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Athletes of the Week – Carlotta Nonnis Marzano and Amanda Tabanera

| Sports | October 19, 2017

A winning combination for Valencia High School’s girls’ tennis team, Carlotta Nonnis Marzano and Amanda Tabanera both dominated in their respective singles sets against Saugus High School last week. They each swept their competition 6-0, 6-0, 6-0. Valencia’s 16-2 win over Saugus has the Vikings one game behind West Ranch in Foothill standings.

“They are amazing tennis players and wonderful young ladies who are hard-working and loyal team players,” said Valencia High School tennis coach Annie Kellogg. “At this time, they are undefeated in league play and they are both 23-1 in their Foothill League matches in singles. They are an incredible one-two punch for our line-up.”

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Unequaled NFL Parity is Making for an Unpredictable Super Bowl

| Sports | October 19, 2017

Go ahead, name who you think is going to win the Super Bowl this year.

Welcome to the 2017-2018 NFL season, a year that makes absolutely no sense so far. The Lombardi Trophy is up for grabs, and so far, only a select few teams have even made a stake in being considered for it.

Sure, there are a few teams that are already saying better luck next year. These are the San Francisco 49ers, the Cleveland Browns, the New York Giants, the Indianapolis Colts, the Chicago Bears, and the Los Angeles Chargers. Outside of these teams, there are a few more where the chances are looking bleak.

The top of the NFL is where things begin to get dicey. There are two teams that have just one loss in the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs. At this point, they would be the best bet to make it to Super Bowl Sunday, but this season hasn’t followed any supposed script so far.

Let’s start with Philadelphia. They are the toughest team to run against, as they allow just 65 yards per game on the ground. The Eagles’ run defense is so imposing that opponents have attempted a league-low 105 rushes against them.
Carson Wentz is proving that his rookie season success wasn’t a fluke, and has had his name mentioned in MVP conversations. He is fifth in the league in passing yards with 1,584, and has thrown 13 touchdowns — the same number as Tom Brady — to just three interceptions. Former USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor is having a career resurgence, coming in seventh place in the NFL in receiving touchdowns, with seven.

LeGarrette Blount is providing the power running game Philly was hoping he would. The big-bodied veteran is averaging 5.6 yards per attempt, good for fifth in the league, and has scored three times this season.

The Eagles’ lone loss comes at the hands of the Chiefs, in what could have been a Super Bowl preview. A Jake Elliott 40-yard field goal three minutes into the fourth quarter tied the score at 13-13, but Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt proved to be the only running back Philadelphia couldn’t stop. He scored two touchdowns, the second of which came in the fourth quarter to make the score 27-13. Hunt, just a rookie, rushed for 81 yards on 13 carries. An Agholor touchdown in the closing seconds made the final score 27-20.

To say the start of Hunt’s pro career has been successful would be selling him short. He leads the league in rushing yards with 630, and his four rushing touchdowns are tied for top three. Hunt’s surprising emergence has helped to take pressure off of Alex Smith, who already plays with a careful and methodical style.

Smith has yet to throw an interception all season, a stat no quarterback with over 100 passing attempts can match. He comes in third in passing yards, with 1,637, and has 12 passing touchdowns to his credit.

His two biggest targets have been tight end Travis Kelce, and speedy receiver Tyreek Hill. Both have 390 receiving yards and two touchdowns, and help to create a diverse offense that has teams guessing all game. As a team, the Chiefs are second only to the Rams in scoring, with 29.5 points per game.

Defensively, the Chiefs have room to improve. Their pass defense ranks near the bottom of the pack, as they allow 7.8 yards per pass attempt. Kansas City has also allowed receivers and tight ends to score a total of 10 touchdowns this season, good for 22nd in the league.
Kansas City surprisingly lost their first game this past weekend at the hands of a Steelers team that has taken losses to the Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars. Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown was the only receiver for the black and yellow to catch more than five passes, and he sure made them count. He had eight receptions for 155 yards, and a fourth quarter touchdown, which answered De’Anthony Thomas’ 57-yard catch and run for the Chiefs. Brown’s snag made the score 19-10, and the Chiefs never threatened again en route to a 19-13 Pittsburgh win.

This truly is an “any given Sunday” season. The top teams all have tools that take advantage of the other contenders’ weaknesses. This makes predicting fantasy football lineups and making bets an incredibly hard thing to do. For those just watching for the fun of football, it is truly an amazing experience.

There hasn’t been a season in quite some time where the final outcome was so in question. It feels as though the NFL has found a level of parity that could lead to playoffs full of upsets. The Jaguars and the Rams could be facing off in the Super Bowl and no one would bat an eye. It’s the 2017-2018 NFL season, where a team’s pedigree carries little weight, and anyone can walk home a winner.

