What to look for during 2017 season along with pre-season all-area team

By Steve Ramirez
The 2016 season may go down as one of the most successful campaigns in area football history.
It featured eight area teams reaching at least the semifinals and three earn title-game trips topped by Arroyo winning its first CIF Southern Section crown in three decades.
The area, due to the second-year of the section’s new playoff format, might be able to match that effort in 2017. But like every other season, questions fill the air.
And here are five burning questions that the area’s inquiring minds would like to know:
Will Bishop Amat be more like last season, or can they make a deep run in the Division 1 playoffs?
The Lancers probably likely fall somewhere in the middle.
There doesn’t seem to be the same amount of talent that catapulted Bishop Amat to back-to-back league titles and consecutive trips to the Pac-5 semifinals in 2014 and ‘15.
But the cupboard is hardly bare, either.
Defensive tackle Aaron Maldonado, a UCLA commit who might be the area’s best player, leads a return list that also features quarterback Blake Archuleta and running back Dominic Barrera.
The schedule, which opens with Division 1 stalwart Mater Dei, is again challenging, as is the Mission League, led by favorite Serra. Amat took second last season and most see the Lancers as a third-place team this season. Amat usually rises to the occasion when most least expect it, but it looks like the best expectation should end with a second-round appearance.
Can La Mirada continue to contend for a division title with Mike Moschetti no longer in charge?
The answer appears simple and to the point: No.
No area team appears to have fallen more since last December than the Matadores, who in recent seasons have had elite players fall in their lap. But not for 2017, where they must find replacement for nine starters who keyed the run to consecutive divisional title games. Also gone is lineman Tyler Casados, who recently transferred to La Habra.
The Matadores do appear to have enough in the cupboard to continue their reign in the Suburban League, but their string of consecutive title game appearances looks to be over as it enters Division 2 competition.
Which will be the most intriguing playoff division for area teams?
Division 3 fits the bill.
It only features three area teams. But they are all heavyweights: Charter Oak, St. Francis and La Serna.
Can we dream of all three making the final four?
It could happen, although Sierra Canyon, which won section and state titles last season, is the favorite.
But the trio should definitely challenge.
Charter Oak, which made the Central Division final in 2015 and the Division 4 semifinals last season, could field one of its better teams.
La Serna, after having its string of six consecutive trips to the semifinals end last season, looks more than capable of beginning another streak.
Then there is St. Francis, which with coach Jim Bonds, is always in the title hunt and that won’t change this season. They likely field one of the better offensive juggernauts in the division.
What’s the area’s best hope for a CIF-SS title?
Look no further than the lone area team to win a title last season: Arroyo.
The Knights, who return highly-touted quarterback Ernesto Camacho, won the Division 12 title last season and despite a move up to Division 11, could repeat.
Others who could be in the hunt are Charter Oak in Division 3, St. Paul in Division 6, Northview in Division 8 and Montebello in Division 10.
Charter Oak, St. Paul and Montebello all made their respective semifinals last season and could make similar runs in November and December. Northview looks strong with senior quarterback Steven Comstock, who recently committed to Fresno State.
Which new coach will enjoy the best season?
There might not be an easy answer here, but West Covina’s Corey Tello might fit the bill.
The Bulldogs have one of the better talent bases in the area and Tello, the team’s defensive coordinator the previous three seasons, is expected offer a smooth transition from the departed Mike Maggiore.
West Covina will be in the hunt in the Hacienda League and in Division 6.
Others who will likely succeed in their first year are Hector Spathias at Los Altos and Jason Sarceda at La Canada. Both also land in good spots to succeed, although Spathias, who did well at Bassett and as Montebello’s line coach last season, is faced with a rebuild at Los Altos.

Whittier Daily News, Pasadena Star-News and San Gabriel Valley Tribune pre-season all-area football team

QB: Steven Comstock, Northview, Sr.
QB: Warren Bryan, Damien, Sr.
RB: Sal Tovar, South El Monte, Sr.
RB: Jahlique Stephens, Muir, Jr.
WR: Jermaine Braddock, Charter Oak, Sr.
WR: Lance Babb II, Schurr, Sr.
WR: Michael Washington, Monrovia, Sr.
OL: Matt Barriga, St. Francis, Sr.
OL: Victor Arteaga, Glendora, Sr.
OL: Nate Aceves, Charter Oak, Sr.
OL: Tyler Casados, La Habra, Jr.
OL: Edgar Pelayo, Montebello, Sr.
PK: Jesse Ortiz, Arroyo, Sr.

DL: Gabriel Grbavac, St. Francis, Sr.
DL: Mario Mora, Charter Oak, Sr.
DL: Aaron Maldonado, Bishop Amat, Sr.
LB: Joseph Troncoza, St. Paul, Jr.
LB: Kobah Fuamatu, La Habra, So.
LB: Abraham Shalash, La Serna, Jr.
LB: Gil Vasquez, Los Altos, Sr.
DB: Noah Guzman, Bishop Amat, Sr.
DB: Rolandiss Whitner, Arcadia, Jr.
DB: Nick Larivierie, South Hills, Sr.
DB: Alec Flanagan, Diamond Ranch, Sr.
P: Jared Arellano, Walnut, Jr.

