Season openers: from tough to ho-hum

While there is little doubt the area high school football team facing
area’s most difficult opening game challenge is St. Paul, there are
several others who will need to have their ducks in a row in order to
get off on the right foot this season.

Always adjustable before game time, here’s a ranking of what appears
to be a list of formidable season openers for the locals (opponents are
evaluated relative to area teams’ potential):
1. St. Paul at Servite: Swordsmen are hopeful for successful following their
division championship season, but Servite bigger, stronger, faster, just
better. This game better for St. Paul in Week 3 or 4.

2. Tesoro at La Mirada: Tesoro’s tried and proven program ahead of
Matadores’ rebuilding/revamping program

3. Pioneer at Charter Oak: Kudos to Titans coach Ramon Juarez for
major upgrades in preleague scheduling this season (including St. Paul),
but this season opener appears a bit ambitious.

4. El Rancho at West Covina: A new coach is always reason for
heightened optimism among the faithful, and Rick Zepeda clearly is a
legitimate reason for it in this case, but El Rancho’s best opportunity
may come if the host Bulldogs are looking past them to Week 2.

5. Warren at Santa Fe: Even in a down year for Warren, the Bears will
be a challenge for a Chiefs team trying to rebound from a sub-.500
season.

6. Schurr at Burbank Burroughs: Schurr has new coach (Ben Negrete)
and a new system, and while the top QB (Rick Mendez) and RB (Edwin
Molina) return, the offensive line is suspect, making the Spartans a
mystery team.

7. Bell Gardens at Whittier: As usual, Bell Gardens figures to make
it a very physical game against young Cardinals.

8. La Habra at Downey: Host Vikings’ experience playing in rugged San
Gabriel Valley League is biggest asset. La Habra concern might be in
taking Downey too lightly.

9. Montebello at Norwalk: Norwalk only No. 13 in preseason division
rankings, but Montebello coming off a 2-8 season with too many question
marks.

10. John Glenn at La Serna: Lancers faithful expecting big things,
and while those expectations might be over-inflated, the visiting Eagles
shouldn’t be a damper for the opener.

11. California at Rowland: Hopefully the cupboard has enough
leftovers to make defending Del Rio League champion Condors dangerous.
Host Raiders coming off a 3-8 year and rebuilding.

12. Cantwell at Salesian: Host Mustangs picked No. 3 in Santa Fe
League, while visiting Cardinals, behind big o-line and super receiver
Jeffrey Taylor, may be sleeper/spoiler in Camino Real League title
chase.

13. Cochrane at Whittier Christian: Not much known about visiting
Colts, but it would be a long way to travel just to be fodder for their
host. Cochrane must adjust from playing 12-man football on a 55-yard
wide field.

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Former La Mirada players come back to coach

Good head coaches talk all the time about the value of their staff,
those individuals whose reponsibilities concentrate on not only
developing a phase of the program but integrating it in the overall
picture. A term commonly used is “family,” as in “we’re like a family,
all working together.”

When La Mirada athletic director Kim Brooks says it, it runs deeper
than many schools. The Matadores will have new leadership in co-head
coaches Mike Moschetti and Ollie Lynch, with former long-time coach
Brooks sort of overseeing the whole project.

The big thing here is that along with Moschetti, nearly all of the
varsity assistant coaches are former La Mirada players. Moschetti
quarterbacked one of coach John Mele’s CIF finalist teams before going
on to Mt. San Antonio College and then Colorado, where some of his
passing records are still allive.

Mike Cardona was a Matadores lineman before playing at Purdue
University. He was an assistant with Brooks under Mele for nine seasons,
and after a brief stint away, he returns to coach the offensive line
this season.

Erik Meyer, the Daily News Player of the Year his senior season,
moved on to Eastern Washington where he set numerous passing records and
was presented with the most prestigious honor in NCAA Division I-AA Football — the Walter Payton Award — given annually to the top player in I-AA by The Sports Network.
He was the 12th player in Division 1-AA history to pass for 4,000 yards in
a season (4,003) and the 17th to pass for more than 10,000 in his career
(10,261). He’s helping with the Matadores quarterbacks and offense.

Chris Rudiger was one of the La Mirada’s all-time finest athletes, a standout
at linebacker/fullback in football and as a baseball outfielder. He was
scholarshipped by Stanford and was on the varsity football roster as a
freshman with a promising future before a neck injury early that season
ended his career. He’s coaching the Matadores linebackers.

Hugo Corral rushed for 2,000 yards for La Mirada’s 1996 CIF
championship finalist team. He’s handling the Matadores’ junior varsity
this year.

“In our preparations for the season, we’re doing a lot of things the
same way we did them when these coaches were doing them in school here,”
Brooks said before practice Thursday. “It’s good because the kids can
see where it got (the coaches), and the coaches know what the kids are
going through.

“There’s a lot more to La Mirada football than just coaching and
playing (in the arena). It’s about discipline not only on the field but
off the field, on campus, in the classroom, in the community, and
upholding the reponsibilities of not just representing ourselves but the
school and the community.”
Watching the Matadores practice, it is obvious commaraderie is thick,
commitment appears solid, and expectations reign supreme.

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Cantwell’s big O-line just got bigger

It wasn’t as though Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary football coach Pete
Smolin was starving for lack of size along his offensive line. Sure, the
Cardinals are going to be young up front, what with the marjority of the
folks up there being sophomores, but there are some good-sized fellas
among ‘em.

Tuesday, the overall picture got bigger. Literally. And brighter.

Enter Andrew Rico, a 6-foot-6, 290-pound junior transfer from
Garfield High School. It would seem he could be the perfect fit to give
Smolin the other bookend to solidify the forward wall.

