Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | December 12, 2013

Bowl games abound for Los Angeles football teams. UCLA is in the Sun Bowl. USC is in the Las Vegas Bowl. Hart is even in a high school bowl game, the CIF South Division II bowl.

While USC and UCLA are capping their seasons with lackluster invitations to minor bowl games, the Hart football team has a chance to make football history in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Only one other team has played in a CIF state bowl game. Canyon beat mighty Concord De La Salle in a CIF bowl game in 2006. Harry Welch coached that team to football glory, then promptly skipped town for greener pastures in Orange County.

Hart has a chance to take the legacy of football in the Santa Clarita Valley to a new level. Now there are two rounds of CIF bowl games. Hart will play for Southern California dominance before having a chance to take a crack at a team from Northern California.

First things first, though. Hart has to get past Chaminade in the South Division II bowl game.

Before breaking down the game between Hart and Chaminade, let’s take a look at the bowl games for USC and UCLA.

USC plays Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 21. When USC plays Fresno State, it brings up memories of the 1992 Freedom Bowl. Trent Dilfer led the Bulldogs to an upset win over USC in the Freedom Bowl. The Las Vegas Bowl could have similar results.

Fresno State comes into the game as the Mountain West Conference champion, ranked 20th.

The Bulldogs have Derek Carr at quarterback. He only led the nation in passing with 4,866 yards and 48 touchdowns. The Bulldogs are averaging 45.3 points per game.

USC’s last game was a 35-14 loss to UCLA. It cost Ed Orgeron his job as coach of the Trojans. Defensive coordinator Clay Helton will be the USC coach for the Las Vegas Bowl, making him the third coach for the Trojans this season.

The USC players liked playing for Orgeron. Apparently, they just didn’t like playing for him in big games. USC lost only two games under Orgeron, butthey were against the only two teams, UCLA and Notre Dame, that matter for USC fans.

A loss to Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl would be a painful end to a tumultuous season for USC.

UCLA at least has a very good chance of winning its bowl game. The Bruins are playing Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl in Texas on Dec. 31.

UCLA has won four of its past five games. Virginia Tech has lost three of its past five games.

Virginia Tech has trouble scoring points. The Hokies scored a season-high 45 points against Western Carolina in the second week of the season. In four of Virginia Tech’s wins, the Hokies scored less than 20 points. Their biggest win was over Miami, ranked No. 11 in the nation. Their worst loss was against Maryland, 27-24 in overtime.

But one has to wonder if the Sun Bowl is what UCLA fans and players expected. Two glaring losses to Stanford and Oregon brought UCLA fans down to earth.

But losing to Arizona State two weeks ago knocked the Bruins out of the Pac 12 championship game and a chance to play for a Rose Bowl bid.

Still, the Bruins enter the game as the No. 17 team in the nation and can end the season on a winning note.

That leaves the Hart football team. Here’s the skinny on the game between Hart and Chaminade in the South Division II bowl game.

Hart and Chaminade are meeting for the second time this season. Hart beat Chaminade, 55-54 in overtime, in the second week of the season.

Hart earned a spot in the bowl game by winning the CIF Southern Section Northern Division championship over Valencia.

Chaminade is playing in the bowl game after winning the Western Division championship over Serra of Gardena.

Hart and Chaminade were evenly matched in the first meeting. Hart quarterback Brady White needed a record-breaking night to lead the Indians over Chaminade. He tied a school record with seven touchdown passes in the game and threw for nearly 500 yards.

Hart won’t need another record performance out of White to win the game, not with the way running back Connor Wingenroth has been playing. He broke the school record for rushing yards in a game in the first round of playoffs.

He is coming off a 183-yard rushing performance against Valencia in the Northern Division championship game.

But to beat Chaminade again, Hart is going to need strong efforts from both White and Wingenroth.

The winner of the South Division II bowl game will play the winner of the North Division II bowl game between Manteca and Enterprise of Redding.

The CIF State Division II bowl game will be at the StubHub Center in Carson on Dec. 21.

Track – Cross Country
One final note: Samantha Ortega from Saugus is making a little history of her own in cross country.

She was fourth in the Foot Locker West Regional Championships meet at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut and will compete in the Foot Locker National meet this weekend.

Ortega is the fifth runner from the Santa Clarita Valley and the first from Saugus High to reach the Foot Locker Nationals, which is being held in San Diego this year.

She completed the course at Mt. SAC in 19 minutes, 2.4 seconds.

Ortega, a junior at Saugus High, raced in the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore. last year and finished in 61st place.

Tim Haddock is the sports director for KHTS AM 1220. He writes for the SCV Beacon, the Ventura County Star, the Team USA website and covers auto racing for the K&N website. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | November 29, 2013

By Tim Haddock
It would be nice if there was more at stake than bragging rights for this weekend’s USC-UCLA football game.
But, aside from owning L.A., it looks like an invitation to the Sun Bowl is the only other thing up for grabs. Neither team has a chance to play in the Rose Bowl or any other BCS game, for that matter.
UCLA blew its chance when it lost to Arizona State on Saturday. USC blew its chance when it lost to Washington State in Week 2.
Still, both teams are ranked in the BCS. Both teams are bowl eligible. Both teams are, at best, No. 4 and No. 5 in the Pac-12.
But, there is still plenty of drama surrounding the game. The biggest storyline is whether Ed Orgeron can move from interim head coach to permanent head coach at USC. Orgeron took over the team when USC fired Lane Kiffin after an embarrassing loss to Arizona State. That loss was ultimately the last nail in the Kiffin Coffin.
Orgeron was selected as the interim head coach and the Trojans have gone 6-1 since the Arizona State game. USC has won five games in a row and went from 0-2 to 6-2 in the Pac 12.
The Trojans are certainly on a roll and the players are showing USC athletic director Pat Haden and their loyal fans that Orgeron is the right man for the coaching job moving forward.
On the other end of town, the UCLA Bruins are scrambling to find the winning magic it had at the start of the season.
The Bruins opened strong, winning their first five games. But they have cooled off considerably in their last six games. They are 3-3 with losses to Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State. Granted, all of UCLA’s losses are against ranked teams in their own conference, but that’s the difference between playing for a spot in the Rose Bowl and a spot in the Sun Bowl.
Not only has UCLA had trouble with ranked teams in their own conference, they will enter the game against USC with three freshmen starting on their offensive line. Injuries have thinned the O-line for UCLA.
That, mixed with a devastating defensive line for USC, spells trouble for the Bruins.
USC has the edge and the momentum in this one. That will most likely mean a trip to the Vegas Bowl for UCLA.
With all the talk around if Orgeron will be the next coach at USC, when is it time to wonder if Jim Mora Jr. is the right man for the UCLA job? UCLA has been ranked in the top 25 all year and even cracked the top 10 before losing to Stanford.
But after a hot start, UCLA showed it wasn’t able to play with the big boys of the Pac 12, Oregon, Stanford and most recently Arizona State.
If UCLA loses to USC, will it mark the beginning of the end for Mora? UCLA beat USC, 38-28, last year. Orgeron said in his Sunday night news conference that loss left a “terrible taste in our mouth.”
“I know our guys do remember that awful feeling that we had, but give them (UCLA) credit, they played better than we did,” Orgeron said. “There’s no excuse. We have to play our best game in all phases, and be ready to play.”
Orgeron gave much of the credit to UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley. Orgeron is preparing his players to avoid a repeat of Hundley’s performance in last year’s game.
“He’s a very, very good football player,” Orgeron said. “He’s a big, strong quarterback who can throw the ball. He operates well within the scheme. I think he’s the biggest threat running the ball and making plays when there’s nothing there — he’s very hard to tackle.”
It should be a good football game. Too bad the result won’t matter much in the BCS big picture.

On a local level, there is plenty of high school playoff football to spread around this Thanksgiving weekend.
Three teams from the Foothill League are in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Northern Division playoffs.
Valencia is the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and the champion of the Foothill League. They needed a little comeback magic in the quarterfinals, but slipped past Arroyo Grande, 28-23, to make it to the semifinals.
Hart knocked out Palos Verdes, the No. 1 seed in the Northern Division playoffs.
The Indians have been riding the well-rested legs of Connor Wingenroth in the past two games. He broke the school record for rushing yards in a game with 285 against Paso Robles in the first round. He nearly broke the record again, rushing for 284 yards against Palos Verdes in the quarters.
The Saugus football team might be playing the most impressive football of all the teams in the Foothill League. The Centurions are in the semifinals after a 13-0 shutout over Mira Costa in the quarterfinals.
Saugus entered the playoffs as an at-large team. They were the fourth-place team from the Foothill League and needed to beat West Ranch in the regular season finale to apply for a spot in the playoffs.
The Centurions took advantage of the opportunity, eliminating third-seeded Atascadero in the first round.
The Saugus defense held Mira Costa scoreless, forced four fumbles and recorded two sacks in the quarterfinals.
Saugus will play Valencia at Canyon High in one semifinal. Saugus hasn’t won a game against Valencia in five years. The last time the two teams met, in October, Valencia won, 38-24.
Hart will play West Torrance at College of the Canyons in the other semifinal. It’s up to the Indians to ensure the Northern Division championship game is an all Foothill League affair.
Tim Haddock is the sports director at KHTS AM 1220. He writes for the SCV Beacon, the Ventura County Star, the Team USA website and covers auto racing for the K&N website. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | October 31, 2013

The Dodgers bowed out of the playoffs a bit prematurely, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in six games in the National League Championship Series. As soon as the Dodgers’ season ended, manager Don Mattingly was fighting to keep his job.
Mattingly took much of the blame for the Dodgers’ disappointing end to the season. He was second-guessed for in-game managing decisions, pinch running Dee Gordon for Adrian Gonzalez, starting Clayton Kershaw on short rest, sticking with Hanley Ramirez and his broken ribs.
Mattingly will be back for another season. He and the Dodgers agreed to extend his contract for one more year. It also looks like the Dodgers are going to make an effort to get younger and healthier in 2014.
One move that looks like it will transpire is the emergence of Alexander Guerrero at second base. The Cuban infielder signed a reported four-year, $28 million deal with the Dodgers. That almost guarantees the Dodgers won’t ask Mark Ellis to return.
It’s the right move to make, despite the stellar season Ellis turned in. Guerrero was an all star in Cuba’s top league in 2010 and 2011. He can play second base and shortstop. Plus he is younger and stronger than anyone else on the Dodgers roster who can play second base.
So long, Ellis.
Another position that will see some turnover for the Dodgers is third base. Juan Uribe is a free agent. He played third base that was Gold Glove worthy. He had arguably the biggest hit for the Dodgers in the playoffs, a two-run, game-winning home run against the Atlanta Braves in Game 4 of the National League Division Series.
With the season Uribe had, he will seek a multi-year contract. The Dodgers don’t need an aging third baseman with a multi-year contract. They need a player to hold down the fort at third base until 19-year-old Corey Seager is ready take over.
So long, Uribe.
From the looks of things, Andre Ethier might be on his way out too. He filled in admirably in centerfield when Matt Kemp had to sit out with injuries. Ethier gutted out playing with an injured ankle in the playoffs. His grit and willingness to move positions increased his trade value. With that, coupled with Carl Crawford and Kemp’s injury history, Ethier has the most trade value on the Dodgers.
According to reports, there are teams interested in Ethier. Don’t be surprised if the Yankees, Rangers or Mariners make an offer for Ethier.
So, until spring training, so long, Dodgers.

Foothill Football
The Foothill League football picture is starting to come into focus.
Hart is the top dog, undefeated at 8-0 overall, 3-0 in league. The Indians are ranked No. 1 in the CIF Southern Section Northern Division, a spot they have held since the season started.
They have outscored their Foothill League opponents, 137-40. But their toughest two tests are coming up.
Hart plays Valencia on Friday night. The Indians end the Foothill League season against Canyon, the No. 5 ranked team in the Southern Section Northern Division.
The Vikings are the only other team with an undefeated Foothill League record. They are 3-0 and are coming off a surprising, 35-28, come-from-behind victory over Canyon last week.
Valencia has won the past four Foothill League championships. They are ranked No. 4 in the Southern Section Northern Division and might be the only team to challenge Hart in the Foothill League.
Canyon has played two rough games in a row. The Cowboys blew a 22-point, second-half lead against the Vikings on Friday night. They barely beat Saugus, 23-20, in the previous week.
They have West Ranch on deck. The Wildcats are coming off their first win of the season, a 31-0 shutout against a depleted Golden Valley team.
But a win’s a win. Now that West Ranch has its first win out of the way, they will be looking to jump back into the playoff picture with another win over Canyon.
West Ranch earned some respect early in the season when the Wildcats were in the top 10 in the Northern Division poll. The Wildcats fell out when the Foothill League season started.
While Hart and Valencia are battling for first place in the Foothill League, the game at the bottom of the standings will be equally as interesting.
Saugus plays Golden Valley on Friday night. Both teams have yet to win a game in league this year. Saugus has at least been competitive, save for last week’s 38-3 loss to Hart.
Golden Valley has never won a Foothill League game in its school history. Friday night should be no different. The Grizzlies had a chance with a healthy Terry Tamura, who once led the Foothill League in rushing.
But he is out with a broken collar bone. It would take a miracle for Golden Valley to pull off an upset.

Girls Tennis
The Hart girls tennis team completed an undefeated Foothill League season with an 18-0 shutout over Canyon.
The Hart girls are ranked No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 poll and have a perfect 17-0 record this season.

Girls Golf
The Golden Valley girls golf team won the Foothill League championship, its first in school history. The Golden Valley girls won the final Foothill League match of the season with a team score of 226 at the TPC Valencia.
Elisa Pierre from Golden Valley won the final league match on the second playoff hole against West Ranch’s Ashley Mayhall. Both girls shot 39s to set up the playoff. Pierre birdied the second playoff hole, while Mayhall made a bogey.
Golden Valley and West Ranch qualified for the CIF Southern Section girls golf team playoffs.
Hart’s Katie Corr, Valencia’s Eunice Song, West Ranch’s Kate Caffrey, Golden Valley’s Justine Reblando and Hart’s Lauren Yi, along with Pierre and Mayhall, qualified for the Southern Section girls golf individual playoffs.

