Male Athlete of the Week – Will Chambers

| Sports | March 15, 2018

West Ranch High School baseball team’s first baseman Will Chambers hit a home run off of UCLA-bound pitcher Sean Mullen last week, as the Wildcats took down Stockdale of Bakersfield, Calif. 3-1. The senior, who has committed to UC Santa Barbara, hit a home run in Friday’s surprise win, totaling three for the year. It gave West Ranch a 6-1 overall record heading into their first Foothill League game against Hart this week. In four games for the ‘Cats, Will had 8 hits and 6 RBIs. His current season batting average is now .524, which is tops in the Foothill League.

“Will is a first-to-practice and last-to-leave guy,” said Casey Burrill, coach of the West Ranch High School baseball team. “He is second to none, in terms of nutrition, physical fitness, and mental preparation. He is having success because of all of his hard work.”

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Female Athlete of the Week- Allie Enright

| Sports | March 15, 2018

Though just a freshman, Allie Enright is making her presence known as an outfielder on the Saugus High School girls’ softball team. Last week, the Centurions went 3-3 for two RBIs in the team’s 5-1 win over Shadow Ranch of Las Vegas in the Tournament of Champions in Bullhead City, Ariz. Saugus has since gone 1-1 in their two most recent games, including an 11-0 win over Copper Hills of West Jordan, Utah. The Centurions are currently 6-3.

“Allie has done an amazing job offensively,” said SHS girls’ softball coach Julie Archer. “She has power and has shown great maturity at the plate, even though she is a freshman. Allie also adds speed to our outfield. I look forward to seeing Allie’s success at Saugus these next four years.”

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Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold Represent Southern California in Quarterback Heavy Draft Class

| Sports | March 15, 2018

The 2018 NFL Draft begins on April 26, and two of the top quarterback prospects hail from right here in Southern California. This is, of course, in reference to Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold, the signal callers for UCLA and USC respectively. Both used the 2017 college season to significantly bolster their draft stock, and as a reward, it would be no surprise to hear either name called as the first overall pick.

Despite Darnold and Rosen being the unquestioned starters under center for their respective teams, this last year was the first and only time the two met head to head in college competition. In 2016, Rosen was sidelined after six games with a right shoulder injury, and was unable to face USC.

This year’s installment of the UCLA-USC rivalry perfectly encapsulates what both quarterbacks do well. Rosen was asked to throw more, as the Bruins trailed all game. His accuracy needed improvement, as he went 32-52, but his numbers were fantastic. Rosen had 421 passing yards and three touchdowns to just one interception.

Darnold and the Trojans had the luxury of taking on UCLA’s FBS-worst rush defense. In 2017, UCLA allowed 287.4 rushing yards per game, and an average of 2.7 touchdowns on the ground. USC took full advantage, as running back Ronald Jones put up 122 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while Darnold ran another score in for his only touchdown of the game. As a passer, Darnold did all the Trojans asked of him, going 17-28 for 264 yards, with one interception.

UCLA made the game interesting in the closing minutes, as Rosen found Jordan Lasley on a 27-yard touchdown, the duo’s third end zone connection in this match. Lasley was Rosen’s primary receiving target all season, and lived up to that billing by finishing the USC game with 204 receiving yards.

Any potential comeback the Bruins had brewing was squashed by their inability to stop the run. On 3rd and 1 with less than two minutes remaining, Jones sealed the game with a two-yard scamper. Three kneel-downs later, and the Trojans won the battle for Los Angeles supremacy, 28-23.
One of the Bruins’ main flaws was on full display against USC, as Rosen faced pressure in the pocket all game. The Trojans were able to bring him to the turf four times, while UCLA got to Darnold just once. For the season, Rosen was sacked 26 times, tied for 32nd in the FBS. Taking sacks was not an uncommon occurrence for Darnold either, as he was sacked 29 times in 2017, which was tied for 16th.

Between Darnold and Rosen, it appears that Darnold had the stronger 2017 season. He was fifth in the nation in passing yards at 4,143, whereas, Rosen was 14th with 3,756. Darnold’s completion percentage was a hair better, as well; he completed 63 percent of his passes to Rosen’s 62 percent.

Where Rosen takes the edge is in interceptions thrown. Darnold was tied for top 10 in the NCAA with 13 for the year, while Rosen threw 10, tying him for 25th. It should be noted that Darnold played 14 games to Rosen’s 11, which should not be used to take away from Darnold in any way. In fact, it speaks to Rosen’s susceptibility to injuries, which is one of his major concerns.

As two of the nation’s top prospects, Darnold and Rosen were both invited to the NFL combine, and so far, the buzz is good. Rosen was given a 6.19 ranking on NFL.com, putting him in the category of instant starter. Darnold took it one step further, earning a 7.1 ranking and being touted as a Pro-Bowl caliber quarterback.

Scouts have marveled at Rosen’s footwork and mechanics. Both came in handy when he was with the Bruins. He was able to move around a pocket that allowed constant pressure, and make accurate throws. One note on NFL.com states he “might be the best back shoulder thrower in the game.”

Where Rosen lost points, however, is his tendency to try and make a throw that isn’t there. This has been his Achilles heel for some time now, and often led to interceptions that could’ve easily been avoided.

In Darnold’s combine, NFL teams took note of his incredible arm strength, a staple of his playing style since he took over for USC in 2016. What may have not always been appreciated during Darnold’s college career was his ability to go through his receiving progressions quickly and efficiently, a trait not lost on the combine scouts.

Darnold’s incredibly high turnover rate, which goes hand in hand with his less than stellar throwing mechanics, are something that may give a team pause in drafting him. Darnold will be working with the best coaches in the world when he makes it to the NFL, and will hopefully be able to remedy the slow wind up that tips off defenders to where he will throw.

There are multiple quarterback-needy teams in the top of the NFL draft, including the Cleveland Browns, who draft first and fourth overall. Rosen may have burned this bridge, however, stating back in December that he would “rather be a lower pick at the right team than a higher pick at the wrong one.”

The feeling appears to be mutual, as John Dorsey, Cleveland’s general manager, told NFL draft analyst Tony Pauline that he advised the team to stay away from Rosen with their top two picks. Between Darnold and Rosen, it appears one can assume Darnold has a much higher likelihood of suiting up for Cleveland when all is said and done.

Rosen could easily find himself in New York, where both the Giants and the Jets pick in the top 10, and are in need for a quarterback of the future. With the Giants, Eli Manning appears to be the man at the moment, which would give Rosen time to get accustomed to the NFL, and for the Giants to find an offensive line, saving Rosen from the constant pressure he faced at UCLA.

Both UCLA and USC fans have been treated to fantastic quarterback play with Rosen and Darnold at the helm. With their talent level, it is only a matter of time before they’re both starting under center in the NFL as well, even if neither is the first overall pick. One could only hope for a future rivalry to develop between the two as their NFL careers play out. First things first, however; let’s see where they wind up after the 2018 NFL Draft is all said and done.

