Summer football heating up for area squads

Summer football preparations will continue this week for several Whittier-area teams with passing league and 7-on-7 competition.
At 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Schurr will make the short drive across Montebello to visit Cantwell-Sacred Heart. On Thursday, another short road trip will take Whittier Christian across Beach Boulevard to La Habra for summer competition. Also Thursday, Cal will visit Mayfair and Whittier will host Bellflower. On Saturday, La Serna will travel to Saugus.
Later this summer, El Rancho will host the Rumble at the Ranch on July 12, which will feature teams from across Southern California, including St. Bonaventure, San Clemente, Bonita and Palmdale. St. Paul will visit defending state Open Division champion St. John Bosco on July 15 and La Mirada will host Long Beach Poly in a combined practice that will feature 1-on-1 drills, 7-on-7 passing and 11-on-11 work as well.

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The five best moments of the 2013-14 prep season around Whittier

From September to June, high school athletes from around the Whittier area provided some thrilling moments for fans to enjoy. Memories that stand out include a game-winning last-second 3-point basket by Abel Ramirez that led to Cal to a thrilling 52-51 Del Rio League victory over Pioneer, and Cassandra Hair’s put-back bucket in the final seconds at home that helped Whittier rally for a 53-52 triumph over Santa Fe.
During baseball season, Santa Fe and La Serna played 11 scoreless innings in the rain before the Chiefs scored twice in the top of the 12th for a 2-0 victory and an early share of first place in the DRL. And in the season opener for both teams, St. Paul opened edged Santa Fe 6-5 thanks to a walk-off hit by freshman Julian Sansores. Just minutes before, the Chiefs’ Eli Ledesma tied the game with a home run to right field.
On the softball field, St. Paul ended years of Del Rey League frustration by sweeping rival Bishop Amat in three games, including a 10-7 marathon at York Field that clinched a share of the league crown.
But some moments separated themselves from the others, either with thrilling endings or come-from-behind performances or by sheer competitive nature.
Here are the top five:
Click here to see Whittier Christian volleyball photo gallery

5. Whittier Christian’s girls volleyball team lost the first set of its CIF Division 2A semifinal against Troy in the Warriors’ raucous gym. But behind 26 kills from senior Kylee Wolfe, the Heralds fought back for a 19-25, 25-18, 25-18, 25-19 victory. Four days later, they swept Mayfield to claim their second consecutive 2A crown and began a state tournament run that was only ended by eventual state finalist Corona Santiago.

4. What ended as the best playoff run ever for the boys basketball team at Cantwell-Sacred Heart actually began with heartbreaking loss against the best team in the state. The Cardinals opened the CIF postseason in the highly competitive Open Division, and they nearly knocked off unbeaten Mater Dei. Senior guard E.J. Mejia made 4 of 7 3-point shots and finished with 18 points as CSHM took Mater Dei to overtime, the only team to do so all year. The Monarchs eventually pulled out a 66-59 victory on their home floor, but not before Cantwell put a huge scare into the Mater Dei faithful. The Cardinals eventually qualified for the Division 4 state tournament and eventually reached the Southern California final, losing to eventual state champ Bishop Montgomery. After barely surviving against CSHM, Mater Dei ended the season at 35-0 and claimed its fourth consecutive state title.

Photos of La Serna’s CIF final victory in girls water polo

3. La Serna’s girls water polo team avenged its loss to Troy in the CIF Division 4 championship game a year earlier by claiming a thrilling 5-4 sudden-death triumph in a finals rematch in March. The teams ended regulation tied at 3, and each scored once in overtime to force the sudden-death period. Both teams turned away a scoring chance by the other, including a shot by Troy’s Marissa Vaccher that rebounded off the inside of the post. But Lancers freshman Carissa Perez took a cross-pool pass from Bella Villa and ended the affair with a lob shot over the outstretched arms of Troy goalie Jessica Harris. Senior goalie Jacqui Verdugo was also outstanding for the Lancers, turning away a 5-meter penalty shot in the first half and several point-blank attempts in the second.