Friday Night Lights in Santa Clarita

| Sports | October 19, 2017

SCV Football Schedule

Canyon Cowboys v. Golden Valley Grizzlies: Friday, Oct 20 at 7 p.m. @ Canyon High School
Hart Indians v. West Ranch Wildcats: Friday, Oct 20 at 7:00 p.m. @ Valencia High School
Saugus Centurions v. Valencia Vikings: Friday, Oct 20 at 7:30 p.m. @ College of the Canyons
Santa Clarita Christian Cardinals v. Capistrano Valley Eagles: Saturday, Oct 21 at 7 p.m. @ Canyon High School
Trinity Knights v. Carpinteria Warriors: Friday, Oct 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Carpinteria High School

Male Athlete of the Week – Weston Eget

| Sports | October 12, 2017

As quarterback for West Ranch High School’s football team, senior Weston Eget went 15-30 for 158 yards, two passing touchdowns, and two rushing touchdowns, in the Wildcats’ win over Canyon 35-14. West Ranch is a perfect 5-0 in the season, a first in the program’s history. They next face Saugus on Friday at 7:30.

“I was very upset for Colton Mitchell, our starting quarterback, after his injury. He worked very hard to get to this point in this season,” said Christopher Varner, head coach of the West Ranch High School football team. “However, Weston has had to step in to that leadership role and over the last two games has begun to really show a lot of poise in his new role. At this point we will only go as far as Weston will take us and I’m confident that he will lead this team in the right direction.”

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Dodgers Down Diamondbacks in Divisional Series Sweep

| Sports | October 12, 2017

Near the start of the 2017 MLB season, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, and Arizona Diamondbacks all looked like a legitimate threat to win the National League West Conference (NL West).

L.A. pulled away around the All-Star break, going 41-10 in the months of June and July. A late season skid at the start of November, in which the Dodgers lost 11 games in a row, made it seem as though their early-season dominance was merely a fluke, and another famous postseason collapse was on the way.

The Dodgers went a long way in proving they are the real deal with a sweep of their rival Diamondbacks in the National League Divisional Series (NLDS). Aside from a game two scare, L.A. dominated the series using the same mix of proficient pitching and consistent offense that allowed them to coast, at times, through the regular season.

About that game two. The trouble began right off the bat, as Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt hit a two-run, first inning home run off of Rich Hill. From there on out, it was all Dodgers, particularly Logan Forsythe and Yasiel Puig.

Puig hit the first RBI of the game in the second inning, followed by Forsythe’s running in the trying-score on a wild pitch in the fourth inning. Then, for a brief moment in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Dodgers’ bats came alive.

Forsythe begins by bringing Cody Bellinger home, making the score 3-2 L.A. Austin Barnes then hit a double that allowed Forsythe and Curtis Granderson to add to the score. Puig secured his second RBI of the match with a single that allowed Barnes to pile on the points.

A three-run homer by Brandon Drury at the top of the seventh inning made the deficit 7-5 for his Diamondbacks. However, L.A. shut the door on any kind of comeback when they took their turn to bat in the same frame. Chris Taylor grounded out to shortstop Ketel Marte, who proceeded to commit an error that allowed Forsythe to run in his second score of the game, and gave the Dodgers an 8-5 victory, and a 2-0 series lead.

Puig was pivotal in the first two games of the season. His game two excellence has already been well noted, but it would be a discredit not to mention the .556 batting average he posted in that match. In game one, he posted a .400 batting average, and took home another two RBIs.

The real driving force behind L.A.’s game one victory was third baseman Justin Turner. He came out swinging in the bottom of the first, hitting a three-run home run. Turner’s fourth-inning single made the score 6-1.

Arizona came as close as 7-4 on a Jeff Mathis single home run in the seventh inning, but Corey Seager and Turner hit two respective RBIs in the eighth inning to eventually take the first game, 9-5.
This game also served as a measuring stick to see whether or not Clayton Kershaw is ready for the postseason. His disappearing acts, come playoff time, have become expected by L.A. fans, and is quantified by the 4.55 ERA Kershaw has in the postseason.

So far, the results look so-so. Kershaw did walk away with the win, but allowed four-home runs. Fortunately for him, each homer was just a single, and the Dodgers had racked up seven points on offense before Kershaw headed to the dugouts. His 5.68 ERA should be alarming, but the seven strikeouts he achieved should offer some hope of more postseason success.

Yu Darvish looked right at home in Dodgers blue, collecting his first postseason win with his new team in a 3-1 game three victory. He threw four scoreless innings, before a homer in the fifth by Daniel Descalso made the score 2-1 in favor of L.A., and ended Darvish’s night. In his time on the mound, Darvish struck out seven batters, allowed just one earned run, and posted an ERA of 1.80.

The rookie Bellinger also had a bit of a coming out party in the final game of the series. He collected his first postseason RBI in the first inning, followed by his first postseason home run in the fifth that made the score 2-0.

There is a lot to take away from the Dodgers’ sweep of Arizona. Their batting lineup is deep, and as Turner, Puig, Forsythe, and Bellinger proved, any of L.A.’s batters can take over a game at any given time.

The starting pitching rotation has a lot still to prove, however. Kershaw gave up an alarming number of home runs, while Hill helped Arizona take momentum early in game two. Hill did settle down soon after, allowing just three hits in four innings, but the competition only gets tougher from here. A first inning home run may be all a championship caliber team needs to take a game from the Dodgers.