Los Angeles Dodgers Begin Cactus League with World Series Expectations

| Sports | March 10, 2018

Feel that? Spring is in the air, and that means it’s just about time for the first pitch of the MLB season. Last year, Los Angeles flirted with its first World Series win since 1988, but ultimately fell short to the Houston Astros. The Dodgers were able to force the series to go to seven games, including a 3-1 victory in game six that saw LA score three runs in the sixth and seventh innings to seal the win. The Astros got the better of the Dodgers in game seven, jumping out to a 5-0 lead after two innings, an advantage Houston would never lose on their way to a 5-1 title-clinching performance.

The loss left fans wondering if Los Angeles would be able to make it to the World Series again this season. In the offseason, the pitching staff took a hit as Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow sailed ship to the Chicago Cubs. The Dodgers acquired Darvish at the trade deadline last season, and were rewarded with four wins and three losses in Darvish’s nine starts, as well as an ERA of 3.44. In relief, Morrow recorded six wins and no losses with a 2.06 ERA.

The only move that really registered on the Richter scale for Los Angeles this offseason, was the trade that brought back Matt Kemp. The team was forced to part ways with Scott Kazmir, Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, and Charlie Culberson to get the deal done. With so many players moving out, and so few new players coming in, the questions must be asked. Is the 2018 rendition of the Los Angeles Dodgers talented enough to make it to the top of the MLB?

Spring training is not to be used as a true test of what the coming season will look like. However, it is the first time the team will take the field in exhibition, and naturally, fans of the team will be curious to see how well the projected starters perform.

Defense helped define 2017 for the Dodgers, as the team allowed the second least number of runs scored in the regular season, at 580. Los Angeles was also strong at fielding the ball, earning a .985 fielding percentage in 5,789 total chances. So far in spring training, the team has been unable to live up to those lofty numbers.

Opposing offenses have scored a total of 77 runs against the Dodgers in the Cactus League. Their fielding percentage has also dropped significantly, where they are now at .965, fourth worst in the league. The team numbers haven’t been all that impressive, but individual players are definitely putting on a show, especially amongst the catchers.

Yasmani Grandal, Will Smith, and Kyle Farmer all have perfect fielding percentages on 35, 33 and 26 total chances, respectively. Grandal, who is the regular season starter at catcher, has notched 33 putouts, putting him in 10th place among all players. His at plate appearance has room for improvement, as he has a batting average of just .158 with three hits. Two of his hits have gone for home runs, so he is making the best of the hits he has had.

Farmer has been the real surprise of the bunch. He is slotted at third in the depth chart, and has taken advantage of the large amount of playing time he’s received in the Cactus League. Aside from the 1.000 fielding percentage, he has seven hits at 11 at bats, for a .636 batting average, and he is putting power behind his bat, registering the team’s second best slugging percentage, at 1.091.

Not to be outdone, key members of the team’s outfield are putting up 1.000 fielding percentages as well. Center fielder Curtis Taylor has had 11 total fielding chances, collecting five putouts and six assists, along with a double play. The presumed starter in left field, Joc Pederson, is displaying why he belongs as first string on day one, with 11 putouts and one assist on 12 total chances.

Kemp, who looks to be Pederson’s backup, has demonstrated strong play throughout the Cactus League. He has five hits at 16 at bats for a .353 batting average. Three of his hits have gone for homers, which is tied for most on the team. It may be hard to sneak into the starting lineup, but Kemp is clearly making a case to be a regular in the rotation.

The regular season starting pitchers have made their way to the mound sparingly this spring, but have had good outings when there. Kenta Maeda has seen the most action, with 4.1 innings pitched, and has earned one win with a 2.08 ERA. Alex Wood has the most wins amongst the starting pitchers, with three, but in doing so, has an ERA of 10.80. He has allowed four hits, four earned runs, and a home run in 3.1 innings pitched.

Of course, that leaves Clayton Kershaw to account for. The fan favorite pitcher has played in only three innings, where he has allowed just one hit and no earned runs. The starters are pitching as strong as ever, but when it comes to the bullpen, the Cactus League has not offered the Dodgers many views of their relievers.

Josh Fields, who had five wins in 57 innings pitched last season, reported to camp behind his throwing schedule due to discomforts. This has stopped him from seeing the field this spring. Tony Cingrani also began training camp behind in his throwing schedule from a stiff shoulder, and he too has yet to throw a pitch in a Cactus League game. Last, but certainly not least, is closer Kenley Jensen, who has yet to pitch as he battles an illness.

The only relievers expected to make the regular season roster that have seen any playing time are Scott Alexander, Pedro Baez, and Koehler. Alexander has played the strongest out of the three, striking out five batters with a 3.00 ERA.

LA began a four-game win streak with a 7-6 win over the Cactus League’s first place team, the Chicago White Sox. Chicago boasts an 8-2 record, with both losses coming at the hands of the Dodgers. Los Angeles first played the White Sox in the first game of the league, blowing out Chicago 13-5.

On Opening Day, which falls on Thursday, March 29, the Dodgers take on their longtime rival, the San Francisco Giants, in a four-game series. The Giants picked up some big names in Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen, and San Francisco staple Pablo Sandoval. The three aren’t making a big impact in the Cactus League, but at the very least, Longoria and McCutchen will be starting day one.

It’s a long, long way to the World Series, almost the furthest point possible. High expectations have been bestowed upon the Dodgers to make it back to the championship round. Whether or not they do so remains to be seen, so just sit back and enjoy whatever the season has in store.

Athletes of the Week

| Sports | March 8, 2018

Sienna Vannoy

College of the Canyons freshman Sienna Vannoy finished 2-for-3 with two doubles, a walk, four RBIs and four runs scored as the Cougars defeated L.A. Valley College 19-1 in five innings on March 1. In her 17 games this season Vannoy is batting .340 with a team-best 10 walks. The Hart High grad also ranks first on the team, with 18 runs to go with her 12 RBIs. Canyons (9-8, 3-0) has now won four of its last five games, and remains undefeated vs. Western State Conference, East Division opponents. This week the Cougars were slated to play West L.A. College at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, March 8.

Kaleb Lowery

The 6-foot-5 forward, Kaleb Lowery, is a sophomore on the boys’ basketball team at Santa Clarita Christian School. Last week he scored 15 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and had a team-high four assists in the Cardinals’ 66-27 trouncing of La Puente in the CIF SS Division 5AAA Championship Game. This is the fourth title for SCCS’ boys’ basketball team. They are now the first seed in the CIF Division 5 State Championship tournament, this week hosting Corcoran High School of Corcoran, Calif.

