay for it. The Huskies won a share of the league title last season and upset a seeded team on the road in the playoffs in a REBUILDING YEAR. Now the best frosh class this area has seen in a LONG TIME is ready to play a significant role on the varsity level. Are they needed? You be the judge. South Hills has a viable returning QB in Brandon Parham, who lost the battle last year but most assume will have the job to himself this year. Really? Word is that junior Cameron Deen and soon-to-be sophomore Chris Willison (6-1, 185) will push for the starting job. RB Evan Heard is back after a solid sophomore year, but word is that Anthony Drake (one-time Diamond Ranch student) will get the bulk of the carries and is very explosive, an element South Hills sorely lacked last year. Dimitri De La Fuente returns at WR, but word is that both receivers on last year’s frosh team could crack the starting the lineup. Couple all of that offensive potential with a defense that will rival Charter Oak as being the best in the area, and you see why it’s not too soon to put South Hills at No. 1. About the defense, the front seven will be stellar with LBs Bowden and Kuklinski back and DL Kebin Umodu already entertaining one offer from a Pac-10 school. The season lays out perfectly. The Huskies will get tested early by a tough non-league, go untouched in league and enter the playoffs as a seeded team. In my opinion, no team in the area or Southwest Division has more upside than South Hills. It’s very possible the Huskies could be sitting on three consecutive CIF titles.

2. Charter Oak – Talk about a complete team. There are 10 starters back on defense, an up-and-coming QB, two RBs good enough to be featured and an elusive playmaker at WR. But the only reason I can’t put Charter Oak No. 1 yet is because I believe losing WR/DB Michael Johnson and LB AJ Pasalo will take a bigger toll than most people expect. Not to mention, most of the offensive line has to be replaced. However, if the new offensive line is as good as the coaching staff believes, then CO will be markedly better on offense. RBs Kanaan Snowden and Johnny Crespo are a fantastic combo. WR Mikey Harrell and QB Chris Allen should get plenty of good opportunities down field with that kind of running game. I think the biggest thing this spring will be monitoring Coach Lou Farrar’s situation. Some people say OC Dominic Farrar and DC Roger Lehigh will basically run the show as Big Lou’s role begins to decrease. I just have a hard time believing Big Lou can simply slide into the background. It’s a situation worth watching at passing league games and the like. By the way, CIF ought to just follow my Top 3 for the Southwest Division’s opening poll. The division champ will come out of this group.

3. Los Altos – One insider told me to set up camp at Los Altos because this is far and away the best team in the area. I’m not sure I buy it and that’s because of the QB vacancy. However, all bets are off with South Hills and Charter Oak if the Conqs do somehow land a transfer or coach Greg Gano develops a competent passer from what he’s currently working with. TE/DE Ray Rodriguez and OL/DL Nick Longoria are a great pair to build the core of the offense and defense around. LBs Richard Maciel and Marc Felix are a nice tandem in DC Lee Fair’s scheme. The offense has everything, but the aforementioned QB. The Conqs have to be able to get the ball to Rodriguez and WR Tony Seanez. The running game is set with Bryce McBride, who I rate as the top RB in the area. I’d like this team even more if the Donte Webb situation were more clear. He’s still on campus, from what I hear. But it’s a long off-season. If Webb stays and can somehow play a Chappelle Brown-like role at WR/DB, then this team gets that much better. Los Altos’ off-seasons are always fun to follow. Nobody reloads better and holes always seemed to get filled.

4. Bishop Amat – From top to bottom, this is the best team in the SGV. But Orange Lutheran, SO Notre Dame and Loyola don’t really care what Los Altos, South Hills and Charter Oak think of the Lancers. So, everything about Amat has to be judged by the company it keeps. Players like Dorian Wells and Dominique Austin are great, but almost everyone in the PAC-5 have their own versions of them. And when you’ve got a weakness, it doesn’t take long for opponents to figure it out. Amat’s weakness right now is QB. Who is he? From what I hear, several players are battling for the spot. Amat can’t get through its league and CIF-SS division without a balanced offense, so the QB situation is the single most important item this spring/summer. It’s quite simple – if Amat finds a capable signal caller, get ready for a big season. All of the other pieces are in place.