L.A.’s first postseason series of 2017 is in the books, but only time will tell if the Dodgers can avoid the disappointments of playoffs past.

 

Female Athlete of the Week – Shelby Grubbs

| Sports | October 12, 2017

A member of the Hart High School girls’ volleyball team, Shelby Grubbs recorded 11 kills and 14 blocks last week, as the Indians narrowly defeated Saugus 3-2. Hart has yet to lose in league play, and stands alone at the top of Foothill, with a 5-0 league record. They have a rematch with second-place Valencia on the road on Thursday.

“She is closing in on beating the blocking record that was previously held by Claire Cansler back in 2013,” said Hart girls’ volleyball team coach Mary Irilian. “Shelby brings great intensity and energy to the game and unconditionally supports her teammates on and off the court.

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Friday Night Lights

| Sports | October 12, 2017

SCV Football Schedule

Canyon Cowboys v. Hart Indians: Friday, Oct 13 at 7 p.m. @ Canyon High School
Golden Valley Grizzlies v. Valencia Vikings: Friday, Oct 13 at 7 p.m. @ Valencia High School
Saugus Centurions v. West Ranch Wildcats: Friday, Oct 13 at 7:30 p.m. @ College of the Canyons
Santa Clarita Christian Cardinals v. Vasquez Mustangs: Saturday, Oct 14 at 7 p.m. @ Canyon High School
Trinity Knights v. Carpinteria Warriors: Friday, Oct 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Carpinteria High School

Female Athlete of the Week – Lauren Russ

| SC Living, Sports | October 5, 2017

A senior at Valencia High School, Lauren Russ is an outside hitter for the Vikings girls’ volleyball team. Last week Lauren scored 20 kills and notched 13 digs in the Vikings’ 3-1 win over West Ranch. The two schools were co-champions of the Foothill League a season ago. This season the Vikings are 3-1 in the league so far.

“Lauren had a great weekend at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix,” said Valencia High School girls’ volleyball coach Ray Sanchez. “She led the team to a 5-2 record and the championship of the Sapphire Division, where she was named the MVP.”

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Male Athlete of the Week – JT Shrout

| SC Living, Sports | October 5, 2017

William S. Hart High School quarterback JT Shrout is leading the Indians’ football team for one more year before taking his strength to the Cal Bears. Last week, the 6-foot 3-inch, 190-lb. senior threw for 344 yards, with two passing touchdowns, and one rushing touchdown. The Hart Indians shut out Ventura High School 26-0. Hart is now 3-2 in the season, and will begin Foothill League play against Valencia on Friday, October 6.

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Sam Darnold’s Shaky Start to Season Shrouds Past Success

| Sports | October 5, 2017

A Google search of “Sam Darnold expectations” brings a bevy of results focusing on how the redshirt sophomore handled all the pressure that comes after winning the Rose Bowl in your first season as a starter.

Darnold’s only loss in 2016 came against Utah, his first start after taking the reins from Max Browne. Darnold’s numbers shocked the college football world, as he went on to throw 31 touchdowns to just nine interceptions, while running for 250 yards on a four-yard-per-carry average.

The highlight of his young career, as of now, is the 52-49 comeback from behind victory he and the Trojans pulled off against Penn State in the Rose Bowl. In the contest, Darnold threw five touchdowns and 453 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown to Deontay Burnett in the closing minutes, tying the score at 49. A McSorley interception led to Matt Boermeester’s 46-yard game-winning field goal.

The hype from this game put Darnold in the Heisman conversation, and gave rise to the idea that he may be taken first overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, if he should declare. There are multiple quarterback-hungry teams (e.g., Jets and 49ers) that are projected to be near the top of the draft order, and Darnold’s mix of strong passes and power running makes him an interesting prospect.

Fall of 2017, however, has definitely not started the way Darnold would have liked. USC went wire to wire with Western Kentucky in the opening game of the season, before scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter to pull away. The Mustangs were in a position to pull off the upset, as Darnold tossed two interceptions, and ran for minus six yards in the match. To his credit, Darnold did run for an 11-yard touchdown that tied the game 21-21 in the third frame.

Since then, interceptions have been the story of Darnold’s season. He threw two more in the following two games against Stanford and Texas. The Trojans needed double overtime to finish off the Longhorns, who now have an overall record of 1-2. Darnold threw for three touchdowns, the last of which was a 25-yarder to Burnett in the first overtime period. However, Darnold struggled, running the ball again, carrying it six times for minus 12 yards.

Another too close for comfort win against Cal made it clear that USC’s wire to wire way of winning was unsustainable. Then came Washington State, a team that scored with ease on offense, and stopped the pass on defense. For Darnold, it was a bad game waiting to happen.

On the ground, Darnold did some damage, rushing for 25 yards and two touchdowns. That was to be expected, as the Cougars allowed 129 rushing yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game on defense. Through the air, however, Wazzu proved to be every bit the challenge they were supposed to be.