“Kaleb is one of the best athletes in our valley,” said James Mosley, coach of SCCS’ boys’ basketball team. “He plays with an extremely high level of energy and is the best rebounder on our team, as well as one of our best defenders. Kaleb played a tremendous game in the championship with eight offense rebounds and two very impressive slam dunks. I am so excited to have him in our program – he is a great young man with a lot of character.”

Los Angeles Lakers Look Much Improved in Recent Winning Stretch

| Sports | March 1, 2018

If the Los Angeles Lakers’ losing ways have turned viewers away, it’s time for them to take a second look. The purple and gold have seemed to turn a corner, winning 10 of their last 15 games, most of which were won without second overall pick Lonzo Ball on the court.

Admittedly, the schedule they have faced during this stretch has been far from daunting. However, L.A. has taken down some postseason contending opponents in the Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, and Oklahoma City Thunder, who the Lakers have defeated twice.

There are multiple factors at play in Los Angeles’ recent winning ways. First and foremost is their ability to share the ball. The Lakers are currently sixth overall in the NBA in assists as a team, averaging 23.7 per game. In their 10 most recent wins, the team has averaged 28 assists per game.

The return of Ball, who has been out with a knee injury since January 13, has helped bolster L.A.’s already strong passing game. Ball is averaging 5.5 assists in the two games he has played so far. In those two games, the Lakers are averaging 30 assists.

Second year small forward Brandon Ingram has also been making a splash as of late, and is becoming the offensive center-piece that Los Angeles hoped he would be. For the season, Ingram is averaging 16 points to lead the team. In the nine wins Ingram has played in during this 15-game period, he has averaged 18 points per game. An area in which he can improve, however, is efficiency. His true shooting percentage is 53 percent, which is not terrible, but will need to be better if he is to make the next jump in his development.

Fortunately, Ingram is not tasked with carrying the offense on his own. The Lakers boast one of the best scoring benches in the league, which averages 42 points per game. The second unit was at one time led by Jordan Clarkson, who is now on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Clarkson was fourth on the team in scoring, with 14.5 points per game.

His departure doesn’t spell doom for Los Angeles, as they still have rookie sensation Kyle Kuzma to provide points when the starters need to rest. Kuzma is currently second in scoring on the team with 15 points per game, and has a true shooting percentage of 54 percent. Like Ingram, there is room for growth in efficiency, but Kuzma is far exceeding what everyone expected from the 27th pick in the NBA draft.

Los Angeles was also not left empty handed when losing Clarkson, as the team received Isaiah Thomas in the trade that sent Clarkson to the Cavaliers. The court of public opinion seems to have shifted on Thomas, who was once lauded as a hero for playing in the playoffs for the Celtics despite the death of his sister, along with a hip injury that sidelined him until January 2 against the Trailblazers.

Thomas has been working his way back from said hip injury, and in doing so, has lost some of the scoring efficiency that helped him average 29 points per game last season. With Cleveland, Thomas had a true shooting percentage of 49 percent, a number he has increased to 56 percent since moving to LA. He is also helping to account for the loss of Clarkson by chipping in 13 points per game off the bench.

The improvements the Lakers are making on offense shouldn’t overshadow how pivotal their defense has been, not only in the past 15 games, but for the season as a whole. They are among the NBA’s best defensive teams when it comes to their defensive rating. This stat breaks down how many points a team’s defense allows per 100 possessions. L.A. is currently 11th in the league in defensive rating, allowing 107.7 points per 100 possessions.

One would assume that Los Angeles’ defensive numbers would be better in the stretch of games being discussed, but they are actually slightly worse. Teams are averaging 109 points against the Lakers in the past 15 games. L.A. has been able to hold two of their tougher opponents to low scoring nights, with the Pacers notching 86 points in their loss to L.A., and the Thunder scoring just 81 in their second loss.

The return of Ball should also help bring the Lakers’ defensive numbers back down, as Ball is currently Los Angeles’ leader in defensive rating, allowing 102.7 points per 100 possessions. This leaves him at 17th in the NBA, but it will be interesting to see how Ball’s defensive rating fluctuates now that he is playing again. It could be that missing 15 games has helped keep his defensive rating artificially low, but only time will tell for certain.

The Lakers are a proud organization, but one that is currently in a long transition period. They have yet to smell the playoffs since the 2012-2013 season, a five-year stretch that is unheard of for a team that was at one time a perennial lock to make the postseason. This is the first year that there is a sense of hope in Los Angeles, a jolt of life that comes from adding incredibly talented and young players.

It would take a Herculean effort for L.A. to make the playoffs this season, especially in the ever-powerful Western Conference, but it feels as though the team is just a few good moves away from breaking out of the five-season slump they’re in. It’s only a matter of time before the Lakers rise again, and when they do, expect them to stay at the top for a long time to come.

Female Athlete of the Week – Libbie McMahan

| Sports | March 1, 2018

A sophomore at Saugus High School, Libbie McMahan led the Centurions girls’ basketball team in scoring, with 19 points, as Saugus ultimately fell to Beverly Hills 49-44. Last week’s game took place during the semifinals of the CIF-SS Division 3A girls’ basketball tournament, the first time in 20 years the Centurions made it to the semifinals of CIF. They finish their season with a 22-8 record, just one season after going 13-16.

“Libbie McMahan is an outstanding athlete,” said Jason Conn, coach of the Saugus girls’ basketball team. “She is extremely competitive with an excellent work ethic. Her winning attitude brings out the best in her teammates.”

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Male Athlete of the Week – Jordan Starr

| Sports | February 22, 2018

A senior and captain of Santa Clarita Christian’s boys’ basketball team, Jordan Starr scored 16 points and 11 assists in the Cardinals’ 83-23 win over Rubidoux in the second round of the CIF SS Divison 5AAA boys basketball playoffs. The win brought SCCS to the quarterfinals of the tournament.

“Jordan Starr is a very special player and has performed at a very high level all year long,” said James Mosley, coach of the SCCS boys’ basketball team. “He is one of the leaders of our team and he really makes the players around him play at a higher level. Jordan is a statistical leader in points, rebounds and assists for our team.”

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Female Athlete of the Week – Alexa Trujillo

| Sports | February 22, 2018

A member of Valencia High School’s girls’ soccer team, senior Alexa Trujillo scored two of the team’s three goals, all of which came in the final 10 minutes of the Vikings’ 3-2 comeback win over Flintridge Sacred Heart in the first round of the CIF SS Division 2 girls soccer tournament. Valencia took on Sunny Hills in the second round of the tournament earlier this week.

“Alexa is a versatile  soccer player with a wonderful attitude and happy to play any position the team needs her to,” said Valencia High School girls’ soccer coach Kevin Goralsky.

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Roger Federer Fends off Father Time to Reach Pinnacle of ATP Rankings

| Sports | February 22, 2018

Father Time is said to be undefeated in the sports world. All athletes, no matter how iconic, will eventually succumb to age, especially in professional athletics, where younger talent is added every year.