He will join a list of candidates Smolin is working with that
includes senior Jordan Scanlan (6-3, 325), junior Steven Sinde (5-11,
225) and sophomores Eric Weissenberger (6-1, 240), Eduardo Maldonado
96-4, 290), Steven Silva (6-2, 250) and Sal Marchena (6-0, 225). Also in
there is senior Juan Padilla (5-10, 230), who did not play last season.

Add Smolin’s comment about this group: “The sophomores are bigger,
stronger and faster than the kids who graduated from last year.”

Sounds like it could be a wakeup call for the rest of the Camino Real
League.

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Calpreps: St. Paul No. 1, La Habra No. 2 in preseason division football rankings

Western Division (III)
1. St. Paul (Mission),
2. Palmdale (Golden), 3. Gahr (San Gabriel Valley), 4. Alemany (Mission), 5. Dominguez (San Gabriel Valley), 6. Palos Verdes (Bay), 7. Redondo Union (Bay), 8. Quartz Hill (Golden), 9. West Torrance (Bay), 10. St. Francis (Mission), 11. Chaminade (Mission), 12. Culver City (Ocean), 13. Warren (San Gabriel Valley), 14. Leuzinger (Bay), 15. Beverly Hills (Ocean).
Note: Good for the Swordsmen, although I doubt first-opponent Servite will be overly impressed.
Southwest Division (VI)
1. El Dorado (Century), 2. La Habra (Freeway), 3. Trabuco Hills (Sea View), 4. GG Pacifica (Garden Grove), 5. Fullerton (Freeway), 6. Cypress (Empire), 7. Tustin (Century), 8. Kennedy (Empire), 9. Placentia/Valencia, 10. Western (Orange), 11. El Toro (Sea View), 12. Troy (Freeway), 13. Foothill (Sea View), 14. Anaheim Canyon (Century), 15. El Modena (Century). 25. Sonora (Freeway), 27. Sunny Hills (Freeway), 30. (Buena Park (Freeway).
Note: Move La Habra up a notch and let the rest of the division take their shots at the Highlanders.
Southeast Division (VII)
1. South Hills (San Antonio), 2. Diamond Ranch (Miramonte), 3. Charter Oak (Miramonte), 4. Muir (Pacific), 5. California (Del Rio), 6. West Covina (San Antonio), 7. San Gabriel (Almont), 8. Pioneer (Del Rio), 9. La Serna (Del Rio), 10. Schurr (Almont), 11. Los Altos (Miramonte), 12. Pasadena (Pacific), 13. Alhambra (Almont), 14. Bonita (Miramonte), 15. Burbank Burroughs, 17. Santa Fe (Del Rio), 19. Whittier (Del Rio), 20. Bell Gardens (Almont), 21. El Rancho (Del Rio), 27. Montebello (Almont), 29. Mark Keppel (Almont).
Note: Whew! Can California and Pioneer live up to such high expectations, and can Santa Fe live down the lack of respect?
Southern Division (IX)
1. Laguna Hills (Pacific Coast), 2. Irvine University, 3. Westminster (Golden West), 4. GG Santiago (Garden Grove), 5. Bellflower (Suburban), 6. La Mirada (Suburban), 7. Irvine (Pacific Coast), 7. Mayfair (Suburban), 9. Artesia (Suburban), 10. Segerstrom (Golden West), 11. Corona del Mar (Pacific Coast), 12. Beckman (Pacific Coast), 13. Norwalk (Suburban), 14. Los Amigos (Garden Grove), 15. Ocean View (Golden West), 20. Cerritos (Suburban), 23. John Glenn (Suburban).
Note: A bit surprised about La Mirada’s acknowledgment, although reports continue to drift in about the good things happening among the Matadores.
Northwest Division (X)
1. Oaks Christian (Tri-Valley), 2. Gardena Serra (Del Rey), 3. Santa Clara (Tri-Valley), 4. Harvard/Westlake (Del Rey), 5. Oak Park (Tri-Valley), 6. Morro Bay (Los Padres), 7. Torrance (Pioneer), 8. Santa Maria St. Joseph, 9. Nordhoff (Tri-Valley), 10. Carpinteria
(Tri-Valley), 11. Cathedral (Del Rey), 12, South Torrance (Pioneer), 13. Bishop Diego (Tri-Valley), 14. St. Bernard (Del Rey), 15. Pioneer Valley (Los Padres). 21. La Salle (Camino Real), 23. Cantwell Sacred Heart (Camino Real), 25. Verbum Dei (Camino Real), 28. Bishop Montgomery (Camino Real), 29. Mary Star of the Sea (Camino Real).
Note: Cantwell wins a few games and the Cardinals get moved in with the likes of the potent Tri-Valley and Del Rey League powers. What kind of a reward is that?
Mid-Valley (XI)
1. San Dimas (Valle Vista), 2. Paraclete (Olympic), 3. Cerritos Valley Christian (Olympic), 4. South El Monte (Mission Valley, 5. Rosemead (Mission Valley), 6. Northview (Valle Vista), 7. El Monte (Mission Valley), 8. Baldwin Park (Valle Vista), 9. Whittier Christian (Olympic), 10. Monrovia (Rio Hondo), 11. Blair (Rio Hondo), 12. Los Angeles Baptist (Olympic), 13. Covina (Valle Vista), 14. San Marino, 15. Arroyo (Mission Valley), 20. Village Christian (Olympic).
Note: Re-read Northern Division note above, only insert Whittier Christian for Cantwell, and consider the value of the Heralds’ reward.

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