Well, it’s that time of the year again. Time to say goodbye to all the great (and not so great) memories of the 2009 sports season in Santa Clarita. To tell you this was a bit of a disappointing year would be an understatement. Just as teams would get up, something seemed to knock them down. It just felt like nobody could get over the hump.
There was a little bit of greatness left on the table. But the future looks as bright as ever. Let’s call this a rebuilding year (one that will actually rebuild, unlike Al Davis and the Raiders.) So here it is; the annual KHTS Top 10 Sports stories of 2009.
10. Welcome to the Future (Of Foothill League Basketball)
Never in my 5+ years of covering Foothill League sports have I seen two boy’s basketball players with as much potential as Golden Valley’s Trevor Wiseman and Valencia’s Lonnie Jackson. Each player has reset single-game scoring records at their school already. The senior leader, Wiseman is as much a reason as head coach Chris Printz is for the Grizzlies turnaround the last few seasons. The three-year starter is a double-double machine (and I don’t mean In-N-Out). Last year the Grizzlies lost just 4 games, including a heart-breaking shoot-out with Gahr in the Division playoffs. This year they should be the favorite and Wiseman could be the first player from the big sports (football and basketball) at Golden Valley to earn a Division-I scholarship.
As great as the 6’8″ Wiseman has been, 6’3″ point guard Lonnie Jackson has equaled and even out-performed at times. The Valencia junior still has one more year after this, and he needs it. The one thing that will hold Jackson back is his size, and he certainly needs to add more muscle. But the kid is the most natural point guard I’ve ever seen in this valley. He averages 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists and if his teammates can get some consistency in their shots, the young Vikings could arrive a year ahead of time and give Golden Valley a challenge for league.
9. This Cardinals Team Wins Championship Games
Apologies to Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals, but Santa Clarita Christian has figured out how to finish teams when it counts, in the playoffs. And it doesn’t hurt that the most productive two-way football player in this valley’s history plays for them. Sure Collin Keoshian plays 8-man football, on a smaller field by 20 yards, and at far more wide-open speeds. But the 6’3″, 225 lbs. star has produced. After winning their school’s first ever CIF Championship last season, the Cardinal looked like sure locks for a repeat. Then senior quarterback Stephen Borden moved away a month before the season. Then Keoshian got hurt. Then the Cardinal started losing games.
Then Keoshian got healthy.
I could stop the story now if I wanted. You could figure out the rest. The Cardinals won their final seven games, scoring 60+ points in each of the first three playoff games, then defeating Faith Baptist 38-22 on the road to win the 8-Man Division I Championship for the second straight year. Keoshian, who is headed to BYU, where he will most likely play linebacker, finished the year with 47 offensive touchdowns (7 passing, 4 receiving, 36 rushing). He also ran for 1,709 yards with a SILLY 10 YARDS PER CARRY. That should be illegal. Tack on 87 tackles, a pair of interceptions, four forced fumbles, a 41 yard per punt average, and more than half of his kick-off attempts for touchbacks, and you get the picture.
On top of all this, the kid is simply special. His family raised him right, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him making plays all over the field at BYU. On a side note, one player often overlooked was SCCS’ other Colin, Colin Mayhugh. The senior was second on the team in everything behind Keoshian, and without Mayhugh stepping up during Keoshian’s injury; the Cardinal might have been golfing instead of playing in December.
8. “With the 10th pick of the 2011 MLB Draft, the Los Angeles Dodgers select…”
It could be Christian Lopes, the ridiculously talented shortstop at Valencia High School. Lopes is heading into his junior year, but he has already been spotlighted in Sports Illustrated, and depending on who you talk to, he is anywhere from the best, to in the top 5, to in the top 20 best players in his class. The kid hit .453 last season with 15 homeruns. He plays with passion, and he has the physical tools to be a Major League player. The ball jumps off his bat, and his defense is solid. And if the Dodgers continue to unload good players during what is bound to be the sloppiest divorce west of Tiger Woods, the team just might be calling his name in 2011.