5. Glendora – I’m not sure about how explosive the Tartans will be, but the defense is in place to have another strong season. I am a little concerned about the offense in the post-Jordan Edmond era. Not to mention, Zach Butler, the team’s second best offensive threat, is also graduating. That leaves QB Drew Kaluzny and RB Jake Vegas as the cornerstones of coach Mark Pasquarella’s offense. Glendora’s front seven is one of the best around, so the job of the coaching staff is simple this spring and summer: Develop the skill players because 14 points per game might just be enough for seven wins. P.S. I’d still like to see Glendora with a little more in the athleticism department.

6. Duarte – Am I the only one noticing that Duarte is starting to control the Duarte-Monrovia talent split? And it’s happening so quietly. This is quite a scary situation that’s in the process of happening. Last year, Duarte sent TWO players to Division I college teams. We’re talking UCLA and Fresno State, folks. What other SGV team did something like that? This year’s team features Chris Harris, who anonymously was the Valley’s leading rusher last year (it was a very tough conversation with Coach Crutchfield, telling him that Harris wasn’t 1st team All-Area). Not only does Harris return, but QB Austin Goldsmith (2,100 yards and 21 TDs) is also back. All-purpose standout Darius Reese returns, too. Duarte will put up a scary amount of points again this season. There’s absolutely no reason the Falcs won’t roll thru the Montview League and be on their way to another semifinals (or beyond) finish in the Mid-Valley Division.

7. Damien – The Spartans were No. 1 in the area for most of last season. So dropping all the way to No. 8 in the off-season is a big slide. Like last year, there’s a chance I’m severely underestimating the talent. QB Danny Pertusati gives Damien the formula I like – good coaching and a good QB. But I’m worried about the defense and the running game. I’m worried that Damien won’t be able to stretch the field like last season. The offensive line has the potential to be good and RB Marcus Williams is back. But beside Pertusati, where’s the speed on this team? This is yet another club to watch this spring/summer.

8. Arroyo – The Knights are the only MVL currently ranked. Although Rosemead and South El Monte have some nice talent coming back, Arroyo appears to be the more reliable situation. I’m not %100 sure about Tommy Cogburn and what toll asst. coach Jerry Urias took at South El Monte. Same can be said for DC Anthony White being removed from Matt Koffler’s staff and whether Tra Sumler is ready/able to be in the spotlight. So, Arroyo looks like a pretty solid favorite in the MVL and one could make the argument that nobody has more returning talent than the Knights. The preferred formula of a good QB/good coach is in play here. Plus, the Knights have up to four transfers/shoulda been Arroyo kids anyway ready to play a significant role.

9. Northview – There’s talk that the Vikings are ready to go on a Covina-like run beginning this year. Not only is the talented soph soon-to-be junior class something to be excited about, but it’s also the second year for head coach Jim Arellanes, so the players should be more used to his systems. It’s no secret that the upcoming junior class was supposed to do some good things, so this has to be the year all of that starts to materialize. The VVL looks wide open and Northview might just be the fastest of the fast.

10. Diamond Ranch – The Panthers had Top 5 potential until RB Aubrey Haynes made an odd transfer to St. Paul. Although nobody understands how going from Diamond Ranch to St. Paul qualifies as moving on to greener pastures, the blow of Haynes’ departure certainly hurts. But RB duties aren’t hopeless if Brian Spirlin fills Haynes’ shoes. There was some concern the soon-to-be junior was bolting for Colony, so monitor that situation closely. The rest of the Panthers offense appears just fine. Amat transfers Tony Adams and Brandon Sermons could add to the firepower. There’s returning experience at QB, which is nice. The Panthers’ nonleague schedule remains worrisome, but not as suicidal as last year. Like Northview, Diamond Ranch has a second-year coach in Roddy Layton who should see things go much more smoothly now that the campus is used to his style. Diamond Ranch remains one of the area’s more naturally talented schools, so even though this year’s team isn’t as experienced as last year, it remains a good bet to have similar results. Remember, the Panthers beat Los Altos and were a minute away from beating Charter Oak last season. Don’t sleep on this program.

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