This is what makes the performances of the likes of Tom Brady, who was named NFL MVP at 40 years old, and LeBron James, who is averaging 26.5 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds at 33 years old in his 14th NBA season, so remarkable.

Roger Federer also falls into that echelon of older superstars still sitting at the top of their sport. The 36 year-old Federer has earned his way back to the number one spot in the ATP rankings, gaining 500 points from defeating Grigor Dimitrov in the championship round of the Rotterdam Open. It is the first time Federer has reach the top of the ATP since October of 2012.

Federer started his season strong, cleaning up the competition at the Australian Open, until running into a tough opponent in Marin Cilic in the tournament’s final round. As to be expected from a game that goes five sets, neither Federer nor Cilic had a huge advantage in any one aspect of the game. However, Federer’s slight advantage in service points won, which he bested Cilic 99-88, may have been what gave him the 6-2, 6-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 Australian Open victory.

Although the 2,000 points Federer received from taking home a Grand Slam title isn’t what pushed him past Rafael Nadal for number one in the ATP, it set a precedent early in the season. Federer is back, and he has some records to chase.

The Australian Open win gives him 20 Grand Slam titles for his career, which already leads all male tennis players. He is still chasing Steffi Graf (22 titles), Serena Williams (23 titles), and Margaret Court (24 titles) for most all-time. Federer also trails both Novak Djokovic and Nadal in Masters 1000 Tournament wins, as the duo has 30 to Federer’s 27.

He will have two chances to chase down the latter record, first at the Indian Wells Masters tournament on March 5 in Indian Wells, Calif. Federer has won the tournament five times, and as recently as last year, defeating Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 7-5 in the 2017 championship round.

Immediately following the Indian Wells Masters, Federer will take part in the Miami Open on March 19, a tournament Federer has won three times, with the most recent win again coming in 2017. In the final round of the tournament last year, Federer took down his long-time rival Nadal 6-3, 6-4.

As for Grand Slam tournaments, there are a few months before play begins at the French Open. The tournament is set to begin May 28 and run through June 4, and all of the conversation up to the beginning of the French Open will be if Federer will play or not. Last season he opted out, citing career longevity. The tournament is played on clay courts, a surface that Federer was trying to avoid.

With the way he is playing, it would appear Federer will take part in the French Open this season. However, if he feels avoiding clay courts is what is allowing him to play at such a high level at 36, then he could opt out again. Speculating is all that can be done until Federer makes his announcement, and the tennis world will be waiting eagerly for his final word on the French Open.

It is truly a special time for professional sports, as age is becoming less and less a factor in an athlete’s performance. Advances in sports medicine and nutrition are key factors in this. However, the legendary work ethic of Brady, James, and Federer are truly what allows these three to outperform all others in their respective sports again and again.

Federer will someday have to retire, as will Brady and James, but until that day comes, let’s all just appreciate their performances. It may be a long time until we see athletes of their caliber again.

Male Athlete of the Week – Luca Robinson

| Sports | February 15, 2018

This senior and member of the William S. Hart High School boys’ basketball team scored 24 points to go with 10 rebounds, as the Indians defeated Saugus High 79-62 last week. Hart won the Foothill League title outright, which allowed the Indians to redeem themselves, having lost to the Centurions 86-74 earlier in the season. Hart played host to Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks this week in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 2AA playoffs.

“Luca was phenomenal vs. Saugus and a kid who plays the game with a lot of passion,” said Hart boys’ basketball coach Tom Kelly. “He’s a pleasure to coach and is a great teammate.”

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Female Athlete of the Week – Selasi Mawugbe

| Sports | February 15, 2018

Now a senior at Canyon High School, Selasi Mawugbe, a forward on the Canyon girls’ basketball team, scored 10 points, and corralled 15 rebounds, including 13 offensive rebounds, last week. The Cowboys defeated Valencia 45-37 and with the win, Canyon claimed the Foothill League title outright, after splitting the crown last season with the Vikings. Canyon will host St. Anthony of Long Beach in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs this week.

“Selasi has been an integral part of our success this year,” said Jessica Haayer, Canyon High School girls’ basketball team coach. “She is one of the most consistent players on our team, always giving 100 percent on both ends of the floor. She has an amazing motor and is so fun to watch.”

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Local Teens Model Sportsmanship

| Sports | February 15, 2018

By Harry Parmenter

If your spirit flags from the endless drumbeat of troubles and tragedies in the news every day, and you just need an uplifting dose of true American fun, spend a night at a local high school basketball game. This is what the country is all about.

I recently attended a clash with particularly important stakes, Hart at Saugus for the Boys’ Foothill League Championship. It was the last game of the season, preceding CIF playoffs for those teams fortunate enough to qualify, but it’s all about pride when the league title is on the line.

A friend whose son plays for one of the teams invited me, and while I felt a bit awkward being there at first, I quickly embraced the intense atmosphere or, should I say, it embraced me. Naturally I entered on the side of my friend’s team, paid eight bucks, grabbed a soon-to-be-much-needed Gatorade, and took a seat in the top row of the bleachers.

The girls’ varsity game between both schools was underway. The Saugus side of the stands was already packed, the Hart side getting there. People stood in the cement aisle behind me and on the edges of the court against the wall as the drama unfolded. The place was hot, raucous and righteous. The partisanship rose with the thermostat, but without a shred of hostility or invective directed at the opposing side or, refreshingly, the officials. There was red, white and blue everywhere, yet not a hint of politics anywhere. The girls’ game went down to the wire with Saugus, led by a young lady knocking down long, three-point shots, edging the visitors. An orderly post-game line of hand slaps between the two teams’ players and coaches concluded the contest.

Immediately thereafter (no TV timeouts or wasted moments), five young men from the Saugus team walked to one end of the court, each with a bouquet of flowers in hand. It was Senior Night and this was their last hurrah. Each boy was introduced and met his family near half court. An announcer recited the player’s name, family members and accomplishments as they were photographed together, flanked by school color arches.

Following warm-ups, the starters were introduced. Each player ran through a line of cheerleaders, exchanged their own patented ritual with a team spirit leader, then shook hands with the opposing coach and the referees. By this time the Hart student body had arrived in full force on their side of the bleachers, turning their backs to the Saugus team as they were introduced. It was just so innocent, so good humored, it made me smile. No animus, just animation. Both sides roared as the players took to the court, the duel cheerleading squads going through their acrobatic exhortations.

The game began and fans cheered every play, every moment, with chants of “Airball!” if the opposition’s shot failed to draw iron. The first half was close, but Hart established dominance on the backboards at both ends of the floor. The eight-minute quarters zoomed by, as did the halftime break. Despite terrific individual skill levels on both sides, Hart moved the ball, executed their plays and, as we used to say, took it to the rack – relentlessly. They gradually pulled away, avenging an earlier loss to Saugus on their own home court.