Darnold went 15-29 for 164 yards and an interception, and lost a fumble with a minute left in the fourth quarter on a strip sack by Jahad Woods, giving the Cougars the 30-27 win. The loss dropped USC to number 14 in the nation with a slightly difficult schedule remaining.

The Trojans should easily get back to their winning ways against a 1-4 Oregon State team, but will face two tough tests in the subsequent weeks. First comes 20th-ranked Utah at the Coliseum. The Utes’ defense does allow over 200 yards passing per game, but they have snagged nine interceptions in their first four games. Defensive back Julian Blackmon leads the team with two, and will be looking to take advantage of any Darnold error.

Then USC travels to South Bend, Ind. to play the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Their pass defense is definitely not their strength, as the team allows 241 yards and two touchdowns per game through the air. This game could serve as an image booster for Darnold, as it will be aired on October 21 in prime-time (7:30 p.m. ET), on NBC. If Darnold puts up the stats he should against Notre Dame and heads home with a win, many of his previous errors may be forgiven.

A shaky start to the season might make NFL teams reconsider if Darnold is franchise quarterback material. However, he did put up monster numbers just a year ago, so he clearly has the capacity for great quarterback play. There are still seven games, and the inevitable bowl game USC will qualify for, for Darnold to prove he is the real deal. If he corrals his crazy interception numbers, he will very likely hear his name near the top of the NFL Draft.

Rams Look Much Improved in their Second Season in Los Angeles

| Sports | September 28, 2017

The Los Angeles Rams are three games into their sophomore season back in Los Angeles, and it is impossible to ignore the almost immediate improvement this young team has made. The key to it all, finally having an offensive line that can keep a clean pocket.

As has been discussed ad nauseam, the Rams’ offensive line struggled all season to provide protection for then rookie quarterback Jared Goff, and the second year stud running back Todd Gurley. Goff was sacked 26 times in just seven games. Gurley was only able to amass 885 total rushing yards a year after rushing for 1,106 yards.

The difference comes in two offseason acquisitions, center John Sullivan, and left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Last season with the Cincinnati Bengals, Whitworth didn’t allow a single sack, a stat he has so far matched with the Rams. Sullivan was not a starter in 2016 with the Redskins, but in 2015, he allowed just 2.5 sacks with the Vikings.

With a fixed offensive line, Los Angeles’ offense under head coach Sean McVay has had the opportunity to show the league what the Rams can do when a play has time to develop. The results have been more than impressive.

Goff finally looks comfortable dropping back to pass, although he does have the tendency to back up into pressure when pass rushers break into the backfield. This hasn’t happened often, however, as Goff has only been sacked three times in the first three games. Goff’s comfort in the pocket is a big reason why he has thrown five touchdowns to just one interception, and has posted a passer rating of 118.2 according to ESPN, third behind the likes of Alex Smith and Tom Brady.

It helps that Goff has new targets to throw to in Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. The two lead the Rams in receiving yards with 194 and 169 respectively. Watkins was pivotal in the team’s 41-39 win over San Francisco, catching two touchdowns with 106 receiving yards. Rookie slot receiver Cooper Kupp has also had a big impact on the Rams, catching seven passes that each resulted in a first down.

Opposing defenses no longer have the luxury of focusing on Los Angeles’ run game, as Goff has shown he can win games. Gurley has taken advantage of this fact, and has rushed for 241 yards and four touchdowns. His yards-per-game has improved dramatically from a year ago, jumping from 55.3 to 80.3.

Los Angeles is now an offensive juggernaut and leads the league in points scored with 107. They hung big numbers on two weak opponents, scoring 46 against the Colts and 41 against the 49ers. The Rams’ only loss came against a Washington team that has allowed just 20 points per game. Los Angeles lost in a 27-20 nail biter, in which the Redskins needed a last minute touchdown from Kirk Cousins to Ryan Grant, to come out on top.

Defensively, the Rams are doing well, but are not playing to the level most thought the unit would under defensive guru Wade Phillips. Against the pass, they are tied for fifth in the league in passing touchdowns allowed, with three, and are tied for sixth in sacks with 10.

Against the run is a completely different story. Los Angeles has given up the fourth most rushing yards in the NFL with a total of 417. Opposing running backs seem to find the end zone with ease when playing against the Rams, as the team has had six rushing touchdowns scored against them, most in the league. This is a major contributing factor in the 25 points-per-game Los Angeles allows.

Star defensive tackle Aaron Donald is still getting into his groove after sitting out of training camp in the hopes of receiving a contract extension. He has collected a sack and a tackle for a loss, but the Rams’ defense needs more from him if they are to live up to the lofty exceptions that come when being coached by Phillips.

Defensive backs Lamarcus Joyner and Trumaine Johnson have done an excellent job of punishing bad passes, as both have one pick-six a piece. Newcomer Nickell Robey-Coleman has also made an impact, picking off one pass, and forcing one fumble.

There is a lot to like about this rendition of the Rams, but it is still too soon to celebrate. They jumped out to a 3-1 start a year ago, and were only able to win one more game en route to a 4-12 record. Still, Los Angeles has shown glimpses of the team they can become if everything falls into place.

