Editor’s note: We thought it might be fun, since we have a couple of great writers (Jason Galvin and Tim Haddock) in our sports department, to have them both come up with a Top Ten for 2010 – knowing that the lists would be different and that our listeners and readers would have their own opinions on the lists.
One of the most familiar voices on KHTS is Jason Galvin’s – he’s the guy who knows every who, what, where, when, how long, how high, how many – well, pretty much anything about our local athletes. He makes non-sports people listen to sports and walk away informed and entertained. At any rate, here’s Jason’s take on the year in sports. Don’t miss Tim Haddock’s list, found right next in line on hometownstation.com – Carol Rock
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Can you believe it? It’s that time of year again. Santa Claus is full of cookies, Rudolph is happy the sled is lighter, and one more year of fine athletic events in the Santa Clarita Valley is in the books. That can only mean one thing…it’s time for the annual KHTS Top 10 Sports Stories of 2010 list…or awards…or whatever they are. This list is compiled by a panel of experts consisting of…well, me. But I think you’ll enjoy it just the same. It was a wild year, so let’s get this party started.
10. – Awesometown Returns to the NFL
The Santa Clarita Valley went through a phase where it was almost common-place to see a local football product drafted in the NFL. Then, the 2009 draft left us practically empty. How did the SCV Football Gods respond? Enter JPP, Jason Pierre-Paul, a one-year wonder at College of the Canyons, who in 2007 had the second most dominant season of any player in school history. Pierre-Paul, a Florida native, came to COC to hone is skills.
When he got here, he was an athletic freak who needed to add muscle. When he left, he had caught the eye of every major college program in America. He amassed 14 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, and was a First-team All-American. JPP left for Fort Scott Community College for a year before heading to the University of South Florida. One season at USF and JPP was off to the NFL, where he became the highest draft pick ever with Santa Clarita ties when he was selected by the New York Giants with the 15th overall pick. So far, in limited time, he has 4.5 sacks and has forced a pair of fumbles for the Giants, and the team thinks they have the next dominant edge rusher in the NFL.
9. – Another Division I Athlete…in Basketball?
For the second consecutive year, the Santa Clarita Valley will have a prep athlete going to a major Division I school in the nation’s second-leading sport…Basketball. Valencia senior Lonnie Jackson committed to Big East semi-power Boston College before the season started; one-upping former Foothill League rival Trevor Wiseman, who after dominating at Golden Valley for 3 seasons is now playing at Hawaii. While Jackson is expected to go in and compete for minutes as a freshman, there is no doubt it will take him longer to make an impact on his college team. After all, Hawaii plays against Fresno State and UNLV…Boston College plays UCONN, Pittsburgh, Villanova and Georgetown…oh, and let’s not forget about Syracuse. Still, critics have often wondered why an area so rich in athletic tradition could never produce major basketball stars. Well, now you’ve got two.
8. – Greg Herrick, Basketball Genius
The 2009-10 College of the Canyons Women’s Basketball team was expected to be good. But before the season started, Head Coach Greg Herrick went on record saying “This is probably the worst team I’ve had here at COC.” Now, considering the success of his teams in his nearly two-decade long tenure, that probably didn’t mean much. But trust me when I say this…Greg Herrick was worried. And the team started slow. Despite having an athletic freak in Ashley Wakefield, the team faltered, and often did not run the wide-open, Loyola Marymount of the early 1990’s type offense that Herrick is known for. But then, after starting 3-4, magic! A 19-game winning streak led the Lady Cougars to their 5th straight, 12th overall and 9th perfect Western State Conference Championship. Herrick also beat Mt. San Antonio College for the first time in 15 games, collected his 400th win, and won WSC Coach of the Year honors yet again. Wakefield went on to become the first Lady Cougar to win the State Player of the Year award.
7. – Happy Gilmour and the Lady Cougars
Ok, you caught me. So Adam Sandler didn’t show up and play chicken with an alligator. But the rest of the College of the Canyons Women’s Golf season was pretty close to the Happy Gilmour movie. The lady’s finished the season with only 3 losses, and finished second in the state, even though they didn’t have a bona-fide star. Taylor Gould was the only Lady Cougar in the Top 10 at the State Finals, but the Cougars played nearly flawless team golf all season long, and Gary Peterson, who has coached both the Men’s and Women’s program to a combined 7 State Championships, did another masterful job mixing talent from around the world and it seems that as long as Peterson is the coach, the Cougars golf programs will remain among the best in the state.