Click here to see photos from the St. Paul-La Serna CIF softball final

2. The softball teams from St. Paul and La Serna officially ended the season with a 2-2 record against each other, but the Swordsmen earned the most important victory of the season, a 2-1 decision in the CIF Division 3 final. St. Paul senior pitcher Koreen Orozco was brilliant all day, allowing the Lancers just two hits while inducing 17 ground ball outs. Krystal Gutierrez got the Swordsmen on the board with a first-inning double off La Serna ace Jamie Wren, and Niko Walker added a sacrifice fly later that brought in Bryanna Campos. The title was the first for St. Paul since 1988, and a few days later they were selected the State Division III Team of the Year by CalHi Sports.

Click here for the La Serna-Norwalk photo gallery

1. La Serna’s 41-38 double overtime football victory over Norwalk in the CIF Southeast Division final was, quite simply, one of the most exciting sporting events I’ve ever covered, at any level. With La Serna quarterback Frankie Palmer and Norwalk super back Rashaad Penny leading the way, both teams played spectacularly. Penny scored four TDs – two on the ground and two through the air – and finished with 211 total yards. Palmer added three touchdowns of his own on 105 rushing yards, and he also scored a 2-point conversion late in the fourth quarter that forced OT. But his finest play came on fourth down in the second overtime period, with his team trailing by three points. The senior dropped back and first looked to his left for an open receiver. Seeing no one, he rolled right and found Matthew Rosales wide open for a 19-yard touchdown that gave La Serna its first CIF football title since 1967. La Serna tied the score in the fourth after Tony Ceron blocked a Norwalk field goal attempt, and Kevin Ramos returned the ball 75 yards for a TD.

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Kim Brooks returns to classroom at La Mirada but not to field

La Mirada High’s Kim Brooks has returned to his teaching position on the campus, he confirmed Tuesday, but is still suspended as athletic director and baseball coach.
Brooks was suspended by the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District last month after an audio tape of a profanity-laced tirade directed at the baseball team was released. He confirmed Tuesday he’d returned last week to his position as a social studies teacher but said there had been “no word” as to whether he’d return to his positions in the athletic department.
Brooks took part in Monday’s graduation ceremony, and many of his supporters showed up to an NLMUSD public meeting last week.
Brooks’ suspension came just before the Matadore baseball team began the CIF-SS Division 2 playoffs in late May. Many of the players dedicated their playoff performance to Brooks, and the team reached the semifinal round in an emotional run. Assistant coach Jimmy Zurn took over the head coaching duties during the playoffs.
Calls to the district office and to La Mirada principal Bill Seals were not immediately returned Tuesday.

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Area players among state’s Hot 100 in Class of 2015

Area players Gligorije Rakocevic, Balsa Dragovic and Kendall Laudersale have all been ranked among the top 100 seniors-to-be in California in the 2015 Cal-Hi Sports Hot 100.
Rakocevic and Dragovic are both 6-foot-9 post players from Cantwell-Sacred Heart. Each dealt with foot injuries at the beginning of the season but came on strong at the end, helping the Cardinals reach the CIF State Division 4 SoCal final. Rakocevic averaged 10.6 points and 8.6 rebounds and developed the ability to finish with either hand. Dragovic ended the season as a rebounding and shot-blocking force, and he can also step out and knock down a 3-pointer when called upon. Rakocevic is ranked No. 20 among the Class of 2015, Dragovic No. 44.
La Mirada’s Lauderdale, at 6-8 and 220 pounds, already possesses a Division I frame, but didn’t play to his size early in the season and had trouble finishing around the basket. After Christmas, however, he blossomed, topping 20 points 10 times. He finished the season averaging 16.1 points and 9.6 rebounds. He is ranked 60th.
All three players were Whittier Daily News All-Area first-team selections as juniors.

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Former Cal State Dominguez Hills BB coach Damaine Powell hired at St. Paul

Former Cal State Dominguez Hills men’s basketball coach Damaine Powell has been hired as St. Paul High’s new boys basketball coach, athletic director Casey Morales confirmed Tuesday.
“To find someone with the experience and credentials he has is tremendous,” said Morales. “To have a guy like that … is something we’re really thrilled with.”
Powell coached CSUDH for nine seasons after leading Compton College to a pair of state community college championships. He also played and coached at USC.
He replaces Shawn Clingan, who stepped down following the 2013-14 season. The Swordsmen struggled to a 3-23 record last season, including a 1-9 mark in the Camino Real League. Next season, St. Paul will play in the Santa Fe League.
According to Morales, Powell has also accepted a full-time teaching position on the Santa Fe Springs campus.

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