Up next on the schedule is the Dallas Cowboys, and the Rams will get all they can handle from Ezekiel Elliott. This will be a true test to see if the defense can slow down a star running back in an effort to get a signature win.

For their troubles, they face the defenses of the Seahawks and the Jaguars the following two weeks, so Los Angeles will have a chance to prove their mettle early in the season. The excitement will be palpable if the Rams prove their signs of improvement have been more than a mere fluke.

 

Female Athlete of the Week – Caitlin Liebe

| Sports | September 28, 2017

Now a senior at Saugus High School, Caitlin Liebe is an outside hitter on the school’s girls’ volleyball team. Last week she converted 14 kills in the Centurions’ 3-0 sweep of Canyon. The win brings Saugus to 2-0 in the Foothill League.

“Caitlin has carried the team offensively all season,” said Zachary Ambrose, Saugus High School girls’ volleyball coach. “Against Canyon she was very efficient with her swings, scoring without a lot of errors. That is something she has put a lot of time into over the summer, to not only make herself better, but the team as well. She has one of the strongest work ethics on the team and her improvement in her all around games shows it.”

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Male Athlete of the Week – Andrew Brito

| Sports | September 28, 2017

College of the Canyons freshman quarterback Andrew Brito had another spectacular night on the gridiron, leading the No. 20 ranked Cougars to a 52-42 home win over No. 11 Long Beach City College on Saturday. Brito finished the game 15-of-27 for 228 yards and three touchdowns while finding seven different receivers. He also ran for 84 yards and another score on the ground, helping the Cougars amass 578 yards of total offense in the game. COC will next travel to face Grossmont College at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 30.

Photo: Jesse Munoz/COC Sports Information

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Female Athlete of the Week – Grace Ferguson

| SC Living, Sports | September 21, 2017

This Saugus High School senior is a middle blocker for the Centurions’ girls’ volleyball team. She had 14 kills and five blocks last week in the Centurions’ 3-1 win over West Ranch. Saugus’ victory marks the first time they have defeated the Wildcats since October 14, 2014.
“Grace is a steady force at the net for Saugus volleyball this year,” said Zachary Ambrose, coach of the Saugus High School girls’ volleyball team. “Her ability to read the play helps her score with powerful kills and soft shots when needed. Her blocking forces opponents to change their shots, making the court smaller, helping the defense pick up more balls.”

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Male Athlete of the Week – Cameron Ravenell

| SC Living, Sports | September 21, 2017

A senior at Golden Valley High School, Cameron Ravenell is a defensive end on the Grizzlies football team. Last week he tallied 13 total tackles, four for a loss, and three sacks in the Grizzlies’ 26-13 win over Crespi. The victory comes a week after Golden Valley suffered a 26-19 loss to Crescenta Valley High School. The Grizzlies play Fullerton High School before opening conference play against Saugus on October 6.

“Cameron had one of the best performances from the defensive end position I have ever seen,” said Golden Valley High School Football Coach Dan Kelley. “His size and athletic ability has many colleges looking at him.”

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Chargers Can’t Make Connection in Los Angeles

| Sports | September 21, 2017

In past articles, I have tried to put a positive spin on the Chargers moving to Los Angeles. And while they still have all the time in the world to turn their misfortune around, things are clearly going from bad to worse in one of the more interesting sports sagas.

The writing truly appeared on the wall when San Diego residents refused to use taxpayer money to fund a new football stadium. On November 6, 2016, Measure C was soundly voted down 57 percent to 43 percent. At that point, if there was to be any new stadium in San Diego, it would have to come from Chargers owner Dean Spanos’ pocket.

So, when the news broke on January 12, 2017 that the Chargers would be packing up shop to move to Los Angeles, few were surprised. Angry would be the better term. Fans dropped off memorabilia in front of the team’s headquarters, signifying their displeasure with a move that seemed only in the best interest of the owner.

Despite having to pay $12.6 million to San Diego, as well as a $650 million relocation fee, the Chargers stand to earn more money due to playing in a larger market and in a brand new stadium.

If anyone from the Chargers staff was expecting a warm welcome three hours up the 5, they were certainly mistaken. The Rams already had a season under their belt as Los Angeles’ team, and went an unremarkable 4-8. The proposition of adding a Chargers team that had just gone 5-7 didn’t seem too promising.

Then came the infamous logo debacle. The Chargers unveiled a blue and white logo in the fashion of the Dodgers, the only difference being, the “L” and “A” were made out of lightning bolts. After immediate public backlash, the team updated the logo to match the powder blue and yellow that the Chargers have become famous for.

As the new Inglewood based stadium isn’t set to be completed until 2019, the Chargers needed a temporary home. The Memorial Coliseum was already spoken for by the Rams, so the Chargers were left with StubHub Stadium, home to the LA Galaxy. The 27,000 seats make the stadium the smallest in the NFL.

On top of that, the Chargers were only able to fill 21,054 seats for their first preseason game on August 13. What made this a big deal is that the night before, the Galaxy outsold the Chargers, filling 25,667 seats.