The game ended with more sportsmanship, handshakes and mutual respect between the players despite the fire in their bellies and the heat and intensity of the gymnasium. There had been no taunting, no showboating, no political correctness. The national anthem was rendered by the Saugus band as the whole crowd stood, hats removed, many hands over hearts. And, by the way, it was a diverse crowd on and off the floor, with little kids playing in the bleachers, families and educators united without a trace of jingoism or exclusion. It was just a basketball game on a Friday night somewhere in America, and it was the real deal.

So remember, the news isn’t always bad. You just have to look in the right places.

Hart Girls’ Soccer Prepares for Postseason Push after Fifth Straight Foothill Title

| Sports | February 15, 2018

Santa Clarita has a thriving sports scene that spans across a variety of athletics. The Foothill League is comprised of the six Hart District schools, each program having the potential to dominate any sport at any time. This is what makes playing in Foothill so grueling.

It’s also what makes the success of Hart’s girls’ soccer team so remarkable. Taylor Moorehead clinched a 2-1 victory against Canyon on February 2, scoring the winning goal in the 55th minute. The win brought the Indians to a perfect 8-0 league record, and more importantly, gave Hart its fifth consecutive Foothill title.

Pinning down what allows the Indians such success in high school sports, where rosters are constantly changing, is a difficult task. Head coach Guilherme Mitrovitch, who has led the program for all five league titles, shares what he believes makes his team so consistent.

“I believe it is a combination of factors,” Mitrovitch said. “The number of quality players within the program, a prepared coaching staff that works together towards the same goals, support from parents and school staff and last, but not least, making sure the student athletes believe in what we are doing.”

Winning is made easier when a team’s defense is clicking. Hart personifies this ideology, playing suffocating defense that is almost impossible to score on. In fact, it wasn’t until their seventh Foothill game against Valencia that the Indians allowed a goal in league play. For the regular season, Hart was scored on just two times in 10 Foothill games.

“First of all, they have to work well together,” Mitrovitch said. “We stress movement, covering, communication, reading the game, and defending as a unit. In addition to that, they have to take pride in shutting out opponents.”

What makes Hart so dangerous is that their stout defense is balanced with an efficient offense. In league play, the team scored 26 total goals, averaging out to just under three goals per game. This includes games of seven and five goals, both against Golden Valley, and a four-goal shutout of West Ranch in the Indians’ second matchup with the Wildcats.

“We like to have an offense that doesn’t operate only one way, which is not always easy to accomplish,” Mitrovitch shared. “Due to the depth of our squad this season, a lot of players end up getting involved in the offense.”

Despite showing few weaknesses throughout the season, Hart’s bid for a perfect Foothill season came just short, as Saugus was able to force a 0-0 draw in their final league game against the Indians.

Hart defeated Saugus 1-0 in the two teams’ first matchup, but Centurions’ goalie Kayla Medof allowed that lone score on eight shot attempts by the Indians, good for a 90 percent save rate. In the second game, Medof stopped all nine shots the Indians placed on goal, helping to preserve the tie, and spoil Hart’s perfect Foothill record.

The season didn’t end exactly how coach Mitrovitch would’ve preferred, but the conclusion of Foothill play isn’t being factored into the team’s preparation for the playoffs.

“We surely wanted to finish 10-0 (in Foothill League), but I don’t think it gives us extra motivation,” Mitrovitch said. “The girls are prepared and looking forward to playoffs just the same.

There is little time to dwell in the past, as the Indians are set to host the Westlake Warriors in the first round of the CIF Southern Section (SS) Division 1 Girls Soccer playoffs. This is the first time the two programs are scheduled to meet, and although the Warriors have an overall record of 6-3-7, it would be unwise to take any postseason opponent lightly. Westlake played Thousand Oaks, the Marmonte League runner-ups, to two ties during the season, showing they can hang with tougher opponents.

If Hart wants to make a deep postseason push akin to last season, which ended with a trip to the CIF SS Division 1 semifinals and a berth in the CIF SS Regional Girls Soccer Championship, it will take more than just perfect preparation. The team will need to deepen their connection, something Mitrovitch believes they are capable of.

“I believe it is going to take a huge amount of team work and consistency to make another run like that,” Mitrovitch said. “However, we showed we can compete with those big schools in last year’s Division 1 playoffs. We want to make sure we represent Foothill League and the SCV well.”

Regardless of where Hart finishes in the postseason, the success they have displayed this season, and in years past, is something that should be celebrated. Mitrovitch acknowledges and takes pride in these accomplishments, but like any championship level coach, is hungry for more. It’s a trait the team takes after as well.

“I’m very proud of what we have accomplished this season so far, and I’m very happy for my seniors,” Mitrovitch said. “But, we are not happy to just be in the playoffs. We want more.”

Male Athlete of the Week – Jacob Lilley

| Sports | February 8, 2018

College of the Canyons sophomore point guard Jacob Lilley scored a game-high 19 points, including 11 in the second half, during COC’s 73-68 comeback victory over West L.A. College last Wednesday at the Cougar Cage. Lilley played all 40 minutes and converted on 12-of-14 foul shots, while adding seven rebounds, two assists and three steals. The Cougars (11-12, 2-2) will next host L.A. Pierce College at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, as the second round of Western State Conference, South Division play gets started.

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Female Athlete of the Week – Taylor Moorehead

| Sports | February 8, 2018

In her senior year on the William S. Hart High School girls’ soccer team, Taylor Moorehead hasn’t let up for a second. Last week she assisted on the Indians’ first goal, and scored the team’s game-clinching goal in the 55th minute, as Hart defeated Canyon 2-1. The win gave Hart their fifth consecutive Foothill League title, and helped the Indians remain undefeated in league play (8-0). Hart’s final regular season games were this week.

“Taylor was one more time an offensive treat for us,” said girls’ soccer coach Guilherme Mitrovitch. “In the game against Canyon she was very productive. She got a goal and assist, but she also controlled possession and the tempo of the game for Hart.”

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Clippers Say Goodbye to Blake Griffin as Franchise Remains in Flux

| Sports | February 8, 2018

To say the Los Angeles Clippers are cleaning house would be an understatement. The franchise has gone through a thorough facelift, leaving the team almost unrecognizable from last year. In fact, only Deandre Jordan, Austin Rivers, and Wesley Johnson remain from the 2016-2017 roster.

Blake Griffin, who was the face of the franchise since being drafted in 2009, was surprisingly jettisoned from Los Angeles to Detroit on January 30th, along with Brice Johnson and Willie Reed. In return, the Clippers received prolific, scoring small forward Tobias Harris and defensive stalwart Avery Bradley. The Pistons also parted ways with fan favorite Boban Marjanovic, as well as a first and second round draft pick.