Nascar’s Local Connection
Canyon High graduate Greg Pursley won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield on Saturday night. It was his series-leading fifth win of the season.
Pursley is in second place in the K&N Pro Series West standings with one race to go, the season finale at Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 9.
He won the West Series championship in 2011. But he trails Derek Thorn by 16 points in the K&N Pro Series West standings.
Tim Haddock is the sports director at KHTS AM 1220. He writes for the SCV Beacon, the Ventura County Star, the Team USA website and covers auto racing for the K&N website. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | October 17, 2013

If the Dodgers come back and win the National League Championship Series over the St. Louis Cardinals, they can thank Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Make no mistake. These Dodgers are broken. Hanley Ramirez is playing with fractured ribs. Andre Ethier is playing with a bum ankle. Matt Kemp is not playing at all.

The only thing the Dodgers aren’t breaking is their fans’ hearts.

Ryu breathed life into a listless Dodgers team when it needed it most.

He found a way to win Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. Ryu pitched the best game of his rookie season with the Dodgers, seven shutout innings, and led his team to a 3-0 win.

It was reminiscent of another rookie left-hander from the Dodgers’ past. No, not Sandy Koufax. Fernando Valenzuela.

Back in the 1981 World Series, the Dodgers were down, 2-0, to the New York Yankees. Valenzuela was the Dodgers starter for Game 3, back in Los Angeles after the first two games were played in Yankee Stadium.

Valenzuela didn’t quite have the dominating performance that Ryu delivered against the Cardinals last Monday night. But Valenzuela gave the Dodgers a much-needed win over the Yankees.

Valenzuela pitched a complete game, even though he gave up four runs on nine hits. The Dodgers gave Valenzuela a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but he coughed it up when the Yankees scored two runs in the second inning and two more in the third inning.

Pedro Guerrero tied the score, 4-4, with an RBI double in the fifth. The Dodgers took the lead for good when Ron Cey scored on a double play later in the inning.
The Dodgers went on to win the next three games and the World Series.

The 2013 Dodgers found themselves in a similar predicament in the National League Championship Series.

The Cardinals took the first two games of the series at home. The Dodgers desperately needed to win Game 3 to climb back in the series.

The Dodgers head to St. Louis needing to win two more games to advance to the World Series. For a team that went 42-8 at one point this season, winning two games on the road shouldn’t be that tall of an order.

A little-known rookie left-hander saved the day for the Dodgers in 1981. History repeated itself in 2013.

Now the Dodgers need to make history of the Cardinals.

In case you didn’t notice, the NHL season started a couple weeks ago.

After the first six games of the season, the Kings are 4-2. They are in a four-way tie for second place with the Ducks, Flames and Coyotes in the Western Conference Pacific Division.

One impressive note for the Kings, they are 3-1 on the road.

One depressing note for the Kings, goaltender Jonathan Quick has a 2.64 goals against average in his first five games.

One more impressive note, back-up goalie Ben Scrivens shut out the Florida Panthers in his first start of the season.

One more depressing note for the Kings, neither Anze Kopitar nor Mike Richards have scored a goal in the first six games.

Hart, Valencia and Canyon won their Foothill League openers in not-so-impressive fashion. Saugus, West Ranch and Golden Valley showed there will be no easy games in the Foothill League.

Hart never trailed in a 38-24 win over West Ranch. Hart is the No. 1 team in the CIF Southern Section Northern Division and ran its record to a perfect 6-0. West Ranch was No. 10 in the Northern Division.

But Hart coach Mike Herrington did not seem pleased with his team’s performance, even though the Indians won by two touchdowns.

They were up 31 points in the third quarter and let West Ranch back in the game.

The Wildcats scored 17 points in the second half, but Hart held on and put away a pesky West Ranch squad.

Valencia had trouble putting away Saugus in their Foothill League opener. Valencia won the game, 38-24, but the Centurions trailed by only three points in the third quarter.

The Vikings turned a 19-16 lead into a 22-point advantage in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Jake Wallace threw a touchdown pass to Jay Jay Wilson. Wallace scored on a quarterback keeper as the Vikings pulled away late in the game.

Golden Valley put up a fight, but it didn’t last long against Canyon. The Grizzlies were up 7-6 in the first quarter. Then Canyon rattled off 42 points to squash any hopes of a Golden Valley upset.

The Foothill League teams aren’t the only football teams in the Santa Clarita Valley making noise.

The Trinity Classical Academy football team is ranked No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 Eight-man football poll.

The Knights are coming off a 48-0 shutout over Desert Christian, the No. 5 team in the Southern Section Division 1 eight-man football poll.

The College of the Canyons football team is ranked No. 11 in the state.

The Cougars have won five games in a row, most recently, 37-14, over Antelope Valley College on Saturday.

Canyon High graduate Greg Pursley won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at NAPA Speedway in Albuquerque, N.M. He leads the West Series with four wins this season.

He has also won races at Phoenix International Raceway in Arizona and at Spokane County Raceway in Washington. He was the highest-finishing driver at the K&N Pro Series race at Iowa Speedway, a race that pitted the teams from the East and West series.

In the most recent K&N Pro Series West race, Pursley was fifth at All America Speedway in Roseville, Calif.

He is third in the K&N Pro Series standings with two races left to go. The next race is at Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield on Oct. 26.

Tim Haddock is the sports director at AM 1220 KHTS. He writes for the SCV Beacon, the Ventura County Star, the Team USA website and covers auto racing for the K&N website. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Food for Thought….NFL!

| Gazette, Sports | October 11, 2013

By Hans Blanchard (aka Mr. Football)
As we finish week five of the NFL season, some teams have yet to establish an identity, while others are reaching their serenity. There are currently three undefeated teams remaining (Broncos, Chiefs, and Saints), while there are four winless teams remaining (Buccaneers, Giants, Jaguars, and Steelers).

Whether it’s Denver or New Orleans’ high-octane offenses or the Chiefs’ sound fundamentals, the three teams left without losses have strong team identities. The four teams remaining without wins have many questions regarding their personnel. From putting faith in a rookie quarterback amid turmoil or dealing with injuries, each winless team has been dealt significant blows to their chances of succeeding this season.

As the young season progresses, here are some questions to think about, coming into Week six:

Can the Chiefs challenge the Broncos in the AFC West?
YES. The Chiefs play their first divisional game of the year this week. To end the season, the Chiefs play five of their final seven games against divisional opponents, including two games against both the Chargers and the Broncos. If the Chiefs can steal one out of those two games against the Broncos, it puts the Chiefs head-to head with Broncos, assuming the Chiefs get by the Raiders, Texans, Browns, and Bills in the next four weeks.

Will someone in the NFC East step up?
At records of 2-3, both the Cowboys and the Eagles share the NFC East lead, while the Redskins went into their bye week at 1-3, and the New York Giants are two games behind, at 0-5. Interesting – the team currently in last place is only two games behind the lead, while also not having a single win. During week five, the Redskins were on a bye, the Eagles beat the Giants 36-21, and the Cowboys lost on a game winning field goal by the Broncos 51-48. For some teams within this division, they are right where they want to be, within reach of control of the division. This division has been one of the most competitive in the past few years, being won in the last few weeks multiple times. Dallas took a big step by keeping pace with the Broncos and almost winning, but Washington, coming off a bye week, may benefit Robert Griffin III. Philadelphia, coming off a much needed win, and one they can build some momentum from, are much in the hunt as well. The Giants shouldn’t be counted out either.

Does Cleveland really have a chance to be top in AFC North?
It’s possible. We all saw the momentum the Browns started to build the previous two weeks with Brian Hoyer at the helm replacing Weeden. After Hoyer’s season-ending injury, Weeden returns and helps guide the Browns beat the Bills and keep pace in a three-way tie for first in the AFC North. Good news is that the Browns have only one game left vs. both the Ravens and Bengals, and two remaining against the Steelers. This defense is on a roll and will have to help Weeden or whoever is behind center. The Browns defense is ranked eighth against the run and ninth against the pass.

Who comes out winner in NFC North?
Last season, the Packers won the division with an 11-5 record, while both the Bears and Vikings finished 10-6 and the Lions 4-12, with the Vikings sneaking the wild card away from the Bears. After week five of the 2013 season, the Lions and Bears are tied for first with a record of 3-2, the Packers in second with a 2-2 record, and the Vikings in last with a 1-3. Green Bay will separate itself from the rest of the division because of its offensive prowess, its underrated defense, and the leadership of Aaron Rodgers. The two strongest defenses the Packers play the rest of the season are the Browns in week seven and the Bears in weeks nine and 17. Watch for Green Bay to take control of the division around week 10 when they face the Eagles.

Will NFC West get two teams into playoffs?
San Francisco and Seattle are both favorites to win the NFC West, as well as the Super Bowl. But, will both teams make the playoffs? The way that most of the NFC has played out, there may be other contenders for the two wildcard spots. Whoever wins the NFC West will have clinched a playoff spot, but the other would have to face the likes of the Falcons, most of the NFC East (assuming teams step it up), and the NFC North. I am predicting the 49ers will not make the playoffs and I am still riding the Seahawks to the Super Bowl, but predict they lose to the Patriots in a close one.

Will Falcons, Panthers, or Bucs challenge Saints in NFC South?
As the Saints enter week six of this season, they are one of the last remaining undefeated teams at 5-0. The Falcons and the Panthers have just one win each. The Falcons will have a bye this upcoming week and the Panthers had theirs during week four. The Bucs may be less of a concern because of the drama that surrounded the organization, the release of Josh Freeman, and the insertion of rookie quarterback Mike Glennon as the starter. The Falcons may be the most likely to compete with the Saints. Using their bye week to get back on track after their Monday night game against the Jets, the Falcons can rest, get healthy, and get back on track. The Panthers will always be competitive with Cam Newton at the helm, but consistency is key. Let’s see if he can finish the second half of the season the way he did last year. If he does, the Panthers should be right there as well.

Is the rest of the AFC East primed to be more competitive than in recent years?
We have gotten used to the Patriots running the AFC East, winning the division 10 in the past 12 seasons and every season since the 2008 season, when the Dolphins last won. With the offseason loss of Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez, while also losing Emmanuel Sanders to the Steelers and the surgery recovery from Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady’s arsenal has never been so weak. The Patriots have no passing game and a mediocre running game. As the defenses of the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets continue to strengthen their front seven and secondary, all three teams can be competitive with the Patriots, as we’ve seen in the first few weeks. As all three teams continue their search for an offensive identity with their young quarterbacks, their defenses make big plays because of players like Bilal Powell and Fred Jackson stepping up and giving their teams a boost when needed. Look for the AFC East to be more competitive than in recent years, while it may also contend for a wildcard spot.

Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | October 3, 2013

The Dodgers have lost Matt Kemp for the postseason. Andre Ethier looks like he will be regulated to a pinch-hitter in the first round of the playoffs against the Braves. Skip Schumaker is the starting centerfielder for the Dodgers all of a sudden.
In the immortal words of Han Solo, “I have a bad feeling about this.”
The Dodgers didn’t exactly storm into the playoffs. They lost four of the last five games of the regular season. Their bats were relatively dormant. They managed only one run in the last two games against the Rockies.
The only promising sign over the last week of the regular season was an 11-0 outburst against the Rockies on Sept. 27.
Granted, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was resting many of his star players. He was forced to keep Kemp and Ethier out of the lineup because of injuries. He has to handle Hanley Ramirez with kid gloves to keep him healthy. Carl Crawford is another player with injury concerns.
When healthy, the Dodgers are the best team in baseball. They proved it by going 42-8 over a 50-game span in the middle of the season.
But an injury-plagued Dodgers roster had an eight-game losing streak in May that almost cost Mattingly his job.
Ethier, who filled in nicely for Kemp in centerfield for most of the season, has been battling a sore ankle. He had a workout at Dodgers Stadium on Tuesday, before the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, but said he will probably only be able to pinch hit.
“It’s probably just a hitting role, that’s what our best hope is,” Ethier told ESPN said after the workout. “Who knows, maybe we wake up Saturday and Sunday and it feels good enough to go full-go. Hitting-wise it feels good enough. We’ll worry about what to do after I get on first base then. I just want to figure out a way to contribute anyway I can and not become a hindrance.”
Schumaker is expected to start in centerfield against the Braves. But Scott Van Slyke, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Dee Gordon have reportedly tested their centerfield skills in preparation for the playoffs.
Gordon? It better not come down to him in centerfield.
Now for some good news. Yasiel Puig hit .500 against the Braves. He was 8-for-16 with two home runs and five RBIs. But Puig batted .214 in September, by far the worst month of his major league career.
Which Puig will show up is anyone’s guess.
Another bright note is the Dodgers starting rotation. If the Dodgers can mange just a few runs a game, they have the pitching staff to win some close ones.
Clayton Kershaw ended the season with a 16-9 record. He led the National League in ERA (1.83) and strikeouts (232). Since the All-Star break, Kershaw went 8-3 with a 1.59 ERA.
Interestingly, he did not face the Braves in the regular season.
Zack Greinke was every bit as good as Kershaw, if not better, down the stretch.
Greinke had a 1.75 ERA in six starts in September. He had a 1.23 ERA in five starts in August. Plus in his only game against the Braves in the regular season, he pitched seven shutout innings and gave up only four hits.
The Kershaw-Greinke one-two punch gives the Dodgers a legitimate shot. But the Dodgers could easily lose 1-0 to the Braves in the Kershaw-Greinke starts.
The prospect of a fruitful playoff run for the Dodgers is iffy at best.

The Hart football team is off to its best start in years. The Indians are 4-0 and ranked No. 1 in the CIF Southern Section Northern Division poll.
Their coach is receiving some recognition.
Mike Herrington was selected as one of the top eight coaches in the state by USA Today.
He is in the running for the No. 1 prep football coach in the country.
USA Today staff writers selected the top-eight active coaches in each state. Herrington will be subjected to three rounds of voting to determine the No. 1 prep football coach in the country.
The final results will be announced Oct. 29.