6. – A Bakers Dozen Minus Two
The Santa Clarita Christian Football team burst onto the scene in 2007 and has dominated the 8-man football ranks ever since. The won the CIF Southern Section Division I 8-man Championship in both 2008 and 2009, produced a FBS player in Collin Keoshian (BYU), and finished a semi-finalist in this years playoffs. So what did Head Coach Garrick Moss do to increase the competition? He decided to move up to the big boy ranks and play 11-man football.
While logistically it’s a major difference, with bigger fields, more players, and different rules, expect SCCS to be a contender immediately in the smaller San Joaquin League. Coach Moss isn’t naïve, and is already hard at work creating a new playbook for the players. The team is expected to use a more common spread offense, and if this year’s team is anything like the last four years, it will be an offensive machine. Expect the biggest struggle to be defensive schemes early, but coach Moss will no doubt have SCCS rolling from the beginning. Just don’t count on the team of 30-40 players battling any of the Foothill League squads soon.
5. – A Grizzly Sighting
For the first time ever, Golden Valley Football fans have hope. Head Coach Andy Campbell transformed the Grizzlies into an offensive machine in his second season as head coach. Golden Valley entered Foothill League play at 3-2 for the first time, and with the help of four juniors, are actually considered a playoff contender heading into 2011. Quarterback Reid Soliman, tailbacks Jeff Coprich and Earl Johnson, and wide reciever Isa Bey give Golden Valley four explosive playmakers to build around.
After stunning Marmonte league foe Simi Valley in the season opener, the Grizzlies just missed two Marmonte league upsets in a row when they went for a 2-point conversion and missed in week two’s matchup with Royal. Then in league play, the Grizzlies scared Hart, and thought they had won their first Foothill League game when quarterback Conner Eichten brought West Ranch back from the dead with under a minute to play in the game. The Grizzlies never recovered from the heartbreaking loss to the rival Wildcats, but played tough in the last three losses to Saugus, Valencia and Canyon. Here’s my early prediction for 2011. Golden Valley wins 3 Foothill League Games and makes the playoffs.
4. – 3 Strikes, Are They Out?
For the third straight year, Valencia dominated the Foothill League football scene. And despite having the most prolific player in the Valley’s history, for the third straight year, Valencia lost to a Marmonte League team in the semi-finals of the CIF-SS Northern Division playoffs. The last two seasons, it was Moorpark. This year, it was newcomer and state power Oaks Christian. And just like the last two years, Valencia looked like they had a shot at halftime. Heck, this year, the Vikings had the game tied at 14 at the half. And then Oaks Christian remembered who they were, and blew the Vikings out in the second half. Valencia tried to rally late, but Oaks held on for a 42-33 win. At least this year, the Vikings lost to the Northern Division Champions, as Oaks went on to beat Westlake in the best high school football game I’ve ever witnessed.
The Vikings deserve credit though. Senior Steven Manfro established himself as perhaps the best player ever to play high school football in the Foothill League, breaking the single-season rushing record and every school record possible. That’s pretty impressive when you consider the magnitude of running backs to come out of the SCV in the last 20 years. Manuel White, Ted Iacenda, Shane Vereen, JJ Diluigi, and Delano Howell, just to name a few. Alex Bishop had another rock-solid year, and both will be missed, begging the question. Can the Vikings recover? The JV team was 9-1, and sophomore quarterback Sean Murphey showed promise when given a chance this season, but can the Vikings really recover from the loss of those two, plus their four leading wide receivers? Smart money says don’t count them out yet, but it’s not going to be easy.
3. – Anyone Know a Cowboy Coach?
After rebuilding his football team from a horrendous 2-9 season in 2009 to a 10-2 season in 2010, which featured a second place Foothill League finish and his first playoff win as a head coach, Chris Varner suddenly resigned as Canyon Football coach last week. It shocked the entire football community. Canyon is full of tradition, and has the building blocks of a Northern Division championship contender for 2011. They are easily the favorites to win the Foothill League next season, and with good reason. Junior quarterback Jonathan Jerozal will be back for his fourth season as the starter, and sophomore wide receiver will return for his third season as a starter, after breaking the school’s single season receiving record in 2010.