Although the draft picks are good assets to have in case a trade comes along, the most immediate impact of this trade comes from Harris and Bradley. The two have already entered the starting lineup, which now consists of Jordan, Harris, Bradley, Milos Teodosic, and Danilo Gallinari, who has returned from injury.

Predicting this lineup would have been impossible before the beginning of the season. While this version of the Clippers seems a little strange, the results have, so far, been promising. Los Angeles is 2-1 since the trade, their only loss coming against the Trailblazers, when the Clippers were without Bradley and Harris.

Los Angeles has gone on a two-game winning streak since inserting the two players into the starting lineup. It must be mentioned that the competition level hasn’t been exactly top-tier, as the Clippers have defeated the Chicago Bulls (18-35 overall), and the Dallas Mavericks (17-37 overall) in this two-game span. This isn’t to take away from Bradley’s and Harris’ impact; in fact, the Clippers are putting up slightly better defensive and offensive numbers with both in the lineup.

Bradley made a name for himself in Boston as one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. Although he struggled in Detroit, he appears to be bringing the same level of defensive intensity that he did with the Celtics. In his two games, he has registered a defensive rating of 104.4 points per 100 possessions, good for third on the team.

Harris, who had a 109.3 defensive rating in Detroit, has dialed in on defense since joining Los Angeles, obtaining a defensive rating of 102.5 points per 100 possessions, second only to Jordan. Both his and Bradley’s contributions on the defensive end have not gone unnoticed. The Clippers all season have allowed opposing offenses to post 107 points per game. In Bradley and Harris’ two starts, that number has dropped to 102.

Los Angeles was expecting to get immediate offensive help from Harris, and he has not disappointed on that side of the ball either. He is currently second on the team in points-per-game, with 21.5, hitting 49 percent of his field goals, and 36 percent of the 3-pointers.

Bradley’s offense is taking a little more time to come into its own with the Clippers. He only scored eight points against the Bulls, and 12 against the Mavericks. However, he is scoring efficiently, shooting 53 percent from the field. In Bradley and Harris’ two starts, Los Angeles is scoring 108 points per game, one point higher than the 107 they have been averaging for the season.

The Clippers’ next game is potentially the biggest of the season. They square off with the Detroit Pistons on Friday, the first time Los Angeles will have to play against Blake Griffin since the trade.
At this time, it appears that both teams have benefited, as Detroit has embarked on a four-game win streak since Griffin joined the fold, although he didn’t play in the team’s 125-114 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pistons now sit one game outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Griffin, in his three games, is already Detroit’s leading scorer, providing 20 points per game. He is also their leading assist man with six per game. In the three games with Griffin in the starting lineup, the Pistons are scoring 108 points per game after averaging 103 for the season. The team already played solid defense, allowing opponents to score 102 points per game for the year, and have found a way to improve that number with the addition of Griffin, holding opponents to an average of 100 points per game with him in the starting five.

When the Clippers travel to Detroit, Los Angeles fans may feel like they’re watching a basketball game from a parallel universe. This is how hard it is to fathom Griffin on any team other than the Clippers. It appears consultant Jerry West, who most recently helped construct the current Golden State Warriors, is trying to build an even better version of the Clippers that once boasted Griffin, Chris Paul, and J.J. Redick.

Although Bradley and Harris have made immediate contributions to Los Angeles, it is somewhat disappointing that West’s vision of the Clippers doesn’t include Griffin. It’s an end of an era once dubbed “Lob City,” and although that rendition never made it past the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, they brought the Clippers to relevancy, and created possibly one of the most fun teams in NBA history. This fact will never be lost to the fans of the franchise, no matter how much success the Clippers see in the future.

Super Bowl LII Primer Betting Line: Patriots -4.0

| Sports | February 1, 2018

After 19 hard fought weeks, the Super Bowl is finally here. The New England Patriots started their season slowly, going 2-2 in their first four games. Time and again, the Patriots have been a testament to the age-old adage, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” And finish strongly New England did. In their final 12 games, they went 11-1 to finish with a 13-3 record and top seed in the AFC playoffs.

After easily dispatching of the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Divisional game, the Patriots came up against the juggernaut that is the Jacksonville Jaguars defense. New England struggled to find their rhythm through three quarters, trailing Jacksonville 17-10 entering the final frame. As soon as the Jaguars took their foot off the gas, Tom Brady made them pay, connecting with Danny Amendola for two touchdowns that helped New England eek out a 24-20 win.

Over in the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles were a title contender from the get-go, with second-year quarterback Carson Wentz at the helm. He amassed 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns en route to an 11-2 record. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, Wentz was lost for the season due to a torn ACL suffered in their 43-35 week 13 win over the Los Angeles Rams.

Journeyman quarterback Nick Foles more than picked up the slack, going 2-1 in the final three regular season games, as well as throwing for 352 yards and three touchdowns in the Eagles’ 38-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings’ number two overall pass defense in the NFC Championship game.

The quarterback battle of Brady v. Foles isn’t the most enticing matchup in Super Bowl history, but this game will boil down to which defense can muster the most stops, and get the opposing offense off balance. When it comes to allowing offenses to score, both the Eagles and the Patriots ranked atop the NFL in this category. Philadelphia came in fourth during the regular season at 18.4 points per game, while New England came in fifth at 18.5 points.

So, both teams excel at keeping the score low, but how they go about that is what makes them so different. The Eagles have a fearsome defensive line that excels at putting pressure on the quarterback. Defensive end Brandon Graham led the team in sacks with 9.5, and registered 18 quarterback hits for the season.

Fletcher Cox earned a Pro Bowl berth, which he was unable to cash in on due to making the Super Bowl, by filling any holes in the middle at the defensive tackle position. He was second on the team in sacks with 5.5, and recovered two fumbles, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Philadelphia’s defensive front is so deep, second string defensive end Chris Long led the team in quarterback hits with 20, and was third in sacks with five.

The disturbance the defensive line creates is a catalyst for turnovers, which Philadelphia created a ton of over the season. The team came in fourth in the league with 31 total turnovers, 19 coming on interceptions, and 12 coming on fumbles. Cornerback Patrick Robinson led the team in interceptions with four, while three players weren’t far behind with three. The Eagles have made the most of these turnovers, turning five into touchdowns.

New England’s defense differs from Philadelphia, as the Patriots focus on bending, but not breaking. They will allow an offense to pick up yards, demonstrated by the 366 yards-per-game teams averaged against them during the regular season. However, opposing teams struggle to find the end zone, often having to settle for field goals.

In the AFC Championship, the Jaguars found the end zone early, scoring two quick touchdowns in the second quarter. It was field goals for Jacksonville the rest of the way, which is how they held an advantage in time of possession with 35 minutes to New England’s 24 minutes, but could only put up 20 points.