The Saugus girls cross country team has been the class of the Foothill League, heck the entire state, for the past seven years.
The Canyon girls cross country team is threatening the Saugus reign.
Saugus, the reigning CIF State Division 2 champion and winners of the past seven Foothill League titles, lost to Canyon in the first league meet at Central Park.
The Canyon girls won by two points, 35-37, with four runners in the top 10 at the meet.
Canyon’s Natalie Rodriguez was second in the race in 19 minutes, 49 seconds. Concepcion Flores was fifth, Kyla Danforth was sixth and Shalynn Mabritto was eighth.
The Saugus girls put three runners in the top 10. Samantha Ortega won the race in 19 minutes, 35 seconds. Abigail Frankian was third and Jessica Ruiz was 10th.
The Saugus and Canyon girls are among the best in the Southern Section as well. Saugus is ranked No. 2 in the Division 2 poll, despite losing to Canyon. The Canyon girls are No. 5.
Tim Haddock is the sports director at KHTS AM 1220. He writes for the Ventura County Star, the SCV Beacon, the Team USA website and covers auto racing for the K&N website. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | September 20, 2013

There is plenty of good news surrounding the UCLA football team. The Bruins are ranked No. 13 in the nation after a 2-0 start against Nevada and Nebraska.

Here is some more good news for UCLA football fans. The team is second in the Pac 12 and seventh in the nation in scoring offense at 49.5 points per game.

The Bruins are fifth in the nation in total offense at 575.5 yards per game. The bad news here is that UCLA is third in the Pac 12 in total offense. Oregon and Washington have more potent offenses than UCLA after the first three weeks of the NCAA football season.

UCLA running back Jordan James has been a pleasant surprise. He is second in the Pac 12 with 130 rushing yards per game. Only Bishop Sankey from Washington, at 184.5 yards per game, is more productive.
Perhaps one of the more surprising statistics after the first three weeks of the NCAA football season is that USC has one of the best defenses in the nation. They are yielding only 212.3 yards of total offense per game. That is the best in the Pac 12 and good enough for fourth in the nation. The Trojans might have an embarrassing loss to Washington State, but it clearly is not the fault of the defense.

UCLA coach Jim Mora is putting on his best Lou Holtz impression saying his team might have a hangover against New Mexico State after his team’s come-from-behind win against then-ranked No. 23 Nebraska.

New Mexico State is 0-3 and has not posted a winning record in more than a decade. The Aggies have the 122nd ranked defense in the country. The game isn’t even on the road for the Bruins.

Mora probably has nothing to worry about. Still, he’s playing the hangover card in case his players decide to mail it in against New Mexico State.

UCLA’s biggest test comes on Oct. 19 at Stanford. That game might drive Mora to drinking.

As for USC, the Trojans will have their fill of Utah State before Saturday is over.

This will be a classic match-up of high-octane offense vs. stingy defense. The defense usually wins this battle.

But, keep in mind, Utah State is averaging 49.3 points per game and 550.3 yards of total offense per game.

Utah State might not match those averages against USC, but even if the team comes close, it will be an interesting game.

USC coach Lane Kiffin can’t afford another loss to an unranked team. He can’t much afford to win in a shootout.

The Hart football team is in a bit of a renaissance. The Indians are ranked No. 1 in the CIF Southern Section Northern Division poll for the fourth week in a row. They are undefeated. They are starting to separate from the rest of the Foothill League.

The best evidence of this separation is the game against Chaminade, a team that has now played Hart and Valencia. Hart won its game, when Chaminade was ranked No. 10 in the state by CalHiSports.com, in overtime.

Valencia lost to Chaminade last week. The score was tight until the fourth quarter. Chaminade scored the final 21 points to blow out the Vikings.

But it doesn’t look like Valencia will be Hart’s biggest challenge for the Foothill League championship. Canyon is ranked No. 2 in the Northern Division and is proving to be difficult to score on.

The Cowboys are only giving up eight points per game and are coming off a 48-0 shutout over Clovis West.

West Ranch might be the wild card in the Foothill League. The Wildcats are undefeated as well and ranked No. 6 in the Northern Division. They look quite capable of pulling off an upset over Canyon or Valencia.
Perhaps losing to Chaminade will benefit Valencia. Vikings receiver Nick Jones set a school record with 232 receiving yards against Chaminade. He also caught three touchdown passes in breaking his own school record, which he set last season.

Valencia has plenty of offensive options. The only question is will it be enough against Hart, Canyon, and even West Ranch this year.

The Albert Einstein Academy won its first varsity football game, 42-38, over Indian Springs. Let it be known that Josh Greaves was instrumental in the win, throwing four touchdown passes and rushing for two more.
Finally, the College of the Canyons football team posted a signature win over Saddleback College.

Saddleback was ranked No. 4 in the state, but that didn’t intimidate the Cougars. COC won the game, 31-28, on a fourth quarter field goal.

First-year coach Ted Iacenda won his first game. The COC football team won its first game of the season. Perhaps it’s a sign of things to come.

Tim Haddock is the sports director at KHTS AM 1220. He writes for the Ventura County Star, SCV Beacon, Team USA website and covers NASCAR for the K&N website. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Gazette Radio Hour Pro Picks

| Gazette, Sports | September 12, 2013

Every week hosts Doug Sutton and John Rogers pick select NFL football games (Arizona and Washington always included, because those are Doug’s and John’s favorite teams). During the show, the hosts will keep a running tabulation of their picks all the way through to the Super Bowl – that’s when we’ll find out which one of them knows the NFL best!

Week One Results – Selected Games
Arizona – 24
St.Louis – 27

Green Bay – 28
San Francisco – 34

NY Giants – 31
Dallas – 36

Philadelphia – 33
Washington – 27

Houston – 31
San Diego – 21

Standings through week one
Correct Wrong
Doug Sutton 4 1
John Rogers 4 1
Mr. Football 3 2
Tim Haddock 2 3

Listen to the Gazette Radio Hour every Friday, 1-2pm KHTS, AM 1220

Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | September 5, 2013

By Tim Haddock
What to do with Matt Kemp?

In five games in the minor leagues, he is 0-for-18 with seven strikeouts. This is against Single-A California League pitching.

Clearly, he is not ready for major league pitchers. Thankfully, the Dodgers are not in dire need of an all-star outfielder looking for his swing.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly doesn’t seem too concerned about how he will fit Kemp into the outfield mix. Carl Crawford in leftfield, Andre Ethier in centerfield and Yasiel Puig in rightfield has been working out pretty well.

However, Crawford is injury prone and Puig keeps trying to run through walls and refuses to slide on the base paths. At some point, the Dodgers are going to need a fourth outfielder, perhaps even a fifth one. Having Kemp as insurance might prove to be valuable. But if he can’t hit, it’s not worth playing him.

The Dodgers made some playoff roster moves, adding a couple of pitchers and a former batting champion. Here is a look at some of the key acquisitions the Dodgers made and how they will help or hurt the team:

Michael Young: The Dodgers traded with the Phillies for the infielder. He won a batting title and played on two World Series teams with the Texas Rangers. He can play all the infield positions and even won a gold glove at shortstop.

He is a career .300 hitter. He seems willing to take a utility infield role with the Dodgers. He is also a Southern California native and played at UC Santa Barbara in college.

Those are all the positives. The big negative is that Young is at the end of his career. He can still be productive, but he is an aging player and that could prove to be a liability on defense. But the positives considerably outweigh the negatives.
Grade: A-

Brian Wilson: The Dodgers signed the relief pitcher as a free agent, although his most productive years came with the San Francisco Giants. He was the closer on one of the Giants World Series teams. He’s a little goofy, with his trademark beard and outrageous statements, but his arm is one of the best in baseball when he is healthy.

That has been the problem with Wilson in recent years. He has been through two Tommy John surgeries on his pitching elbow. The second one sidelined him for more than a year. He’s not exactly the most durable pitcher in the bigs.

On a positive note, he does give the Dodgers a legitimate set-up man. As long as his arm holds up, he has the experience and the talent to get batters out late in a game. He still has a fastball in the mid-90s and doesn’t get rattled easily.

Again, the positives outweigh the negatives here. But how long his arm will hold up is a big question.
Grade: B

Edinson Volquez: The Dodgers acquired the starting pitcher from the San Diego Padres. He had a 6.01 ERA at the time of the trade. He was once considered a rising star in the National League when he was with the Cincinnati Reds. But he has been a disappointment with the Padres.

Volquez looks like he is insurance for Chris Capuano, who has been incredibly inconsistent all season. When Capuano is good, he puts up zeroes with ease. But when he’s bad, opposing batters are merciless.

One of Mattingly’s faults is that he sticks with veterans too long. He did it with Brandon League as his closer. He did it with Kemp as his clean-up hitter. Hopefully he won’t make the same mistake with Capuano.

Mattingly needs to give Volquez a chance in the rotation. Most likely, Volquez will have the greatest value as a long reliever. The good news is Mattingly probably won’t have to use either Volquez or Capuano in the playoff rotation. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco will be the starters in the postseason.

Volquez is a bit of a gamble. The best-case scenario is that he doesn’t find a spot in the rotation once the playoffs start.
Grade: D

Some thoughts on the openers for the UCLA and USC football teams:

UCLA has an elite starting quarterback in Brett Hundley.

USC flips a coin to decide who starts at quarterback.

UCLA covered the points spread against Nevada.

USC didn’t cover the spread against Hawaii (not that I would ever endorse that kind of activity).

UCLA moved up to No. 18 in the USA Today and Associated Press top 25.

USC moved up to No. 22 in the USA Today poll, but dropped to No. 25 in the AP poll.

Staying on the topic of football rankings, the Hart football team is the No. 1 team in the CIF Southern Section Northern Division poll.

The Indians are one of four teams from the Foothill League in the Northern Division top 10. Valencia is No. 4, Canyon is No. 5 and West Ranch is No. 10.

Hart, Canyon and West Ranch won their season openers on Friday night.
Hart set a school record with 669 yards from scrimmage in its 56-49 win over Santiago from Corona. Hart quarterback Brady White also set a school record with 36 completions for 472 yards and three touchdowns.

Canyon beat Westlake, 23-16, with a suffocating defense. The Cowboys intercepted five passes and returned two for touchdowns.

Westlake, which won the Northern Division championship in 2011, suspended six players for the Canyon game. Some of the Westlake players are suspected of assaulting teammates in the Warriors’ season opener in Hawaii. The claims are being investigated by police in Hawaii and Thousand Oaks.

The West Ranch football team shut out Hawthorne, 56-0, forcing three turnovers. Christian Parrish led the Wildcats in rushing with 100 yards and a touchdown.

Valencia plays its season opener against Palmdale on Friday night.

The Golden Valley football team beat Granada Hills, 34-28, and snapped a 17-game losing streak.

The Saugus football team made it a perfect 5-for-5 for the Foothill League with a 51-14 win over Calabasas.

The only team from the Santa Clarita Valley that didn’t win its opener was Santa Clarita Christian. The Cardinals lost to Chadwick, 26-14.

Tim Haddock is the sports director at KHTS AM 1220. He writes for the Ventura County Star, the SCV Beacon, the Team USA website and covers NASCAR for the K&N website. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | August 8, 2013

The baseball dog days of summer are showing their fleas with the release of 12 players suspended for 50 games for having connections to the Biogenesis clinic in Florida. Biogenesis is suspected of supplying performance enhancing drugs to players in the major leagues.

It is an unlucky 13, counting Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees. He was suspended through the 2014 season in what amounts to 211 games. Rodriguez is appealing the suspension.

The other 12 players agreed to the terms of the suspensions and will not appeal. They include Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers and Johnny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers. Both the Tigers and Rangers are in the middle of tight pennant races. Their suspensions could cause the most damage to their teams.

All Star Everth Carbrera of the San Diego Padres was also suspended for 50 games, the maximum suspension for first-time offenders who violate the league’s drug policy.

The other players suspended were Antonio Bastardo of the Philadelphia Phillies, Francisco Cervelli of the New York Yankees, Jordany Valdespin of the New York Mets, Jesus Montero of the Seattle Mariners, Cesar Puello of the New York Mets, Sergio Escalona of the Houston Astros, Fernando Martinez of the New York Yankees, plus free agents Fautino De Los Santos and Jordan Norberto.

The Yankees and Mets were hit hardest. Including Rodriguez, three Yankees were suspended, although Martinez is in the minor leagues. Two Mets are on the list, but Puello is in the minors.

No Dodgers or Angels were on the list. That might give L.A. fans a reason to celebrate, but Monday’s suspensions were no cause célèbre.
Tampa Rays third baseman Evan Longoria Tweeted out a couple statements, calling it a sad day for MLB, the fans and the players. But he also Tweeted it is a step in the right direction.

He is right on both counts. It is a sad day for MLB. Sad, because it took this long to not only suspend players for using PEDs, but for MLB to realize it has a drug problem.

To think that only 13 players (14 counting Ryan Braun and 15 counting Melkey Cabrera from last year) are guilty of using PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) and human growth hormone is naïve. There are probably hundreds more, but these 15 got caught.

This is the first step toward cleaning up baseball. Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig took one stride toward making the sport drug-free. Now it’s time to see how far MLB and Selig are willing to go.

The Dodgers found their comfort zone recently. That zone is atop the
National League West standings.

As of Monday, the Dodgers had a 5 ½-game lead in the NL West. They had a 14-game road winning streak, the longest in franchise history. The major league record is 17 road wins in a row set by the New York Giants.

Reaching 17 games will be tough, though. The Dodgers would have to sweep the Cardinals in St. Louis to get there. The Cardinals (65-45) are 20 games over .500, and 32-17 at home.

The USA Today college football Top 25 Coaches poll came out last week. Two Pac 12 teams are in the top five. UCLA and USC are in the top 25. Five teams from the Pac 12 are ranked.

It’s nice to see the West Coast earn some respect in the preseason.
Even Boise State earned a top 25 spot. Fresno State, Arizona State and Utah State are knocking on the top 25 door.

Alabama is No. 1 with 58 first place votes. The reigning BCS champions should be No. 1. Let’s see how long the Tide stays on top.