The Varner resignation came as a total shock to some, but I completely understand it. He is a highly family oriented man, always has been. He and his wife are expecting a third child next summer, and one of his children has already battled cancer, and survived. And simply put, it’s just too much for Varner to deal with. His family is more important, and it should be. But still, it leaves a giant question heading into next season. Can the Cowboys pick up where they left off with a new coach? Here are some candidates who should be considered, in no particular order; Former Hart star running back Ted Iacenda, who currently assists Dean Harrington at Alemany. Rick Harrington, the third of the famed Harrington brothers, and the only one without a head coaching job right now. John Diluigi, the defensive coordinator on Canyon’s 2006 State Championship team, who had a falling out with Varner and resigned the next year. Rich Gutierrez, the current defensive coordinator and athletic director at Canyon. And a sleeper for you, a coach not many give credit to, Robby Waters, the defensive coordinator at Valencia, who for all the hype and publicity (and well deserved) the Vikings offense has gained over the last 10 years, has put together one of the area’s most talented and organized defenses year after year as well.
2. – Ole Ole Ole Ole!
No, not for the World Cup. Instead, Santa Clarita residents were chanting that for the College of the Canyons Men’s Soccer team as they completed an improbable run through the CCCAA Southern California region bracket all the way to the State Championship game which was, ironically, hosted by COC this season. The team had a lot of hype heading into the season, but immaturity cost the team early, and head coach Phil Marcellin came under heavy scrutiny for constantly suspending the team’s top players for off the field violations. After starting 4-1, the Cougars free-fell out of the rankings on their way to a 6-5-2 record, and had won just two conference games through the first half of conference play. The free fall was capped by a 5-1 embarrassment at the hand of Oxnard at Cougar Stadium on October 19th.
The team would not lose again until December. COC put together an 11-game winning streak, allowing just four goals and scoring an incredible 31 while going undefeated in the second half of conference play and steamrolling Palomar and state power Cerritos in the first two rounds of the playoffs. The team scored a miracle comeback over Santa Ana, who had defeated the Cougars twice in the last year, by a combined score of 8-1. Down 1-0 in the 83rd minute, COC scored 3 goals in a six minute stretch to win the game. In the State Semi-Finals against the top Northern California team, Fresno City College, the Cougars played an inspired 90 minutes in front of the Cougar Stadium faithful and put together one of the most dominating victories in school history, winning 3-0. The team fell apart in the State Championship game against a great Mt. San Antonio College squad, who won their third straight State and second straight National Championship with a 4-0 win, but the groundwork had already been laid. The other Cougar futbol team is on the map and looks like they are here to stay.
1. – They Keep Running and Running and Running………………
Is it ever going to stop? That’s what every high school girl’s cross country team in the state of California has to ask themselves when they look at the final rankings every season. Why? Because for the 5th…count it, 5th straight season, the Saugus High School Girl’s Cross Country team was crowned state champions. The Centurions did it in record fashion too, knocking down their own state record time in soggy conditions at the meet in Fresno. Even the Saugus boy’s got in on the fun, finishing second in the Division II race.
Kaylin Mahoney cemented her place in SCV Track history, finishing second overall and gaining her third podium in four attempts, which includes the 2008 Individual Championship. All five of the Centurions scorers placed in the Top 10, just the second time that has ever happened. Mahoney joined Stephanie Bulder, who finished third overall, Karis Frankian, Danielle Hernando, and Jenay Jauregui in the Top 10. The record five consecutive championships should place head coach Rene Paragas on top of everyone’s list as best cross-country coach in the country at the prep level, and should also get him a lot of looks from college programs and the national team. It’s one of the single greatest records of any sports team in Santa Clarita history. In a sport that is so individualized, to capture 5 consecutive championships is simply astonishing. Congratulations Saugus.
And congratulations to all of our Santa Clarita based teams for yet another great year of athletics’. In the busy and bustling world of the SCV, I think it’s often overlooked just how much tradition we have in Santa Clarita sports. It’s something we should all be thankful for. One more year down, and another great one to come I’m sure. Happy New Year to everyone in KHTS Sports land, and thank you for being so supportive over the years!!!!