Expect the Eagles to be able to move the ball early, and probably often, against New England’s defense. The game Foles had was no fluke, and he has an abundance of receivers in Nelson Agholor, Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and Zach Ertz. On the ground, Philadelphia has the running back duo of Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount, giving them virtually zero weaknesses to exploit on offense.

Conversely, the Patriots are led by the nearly undisputed greatest quarterback of all time in Brady, who has one of the best tight ends in Rob Gronkowski to throw to. Brady can also rely on Amendola, who has, time and time again, come through in the clutch. At running back, the Patriots have the speedy Dion Lewis, who averages five yards per rushing attempt and can catch out of the backfield, along with Super Bowl LI hero James White, who was fourth on the team in receptions, with 56, despite playing as a running back.

This has all the makings of a tightly contested game, and with the Patriots’ propensity to come back in the fourth quarter, the game won’t truly be decided until the final horn sounds. Despite not truly being able to tell who will win, a Super Bowl Primer would not be complete without a final score prediction. It will be a nail-biter, but when all is said and done, Brady and the Patriots will walk away with their sixth Super Bowl ring in a 24-23 classic.

Male Athlete of the Week – Lawrence Luna

| Sports | February 1, 2018

This William S. Hart High School sophomore is a striker for Hart’s boys’ soccer team. Lawrence Luna scored the final goal with two minutes remaining in stoppage time to give the Indians a 3-2 win over Saugus last week. The win, at the time, helped preserve Hart’s perfect Foothill League record. They have since defeated Golden Valley and are 7-0-0 in league games. They will go on the road to take on the Valencia Vikings (1-3-2 league record) on Friday, Feb. 2.

“Lawrence Luna is a hard worker and a team player, with discipline on the field and off the field,” said Adonay Jovel, boys’ soccer coach at Hart. “He is very fast, technical and a smart player on and off the ball. He has scored in almost every league game. He has a total of 11 goals, I believe, this year.”

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Female Athlete of the Week – Avery Bowen

| Sports | February 1, 2018

After a successful fall season earning a place on the All Omega League second team, Avery Bowen is currently showing her athleticism as goalie for Santa Clarita Valley International’s (SCVi) girls’ soccer team. She played a pivotal role in the Stallions’ 3-0 win over Trinity Classical Academy, recording six saves in the second half to help shut out the Knights.

“Avery has been on the SCVi Soccer team since her freshman year – the first year of athletics at the school,” said Ben Williams, head coach of the girls’ soccer team at SCVi. “She is one of the team captains and Avery plays on the field and serves as goalie. In our game against Trinity, she had several critical saves throughout the game. She played lights out for our first win of the season.”

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Athletes of the Week

| Sports | January 26, 2018

Taylor Moorehead

This senior at William S. Hart High School is in her final year on the girls’ soccer team. Last week she scored the Indians’ lone goal in the final two minutes of the first half in the school’s 1-0 win over West Ranch High School. Hart remains undefeated in the Foothill League (4-0), and will play at Saugus (1-1-2 in Foothill), before traveling to Canyon (3-1 in Foothill) on February 2.

“Taylor had a brilliant performance vs. West Ranch and she was rewarded with a beautiful goal,” said Hart girls’ soccer coach Guilherme Mitrovitch. “She has been instrumental in Hart’s offense success this season.”

Kaleb Lowery

A sophomore at Santa Clarita Christian School and member of the boys’ basketball team, Kaleb Lowery scored 23 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in the Cardinals’ 93-47 win over Trinity Classical Academy. The win keeps SCCS perfect in the Heritage League, where they currently enjoy a 5-0 record.

“Kaleb is an awesome player with tremendous energy and athleticism,” said SCCS boys’ basketball coach James Mosley. “He has brought a lot of physical toughness and energy to our team. His work ethic is excellent and I am so excited to see his development over the next couple of years.”

Breaking Down UCLA’s Tightly Contested Quarterback Competition

| Sports | January 25, 2018

It’s a new era of UCLA football with the ousting of Jim Mora Jr. after five seasons as the program’s head coach. The Bruins were able to snag one of the hottest head coaching commodities of the offseason in Chip Kelly, who returns to the college ranks after a stint as an NFL coach.

UCLA will also be turning its attention to the quarterback position, as Josh Rosen, one of the best quarterbacks to wear the blue and gold, will be heading to the NFL as a likely first overall pick.

The competition looked to be between Devon Modster, the now sophomore quarterback who backed up Rosen in 2017, and incoming freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Thompson-Robinson gained notoriety for being recruited as a four-star quarterback in his junior year, despite never having started at Bishop Gorman High School.

The Bruins were gifted a good problem, when former Washington Huskies quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels declared he would be coming to UCLA as a graduate transfer, making him immediately available for next season. Carta-Samuels was a one-time four-star recruit, and spent three years at the University of Washington, amassing 310 passing yards and three passing touchdowns in that time.

Kelly now has a treasure-trove of quarterbacks to choose from to start for UCLA next season, and will surely take his time in the decision. It is no secret that Kelly’s offensive system requires a mobile quarterback. In his first season as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013, Kelly had quarterback Nick Foles run a total of 57 times in 10 starts. Foles’ second most rushing attempts for a season was 17 in 2015 with the then St. Louis Rams.

Fortunately for the Bruins, Modster, Carta-Samuels, and Thompson-Robinson all have mobility as a strength. Furthermore, the trio all have the ability to throw accurate passes of varying lengths on the move. With that in mind, here are some ways in which the three differ.

Devon Modster
Given Modster’s familiarity with UCLA’s offensive personnel, it could be assumed he has a stronger grasp on the starting spot. His chemistry with his receivers was on display in Modster’s first start of the season against Kansas State in the 2017 Cactus Bowl.

Jordan Lasley and Theo Howard were the beneficiaries of Modster’s strong first half in this game. Lasley scored the Bruins’ first touchdown, after Modster hit Lasley on a screen in perfect position for the receiver to take the ball 52 yards to the house. Just three minutes later, Modster threw a beautiful, deep pass to a streaking Howard for a 70-yard touchdown that gave the Bruins a 17-7 halftime lead.

Modster displayed accurate ball placement on all three passing levels. For the game, he went 21-34 with 295 passing yards and the two aforementioned touchdowns. Furthermore, he showed strong pocket presence, going through his receiving options before taking off to run. In fact, Modster only carried the ball two times for 19 yards.

The second half is where the game unraveled for UCLA. Kansas State switched from man coverage to a zone defense, allowing Modster to complete shorter throws, causing the Bruins to find themselves faced with third down fairly often. In the second half, they punted twice, turned the ball over on downs twice, and lost a fumble.

It should come as no surprise to learn that 215 of Modster’s 295 yards came in the first half, while eight of his 13 incompletions came in the second half. UCLA’s defense did put Modster in a must pass situation throughout all of the final two quarters, as Kansas State scored on every second-half possession.