Ohio State is No. 2 with three first place votes. How? Did the voters learn nothing from USC last year? Sure, the Buckeyes went 12-0 last year, but they weren’t allowed to play in a bowl game because of NCAA violations committed by former coach, Jim Tressel.

USC was ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll last year as they were coming off NCAA sanctions. USC was quickly exposed as talented, but not very deep because of a lack of scholarships. Ohio State might find itself in the same boat as USC was in last year.

One coach voted Texas A&M No. 1. Wonder if that coach wants his vote back after the autograph drama Johnny Manziel is tangled in. Texas A&M is No. 6 in the coaches’ poll, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Aggies knocked out of the top 25 before Halloween.

Oregon is No. 3. This might be the Ducks’ last hurrah, though. The Ducks are being investigated by the NCAA, which usually spells doom for football programs.

Stanford is No. 4 and is probably the Pac 12’s best chance for a BCS championship.

From the looks of things, USC and UCLA might be battling for a Rose Bowl berth this year. That is, if Oregon State or Oregon don’t mess things up.
College football can’t start soon enough.

On a more local note, two Valencia High graduates are ending their junior golf careers in style.

Max Homa was selected to play on the United State Walker Cup team. The USGA picked the first five members of the team that will compete against a team from England and Ireland at the National Golf Links of America in New York in September.

Alison Lee was selected to play for the PING Junior Solheim Cup team for the United States. She is one of 12 junior players who will compete against a team from Europe at the Inverness Hotel & Golf Club in Englewood, Colo. from Aug. 12-14.

Lee is No. 1 in the Polo Golf rankings and is a five-time Rolex Junior All American.

Tim Haddock is the sports director at KHTS AM 1220. He writes for the Ventura County Star, SCV Beacon, the Team USA website and covers NASCAR for the K&N website. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | July 26, 2013

The Dodgers have been one of the hottest teams in baseball over the past 27 games. They went 22-5 since June 22 and took over first place in the National League West standings on July 23, a half-game ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Dodgers put together a six-game winning streak to start their run to the top of the NL West standings. They added a five-game winning streak.

Much of their surge can be attributed to the play of Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez. Puig made his Dodgers debut in June and was selected as the National League player of the month. He set the Dodgers rookie record for hits in a month. Only Joe DiMaggio ever collected more hits in a month than Puig.

But Puig has cooled down. He is still making spectacular plays in the outfield, but he is going through his first slump in the bigs.

Ramirez, meanwhile, carried the Dodgers to the top of the NL West standings. He is leading the team with a .393 batting average in 43 games. He has provided power with 10 home runs and run production with 31 RBIs.

It took a while for the Dodgers to come together, injuries and poor defense contributed more than anything else to their slow rise. Ramirez missed the first part of the season with an injured thumb. Matt Kemp has been on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. Zack Greinke missed nearly two months with a broken collar bone.

But now that almost everyone seems healthy – Kemp is nursing an injured ankle and might be headed to the DL again – the Dodgers don’t have many holes.

They traded for Ricky Nolasco from the Miami Marlins and solidified their starting rotation. Clayton Kershaw is putting up Cy Young Award-winning numbers. Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu could be aces on a number of other teams. Nolasco fits in nicely as the No. 4 starter.

The big question is: How can the Dodgers improve for a deep playoff run?

The trade deadline is July 31 and there aren’t many sellers in baseball. The Cubs are willing to deal, but the Dodgers lost out on the Matt Garza sweepstakes. He went to the Texas Rangers.

The Cubs are also shopping Alfonso Soriano, who might be some nice insurance for the Dodgers’ injury-riddled outfield. But reports have Soriano going back to the New York Yankees before the deadline.

Besides, when the Dodgers outfielders are healthy, there is no place for a fifth outfielder. Keeping Kemp and Carl Crawford healthy has been a problem though.

The Dodgers infield looks set too. Perhaps an upgrade third base would be nice. Juan Uribe is playing like he’s in the last year of his contract, which coincidentally is the case, and is holding down the hot corner with few complaints.

The only place that could use some tweaking is the bullpen. But even those concerns have been resolved since Kenley Jensen started closing. Jose Dominguez and Chris Withrow have settled nicely into set-up roles.

Still, the Dodgers are eyeing Francisco Rodriguez from the Milwaukee Brewers to add to their bullpen.

He might not be the best choice.

Sure, K-Rod was a big reason the Angels won the World Series. But that was more than a decade ago.

He was traded to the New York Mets and was a bust. He hasn’t made much noise in the Brewers bullpen. What makes the Dodgers think he can help their bullpen, especially now when the pitchers seem comfortable in their roles?

The Dodgers should stand pat and stay out of the trade deadline hysteria. This team is finally clicking. Why upset the balance?

One L.A. team that has been making moves is the Kings. Two years removed from their first Stanley Cup, a year removed from reaching the Western Conference semifinals, the Kings are putting the pieces together for another championship run.

But first, who is gone? Dustin Penner is. Probably good timing for this move. Tyler Toffoli outplayed Penner, albeit not by much, in the playoffs last year. The Kings get younger and more energetic with Toffoli on the ice.

Jonathan Bernier is gone. The Kings’ back-up goalie was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for forward Matt Frattin, goalie Ben Scrivens and a draft pick. Bernier didn’t play much for the Kings last season and not at all in the postseason. As long as the Kings have Jonathan Quick, a back-up goalie isn’t going to see much playing time.

Who is staying? Captain Dustin Brown is locked up for eight years. He signed an extension a couple of weeks ago.

Jordan Nolan and Jake Muzzin aren’t going anywhere either after agreeing to deals with the Kings. Neither are star players, but both have been key players in the past two playoff runs for the Kings.

Who is new? The most significant newcomer is Daniel Carcillo from the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. He hasn’t played much the past two seasons because of knee injuries, but he could add some toughness to a team that already plays with a generous dose of pent-up aggression.

Who could be on the move? The Kings have been shopping Kyle Clifford. The asking price is apparently too high, so Clifford might return to the Kings because of lack of interest.

The summer high school baseball scene attracted some of the top teams in the state to Santa Clarita last week.
Valencia and West Ranch played in the California Classic Elite Tournament against four of the top teams from Northern California.

Valencia didn’t lose a game, but the Vikings opened with a 5-5 tie against Archbishop Mitty. Valencia followed with blow out wins over Bellarmine from San Jose, 17-4, and Elk Grove, 8-1.

The Vikings concluded the tournament with an 8-2 win over Clovis West and went 3-0-1 over the three-day California Classic.

West Ranch started the tournament with a win, then lost its next three games. The Wildcats beat Clovis West, 7-6, in the first game.

They lost to Bellarmine, 10-8, Elk Grove, 16-7, and Concord De La Salle, 11-8.

Tim Haddock is the sports director at KHTS AM 1220. He writes for the Ventura County Star, the Team USA website, SCV Beacon, SB Nation and covers NASCAR for the K&N website. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Sports Capsule

| Sports | July 18, 2013

Should Yasiel Puig be an all star?

That question has been debated for the past couple of weeks. Puig, the rookie Dodger outfield phenom, burst on to the baseball scene with a .400 batting average and a cannon arm.

He made his debut by starting a double play, catching a ball on the warning track in right field and throwing out a runner on first base to end a game against the Padres.

He hit dramatic home runs in the following games, including a grand slam against the Braves.

He runs down fly balls like the Flash and snags them out of the air like Spider-Man. He is also prone to fits of Hulk-like rage when he makes mistakes.

And he has proven he is no Superman, injuring his hip after running into the outfield wall trying to make a catch.

In Puig’s first 38 games, he is hitting .391 with eight home runs and 19 RBIs. He broke the Dodgers rookie record for most hits in a month in June. Only Joe DiMaggio had more hits in a month than Puig. Puig was the first player to earn National League player and rookie of the month honors in the same month.

Puig might be the biggest star in baseball. Still, he was not selected for the National League All Star team. He wasn’t voted in by the fans, not as a write-in candidate nor as the last player.

Even when Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who was voted in as the last player on the All Star team, injured his thumb and opted not to play, Puig was not chosen as his replacement.

But what makes Puig a true star is how he affected the rest of the Dodgers. Before Puig arrived, the Dodgers were wallowing in last place in the National League West. Manager Don Mattingly was in danger of losing his job. Fans were calling for him to be fired. The Dodgers were a mess.

Since Puig started playing, the Dodgers have climbed out of the National League West basement. They are in second place, 2 ½ games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks, and have a .500 record at 47-47.

The Dodgers have gone from the laughingstock of baseball to contenders. The 2013 Dodgers, with all their high-priced veterans, were being compared to the 2013 Lakers, full of talent but failures in the field.

But keeping Puig off the All Star team isn’t the biggest disgrace by baseball. There are a handful of players connected to the Biogenesis scandal who will be facing 100-game suspensions. San Diego’s Everth Cabrera, Oakland’s Bartolo Colon and Cleveland’s Johnny Perralta have been listed as clients of the Biogenesis firm in Florida that is suspected of supplying baseball players with performance-enhancing drugs.

Major League Baseball will embarrass itself again by letting these players become all stars. The league did it last year with Melky Cabrera, who was the All Star Game MVP before he was suspended for taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Back to the original question: Does Puig deserve to be an all star? His numbers suggest that he is most definitely an all star. He is certainly more deserving than any of the players suspected of taking performance-enhancing drugs and facing suspension.

But instead of having the chance to be the hero of the All Star Game, Puig was relegated as an outcast, like one of the X-Men.

Two other Dodgers were snubbed as all stars too. Hanley Ramirez and Hyun-Jin Ryu each had all star first halves.

That’s what happens when the Giants manager has the power to select injury replacements and pitchers. Dodgers need not apply.

But baseball is missing another golden opportunity to attract new fans. The Korean fan base would be glued to the game if Ryu was on the National League roster. Baseball keeps touting its international fan base, then ignores it by keeping some of the best international players off the all star teams.

Valencia High graduate Alison Lee is on quite a hot streak in the American Junior Golf Association. She won the Rolex Tournament of Champions on July 12, her third junior golf championship in a row.

Lee, who will attend UCLA in the fall, won the Rolex Tournament of Champions at the Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania by six strokes. She had a four-round total of 4-under 276.

“There’s not a word to describe this, it is a feeling you just don’t experience,” said Lee, the five-time Rolex Junior All-American, to the AJGA. “This keeps me playing.”

Lee is ranked No. 1 in the Polo Golf Rankings. She won the Rolex Girls Junior Championship and the ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior tournament in June. Lee is the first girl golfer, since Kellee Booth in 1993, to win the Rolex Girls Junior Championship and Tournament of Champions in the same year.

“My first AJGA tournament was supposed to be Heather Farr, but I withdrew because my game was just a mess, my confidence was nowhere to be found, so I took a couple weeks off,” Lee told the AJGA. “But after winning Rolex Girls, it put me back to where I was, with my game doing really well, it’s been a really great year for me.”

Lee has won four golf invitationals in her AJGA career. She won the 2012 Annika Invitational, the 2012 PING Invitational, the 2013 Rolex Girls Junior Championship and the 2013 Rolex Tournament of Champions.

Tim Haddock is the sports director at KHTS AM 1220. He writes for the Ventura County Star, the Team USA website, SCV Beacon, SB Nation and covers NASCAR for the K&N website. He can be reached at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Sports Capsule

| Sports | June 28, 2013

Andre Ethier has been the subject of trade rumors since spring training. The Dodgers need bullpen help and Ethier is the team’s healthiest and most valuable trade option.

The emergence of Yasiel Puig makes Ethier expendable. But the injuries woes of Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford make Ethier a necessity in the Dodgers outfield.

Ethier’s hefty contract, five-years and $85 million, make him tough to deal as well. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t suitors. According to various reports, the Yankees, Pirates, Rangers, A’s, Orioles, White Sox, Royals and Mets have shown interest.

All, of course, are looking for a bargain as well. All will want the Dodgers to pay a good chunk of Ethier’s salary too.

That puts the Dodgers in a tough spot. They need pitching help. The bullpen is killing the Dodgers. Manager Don Mattingly finally made the change at closer, from Brandon League to Kenley Jansen. It might be too late to make a difference, but at least the Dodgers won’t have to sweat as much when they have a lead in the ninth inning. Getting the ball to Jansen with a lead in the ninth is still a problem.

So what do the teams interested in Ethier have to offer. Here’s a look:

Yankees: Mariano Rivera is the closer and he isn’t going anywhere. He will retire a Yankee at the end of the year. He would make a nice fit, but even the Yankees aren’t mean enough to trade away a legend in the last year of his career.

Still, the Yankees have some nice arms in the bullpen, Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson to name a couple. But, as long as the Yankees are in a pennant race, they won’t blow up their bullpen.

Pirates: They have plenty of cheap, young arms. But the Pirates are surprisingly in a pennant race too. As of June 25, they were a game out of first place in the National League Central standings, trailing the St. Louis Cardinals. Will they fade, like they always do? Or will they stay in the pennant race? The answer to that question might influence how willing they are to deal.

They do have two attractive arms. Jason Grilli leads the team with 26 saves. He has 58 strikeouts and seven walks in 34 2/3 innings pitched. He also has a 1.82 ERA. Mark Melancon has a lower ERA than Grilli, at 0.96. He’s given up only four earned runs in 37 1/3 innings. He has also struck out 40 and walked only four.

Rangers: Joe Nathan is the closer for the Rangers. He is putting up solid numbers, 25 saves and a 1.67 ERA. He might make a nice fit on the Dodgers for a year or two and the Rangers could afford to let him go. They have some young arms, but will the Rangers be willing to have that much confidence in some unseasoned relievers?

A’s: The A’s are always loaded with young talent. Veteran Grant Balfour, however, is not in that category. Still, he has 18 saves and a 2.03 ERA for the A’s. Trading for Ethier won’t be easy for the cheap A’s though. The Dodgers would have to take on most of his salary if a deal is made with the A’s. Plus, Balfour is a short-term fix for the Dodgers bullpen, and there is no telling how long his nine-year major league arm will hold out.