When the season finally opened, the Chargers played their first game on the road, a game they lost 24-21 to the Broncos. Denver called a timeout just before Los Angeles’ rookie kicker Younghoe Koo drilled a 44-yard field goal in the closing seconds. With a second chance at the block, the Broncos capitalized, and Shelby Harris ensured the Chargers headed home with a loss.

Week two marked the Chargers’ first game in Los Angeles since 1960. This time around, they were able to fill 25,381 seats. However, as most saw coming, it felt as though half the fans were rooting for the visiting Dolphins.

“It was crazy,” Chargers running back Melvin Gordon told ESPN. “There were a lot of Chargers fans and there were also a lot of Miami fans. I think it was around 50-50, but it was nice to see a full house.”

Again, the game came down to a last-second 44-yard field goal. Koo couldn’t capitalize again, and Miami went on to win 19-17. In a misfortunate slip of the finger by one random Chargers employee, fireworks went off, ironically punctuating Los Angeles’ defeat.

The Chargers are in Los Angeles for the long-haul, so this laundry list of misfortunes doesn’t have to define the team. In the present, however, it is almost as though the world itself is rejecting a move that has felt forced from the very beginning.

The Rams had the fortune of a long history with Los Angeles to help residents connect with the team. The Chargers, on the other hand, played in the city for one season in 1960, before moving to San Diego. The lack of any true connection makes the motives for the Chargers’ most recent move more questionable.

Winning usually makes accepting a new team easier, so the Chargers need to find a way to win in close game situations. This team was able to hang with a Broncos defense that allowed the Dallas Cowboys to score just 17 points, so there is potential. Predicting the next development in the phenomena that is the Los Angeles Chargers is impossible, so be prepared for the unexpected.

 

Male Athlete of the Week Colton Mitchell

| Sports | September 14, 2017

A senior at West Ranch High School, Colton Mitchell is starting the season strong as quarterback for the Wildcats’ football team. Last week he threw four touchdowns and rushed for another as West Ranch throttled St. Genevieve 39-12.

“Colton is a tremendous addition to this squad — he has been nothing but hard working,” said Christopher Varner, coach of the West Ranch High School football team. “He is the type of athlete that other players gravitate to, as he leads by example. His goal is to throw himself into a college scholarship and with his potential, along with stellar grades, I have no doubt that things will work out for him in the future.”

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Female Athlete of the Week – Emily Christensen

| Sports | September 14, 2017

A freshman at Saugus High School, Emily Christensen led the tennis team for a win against Alemany 10-8 last week. She swept her opponent 6-3, 6-4, and 6-1.

“Emily is a fantastic young lady that brings a lot of tennis skills to the Saugus team,” said Ken Jeffris, Saugus High School girls’ tennis team coach. “As a freshman, she is a complete player who will only get better as she gains experience. It’s tough for an incoming freshman to come into a program and be thrown into the number one varsity singles slot, but Emily has earned the respect of her teammates and is beginning to emerge as a team leader. She is an asset to the tennis program and we are very fortunate to have her on our team. We look forward to her reaching her full potential as one of the Foothill League’s premier players in the upcoming seasons.”

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Paseo Aquatics Club Launches New Season with Swim Meet Sept. 16

| Sports | September 14, 2017

A nationally sanctioned USA Swim Club completed a successful season, recently recognizing team standouts at an annual banquet. Paseo Aquatics co-owners Jay Wolf and Chris Dahowski presented post-season awards to Male Swimmer of the Year Michael Andrizzi of Castaic. And for the first time in the six-year-old club’s history, there was a two-year winner, as Riley Botton of Saugus took home the Female Swimmer of the Year award once again.

“We had multiple team records broken, new qualifiers to sectionals and other national meets,” said Dahowski, who also serves as the club’s head coach and became ASCA Level 4 Certified this year.

The Paseo Aquatics Club, a USA Sanctioned Swim Club for the four years, will kick off the 2017-18 season by hosting the Black and White Swim Meet on Saturday, Sept. 16 at the Santa Clarita Aquatics Center.

Dahowski, who is also the Black and White Swim Meet Director, said goals for this upcoming season include increasing the number of kids in the beginner and advanced levels, and to be in the top five as a team at the Winter Age Group meet in December.

“Return to the Water” for the club officially began last week, with daily two-hour practices for each of the Paseo Aquatics divisions, ranging from beginners to Junior Olympic-caliber swimmers.