The game did expose Modster’s most glaring weakness. He doesn’t yet have the ability to put the team on his shoulders and lead a comeback win. If that’s the biggest knock on a one-time backup quarterback, however, then the Bruins would be in good hands with Modster as their starter.

K.J. Carta-Samuels
Carta-Samuels is the biggest unknown of UCLA’s quarterback room. He recorded just one start during his time with Washington, a 31-14 loss to Stanford in 2015, in which Carta-Samuels went 9-21 for 118, while scoring on a rushing touchdown.

In three years at Washington, Carta-Samuels logged just 15 rushing attempts, but showed he had the ability to run with the ball in high school. At 6 feet 2 inches and 221 pounds, Carta-Samuels uses his physicality, rather than speed, as a runner. He is hard to bring down on the first tackle, especially if he breaks past the front seven and gets into the secondary.

Like Modster, Carta-Samuels has strong pocket presence, with running coming as a last resort if all passing options are unavailable. His accuracy as a passer depends on the distance. On short and intermediate throws, he is usually on the money, putting the ball in the best place for his receivers to make a play after the catch.

Deep balls, on the other hand, appear to be Carta-Samuels’ weakness. He definitely has the arm strength to push the ball downfield, but doesn’t have the greatest accuracy on these passes, showing a tendency to both over and under throw his targets.

That being said, most of Carta-Samuels’ tape is from the high school level. It is more than fair to assume that three years at Washington helped fine-tune his passing accuracy, especially on deep balls. This will be revealed more when spring practices begin, and Carta-Samuels has a chance to throw with UCLA’s offense.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson
Of the three quarterbacks, Thompson-Robinson has the most potential. His raw talent is undeniable. His first start at Bishop Gorman didn’t come until his senior season, after already having committed to UCLA. Thompson-Robinson’s one year at the helm of the Gaels didn’t disappoint either. For the season, he went 176-256 for 3,275 yards, 38 touchdowns and three interceptions on a 69 percent completion rate.

The year culminated in the Las Vegas State Championship, where Thompson-Robinson displayed his athleticism in a 48-7 win over Reed High School. For the game, Thompson-Robinson went 17-25 for 260 yards and two passing touchdowns. He also ran for 57 yards and scored a rushing touchdown, and had a 10-yard touchdown reception.

Despite possibly being the Bruins’ biggest play-making threat at quarterback, Thompson-Robinson is also the least polished passer of the three. He has the ability to play from the pocket, but his footwork while dropping back to pass is sloppy at times. He can hang in the pocket and pass with accuracy on short, intermediate, and deep passes, but has the propensity to run as soon as he feels pressure.

Forcing Thompson-Robinson to run is also dangerous for defenses, as he has incredible speed and an arsenal of moves to make tacklers miss. In 2017 at Bishop Gorman, Thompson-Robinson ran for 426 yards on 4.8 yards per carry, with seven rushing touchdowns.

A lot of Thompson-Robinson’s passing plays in high school came from shotgun or in motion, which fits well with Kelly’s spread offense. A few things keep Thompson-Robinson from being the favorite to start for UCLA next season, including his pocket presence and footwork, and acclimation to the college game, which Modster and Carta-Samuels already possess.

It is way too early to tell who will come out of camp as UCLA’s starter, but never too early to predict. Modster will more than likely start 2018 as starting quarterback, with Carta-Samuels as backup, and Thompson-Robinson as third string. Depending on Modster’s performance and Thompson-Robinson’s rate of progression, however, don’t be surprised to see Thompson-Robinson under center at some point in the year.

Coastal Championships Hosted by Paseo Aquatics Due to Santa Barbara Flooding

| Sports | January 25, 2018

Just a few days after the flooding in Santa Barbara County, the Coastal Swimming Championships had to change sites, when the 101 freeway closed, making it impossible to compete in the area. The Paseo Aquatics Club was originally scheduled to host one day of the Coastal Swimming Championships, but the club’s coaches, parents and other volunteers stepped up and were able to host the entire two-day event.

In addition to saving the day in terms of picking up the responsibility to hold both days of the competition, Paseo Aquatics finished in third place in the Gold Group and captured first place in the Silver and Bronze Groups.

“The Southern California Swimming Coastal Committee saw firsthand the incredible job Paseo Aquatics did at hosting this Championship meet,” said Paseo Aquatics Head Coach Chris Dahowski. “We expect more to come! Our entire coaching staff is simply amazing. They did such a great job at Coastal Championships – words cannot express how I feel about them.”

Highlights of Coastal Championships included:

In the 7-10 age group, Viktoria Paragas swimming admirably in all her races, including her first-ever 200 IM in competition.

The 11-12 Boys & Girls relay team headlined by Luke Bezanilla, Daniel Jo, Nolan Hill, Adam Meldrum. Teia Salvino, Sydney Zancanaro, Anika Sta. Maria, and Ariel Kellum.
Also in the 12s, Zancanaro swam 13 events over the course of weekend. She was the highest point scorer in her age group over the weekend.

In the 13-14 age group, Bryant Lee was Paseo’s weekend warrior. “He was one of the few swimmers who was asked to do everything,” Paseo Coach Daiki Sato said of Lee, who swam in the 200 Fly, 200 Back and 200 Breast, to name a few.

In the 15 & Over category, Paseo welcomes Orion Vayanas who has recently joined the Paseo family. He notably broke the Paseo Open 100 IM record with a time of 57.07, previously held by Daniel Jo.

Swimmers Rijker Hutson, Leo Melaye, Joseph Park, Alyssa Hamilton, Ted Kang, Ryan Tanis and Nicole Whitehead were cited for taking the 10&U Paseo swimmers under their wing during the meet.

Dahowski said that in a few short weeks the Southern California Swimming All-Star Festival will take place for the ages 11-12 & 13-14. Paseo Aquatics placed five athletes on this team.

“I am super proud of the quality and character of athletes we are developing,” Dahowski said. “It›s obvious that our staff and culture is working. It will just take time for the word to spread.”

If you would like to learn more about Paseo Aquatics, email Steve Pratt at stevep@bzapr.com, or call 310-408-4555.

Male Athlete of the Week – Dillon Vega

| Sports | January 18, 2018

Now in his senior year at William S. Hart High School, Dillon Vega is a center back for the varsity boys’ soccer team. He scored the Indians’ second goal in the 38th minute of their 2-1 upset victory over the Valencia Vikings, last year’s Foothill League Champions. Hart has a game against West Ranch on Friday.

“Dillon scored against Valencia, and assisted in a win against Canyon in Tuesday’s game. He has played varsity for two years and has a 4.0-plus GPA,” said Adonay Jovel, coach of the Hart High School soccer team. “We are 3-0 in league and we play West Ranch Friday to stay in first place in the league. Dillon is a very hard-working kid, a great leader, and an excellent student athlete. He is very dangerous in the air, fast, and strong, physically.”

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