White Sox: According to various reports, the White Sox made an offer for Ethier that included starter Jake Peavy and shortstop Alexei Ramirez. The Dodgers can do better than a couple washed up veterans from a last-place team. Plus, the Dodgers don’t need another injury-prone starter and shortstop. Dealing for closer Addison Reed or Matt Thornton makes more sense for the Dodgers’ needs. And, as it looks like the White Sox aren’t going anywhere near the playoffs, the White Sox might be willing to deal.

Mets: For some reason, the safe bet is that Ethier ends up with the Mets. A lot of that talk centers around the Mets freeing up salary space with Johan Santana and a couple of other expiring contracts. The question is: What do the Mets have to deal? Bobby Parnell has 12 saves and a 2.53 ERA. Brandon Lyon has eight holds and a 3.16 ERA. Is that enough for a power-hitting, all-star right fielder with an attitude problem? It might be the best the Dodgers can do.

Tim White, a freshman at College of the Canyons and a Hart High graduate, won the triple jump at the U.S. Junior Track and Field Championships at Drake University in Iowa. He won the title with a leap of 53 feet, 1 inch, a school record, in his first attempt.

By winning the U.S. junior championship in the triple jump, he is eligible to participate in the Pan Am Junior Championships in Medellin, Colombia, in August.

COC teammate Anthony Fowler finished in 14th place in the 400 at the U.S. Junior Track and Field Championships. He was fifth in his heat race.
John Gilbertson from The Master’s College came in 25th place in the U.S. Track and Field Championships at Drake University.

Tim Haddock is the sports director at KHTS AM 1220. He writes for the Ventura County Star, Team USA website, SCV Beacon, SB Nation and covers NASCAR for the K&N website. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | May 16, 2013

Two things to take away from the Kings’ first-round series against St. Louis Blues in the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs: Kings fans are spoiled and have no appreciation for goalie Jonathan Quick.

Sure, Quick is the reason the Kings lost Game 2 of the series against the Blues. It was the last game the Kings lost.

How quickly Kings fans forget how the team won the Stanley Cup last year. Timely short-handed goals were part of it. But make no mistake, Quick’s stingy net-minding were a big part of it too. Whenever the Kings scored a short-handed goal in the playoffs, Quick made sure it didn’t go to waste.
It took him a couple of games to gather his playoff legs, but Quick looks like he is back on his game.

It is the bandwagon Kings fans who want to blame Quick for every loss. Those fans need to keep their mouths shut and their eyes open.

Alas, there are those fans who expect nothing less than another Stanley Cup. Those fans have no room to complain. Those fans weren’t at the Forum with 300 of their closest friends watching coach Tom Webster playing dump and chase with Wayne Gretzky.

Those new Stanley Cup demanding fans have not suffered enough. The Kings’ winning the Stanley Cup last year was nothing short of a miracle. They were the eighth seed in the playoffs, the last team to qualify for the playoffs. They were road warriors playing unconscious hockey in places they had no business winning. They were a good team that hit a hot streak at exactly the right time.

To put it in perspective, the Kings have been so bad in recent years, that the next series against the Sharks is the first time since 1992 that the Kings have had home-ice advantage in the playoffs.

The last time the Kings won a playoff series with home-ice advantage was in 1989, when the Smythe Division existed and the San Jose Sharks didn’t. (Thank you, Arash Markarzi.)

These Kings are definitely Stanley Cup contenders again, perhaps even better than last year’s team. But if they fall short, it takes nothing away from what they accomplished last year.

Expectations are high, but only one team can win the Stanley Cup. Until they’re eliminated, go Kings go!

Saugus sophomore Abbey Weitzeil won two individual titles at the CIF Southern Section Division 1 finals at the Riverside Aquatics Complex and set two records in the process.

She won the 100-yard freestyle in 49.01 seconds breaking the Southern Section Division 1 record of 49.26 seconds set by Courtney Cashion of Irvine in 2004.
Weitzeil lowered her mark to 48.83 seconds in the first leg of the 4×100 freestyle relay. Because it was the first leg of a relay, the 100-yard freestyle Southern Section Division 1 record is 48.83 seconds.

She also won the 50-yard freestyle race in 22.25 seconds, breaking her own Southern Section Division 1 record. She was 0.01 seconds off the state record of 22.24 seconds set by Maddy Schaefer of St. Francis High in Mountain View in 2010.

Weitzeil’s time in the 50 freestyle was the fourth fastest in the country, according to the National Federation of High Schools Association.

Six high school baseball teams from the Santa Clarita Valley are in the CIF playoffs. Three are from the Foothill League and only one of those teams has a home game.

West Ranch, which reached the semifinals in the CIF baseball playoffs last year, opens against Los Alamitos at home on Thursday. Los Alamitos is the third-place team from the Sunset League.

West Ranch won a share of the Foothill League championship with Canyon.

The Cowboys, making their first CIF playoff appearance in six years, play on the road on Thursday against Loyola, the second-place team from the Mission League.

Canyon perhaps has the worst draw of any team from the Santa Clarita Valley. Loyola is 19-10 and stumbled into the playoffs after losing a pair of games to Chaminade to end the season.

Before that, Loyola put together a 12-game winning streak that started with a 9-4 victory over Hart on April 4 in the Scott Boras Classic.

Loyola and Canyon met once already this season. Canyon beat Loyola, 4-3, in the Anaheim Lions Tournament in April. The Cowboys scored three runs in the fourth inning to erase a 3-1 deficit.

The Valencia baseball team, the third-place team from the Foothill League, opened the CIF playoffs in the wild-card round on Tuesday against Westlake.

The Santa Clarita Christian baseball team won the Heritage League and will open at home in the Southern Section Division 7 playoffs against Delphi Academy.

The Trinity Classical Academy baseball team, the second-place team from the Heritage League, plays Coast Union High in Cambria in the first round of the Southern Section Division 7 playoffs.

The Albert Einstein Academy baseball team made its first trip to the CIF playoffs and played Faith Baptist in the wild-card round of the Southern Section Division 7 playoffs on Tuesday.

The West Ranch softball team opens the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs against Rancho Cucamonga. West Ranch won the Foothill League championship with an undefeated 10-0 record. Rancho Cucamonga is the third-place team from the Baseline League.

The Saugus softball team plays Orange Lutheran on the road in the first round of the Division 1 playoffs.

The Valencia softball team opened in the wild-card round of the Southern Section Division 1 playoffs against Santa Margarita from the Trinity League on Tuesday.

Tim Haddock is the sports director for KHTS AM 1220. He also writes for the Ventura County Star, the SCV Beacon, the Team USA website, SB Nation and covers NASCAR for the K&N website. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Making Local History Valerie Gonzales:the First Female Baseball Player at Canyon High

| Gazette, Sports | May 9, 2013

By Andrew Thompson
Even at fourteen, Valerie Gonzales could be considered something of a veteran in her sport. Having spent almost a decade playing pitcher, catcher, first base, shortstop – indeed, every position on the diamond – she knows a thing or two about how to contribute to a team.

That’s why Valerie wasn’t the least bit shaken when, as a freshman at Canyon High School, she decided to attend a tryout.

“It just felt like a regular tryout – like I’ve always been trying out,” she says. “It didn’t feel any different.”


But while her experience was nothing more than typical, Valerie is not just a typical player. After all, Valerie tried out for her school’s baseball team – not its softball one. And when she made it onto the roster, she became the first female baseball player ever to do so in the history of Canyon High.

“We’re pretty proud… [we] think it’s a really big accomplishment,” Valerie’s mother says.

To her, Valerie’s decision to try out for baseball rather than softball was no surprise.

For whatever reason, softball has never been attractive to Valerie. It’s hard for her to put a finger on a single reason softball doesn’t suit her; there’s nothing “bad” about it, she concedes, it’s just that baseball has always been her sport. If for some reason she didn’t make it, Valerie notes, she would probably run track instead.

“I wouldn’t train for just softball, ever,” she says with a hint of a smile.

Valerie’s parents say that her preference for baseball may even date back to before her birth.

“She has an older brother that – that ate, drank, and slept it,” Valerie’s mother says. “So, when I was pregnant with her, she probably heard it the whole time, and then [we] brought her to every practice, every game when she was a baby.”

Valerie’s mother recalls how Valerie crawled with her brother’s helmets on, then started wearing his uniforms. At three she was already swinging baseball bats, and at four she landed on her first Parks and Recreation team. It would be the first team of many.

As Valerie grew older, however, the external pressure on her parents to push her toward softball seemed to increase. Other parents often questioned her participation in baseball, Valerie’s father says, and they usually weren’t shy about expressing it.

Still, her parents wanted the choice to be hers alone.

“It’s her decision; it’s not ours,” Valerie’s father says. “We’ll support her whatever she decides to do. If she wants to play baseball, well, that’s what it’s going to be.”

Of course, the entire family is aware of the surprise she sometimes causes when she takes the field against an opposing team.

“They’re always, like, whispering in the dugout and stuff,” Valerie says. “I’m kind of used to it, because it’s, like, been happening since I was little… they just whisper. But I don’t really know what they’re whispering about.”

Valerie behind the plate at catcher

“They’re surprised,” admits Valerie’s mother. In a recent Saturday game in which Valerie had been playing catcher, she recalls, a boy on the other team did a double take after passing Valerie on the field.

“Until they see the long braid, they don’t really realize,” Valerie’s mother points out. “All he could say is, like, ‘You had a great throw down,’” she adds.

Fortunately, Valerie’s parents acknowledge, most of the more negative reactions occurred in the past, when Valerie played in travel leagues. Now that Valerie has reached the high school level, she’s playing with many players she’s known for quite a while, and both the surprise and outside criticism have somewhat subsided.

As for Valerie’s parents, they aren’t exactly complaining about her choice – especially considering the success that has followed it both on the field and off.

In addition to playing baseball, Valerie frequently volunteers, often participating in tasks such as cleaning fields at Hart Park, where she used to play. And she excels in the classroom as well. Her most recent progress report indicates she been able to manage a schedule that includes honors classes with a 4.0.

“With her grades, and with her playing softball… we wouldn’t have to pay anything for college,” her father says hopefully, with a laugh.

If Valerie does decide to take it that far, she can take comfort in knowing that there is actually some precedent of female baseball players going on to make a college team. Marti Sementelli, a female pitcher from California, recently made news when she was offered a spot on the baseball team of Montreat College in North Carolina.

And while Valerie’s parents know that she’s still young, they also know that there are no limits on what the future could hold.

“It’s not unobtainable,” Valerie’s mother says, referring to the possibility of a college baseball career. “It’s a matter of how far she wants to take it from here until there.”

As far as the big leagues, that’s also not necessarily out of the question. Valerie has already made the acquaintance of Justine Siegal, the first woman to pitch batting practice and bullpen for the Major Leagues. Siegal is also the founder of Baseball for All, a non-profit that focuses on providing instruction and support for young baseball players, especially girls. Valerie and Siegal connected through Facebook.

Valerie on the mound, pitching

But it’s too early for Valerie to seriously consider joining Siegal as one of the first women to contribute at the professional level just yet. Valerie’s mother is the first one to acknowledge that Valerie is only in ninth grade; her more immediate goal is simply to make varsity. But Valerie’s mother is pleased to see that she seems to have made such a connection with her current team.

“They take her on, on the team, as one of them… they don’t look at her differently, they don’t judge her, they bring her right on in,” her mother says.

Valerie agrees that that camaraderie is one of the best parts of playing the sport.

“Everybody… takes me in,” she says. “It’s like a family, kind of.”

And so, for now, perhaps Valerie can be forgiven if she just takes a moment to enjoy being one of the guys.

Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | May 2, 2013

The Lakers’ season ended unceremoniously with a first-round sweep by the San Antonio Spurs. So much for the Lakers having a better chance against the aging Spurs than the youthful Oklahoma City Thunder.

The pieces of blame pie are being dished out. Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant are receiving their share. Jim Buss, Mike D’Antoni and Mitch Kupchak are being forced to choke down a portion as well. What can the Lakers do to return to championship status? Clearly this roster is not getting the job done.

Here are some of the options facing the Lakers:

Let Howard go. This might be the worst option the Lakers have. For one, Howard has no equal. When he is healthy and motivated, he is the best center in the NBA. Defensively, no one even comes close. He is the top rebounder in the league, 12.4 per game in 2012, and one of the better shot blockers. Plus he bails out his teammates on so many defensive breakdowns, it’s impossible to count. Like any great catcher in baseball, whatever Howard contributes on offense is a bonus. If the Lakers let Howard go, it might be years before they are championship contenders again. The Lakers need to bring in players to help Howard, not try to build a team without him.

Change Bryant’s game. This is another bad idea. Bryant tried changing his game, being more distributor than scorer this year, and it didn’t matter. He is going to find a way to win with the Lakers, be it by leading the league in scoring or assists or steals or 3-point percentage. If he could find a way to lead the league in passing out Gatorade, he would do it. Bryant needs to be the leader in scoring, leader in directing the offense, leader on defense, leader on the bench and leader in the locker room. Bryant’s better days are behind him, but he has at least one more championship run in him. The Lakers would be smart not to waste it.
Jim Buss should hand the reigns over to Jeanie Buss. This might not be such a bad idea. Jim Buss has shown many times how he wants to run the team differently than his dad. Jim Buss wants to create his own identity, put his own fingerprints on the franchise. Jim Buss needs to learn one simple rule: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Aside from the league salary cap, the Lakers have all the resources in the world to put together the top team in the NBA. Finding the best players to fit the style of Jim Buss has not been a good formula. He needs to find the best players to win a championship. Perhaps Jeanie Buss has a better way of putting that formula together.

The Lakers should fire D’Antoni. The coach is always the first scapegoat. D’Antoni likes to play a young man’s game and he has a group of stars at the end of their careers. Steve Nash is nowhere near the player he was eight years ago when they were together on the Suns. Pau Gasol was never fast enough or quick enough for D’Antoni’s system, yet was able to post triple-doubles when the game was slowed down. When Bryant comes back, he will be recovering from Achilles tendon surgery. As tough as Bryant is, that type of surgery will slow any player down. Metta World Peace was one of the few aging stars on the 2012 version of Lakers who showed any type of hustle, but he is in no condition to be running in an offense that shoots the ball every seven seconds. Firing D’Antoni is an easy solution and one that might make the biggest difference for the 2013 Lakers.