For questions about Paseo Aquatics, call 661-388-5301 and leave a message for the coaches. The following are the 2016-2017 post-season awards handed out at the annual banquet recently at Paseo Club:

Coach Chris Dahowski presenting award to Michael Andrizzi

Male Swimmer of the Year
Michael Andrizzi

 

 

 

 

Female Swimmer of the Year
Riley Botton (repeat winner)

Coach Chris Dahowski presenting award to Riley Botton

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most Valuable Swimmer Awards
Victoria Heiney, Jaden Alajarin, Viktoria Paragas, Bret Bezanilla, Heather Cornell, Nolan Hill, Andy Park, Sarah Gordon, Michael Soares, Rijker Hutson
Most Inspirational Swimmer Awards
Joseph Park, Madeline Hurst, Payton Bartlett, Railee Harbo, Sebastian Garcia, Malena Bloom, Daniel Jo, Sydney Halverson, David Kugler, Ashley Lusk, Josh Lusk, Leo Melaye

Most Improved Swimmer Awards
Leyla Saifi, Alex Perrine, Ella Kim, Ian Ma, Jade O’Connor, Megan Knudson, Cameron Snowden, Ted Kang, Tyler Pruitt, Nicole Whitehead, Jade Gibbs. Kevin Steinfeld

Paseo Aquatics Club Board of Directors
Jay Wolf – General Manager & Co-Owner
Chris Dahowski – Head Coach & Co-Owner
Rebecca Soni – Co-Owner
Mike Leathers – Webmaster and Coach
Charlie Cusumano – Member At Large

Paseo Aquatics Club Coaches
Chris Dahowski – Senior II
Daiki Sato – Silver
Daniel Neswald – Advanced
Alexis Kearns – Bronze
Bailey Van Den Vrijhoef – Beginner I & II
Breanna Hummitzsch – Beginner I & II
Mike Leathers – Senior I
Kim Brown – Nutritionist

 

Sloane Stephens Makes Big Splash in Big Apple

| Sports | September 14, 2017

Say hello to Sloane Stephens.

The 24-year-old American tennis player thrust herself into tennis stardom, taking down (9) Venus Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals, before sweeping (15) Madison Keys in the finals 6-3, 6-0. The victories over her American counterparts gave Stephens her first Grand Slam title ever, and propelled her 66 spots up the WTA leaderboard, where she now resides at 17.

Against Williams, Stephens got off to a fast start. Despite having a lower percentage of first serves in play (71 percent for Williams, 65 percent for Stephens), Stephens capitalized on these serves with 11 points. Not only that, but she was able to counter Williams’ successful services, racking up 10 receiving points on 17 chances for a 59 percent success rate. Williams was unable to overcome these factors, along with 17 unforced errors, and dropped the first set 6-1.

At first glance, it seemed as though Stephens had this game in the bag, but a tennis match can swing from set to set. Williams was more than happy to prove this point. She bested Stephens in points off of both her first and second serves, 10 and six, respectively. Williams took her turn negating Stephens’ serve, winning 14 receiving points on 22 chances, for a 64 percent success rate. In the blink of an eye, Williams won set two 6-0.

When a set ends 7-5, it’s a good sign that both players have a good feel for one another, and any slight slip up could cost someone the match. The composure Stephens showed under these circumstances, and against a legend of the sport in Williams, allowed Stephens to come out on top.

Stephens and Williams tallied nearly identical successful serve rates, neither wanting to give ground in search of a spot in the Grand Slam’s final. However, Stephens was slightly more successful in return points won, taking the edge, 25 to 18, in this category. Where the match was ultimately decided was in the unforced errors.

Williams committed 26 of these mistakes, including three double faults, to Stephens’ 12. Seeing as how Stephens won a total of 48 points to Williams’ 41, the difference in unforced errors was what sealed Williams’ fate.

In the finals against Madison Keys, Stephens again stayed calm and collected in the face of great pressure. In the first set, both players were even in first serve success rate, Keys converted 71 percent, while Stephens hit 70 percent. Stephens, however, took the advantage in receiving points 14-4.

As she did against Williams, Stephens also played a relatively flawless game compared to her competitor. Keys made 17 unforced errors to Stephens’ two, leading to a 6-3 set, one victory for the underdog.

The second set was much of the same story. First service success rates were comparable, Keys with 75 percent and Stephens with 79 percent. The difference, as it seemed to be for most of Stephens’ sets, was in the unforced errors. Keys committed 13 to Stephens’ four, as Stephens ran away with the second set 6-0.

With Serena Williams out of the picture for an undetermined amount of time, the top of the WTA leaderboard is anyone’s to take. Stephens’ victory was no accident, the trend of her opponents committing a vastly higher number of unforced errors compared to hers, shows that Stephens plays fantastic defense, returning shots until the opposition eventually makes a mistake.

The U.S. Open was the last Grand Slam tournament of the year, meaning Stephens won’t have a big stage to prove she’s the real deal until the Australian Open, which begins January 15, 2018. Until then, the media hype machine (e.g., this article) will continue to churn and market Stephens as the potential next great American women’s tennis player.

Time will tell if that is truly the case, but until then, let’s admire the maturity and poise Stephens displayed on her way to the top of the U.S. Open. These are characteristics that all of the greats share, so Stephens is off to a great start in trying to achieve that status.

Female Athlete of the Week – Alondra Solis

| SC Living, Sports | September 7, 2017

College of the Canyons freshman midfielder Alondra Solis scored two goals in the Cougars women’s soccer 4-0 victory over Ventura College during the team’s season opener on Aug. 28. Solis found the back of the net in the 42nd minute to score the first goal of the season for COC, and later capped the scoring with a second goal in the 85th minute. Canyons (3-0) will now head north to take part in the annual Las Positas Tournament Sept. 7-8.

