Santa Fe High School’s near eight-hour long, 32-team Tournament of Champions came to end this afternoon with plenty of results.
LAKEWOOD GOT ITS REVENGE
For starters, Lakewood bounced back after last year’s loss to Serra in the tournament title game by easily bouncing another Catholic school power, Los Angeles Loyola, 30-9 in the Passing Tournament championship game.
San Gabriel Valley scouting guru James Escarcega, who currently works with both South Hills of West Covina and Crespi of Encino, proclaimed Lakewood “the top team in the Pac-5 Division” and said he would be “surprised” if they didn’t at least make it to the championship game.
I’ll agree with Escarcega on his first point. I saw Lakewood and they looked lights out in the championship bracket, having only really been challenged by South Torrance, 31-21, in the quarterfinals. I also saw Lakewood last week at a Fullerton eight-way passing tournament and they had no problem with any opponent, including La Mirada.
However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lancers didn’t make it to the title game for one important reason. These are high school kids we’re talking about. Anything is possible. Don’t forget, Lakewood was only 2-2 in pool play and lost to Division 7 John Muir and Division 9 Northwood.
THE TUG-O-WAR IS THE BEST COMPETITION
I enjoyed the obstacle course and gained insight from the passing scrimmage. However, the high-testosterone Tug-o-war drew the biggest crowds and cheers and even a heated protest at the end.
The Chaparral of Temecula “A” team, the defending CIF-SS Division 2 champs, won the event after defeating Paraclete, Lynwood, South Torrance, Narbonne and Norwalk.
The best match of the day pitted Narbonne and Chaparral “A” in the semifinals as both teams breezed up until that point.
While the City Section power took an early advantage, Chaparral “A” fought back for the win.
The only drawback came after Chaparral defeated Norwalk in the Tug-o-war final when a Pumas coach got in the face of tournament organizer Bob Costa and called the event “stupid” because no trophy was awarded to the winner of the grueling competition. The winner of the event is also only awarded 12 points to the lineman competition total, which did not help Chaparral “A” move up from its seventh-place finish.
Locally, the Santa Fe “A” team had arguably the biggest upset when it eliminated Lakewood in the second round.
That Santa Fe squad of John Gonzales, Adrian Ruiz, Jesus Medrano, Jacob Prudencio, Mitch Guerrero, Mario Bonilla and Anthony G. beat Morningside in the first round and then the Santa Fe “B” squad in the quarters before falling to Norwalk.
Whittier’s team of Erick Mendez, Joseph Soriano, Albert Toscano, Isiah Salgado, Daniel Alvarez, Kurtis Mahlow and Alex Rishton advanced to the quarters before falling to Norwalk.
Whittier opened with a win over Pioneer (Erik Ramirez, Jose Hernandez, Omar Alcazar, Roman Garcia, Jon Solis-betty, Daniel Dorame and Penazar Jose), received a second-round bye, and then beat Yucaipa in the third round before Norwalk bumped off the Cardinals in the quarters.
California’s team of Greg Martinez, Steven Lopez, Francisco Reyes, Joseph Zuniga, Eddie Eaton, Lance Hludzik and Brendan U. advanced to the third round after wins over Franklin of Los Angeles and John Glenn.
The Condors were ousted by City power Narbonne in the third round.
SANTA FE LOOKING GOOD
To be fair to La Serna, I would need to see a little bit more of the Lancers in action before declaring Santa Fe the summer Del Rio League favorite (for whatever that’s worth).
I like what I see from quarterback Justin Rincon, less than a week removed from a so-so effort at Tuesday’s passing scrimmage.
Rincon showed more poise and better decision-making in the pocket and led the Chiefs to a 3-3 record and advancement into the quarterfinals of the championship bracket. Bare in mind, that’s a 3-3 mark versus Highland (W 31-27), Crespi (L 30-20), Narbonne (W 30-18), Olympus of Salt Lake City (L 29-28), Alhambra (W 31-28) and Burbank (L 28-24).
“I really depended on (receiver) Steven Hernandez and the receivers,” Rincon said. “We’re just pushing ourselves out there.”
Rincon did not have the services of arguably Santa Fe’s top receiver in Christian Mahlstede, who was out with bronchitis (he’s doing fine from what I’ve been told but wasn’t cleared to play).
HOW BOUT THEM CARDS
Whittier coach Walter Scott pulled a fast one on me. The Cardinals lost all four of their pool play games and opened the championship bracket with a 30-7 defeat to Crespi.
Dropped to the consolation bracket, the Cardinals defeated West Torrance (28-17) and Fallbrook (27-21), whom they lost to earlier. The Cardinals were then defeated, 30-15, by Olympus of Salt Lake City, the consolation bracket champion, in the semifinals.
I know the Cardinals are young, especially at signal caller with junior Michael Viramontes and sophomore Gio Hernandez, both of whom were not on the varsity roster at the beginning of last season.
“We’re looking at them to make the right reads and consistency. Right now, they’re being put out there with athletes that they haven’t really competed against yet,” Scott said. “So, it’s a real learning process for them.”
However, the Cards didn’t fold (yes, yes that’s a bad pun) after a rough start. They fought and scrapped for two wins that were anything but meaningless, especially when confidence is a fragile commodity.
In other tournament news: La Habra flexed some muscle in defeating Division 2 Corona Centennial, 25-24, in the championship game of Saturday’s Edison Bash at the Beach.
En route to the tournament title, the Highlanders had a ho-hum effort, bouncing Division 1 Mater Dei (31-25), South Hills of West Covina (21-20) and Division 1 Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. Not too bad…
My esteemed colleague Aram Tolegian has also informed me that Whittier Christian advanced to the semifinals of the San Gabriel Valley Shootout before succumbing to Azusa, the tournament champion.
I’ll see if I can get some more info on this tournament.
Here are some images from the Tournament of Champions
Santa Fe’s Justin Rincon
Whittier’s Gio Hernandez
Whittier’s Kevin Medina
California’s Drew Castro
Santa Fe’s Jack Mahlstede