Kupchak needs to blow up the Lakers roster. This team was put together for one or two championship runs. It failed miserably for one year. It doesn’t deserve another chance. Metta, Gasol, Nash, Steve Blake need to go. But Earl Clark, Chris Duhan and Jodie Meeks are not the answers. Kupchak doesn’t have much room or money to work with. The Lakers are already over the salary cap. They don’t have the money to bring in talented players. But he has to find upgrades at three starting positions and three players on the bench. He needs another miracle, Kwame Brown-for-Pau Gasol trade.

Zack Greinke gone. Chad Billingsley gone. Chris Capuano gone. Even Steven Fife couldn’t make it to the pitcher’s mound for the Dodgers before injuring himself.

Thank goodness the Dodgers have a deep pitching staff. Most teams would be 10 games out of first place by now with the type of injuries the Dodgers have suffered. That they are .500 is nothing short of miraculous.
Still, some healthy Dodger arms would be nice.

The Kings are the No. 5 seed in the NHL playoffs. Something doesn’t feel right about this.

The reigning Stanley Cup champions entered the playoffs as the No. 8 seed last season. They played better under adversity. It just doesn’t feel right this time around.

The Canyon baseball team is hanging tough. The Cowboys were a game out of first place after the first 11 games of the Foothill League season. They trail West Ranch, but look like a playoff team.

It has been a great baseball season in the Santa Clarita Valley. West Ranch will have to fight for its life to win the Foothill League title.

Canyon emerged as a top team in league.

Valencia’s Luke Soroko tossed a no-hitter against Hart.

Hart and Saugus have been league spoilers.

Even Golden Valley posted a couple wins in league to make it interesting in the final week of the Foothill League season.

It will be fun to watch how it all unfolds.

Tim Haddock is the sports director at KHTS AM 1220. He writes for the Ventura County Star, the Team USA website, SB Nation and covers sports for the SCV Beacon. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | April 19, 2013

The Lakers and the Dodgers both suffered through some bad news on the injury front last week.

Zack Greinke, the prize of the free-agent pitching market, broke his collarbone after a bench-clearing brawl against the Padres.

Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles tendon in the closing minutes of a loss to the Golden State Warriors and had season-ending surgery to repair it.

Both losses are big blows to the L.A. teams. Let’s start with Greinke.

By most accounts, Greinke might not be able to return to the rotation until the All-Star break. Quentin received an eight-game suspension and will not be able to return to the Padres’ lineup until April 23 against the Milwaukee Brewers.

That means Quentin missed the three-game series against the Dodgers that started on Monday, Jackie Robinson Day. He will also miss the road trip to San Francisco. Not that the Padres had much of a chance against the reigning World Series champions, but any win against the Giants is a good win, even if it comes at the hands of the newly hated Padres.

Instead of appealing the suspension, like most ballplayers do in this situation, Quentin and the Padres decided to start serving it immediately. Padres manager Bud Black told MLB.com that Quentin and the team want to put the bench-clearing brawl behind them as quickly as possible.

“There have been many different ideas, thoughts and concerns put out there,” Quentin told MLB.com. “I will say this about the Dodgers series — I will obviously miss this one, but I will be part of the rest of them. We play them many times.”
The Padres are back for a three-game series against the Dodgers starting on June 3.
As for Bryant, he will be out for at least six months. Some say he will be back in time for opening day in the fall. That might be a little optimistic, but if anyone can do it, it’s Bryant.

Bryant is as tough as they come, but you have to wonder if the number of minutes he played this season contributed to his Achilles tendon injury. It was like the Lakers were using a Maserati as a commuter car to drive to work every day. It was bound to break down eventually.

The Kobe critics in this town will finally get what they’ve been asking for, though – a chance to see how good the Lakers are without Bryant. They have been second-round playoff fodder the past couple of seasons. Now they might be lottery material.

The Lakers did look pretty good against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday. That might be a first-round playoff match-up. But even if the Lakers pull off the upset, they will most likely lose in the second round again, and have to face the prospect of life without Kobe.

Forgive me if memories of Cedric Ceballos leading the Lakers in scoring start surfacing.

The Valencia softball team pulled off a bit of a shocker in the Foothill League opener against Saugus last week.

Valencia won the game, 9-6, scoring five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Nicole Joseph hit a three-run home run to cap the rally. Sydney Mundell went the distance for the Vikings to earn the win.

Saugus entered the game with a seven-game winning streak and was the overwhelming favorite to win the Foothill League championship.
Valencia lost four of five games in the Michelle Carew Classic in Anaheim over spring break and hasn’t won the league title in two years.

Mundell and Mariah Lopez, the freshman starter for Saugus, matched each other with three shutout innings to start the game. But Saugus took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning and added two more runs in the fifth inning.

Down 4-0, Valencia cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fifth inning and tied the score in the sixth inning.

But Saugus took the lead again by scoring two runs in the top of the seventh off Mundell. Her teammates got her off the hook with a rally in the bottom of the seventh.

“Sydney pitched basically well enough to win and we got her the runs,” Valencia coach Donna Lee said. “She made a couple mistake pitches, but really, we didn’t help her out by making some errors. Couple of those runs were unearned, obviously.”

Valencia is off to a 2-0 start in Foothill League play. Saugus bounced back with a 12-2 win over Hart to even its record at 1-1 in the Foothill League.

“In this league, you have to play your A game every game,” Saugus coach Julie Watson said, after her team’s game against Valencia. “We didn’t do that. We just need to learn from this and go from there.”

West Ranch is tied with Valencia at 2-0 atop the Foothill League standings. The Vikings are looking for their first league championship since 2010.

“We have an expectation now of playing at this level,” Lee said. “Our job is to make sure we go to every game and have the same intensity.”

The Canyon baseball team went 4-1 in its first go-round in Foothill League play. The Cowboys are 0-2 after the first two games of the second round through league. Canyon has definitely cooled off after its hot start. West Ranch avenged a loss to Canyon, 10-3, scoring seven runs in the seventh inning to win the game.
After seven games in Foothill League play, West Ranch is in first place with a 5-2 record. Canyon, Valencia, and Saugus are tied for second at 4-3.

Golden Valley won its first Foothill League game of the season, 4-2, over Valencia on Friday. The Grizzlies came into the game with only one win all season.

The Hart baseball team proved it can pull off a stunner or two as well. The Indians were the first team to beat Canyon in league play. They knocked off Saugus, 3-2, scoring the winning run on bases-loaded balk on Friday.

Halfway through Foothill League play, the championship is wide open. It also looks like there aren’t any easy games for any of the teams in the Foothill League.

Tim Haddock is the sports director at KHTS AM 1220. He writes for the Ventura County Star, the Team USA website, SB Nation and covers NASCAR for the K&N website. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | April 5, 2013

Opening day at Dodger Stadium was full of surprises.

Clayton Kershaw pitched a shutout against the Giants. No real surprise there. Kershaw owns the Giants, especially on opening day.

He surprised everyone with a solo home run in the eighth inning to break up a scoreless tie. It started a Dodgers’ four-run rally, and led to the eventual winning margin, 4-0.

His opening day home run was the first of its kind since 1988. Joe Magrane of the St. Louis Cardinals was the last starting pitcher to hit a homer on opening day. The last Dodger to hit a home run on opening day was Don Drysdale in 1965, a year that ended with a World Series title for the Dodgers, by the way.

The last time a pitcher threw a shutout and hit a home run on opening day was in 1953 by Bob Lemon of the Cleveland Indians.

It’s been quite a while since anyone has seen the type of game Kershaw had on opening day. Here’s to hoping the Dodgers have a few more surprises up their batting gloves.

The real surprises were off the field. New Dodger Vision. New sound system. New bathrooms. New concession stands. More space to walk. More spaces to watch the game. More space for kids to play. More places for grown-ups to enjoy the game.

The new Dodgers ownership made some major upgrades. The unveiling of the new scoreboard and big-screen video screens brought tears to some of the eyes in the stands on opening day.
The new Dodgers lineup took a while to wake up, though. Kershaw provided the spark. Carl Crawford, one of the new Dodger faces, made sure the fire stayed alive in the eighth inning. He doubled and scored on a wild pitch in the four-run eighth.
Some of the familiar faces on the Dodgers came through with some productive at-bats as well. Mark Ellis had a couple of hits. Andre Ethier and AJ Ellis each knocked in a run in the eighth inning. Perhaps a sign of things to come.

John Gilbertson from The Master’s College put the world on notice at the Stanford Invitational track and field meet.

He set the world’s fastest this year in the 10,000 meters. He won his heat race in 28 minutes, 30.35 seconds, nearly 20 seconds faster than the previous best time in the world, set by Elroy Gelant of South Africa.

“I felt the race went pretty well,” said Gilbertson. “I tried to stay relaxed throughout the entirety of the race and to hang with the rabbits. Halfway through, the leaders broke off and things started picking up. I was able to make a final push when it came down to the finish. Praise the Lord for this victory!”

Gelant recorded a time of 28 minutes, 50.24 seconds in the 10K earlier this year.

Two runners at the Stanford Invitational broke Gelant’s mark. Parker Stinson from the University of Oregon was second in 28 minutes, 34.71 seconds.

Gilbertson is quickly becoming one of the most accomplished athletes from The Master’s College, the likes of which the Newhall campus hasn’t seen since Mike Penberthy was playing basketball at Bross Gymnasium. Penberthy went on to play with Shaq and Kobe on two of the Lakers NBA championship teams.

But Gilbertson is still a bit of an unknown entity, even in the most seasoned track and field circles. One of the commentators on Flotrack.org webcast asked out loud, “Who is that guy, Gilbertson? And where is The Master’s College?”

Gilbertson already made a name for himself at Stanford in cross country. He won the Stanford Cross Country Invitational in the fall to cap an undefeated season and was selected as the 2012 NAIA national champion in November.

Perhaps he needs to win a world championship in the 10K to put The Master’s College back on the map.

The UCLA Bruins are the big losers in the basketball coaching carousel.

Three NCAA programs in Southern California were looking for new coaches. UCLA settled for Steve Alford, who took an underachieving New Mexico team to the NCAA tournament as a No. 3 seed and lost to Harvard in the first round.

USC, which didn’t make the tournament, hired one of the rising coaching stars in college basketball. The Trojans landed Andy Enfield from Florida Gulf Coast University. All Enfield did was take a No. 15 seed in the NCAA tournament to the Sweet 16.

Even Cal State Northridge made a better hire than UCLA. Reggie Theus will coach the Matadors, according to reports by ESPN. He was the coach of the Sacramento Kings in the NBA and at New Mexico State in college. Theus has spent the past two seasons as the head coach of the Los Angeles Defenders in the NBA D-League.

Nice job Bruin nation. You have been upstaged in basketball by USC and CSUN.

The Canyon baseball team, predicted by one local newspaper that will remain nameless to finish in fourth place in the Foothill League, is in first place after the first round of league play.

The Cowboys beat West Ranch to open league play and followed with wins over Valencia and Saugus. Their only loss came against Hart. Some might even say the Cowboys beat themselves in that game, committing six errors in a 5-4 setback.

The Indians scored five runs on one hit. Canyon starter Max Weinstein pitched a gem, but the Cowboys committed four errors in a three-run fourth inning. Hart took the lead and held on for the win.

But Canyon bounced back and won its next three league games in a row. The Cowboys are all alone in first place, a game ahead of Valencia, Saugus and West Ranch, during spring break.

Canyon won its fourth game in a row, 2-1, over Oxnard in the Anaheim Lions Tournament. The Cowboys were 2-1, losing to Santa Margarita on the second day of the tournament, after the first three games of the Lions Tournament.

Foothill League play resumes on April 10 when Canyon faces West Ranch.

Tim Haddock is the sports director at KHTS AM 1220. He writes for the Ventura County Star, the Team USA website, SB Nation and covers NASCAR for the K&N website. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | March 7, 2013

The Trinity boys basketball team became the darlings of the CIF playoffs. The Knights reached the championship game of the Southern Section Division 6 playoffs with a roster of seven freshmen and only one senior. They reached the championship game after having a varsity program for only three years.

Trinity lost to Rio Hondo Prep, the top-seeded team in the Division 6 playoffs, in a low-scoring affair at Mater Dei High School on Saturday morning. Both teams shot poorly from the field and Rio Hondo gutted out a 47-40 win.

Ryan Brooks scored a team-high 12 points for Trinity. He was the only player from Trinity in double figures. The team shot 37 percent from the field and made only 4 of 17 3-pointers.

Andrew Pablan hit one of those rare 3-pointers with a minute to play and cut the Rio Hondo lead to two points, 42-40. But Rio Hondo scored the last five points of the game for the seven-point margin of victory.

Two of Rio Hondo’s players combined for 35 of its team’s 47 points. Trinity had a more balanced offense, but it lacked effectiveness.

Trinity had a chance to make some Santa Clarita basketball history. Only one other team has won a CIF boys basketball championship. The Saugus boys in 1987 took down the top two seeds in the Southern Section Division 3-A championship to capture its only CIF basketball title in school history.

The Knights play Tranquility in the first round of the CIF Southern California Division V Regional playoffs. Trinity is the No. 9 seed in the Southern California Regionals. Tranquility, from the Central Section, is the No. 8 seed.

It won’t take long to see if Trinity will make a deep run in the state playoffs. The winner of the game between Trinity and Tranquility will play Horizon Christian, the top seed in the Southern California Regionals, in the second round.

Whatever happens in the CIF state playoffs, it looks like Trinity will be in good shape for a few years. Three freshmen are starters and all but one player is returning next season. Trinity might be CIF contenders for a few years.

With a one-point win over the visiting Atlanta Hawks, the Lakers are .500 for the first time in 2013. The last time they had a break-even record was on Dec. 28.

Even at .500, the Lakers are 2 ½ games behind the Houston Rockets and the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

After the game against the Hawks, the Lakers have 22 games remaining. One of those games is against the Hawks on March 13. It’s hardly a gimme. The game will be in Atlanta and the Lakers will need another win to stay in the playoff hunt.