7. The Best Kept Secret
If you’re ever looking for something to do in the SCV, you should consider checking out a College of the Canyons Women’s Basketball game. Talk about a well-kept secret. Greg Herrick’s club is constantly among the top of the state scoring list, and their ridiculous up-tempo game is actually fun to watch. They make deep runs in the state playoffs, but they have never gone all the way. Last season, with a supremely talented roster, it took an undefeated Ventura team to knock the Lady Cougars off in the playoffs. This year’s team is stacked with more local talent than normal, led by redshirt freshman Kelli Lewis, a former star at Hart High. And while they aren’t very big, the team did just knock off the 4th ranked Mt. Sac team. Herrick has been with the Cougars for 18 years, and the players seem more determined then ever to make this the year the team goes all the way.
6. Cougars Lose Their Groove
This had to be the single most frustrating year I can remember College of the Canyons’ football squad having since its reincarnation more than a decade ago. Garett Tujague’s team had all the athletic talent in the world, but for whatever reason they just couldn’t turn it into on-the-field success. At times, the team looked unstoppable. Then they would make their own mistakes. Quarterback Eric Brown has all the tools to be a dual-threat weapon in the mold of a Michael Vick at Virginia Tech, but too many bad decisions and turnovers cost the Cougars. COC missed the playoffs, and lost in their bowl game.
The team is very young, and if Oregon transfer Mychal Rivera sticks around one more year, this team has a lot of offensive weapons to work with. Tujague, perhaps the most passionate coach I’ve ever talked with, always preaches playing Cougar Football. The team lost that swagger somewhere this year, and the coaching staff has a long road in front of them to build it back. But the Cougars do have the right people in place to make it happen, so continuing the rebuilding theme, look for something better than 6-5 when it’s all said and done in 2010.
5. A table for 10 please?
Talk about dominating a decade. The Valencia Vikings softball team has a chance to win their 10th straight Foothill League title next season, and perhaps their second national championship of the decade. The Vikings found a way to win for their 9th straight year, despite being the underdogs to Hart, who was loaded with senior talent in Destiny Rodino, Jessica Shults, and Devon Lindvall. Although Valencia exited the playoffs rather early (in the second round to Poly of Riverside), they got some good experience for a team that had only two seniors, starting catcher Amy Moore and reserve Lindsay Clark.
Look at the list of player the Vikings bring back though. Senior Madison Shipman is the early favorite to give Valencia their 3rd Gatorade State Player of the Year in four seasons. Megan Foglesong and Lauren Boser bring 3 years of varsity level leadership with them, and Carly Mortensen has a chance to be great at pitcher in only her sophomore season. Bottom Line, this season should be magical for the Vikings.
4. Heads or Tails?
Are you kidding me? How would you like to work for something for 6 months, only to have your success determined by the flip of a coin? Welcome to the world of Jason Bornn, Sean O’Brien, and Chris Varner. The varsity football coaches at Saugus, West Ranch, and Canyon respectively, had to stand in an office at Valencia High and flip coins. The victor got the honor of being Moorpark’s scrimmage in the first round, but still. You work all season to get to the playoffs, and in the flip of a coin, it’s over. Canyon won, and Chris Varner finally got the playoff monkey off his back, as the Cowboys returned to the playoffs for the first time since winning the CIF Division I State Championship in 2006. But you have to feel bad for Saugus, who lost a thriller to Canyon earlier the same night, setting up the coin flip situation, and West Ranch, who had their most successful season in school history. The good news? West Ranch has some serious players coming back, including quarterback Conner Eichten. And Canyon got sophomore quarterback Jonathan Jerozal and freshman wideout Drew Wolitarsky some playoff experience for next year.