— All Area team compiled by Aram Tolegian

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Top Ten Football Countdown concludes with Bishop Amat No. 1

The Whittier Daily News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Pasadena Star-News all-encompassing daily football top ten concludes with Bishop Amat, ranked No. 1. If you missed a preview over the past two weeks, you can read them all here.

No. 1 Bishop Amat

The best football teams from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News and Whittier Daily News were ranked in an all-encompassing top ten season preview countdown over the past two weeks and that concludes with Bishop Amat, who enters the season ranked No. 1.
Bishop Amat returns one of the Southland’s top recruits in defensive lineman Aaron Maldonado, who has verbally committed to UCLA along with junior quarterback Blake Archuleta, who grew each week once he was handed the baton as a sophomore.
In what was supposed to be a rebuilding season a year ago, Bishop Amat finished 7-4 and tied for second in the Mission League, losing in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs to Vista Murrieta, 38-24.Bishop Amat, along with Serra and Chaminade, figure to be the favorites when the Mission League gets going the last week of September, but the Lancers should be well-tested by then, opening the season at home Aug. 25 against Mater Dei, ranked No. 1 in MaxPreps’ pre-season national rankings.

No. 2 La Habra
There likely has been no program more successful during the past two decades than No. 2 La Habra. The Highlanders have won seven CIF Southern Section crowns since 2002 and they could add to that total in 2017, with several key pieces returning from a team that went 8-5 an advanced to the Division 2 semifinals.“Coming off (a semifinal appearance), it’s really promising,”La Habra quarterback Zach Fogel said. “At the beginning of last season, there was a lot of doubt from everyone else. Not really from us, we believed in ourselves the whole time. But people doubted us and we proved them wrong.

No. 3 Charter Oak
Over the summer the words you keep hearing to describe Charter Oak, ranked No. 3 in our countdown, is special. Or loaded. Championship quality.
The Chargers had it all last year when they advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division 4 semifinals despite injuries and using third and fourth-string quarterbacks, losing to eventual champion, Sierra Canyon.
And though Charter Oak will move to Division 3 after finishing 11-2, it hasn’t lowered any expectations.

No. 4 St. Francis
If quarterback is the only issue for the St. Francis High School as the 2017 season approaches, then the Golden Knights should be just fine.
St. Francis checks in at No. 4 in our countdown and that’s because the biggest position concern entering the season, quarterback, is head coach Jim Bonds’ forte. And this season, that means grooming Darius Perrantes into the next Golden Knights star quarterback.
“We’ve got some big shoes to fill at quarterback,” Bonds said. “But I wouldn’t say that’s our only concern going into the season. As a coach, you worry about a lot of things.”

No. 5 Damien
Damien and fourth-year coach Mark Paredes, ranked No. 5 in the countdown, appear at a crossroads.
Damien hired Paredes, who won a CIF championship with Bishop Amat in 1992 and two more titles with JW North, in hopes of making the Spartans competitive in the ultra-tough Baseline league and having success in the postseason.
After back-to-back 4-6 campaigns his first two years, the Spartans showed signs of turning the corner last year, but still only finished 6-5 and lost in the first round of the Division 4 playoffs.
In fact, it has been more than a decade since the Spartans’ last playoff victory, and that’s not lost on Paredes or his players.

No. 6 Glendora
Glendora, which begins the season at No. 6, returns experienced quarterback Bryce Wooldridge and an offensive line that should allow the senior and the Tartans’ run game to be more versatile as it hopes to improve on last year’s 5-6 record and first round exit in the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs.
Glendora, which finished 4-1 in the Palomares league behind league champion Ayala (5-0), is one of the favorites, and Wooldridge is a big reason.

No. 7 La Serna
The mantra for No. 7 La Serna has been next man up for a decade, and that isn’t expected to change this season. The Lancers again are in the midst of a reload, but again are expected to rank among the best in the area.
La Serna, despite some key graduation losses, begins the season as the favorite in the Del Rio League and a solid contender in CIF Southern Section Division 3.

No. 8 St. Paul
St. Paul, which begins the season at No. 8, has been one of the most improved teams in the area the past few seasons. The Swordsmen are six years removed from consecutive 1-9 seasons and have progressively become one of the area’s top teams in the area after advancing to the CIF Southern Section semifinals for the first time in a nearly a decade last season.

No. 9 La Mirada
La Mirada, which begins the season at No. 9 in the Tribune/Star-News/Whittier preseason top 10, appears to have slipped a bit after winning a CIF State title in 2015 and advancing to the CIF Southern Section Division 3 finals last season.That’s news to the Matadores, who, despite losing 10 all-area players to graduation, still return enough key pieces to be among the area’s elite.

No. 10 Arroyo
The daily Tribune/Star-News/Whittier top ten countdown begins with a surprise at No. 10 with reigning Division 12 champion Arroyo, which won its first CIF Southern Section divisional title since 1986 in dramatic fashion, beating Rancho Mirage 35-34 in overtime, winning on a do-or-die two-point conversion.
The Knights checking it at No. 10 is a surprise because of so many talented upper-division teams considered for the top spots, but the Knights return a wealth of talent at key positions as it moves to Division 11, and that starts with junior quarterback Ernesto Camacho.