If the Lakers do make the playoffs, their likely first-round opponent will be the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder won the first three meetings between the two teams. The Thunder won those three games by an average of 10 points. The closest game was in Oklahoma City on Dec. 7. The Lakers only lost that game by six points.

Even if the Lakers find a way to make it into the playoffs, they probably won’t stay for very long.

The Clippers, despite having one of the best seasons in franchise history, are in the same playoff boat as the Lakers.

If the playoffs started today, the Clippers would play the Golden State Warriors in the first round. That’s a bad match-up for the Clippers. The Warriors have won three of the four games against the Clippers this season.

The Warriors’ average margin of victory is 10.3 points per game. That includes a 21-point blowout on Jan. 2. The Clippers did return the favor three days later with a 26-point win over the Warriors.

Still, if the Clippers have to play the Warriors in the first round, it might make for a short stint.

Yasiel Puig is going to make Dodger fans forget about Mike Piazza.

Danica Patrick made quite an impression at the Daytona 500. She won the pole, finished in the top 10 and brought more attention to the race than any driver has in years.

She followed up with a 39th-place finish and a crash at Phoenix International Raceway.

Meanwhile, Jimmie Johnson won his second Daytona 500 and Carl Edwards ended a 70-race drought by winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix.

Danica-mania is fun to watch, but what will happen first: Danica wins a Cup race or Johnson wins another Cup championship?

On a more local level, Canyon High graduate Greg Pursley won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season opener at Phoenix International Raceway. He was part of a 1-2 finish for Gene Price Motorsports. His teenage teammate, Cameron Hayley, the winner of the UNOH Battle at the Beach all-star race in Daytona, was second.

Santa Clarita’s Rich DeLong III, making his West Series debut, was 22nd at Phoenix.

Tim Haddock is the sports director at KHTS AM 1220. He writes for USA Today, the Team USA website, SB Nation and the Ventura County Star. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | February 22, 2013

Before everyone gets all excited about Danica Patrick winning the pole position for the Daytona 500, here’s a little tidbit: Only seven drivers in the 55-year history of Daytona 500 have won the race from the pole.
Patrick made NASCAR history by becoming the first woman to win the pole for the Daytona 500 on Sunday. While she only claims responsibility for 10 percent of the record-breaking feat, her crew chief, Tony Gibson, gives her at least half the credit for putting the car out front to start the race.

“I appreciate the recognition, but it really falls, as I think I said before I went out on the track, 90 percent on Tony and his guys, everybody that gives me the car to go out there and be fast, and maybe 10 percent on me,” said Patrick, the driver of the No. 10 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. “All I have to do is think about going out there, being smooth, not letting the car bind up, running on that yellow line. Outside of that, I think it shows how well prepared Tony and everybody was, how strong the Hendrick engines are, how good the new Chevy SS is. We’ve been fast since practice in January.”

Yes, Chevy seems to have the new Gen-6 cars figured out, for Daytona at any rate. Kevin Harvick, driving a Chevy for Richard Childress Racing, won the Sprint Unlimited race. Jeff Gordon, driving a Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports, will start on the front row with Patrick for the Daytona 500.

Having good cars certainly helps, especially at tracks like Daytona International Speedway, where too many outside factors contribute to determining the race winner. But a good driver contributes more than 10 percent to a team’s success.

“It’s a team effort. Like I told Danica, it’s more than 10 percent driver,” Gibson said. “I was talking to David Green on the line, about five cars away. He’s just like, ‘Remind her to hit her shifter. I’ve messed up and overshifted and messed the lap up.’ It’s more than 10 percent  because you can put a good product out there, but if you don’t have the person to drive it, put everything else together, it can really damage your day.”

Winning the pole position for the Daytona 500 is no small accomplishment. It is one more milestone in a long list of accomplishments for Patrick. She was the first woman to win an IndyCar Series race. She was the first woman to lead a lap in the Indianapolis 500. She has been a trailblazer since she started her auto racing career.

It’s a role she embraces.

“I mean, I’ve had the experience with mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, listening to them say the reason why they’re here as a family today is because of me out there, whether it brings the girls out, the guys out, whatever it is, I don’t care. That’s nice to hear,” Patrick said. “It’s also nice to hear families talk about the fact that a little girl might say, ‘But, mommy, daddy, that’s a girl out there.’ Then they can have the conversation with their kid about you can do anything you want and being different doesn’t by any means not allow you to follow your dreams. I love to think that conversation happens in households because of something I’m doing.”

Her work is far from over. Winning the pole at Daytona is one thing. Winning the race is another. But Patrick said she craves the limelight. Well, maybe not crave, but she certainly enjoys the challenge of delivering when all eyes are on her.

“I love it when people put me on the radar, I do,” Patrick said. “I think it’s good. It’s a confidence boost when people are saying, I heard Mr. Childress say he thought I was the one to lose the pole. When people put you on the radar, that feels good to me,” Patrick said after winning the pole on Sunday. “I like that after practice in January and yesterday after practice that people were saying I was the one that could go out there and get the pole. That to me was some of the coolest feelings.”

Now for that pesky Daytona history. Dale Jarrett was the last driver to win the Daytona 500 from the pole in 2000. Gordon did it the year before in 1999. Fireball Roberts was the first to do it in 1959.

Only two drivers have won the Daytona 500 from the pole twice. No driver has done it three times. In recent years, Daytona has become the NASCAR version of “Survivor.” If Patrick can make it to the finish, it will be an accomplishment. If she wins the race, the NASCAR universe might very well collapse.

“It’s really amazing how much effort is put into a qualifying car for Daytona, for the 500, and really only the front row is what sticks for Sunday,” Patrick said. “It’s nice that all that hard work can pay off and that we can give ourselves that opportunity to lead the pack down into the tri oval for the green flag of the Daytona 500.”

The high school basketball and soccer playoffs are under way. Here’s a quick update of who’s still alive and whose seasons are done.

The Hart boys soccer team is the darling of the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs. The Indians are in the second round after winning their wild-card playoff game and have outscored their opponents 4-0.

Hart won its first game, 2-0, over Workman and followed with a 2-0 shutout over Beverly Hills. The Indians play Santa Paula on Wednesday.
The West Ranch boys soccer team is alive and well in the Division 4 playoffs and could meet Hart in the semifinals. The Wildcats beat North Torrance, 2-1, in the first round and play Oak Hills in the second round.

The Valencia boys soccer team advanced to the second round of the Division 4 playoffs after a 2-0 win over Chino. The Vikings play Temescal Canyon on Wednesday.

The Valencia girls soccer team reached the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs after a 1-0 win over Moorpark.

The Canyon and Hart girls also advanced to the second round of the Division 2 playoffs. The Saugus girls were the only team from the Foothill League to lose in the first round of the soccer playoffs.

The Valencia girls basketball team won its first-round Southern Section Division 1AA playoff game, 64-34, over Pacifica of Oxnard. The Vikings play Centennial Corona in the second round.

The Canyon girls also won their first-round playoff game in Division 2AA. They beat Channel Islands, 75-44, and play Kaiser in the second round.

The Saugus girls won their first-round playoff game in Division 2AA. The Centurions beat Sultana, 42-36, and will play Murrieta Valley in the second round.

The West Ranch girls lost their first-round playoff game, 54-45, to Highland in Division 1AA.

The West Ranch and Valencia boys basketball teams reached the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1A playoffs. West Ranch, the No. 3 seed in the playoffs, beat Ventura, 77-59, in the first round. Valencia, the No. 11 seed, beat Arroyo Valley, 76-57, in its first-round playoff game.

The Saugus boys lost to Redlands East Valley, 67-51, in the first round of the Division 2A playoffs.

The Hart boys basketball team was upset in the second round of the Division 3AAA playoffs. The Indians, the third-seeded team in Division 3AAA, lost to West Torrance, 64-55.
The Canyon boys basketball team lost to Lawndale, 73-63, in the first round of the Division 2AA playoffs.
The Trinity Classical Academy boys basketball team is in the quarterfinals of the Division 6 playoffs. The Knights, the No. 2 seed in Division 6, beat Southwestern Academy, 77-36, in the first round and Hope Centre Academy, 64-47, in the second round.

In college basketball, the College of the Canyons men’s team won the Western State Conference South Division championship. The Cougars beat Santa Monica, 82-76, in the regular season finale and finished with a 9-1 conference record.

Tim Haddock is the sports director at KHTS AM 1220. He writes for USA Today, the Team USA website, SB Nation and the Ventura County Star. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | February 8, 2013

In the battle of Super Bowl car ads, the checkered flag goes to Audi.

The Audi commercial about the dad letting his son take his car to the school dance took the lead early and held it throughout Super Bowl XLVII. The car gives the son enough courage to kiss the prom queen, only to drive home with a black eye, courtesy of the prom king. The reward far outweighed the risk. Nice message, Audi.

The Dodge Ram ad about farmers was a close second. The only problem with that ad was that not many farmers can afford to buy new trucks. What are we supposed to do? Buy farmers a new Ram because they work so hard and deserve one?

The Mercedes ad was third. Willem Dafoe had his best role since “To Live and Die in L.A.” The music, “Sympathy for the Devil,” was classic, but didn’t quite fit when the potential car buyer refuses to sign a contract with said Devil.

Interesting side note on the Mercedes commercial: The race car scenes were shot at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.

In fourth place was Toyota. Kaley Cuoco as the Rav 4 Genie was pretty hot, but the puns and twisted wishes quickly turned into a bad Saturday Night Live sketch.

Rounding out the top five was the Volkswagen commercial. Nothing says sale like a happy Swede. Well, lots of things say sale better than a happy Swede. There are four perfectly good examples provided by Audi, Dodge, Mercedes and Toyota during the Super Bowl. Doritos and M&Ms were good examples too.

GoDaddy had the worst commercial of the Super Bowl. According to Twitter accounts, and we all know how accurate those are, “Walter” needed more than 60 takes to shoot the commercial. By the looks of Bar Refaeli at the end of the commercial, six takes were too many.

As for the game, it’s nice to see Joe Flacco off the list of best quarterbacks to never win a Super Bowl.

Randy Moss can deservedly take possession of the title of best receiver to never win a Super Bowl.

This was the first time since 2003 in the Super Bowl, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played the Oakland Raiders, that Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning or Ben Rothlisberger wasn’t in a Super Bowl.

With the emergence of Flacco, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffith III and Russell Wilson, the quarterbacks in that fantastic four probably won’t play in another Super Bowl.

Eli Manning has the best chance, but this was definitely an era-shifting Super Bowl. Time for the Patriots, Steelers, Giants and Broncos to rebuild. Ravens fans, Seahawks fans, Colts fans and Redskins fans, rejoice. Your time is now.

San Francisco 49ers fans are in good hands with Colin Kaepernick. He won’t have the Dan Marino albatross hanging around his neck, not as long as Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and Patrick Willis stay Niners.

Flacco, on the other hand, might fall into the Mark Rypien, Trent Dilfer category of Super Bowl quarterbacks. Good enough to win one, but his supporting cast probably doesn’t have another Super Bowl run in them.

Make no mistake, the strength of this Ravens team was the defense. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, the heart and soul of the defense, are at the end of their careers. It will be hard to find players to pick up the slack in their absence.

The Los Angeles Kings, your reigning Stanley Cup champions, are 2-2-2 after the first six games of the season. Before pressing the panic button, remember the Kings were the eighth seed, the last team to make the playoffs, last year.

Once in the playoffs, the Kings rolled, easily dispatching the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks in the first round. Then the St. Louis Blues, then the Phoenix Coyotes before toppling the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup finals.

Still, after six games, only two players have scored more than one goal. Jeff Carter leads the team with three. Kyle Clifford leads the team in scoring with five points, one goal and four assists.

The whole team has scored only 11 goals in six games. That comes out to a 1.83 goals per game. It doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out a team isn’t going to win many games scoring less than two goals a game.

But this team seems built for the playoffs. Let’s hope they are built for the playoffs. They need to figure out a way to get into the playoffs for all of us to find out.

The Hart and West Ranch boys basketball teams look like they are headed for a share of the Foothill League championship.

The two teams are tied for first place in the Foothill League standings. They both have 7-1 records. They both beat one another in Foothill League play. The Wildcats won the league opener. Hart avenged that loss two weeks ago.

They are both contenders for CIF championships as well. Hart has been ranked No. 1 in the Southern Section Division 3AAA poll, but has slipped to No. 2 in recent weeks.
West Ranch was ranked as high as No. 2 in the Division 1AA poll, but dropped to No. 3 after losing to Hart.

Still both teams are poised to make deep playoff runs, perhaps even a trip to a CIF championship game.

The Valencia girls basketball team won its first seven Foothill League games before losing to Canyon on Friday night. The Vikings look like they will finish with at least a share of the Foothill League title with the Canyon girls.

But once CIF playoffs start, the Valencia girls might have a tough time. They are in the Southern Section Division 1AA, the top division in the Southern Section. They are ranked seventh in Division 1AA.

Mater Dei, the reigning CIF State Division 1 champion, is the top-ranked team in Division 1AA. Long Beach Poly and Milikan are No. 2 and No. 3. The Vikings will be lucky to make it past the quarterfinals, but it would still be a good playoff run.

Canyon, on the other hand, is tied with Valencia for first place in the Foothill League standings and will have a little easier time in the CIF playoffs.

The Canyon girls are in the Southern Section Division 2AA and ranked No. 6. Cajon is ranked No. 1. There are a couple teams from Ventura County, Camarillo and Thousand Oaks, in the top 10. For the most part, the competition in Division 2AA is nowhere near as tough as Division 1AA.

But like Valencia, if the Canyon girls can reach the quarterfinals of the playoffs, it will be a good run.

Tim Haddock is the sports director for KHTS AM 1220. He writes for USA Today, the Team USA website, SB Nation and the Ventura County Star. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | January 25, 2013

It wasn’t until I received a Facebook message from a friend of a friend asking if I could help cover a story for USA Today that I started giving Lennay Kekua any more than a passing thought.

Of course, Lennay doesn’t exist. She is the fake girlfriend of Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te’o. She made a great story, though, becoming the tragic love interest of one of the most popular college football players in the country.