3. Running into History
Where do you begin when talking about Saugus High School’s girl’s cross-country team? Well, for starters, I need to go train with them. It would fix my weight problems. But seriously, these girls are phenomenal. Four straight state championships. That means there are a few girls who have never lost a state meet. Ridiculous! And the girls should be the early favorites next year as well. But even with this accomplishment, I get the feeling the team was not satisfied with the season. They went to the Nike National Meet and came home a disappointing fourth at an event they still have not won. Their best finish up there is second. Junior leader Kaylin Mahoney finished third at state, a year after winning it all as a sophomore. It just felt like there was more for them to do. And I think that’s the scary part. Now, one of the best programs in the country is mad. I think that means look out in 2010, because you know Mahoney won’t want to go out in third, and that whole program wants the Nike meet in the worst way.
2. A Program Re-born!
One decision. That was all it took. The second College of the Canyons Men’s Soccer coach Phil Marcellin decided to step down from the women’s job and focus on just one team, the program turned a corner. After juggling the coaching duties of both teams the last few seasons, a job made nearly impossible when both teams played on the same day, in different locations, Marcellin decided to let Justin Lundin step up to the womens job and Marcellin focused solely on the men. The result?
The Cougars men’s program finished ranked 8th heading into the playoffs, earning the schools first ever trip to the postseason. Then, they beat Santa Barbara in the first round. Then, they beat top-seeded Rio Hondo in the second round. The miracle run ended at Santa Ana in the semi-finals, but the team has some awesome talent coming back, led by Golden Valley product Andres Bueno, who is one of the most prolific goal scorers in the state.
The women fared pretty well too. The team caught the freak injury bug, and played several games with just 11 or 12 players (you need 11 in soccer). But the ladies finished with a winning record, just missing the playoffs. And just like the men, there are some good young players coming back.
In a city where soccer is popular, but not prioritized, the job the coaches did at COC this year needs to be recognized. It is amazing that a pair of teams who weren’t even competitive last season turned it around that quick. Next year, COC hosts the state championships for soccer, and I think it’s a good bet that at least one of these squads is involved.
1. Viking Efficiency
Let’s get one thing straight. Hart is so far ahead of the other schools when it comes to football tradition and history it’s not even funny. But this year belonged to Valencia.
First, let’s rattle off a list of names: Matt Moore, Kyle Boller, Sean Norton, Nate Longshore, BR Holbrook, Alex Pettee, Michael Herrick, Ben Longshore, Grant Wilbur, Desi Rodriguez and Jake Bernards.
Now I know I missed a few, but this is the cream of the crop of quarterbacks in this valley over the last 15 or so years. Every single one of these guys got a scholarship to a Division-I (or BCS if you prefer) school. And never, in the history of this valley, has a quarterback been more efficient than:
Forget this valley, how about this little stat. Bishop’s completion percentage 74.6 is third all-time in the state for a single season. Behind whom you might ask? Current Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards and current New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. How’s that for company? Furthermore, had Bishop not fallen apart in the Vikings only loss of the season, to Moorpark in the Northern Division semi-finals, he would have had second.
Now to be fair to the Vikings junior quarterback, the whole team got steamrolled in the second half. But Bishop was two bad games (the other being the Vikings near-miss with Thousand Oaks in the first round of the playoffs) from being the all-time record holder. That is pretty impressive. He’s not big, and actually he reminds me very much of the aforementioned Norton. Bishop ended the year with 3,431 yards and 37 touchdowns. He had 6 interceptions, but half came in the Vikings season finale. Valencia went 10-0 during the regular season, their first undefeated mark in school history.
Bishop didn’t do it all. Junior Steven Manfro rushed for 1,666 yards on just under 200 carries. And senior wide receivers Zach Tartabull and Brock Vereen were easy targets that will be missed next season. But for now, it’s safe to say the Vikings are the favorites in the Foothill League again next season. They don’t lose much, and Larry Muir’s squad should have the confidence from this past season. Now if they can just learn to beat Moorpark.
Well, there it is. 2009 is already gone. There were lots of good memories, but I think the best thing here is the hope some of this years success brings for next year. Happy New Year to everyone!
This is one in a series of year-end wrap stories from the KHTS News Department – look for more as 2009 winds down and we welcome 2010!