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Bishop Amat will attend Notre Dame game in South Bend during Chicago trip next month

By Fred J. Robledo
After opening the season next Friday against MaxPreps’ No. 1 team in the country, Mater Dei, Bishop Amat will hit the road and head to Chicago to take on Loyola Academy on Sept. 1, ranked 30th nationally and arguably the best in the state having lost only one game over the previous two years.Bishop Amat coach Steve Hagerty told a school radio station the highlight of the trip, however, is that Bishop Amat and its players will visit Notre Dame the following day and attend the Fighting Irish’s season opener against Temple.

Continue reading “Bishop Amat will attend Notre Dame game in South Bend during Chicago trip next month” »

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Covina wins Pony League World Series in extra innings, beats Korea 3-1 for first title since 1999

By Fred J. Robledo
Down to its last out, Covina Pony rallied to deliver a championship of a lifetime.
After James Jimenez’s dominant pitching performance allowed Covina to take Seoul, Korea to extra innings in the Dick’s Sports Goods Pony League World Series championship in Washington, PA., on Wednesday, James used his bat to finish the job.

James belted the go-ahead two-run home run in the top of the eighth, and Covina held on for a dramatic 3-1 victory to claim its first Pony League title since the Chuck Tiffany led team won the title in 1999. It also was the third Pony League World Series title in history for the 14-year-old all-stars from Hollenbeck Park.
“I can’t even describe that feeling as it went over the fence,” Jimenez told the Observer-Reporter. “I was running like it was going to be an extra base hit, because that’s all I thought it really was. When I saw it go over the fence and hit the light pole, I didn’t really know what to do other than slow down and celebrate.”
For Jimenez to have a chance to be the hero, it needed magic in the seventh.
Covina, down to its last out, tied the score 1-1, when Hector Bautista’s two-out single drove in Josh Logan to send the game to extra innings.

“Jubilation. That’s the only way I can describe it,” Covina manager Richard Graciano said. “I kept telling my boys we are going to break through. It was all about being patient.”
Jimenez allowed one run over seven innings and became one of 24 pitchers in Pony League World Series history to win three games in a single tournament.
“I just kept going out there and throwing strikes,” Jimenez said. “My defense just was huge behind me.”
Korea took a 1-0 lead in the first after Kim Min-Hyuk doubled in Bae Hun-Jun, and it nearly held up behind pitcher Lee Yong-Jun, who allowed just three hits over five innings, striking out four.
Covina’s Jake Vargas and Anthony Rasmussen combined to close out the eighth, with Rasmussen getting the save.

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VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS: Covina advances to Wednesday’s Pony League World Series final against Korea after dominating 14-1 semifinal win

The Covina Pony 14-year-old all-stars have advanced to the Pony League World Series in Washington, PA., with a 14-1 semifinal victory over Bay County Michigan on Tuesday, advancing to Wednesday’s championship where it will take on Seoul Korea, an 11-1 winner over Ohio.
Covina will take on Korea at 4:30 p.m., where it hopes to win its first championship for Hollenbeck Park since the Chuckie Tiffany led team beat Taiwan to win the title in 1999.
Covina took the lead on Bay County after Hector Bautista led off the game with a single and later scored. The Hollenbeck all-stars extended their lead to 4-0 in the third inning on a two-run double by Jake Vargas and RBI single for Parker Miramontez.
The onslaught continued in the fourth inning with Josh Logan starting it with a double. Logan scored when Luke Willison walked with the bases loaded, followed by a two-run single from Miramontez. Chris Munoz provided the big blow with a grand slam over center, and Willison put on the finishing touches with a two run single.
James Jiminez started and struck out three over three innings. Anthony Rasmussan relieved and struck out three over two innings.
“He had been slumping a little and he’s been hard on himself,” Covina manager Richard Graciano told the Charlotte Observer-Reporter about Munoz, who hit the grand slam. “But he didn’t get down and came out and hit a bomb.”
Covina, which only has played 17 innings in three games because of its dominance, is in good shape on the mound.
Covina also has outscored its opponents, 33-6.
“We will have all pitchers available,” Graciano said of the title game. “Seoul is a tremendous team. There is no flaw in that team that I can see. I think the keys will be our pitching and if we can get some key hitting.”

Info provided by Stephen Morales

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Before facing Mater Dei in opener, Bishop Amat has big scrimmage planned Friday

Before Bishop Amat football takes on nationally-ranked Mater Dei, the top-ranked team in the country by several publications at home on Aug. 25, it will have a scrimmage at power Corona Centennial on Friday.
Centennial, Vista Murrieta, Rancho Cucamonga and Bishop Amat will all be there for the scrimmage, but Amat is expected to only go against Centennial and Vista Murrieta. Bishop Amat will play a regular season game against Rancho Cucamonga at home on Sept. 15. The scrimmage starts at 7 p.m.

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