But instead of living happily ever after, like all good fairy tales, she wound up in a car accident, then contracted leukemia and died. Te’o told Sports Illustrated and ESPN, among other reputable media outlets, about his girlfriend’s tragic demise. They all bought it, never once stopping to ask if she had any family members, friends or classmates who were grieving as passionately as Te’o.

Te’o claimed he was duped. Writers and editors at Sports Illustrated claimed they were duped. Reporters and producers at ESPN claimed they were duped. As the hoax unraveled, a trail led to Palmdale, where the suspected creator of the fake girlfriend lived.

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a once promising football player at Antelope Valley and Paraclete high schools, was fingered as the perpetrator of the preposterous. I drove up the Antelope Valley Freeway in the middle of the night in search of Tuiasosopo with the hopes he would say something to explain why he created a fake girlfriend for Te’o, what was his motivation, and why did he carry on with the charade for as long as he did.

I wasn’t the only one on the hunt either.
When I arrived on the cozy cul-de-sac in Palmdale where Tuiasosopo’s family lived, a reporter from the Daily Mail in England greeted me. From a quiet car parked on the street, I heard the subtle whispers, “Mate, mate, do you live here?”

Well, no, I was there to see if Tuiasosopo lived at one of the houses at the end of the cul-de-sac, was the response. The Daily Mail reporter was staking out the house for a few hours. There was an old lady in the house who answered the door when he knocked. She told him to leave and the family had no comment.

TV news vans and a reporter from the Associated Press arrived later that night. None of us had any luck finding Tuiasosopo. The next day even more media members were camping out on the street. Reporters from ESPN, Reuters, Good Morning America as well as the usual suspects spent the day outside the Tuiasosopo house.

Whoever was tweeting from Kekua’s Twitter account promised a statement at 11 a.m. That proved to be another joke in the same vein as the original hoax of creating a fake girlfriend.

After two days of waiting for Tuiasosopo to offer any comment about Te’o, Kekua or the relationship between the two, I was ready to move on. It was clear the person or people orchestrating the hoax had no interest in coming clean.

All we have left is to speculate on the motivation. Money? Te’o hasn’t said he was asked for money or extorted in any way. All he has said is that he is a victim, 100 percent, and had no role in creating the fake girlfriend. That’s hard to believe.

Could it be that Tuiasosopo is some 20-something old kid with no job, no college and too much time on his hands? He and his friends, because it appears there was more than one person pretending to be Kekua, still have way too much time on their hands. No one from the family is talking, even the father, Titus Tuiasosopo, a pastor at a church in the Antelope Valley. Ronaiah Tuiasosopo has almost completely disappeared. Te’o told ESPN that he talked to Ronaiah and he apologized. But how can anyone believe anything Te’o says at this point?

Another liar whose pants are on fire is Lance Armstrong. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, he admitted to doping during his seven Tour de France victories. He was the cheatiest of the cheaters in cycling. But it wasn’t so much that he lied about doping that is so offensive. It is that he reportedly bullied and threatened anyone who questioned his claims of racing clean.

Teammates, sponsors, even cycling officials and organizers experienced Armstrong’s furor. He sued people who accused him of cheating. He won million-dollar settlements from people and newspapers he sued for libel and defamation. It looks like all those people are vindicated, but still had to pay for being whistleblowers.
Armstrong told Oprah he was sorry for cheating. It sounded like a desperate plea from an athlete at the end of his career. His Live Strong campaign is dying. He is losing supporters quicker than Mitt Romney on Election Day.

Armstrong has plenty to be sorry for. But again, who is going to believe his sincerity at this point?

Now for some good news. The Master’s College women’s basketball team is having one of the best seasons in school history. The Lady Mustangs won their first 17 games and are ranked No. 8 in the NAIA.

Their most recent victory, over Biola 59-53 on Saturday, was their fourth in a row in Golden State Athletic Conference play.

The Master’s College women led 35-9 at halftime. But Biola made a furious charge in the second half, outscoring the Lady Mustangs, 44-24.

Still, The Master’s College women held on and won by six points.

It didn’t take long for hockey fans to forgive the NHL for the 113-day lockout that postponed the start of the NHL season for nearly three months.

The shortened season opened to sold-out arenas across North America on Saturday. Staples Center was one of those sold-out arenas. Kings fans, players, coaches and staff celebrated raising the first Stanley Cup championship banner to the rafters.
Then the party quickly soured, as the Kings lost to the visiting Chicago Blackhawks, 5-2, and trailed 3-0 after the first period.

Well, at least it’s a long season. Oh wait, no it’s not. Better pick it up, Kings.

Tim Haddock is the sports director for KHTS AM 1220. He writes for USA Today, the Team USA website, Ventura County Star, the SCV Beacon and SB Nation. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | January 11, 2013

In the immortal words of Wayne Campbell: Game On!

The NHL season will commence after a 113-day lockout. Reports indicate that the season will be at least 48 games and could start as soon as Jan. 19.

Don’t forget, you can listen to every Kings game on AM 1220 KHTS.

The big question is will the fans come back? Of course they will. They always do. It might take years for the NHL to attract the casual sports fan. But casual sports fans have never embraced hockey. It is a niche sport, in the same vein as beach volleyball or NHRA drag racing. It has a loyal fan base, but no mass appeal.

Hockey in Los Angeles showed some signs of life during the Stanley Cup playoffs last year. The Kings made an unlikely run as the eight seed out of the Western Conference to win their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.

Tickets for Stanley Cup Finals games were going for $500 for the cheapest seats and there were no empty seats at Staples Center for the series against the New Jersey Devils.

Let’s see if the Kings can sell out the delayed opening night, when the team can raise its one and only Stanley Cup championship banner.

It shouldn’t be a tough sell, but it will be a good indicator if the NHL and the Kings have a strong fan base in Los Angeles.

Now for some player updates. The Kings all-star forward Anze Kopitar injured his knee while playing for a team in Sweden, according to a report from ESPN. He is expected to be out three weeks.

Since the season probably won’t start for at least another two weeks, that might make for some good timing. But no team has much room for error, with less than 50 games of a regular season to jockey for playoff position.

More potentially bad news: Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is looking for medical clearance after having off-season back surgery. He is expected to be cleared, but recovering from back surgery can be a little tricky. Just ask Dwight Howard.

On the bright side, the NHL is coming back. The deal should keep the puck on the ice for another 10 years. The Kings have a team that should contend for another Stanley Cup. All in all, it’s a good time to be a hockey fan. Hug one if you find one.

Wonder who will have a statue outside Staples Center first: a Clipper or a Spark. The Sparks already have two retired numbers hanging in the rafters at Staples Center. The Clippers don’t even have a ribbon yet.

The UCLA and USC football teams ended their seasons with bowl losses. UCLA lost to Baylor in the Holiday Bowl. USC lost to Georgia Tech, the only team in a bowl game with a losing record, at the Sun Bowl.

UCLA lost three games in a row to end its season. Two of those came against Stanford, though.
The Trojans became the first team in NCAA history to be ranked as the preseason No. 1 team and lose six games.

Neither team gave their fans much to look forward to in 2013.

The Hart boys basketball team won its first 16 games of the season. The Indians are undefeated with three tournament championships, including its own Holiday Classic over the high school winter break.

It’s quite a streak, one shy of the franchise record 17-game winning streak the Clippers went on in December. It has people talking about the Campbell Hall team that went undefeated at 32-0 in 2005. Memories of the Glendale team that went 28-0 in 1985 are surfacing.

What people can’t remember is if any Hart team started 16-0. There have been some talented teams at Hart in the past, one that made the Southern Section finals eight years ago, but even that team had some losses in the regular season.

As good as the Hart boys have been playing, there are a couple other unbeaten teams in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The Saugus girls soccer team, ranked No. 3 in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 poll, ran its unbeaten streak to 15 games after winning the Los Tacos Tournament over host Flintridge Sacred Heart in Glendale.
The Saugus girls won the championship match, 5-4 on penalty kicks, after the two teams played to a 1-1 draw in regulation. The result of the game officially goes down as a tie, putting Saugus at 13-0-2.

The Master’s College women’s basketball team improved to 13-0 with a 96-62 win over Simpson on Saturday night.

The Lady Mustangs, ranked No. 13 in the NAIA, are off to their best start in school history.

The Master’s College women are getting production from all over the roster. Kimmie Iverson was the latest, scoring 18 points and making six 3-pointers off the bench to lead The Master’s College in scoring against Simpson. Six players scored in double figures for the Lady Mustangs.

The Hart boys and girls soccer teams made a sweep of the championships at their own Showcase Tournament before the end of 2012.

The Hart boys shut out Valencia, 1-0, in the championship match.
The Hart girls shut out Quartz Hill, 3-0, in the other championship match.

Both teams repeated as Hart Soccer Showcase Tournament champions.

Tim Haddock is the sports director at KHTS AM 1220. He also writes for the SCV Beacon, the Team USA website, Ventura County Star and SB Nation. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

Sports Capsule

| Gazette, Sports | December 28, 2012

Runners took center stage in the Santa Clarita sports world in 2012. From the Summer Olympics in London to Central Park in Saugus, cross country and track runners were celebrated. Allyson Felix won three gold medals in London. The Saugus girls cross country team won their seventh CIF state championship in a row. Chris Low from College of the Canyons won a state title in track. John Gilbertson from The Master’s College won a national championship in cross country.

But cross country and track and field were not the only sports in which athletes from the Santa Clarita Valley excelled. A receiver from Canyon High broke two state football records. A golfer from Valencia High qualified for her third US Women’s Open. The fire captain at Station 76 in Valencia won an IHRA drag racing event.

Here is a look at the top sports stories of the year:

1. Santa Clarita’s Allyson Felix won three gold medals at the Sumner Olympics in London. She won gold in the 200 and was on the gold-medal winning 4×400 and 4×100 relay teams. The 4×100 team broke the world record in London, winning the race in 40.82 seconds.

Felix won silver medals in the Olympics in the 200 in 2008 in Beijing and 2004 in Athens. Finally winning gold in the 200 was a milestone achievement.

“It is unbelievable,” Felix said shortly after winning her third gold medal in the 4×400 relay. “I think about how I ended in Beijing, kind of feeling discouraged there and now, four years later, to have all of this happen and to really accomplish every goal that I set out is just such a blessing. London is very special to me.”
The United States track and field team won nine gold medals in the Summer Olympics in London. Felix won a third of them.

2. The Saugus girls cross country team won its seventh straight CIF State championship at Woodward Park in Fresno in November.

Sophomore Samantha Ortega emerged as the leader of the Saugus girls team. She was the runner-up in the Division II state race, completing the course in 17 minutes, 33 seconds.

Five of the Saugus girls finished in the top 50 in the Division II state race. Heidi Hoslet was 21st in 18 minutes, 32 seconds. Abigail Frankian was 23rd, Katie Huntington was 35th and Olivia Altieri was 49th.

The Saugus girls scored 97 points in the state meet and won by 11 points over La Costa Canyon.

The Centurions earned a spot in the Nike Cross National meet in Portland, Ore., for the seventh year in a row after winning the CIF State title.

3. Canyon receiver Drew Wolitarsky broke two state football records. He caught nine passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns in the first round of the Southern Section Northern Division playoffs against San Luis Obispo, breaking the state record for career catches. Wolitarsky caught 277 passes in his career at Canyon to break the old mark of 271 set by Steve Smith from Taft High in Woodland Hills. Smith is a receiver with the St. Louis Rams in the NFL.

Wolitarsky broke Smith’s state record for receiving yards with a nine-catch, 149-yard performance against Golden Valley in October. After the game, he had 4,585 career receiving yards, breaking Smith’s record of 4,486 yards. Wolitarsky finished with 5,148 receiving yards in his high school career.
4. Valencia High senior Alison Lee made the cut at the US Women’s Open at the Blackwolf Run golf course in Kohler, Wis., and finished in a tie for 60th place. She was one of three amateurs to make the cut. Lee was making her third appearance in the US Women’s Open golf tournament.

Later in the summer, Lee won the PING Invitational golf tournament at the Karsten Creek course in Stillwater, Okla. It was her second American Junior Golf Association championship of the year.

She has won six AJGA titles in her career. In her three appearances in the US Women’s Open, Lee has made the cut twice. In her first appearance, before her freshman year in high school, she finished in 26th place.

5. Canyon High graduate Chuck Osborne, who played football in the NFL and in college at the University of Arizona, died at his home in La Jolla in October. He was 38.

Osborne was a seventh-round draft pick by the St. Louis Rams in 1996. He played with the Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots, for a total of 37 games in the NFL.

At the University of Arizona, he was an All-Pac 10 selection in his senior season. His best season was in 1994 when he led the Wildcats in sacks, with 11.

He was also an all-state selection in his senior season at Canyon High School.

6. College of the Canyons track coach Lashinda Demus won the silver medal in the 400 meter hurdles at the London Summer Games.

7. College of the Canyons runner Chris Low won the California Community College Athletic Association state championship in the 800. He won the race in 1 minute, 49.16 seconds at the state meet at Cerritos College. He was one of six athletes from COC to earn All-America recognition.

8. Hart’s Tim White won two CIF Southern Section track and field championships. He won the high jump and the triple jump in the Division III meet, and became the first athlete from Hart to win two CIF Southern Section titles.

9. The Master’s College’s John Gilbertson won the NAIA national championship in cross country in Vancouver, Wash., in November. He won the race in 23 minutes, 56 seconds and earned NAIA All-American honors.

Teammate Anthony Pizzo, a Canyon High graduate, also earned a spot on the All-America team with a 15th-place finish at the NAIA national championship meet. The Master’s College men’s cross country team was ranked No. 8 in the final NAIA national poll.

10. Johnny Ahten, the captain at Fire Station 76 in Valencia, won the IHRA drag racing event in the Pro Fuel Dragster division at the Nitro Jam at Southwestern International Raceway in Arizona in March.

Tim Haddock is the sports director at KHTS AM 1220. He writes for the Ventura County Star, SB Nation and the Team USA website. He can be reached by e-mail at tim@hometownstation.com. Follow him on Twitter @thaddock.

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