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Male Athlete of the Week – Andrew Brito

| SC Living, Sports | September 7, 2017

College of the Canyons freshman quarterback Andrew Brito started his Cougar football career in impressive fashion by tossing five touchdowns in COC’s 42-30 victory over Antelope Valley College in last week’s season opener. The young signal caller finished the game 16-of-33 for 243 yards, while spreading the ball around to seven different receivers. Brito also rushed for 22 yards in the victory. Canyons will next travel to Orange Coast College at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9.

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Taking in the U.S. Open

| Sports | September 7, 2017

When living in New York, one needs to contend with a lot of obstacles. Public transportation leaves commuters at the mercy of the city. And, when traveling, the sheer number of people can be overwhelming.

Despite the flaws, New York is a treasure trove of sporting events. On Monday, I was fortunate enough to join my girlfriend, Natasha Gaston, and her parents to Arthur Ashe Stadium to take in the U.S. Open.

Getting to the game is where public transportation came in handy. A convenient trip on the 7 train brought us right to the stadium. When attending sporting events in Los Angeles, parking is a major concern, so not having the stress of finding a spot was a huge relief.

Security, as to be expected, was strict, but kind overall. We arrived early enough to avoid the long line of tennis fans forming behind us. This made getting into the gates much quicker. Had we shown up 10 minutes later, the story would not be the same.

Once inside, we enjoyed the New York pastime of fighting through crowds to get where we wanted to go. In this case, we were in search for the overpriced and less-than-perfect quality sporting event food that has come to be the norm in stadiums across the country. Once full, we headed to our seats.

Calling them nosebleeds would be generous for how high we were seated, but the distance from the court didn’t matter; the energy inside the stadium was what we came for. And as soon as (3) Roger Federer stepped on to the court, that energy became incredibly palpable.

The 19-time Grand Slam champion from Switzerland was paired against (33) Philipp Kohlschreiber. The match started evenly, with Federer and Kohlschreiber holding serve en route to a 3-3 game tie in the first set. That’s when Federer began to run away with it. Kohlschreiber would win just one more game as Federer won the first set 6-4.

Federer had an easier time in Set 2, scoring on three aces, as well as returning 45 percent of Kohlschreiber’s serves for points. The set eventually ended 6-2 in Federer’s favor. The last set, however, offered a bit more in the way of excitement that, at times, seemed lacking in this match.

Holding serve again became important, and allowed both players to trade game after game. Federer and Kohlschreiber matched each other in aces four to four, but Federer still had the advantage in return points won with 39 percent to Kohlschreiber’s 11 percent. In the end, however, Kohlschreiber’s 13 unforced errors, and Federer’s 86 percent win percentage on first serves, gave him the expected win.

This match appeared to be the main event, as many spectators began to head for the exits. While some returned with snacks, a vast majority of the seats remained empty as the match between American (16) Madison Keys and Ukrainian (4) Elina Svitolina got underway. Those that left early missed the more interesting match of the night.

It was apparent throughout the first few games that Keys was more warmed up than Svitolina, an advantage that Keys used to take a 3-0 game lead. Svitolina soon got into the swing of things, winning six of the next nine games to force a 6-6 tiebreaker. Keys came out on top of the tiebreaker in dominating fashion, winning seven points to two, taking the first set.

Svitolina was not done, however. She thoroughly won the second set, going to deuce in just the first game, before jumping out to a 5-0 game lead. Keys took game six, but couldn’t muster a comeback in the second set, losing 6-1.

In the final set, both players held serve on way to a 2-2 tie, before Svitolina took the momentum in the next two games. Down 4-2, the crowd came alive, cheering on Keys to make a final push. The American credited the energy in the stadium as a factor that helped her come back.

Keys easily won games seven and eight to tie the third set up 4-4. From there, the momentum was in her favor as she won the last two games just as easily, forcing the 3-2 upset over Svitolina in front of a raucous crowd.

Attending a Grand Slam tournament is unlike anything I’ve experienced. While there were times of rowdiness in the seats, the fans were mainly respectful and stayed silent during match play. During breaks, the giant TVs featured dancing audience members, and one man dubbed “the shirt guy,” whose big energy and many layers of shirts, which he threw into the seats, kept everyone entertained.

All in all, attending the U.S. Open was an amazing experience, one that I would recommend to anyone visiting New York, and one I would do again in a heartbeat. I’m excited to see how the rest of the tournament unfolds, and will definitely break down the outcome in depth after the tournament concludes.

Athlete of the Week – LeRon Huff

| Sports | August 31, 2017

All eyes are on LeRon Huff, a senior at West Ranch High School and a running back on the football team. Last weekend he scored three touchdowns and rushed for 173 yards as the Wildcats defeated Simi Valley 55-7 in the season opener.

“I really worked hard during the off season to try and get better, and I was glad that I was able to have some success,” LeRon said. “The main people that need to be thanked are our linemen, (who) opened up some great holes that I was able to run through. Without their great performance no one would know who I am.”

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