By Tim Peterson
Is it still Monrovia’s league. Can San Marino regain control? When does Temple City get back in the race? Who’s left out? South Pasadena or La Canada? It’s time to take a look at the Rio Hondo.
Monrovia: After a year’s absence Monrovia returned to the top of the Rio Hondo. Although it wasn’t a great Wildcats’ season (6-5 overall, first round playoff loss) they did get the satisfaction of taking back the Rio. In 2017 they are looking to make some bigger strides. They have solid returning skill players in receiver Michael Washington, and sophomore Devon Mayes. Also Maury Rams IV should be back for a full season after missing the first seven games last year. In the four games Rams appeared in he accumulated 154 yards receiving and rushed for 177. Trevor McPherson has been taking most of the snaps at quarterback since taking over for the graduated Richie Schroeder. McPherson has looked good on the passing circuit but just last week a junior quarterback from Diamond Bar transferred in so McPherson may have some competition. Safety Alfonso Castillo, who also plays running back, returns to anchor the defense. Last season Castillo had 45 total tackles and should be even better. It won’t be easy and the Cats might not roll through league, but on paper at least, they are the best team.
San Marino: After a dream season in 2015, the Titans came back to earth last year. However considering they lost all the key components to graduation, San Marino still managed to finish 3-2 in league and make the playoffs. Blake Cabot returns at quarterback and although the Titans generally stayed on the ground, he did a good job of managing the offense and throwing for 498 yards, He rushed for 436. Head Coach Mike Hobbie’s grandson Beau Hobbie, who rushed for 633 yards and four scores in 2016, will lead the running attack. Senior receiver John Hutchison is also a skill player that the Titans will rely on. Linebacker Kade Wentz and tackle Thomas Ary (64 total tackles in 2016) will be a big part on the defensive side of the ball. The Titans will have their hands full with Monrovia, but if they can handle the rest of the Rio they’ll be fine.
La Canada: The Spartans surprised some people last year as they knocked off San Marino in the season finale to finish 3-2 in league and 6-4 overall. However they were on the outside looking in when the playoff pairings were announced. In June Ryan Zerbel stepped down as head coach and Jason Sarceda took over. It’s always tough when there is a coaching change in June but Sarceda was on the LC staff last year which will make transition smoother. Last season La Canada used several players at quarterback but senior Eric Helbing figures to be the starter. Running back Vince Dioguardi who rushed for 245 yards last year will be the primary weapon in the backfield. With a recent coaching change and a lack of firepower the Spartans don’t figure to compete for a league title, but they might be able to make a run at third place and a possible playoff berth.
South Pasadena: The Tigers are one of those teams that always seems to go 7-3 and then miss the playoffs. last year they changed that when again they finished 7-3 in the regular season (3-2 in league) but did slip into the playoffs before falling in the first round. The Tigers lost some key players in quarterback Adam Arrellano and running back Jalen Ross but they do have some talent coming back including running back Jackson Totelben who ran for a couple hundred yards. Last season there was a three-way tie for third place as South Pas, LC and San Marino finished 3-2. It figures to be a toss up again with the Tigers right in the mix.
Temple City: For Temple City, 2017 isn’t about winning a league title, making the playoffs or even a winning record. Although those thing are always important and are ultimately long term goals, right now it’s just about restoring order. New Head Coach Riley Saxon has come in to try to do just that. Temple City, once synonymous with pride and excellence when it comes to the football program, hit a new low last season. The Rams finished 2-8 overall with one of the victories coming via a forfeit win over Blair. They lost 75-7 to South Hills, 50-0 to Arroyo and 48-6 to Monrovia. The football banquet at the end of the season was canceled due to off the field behavior by some of the players. Some even speculated that the program could be dropped after reports surfaced of several players quitting. With their backs against the proverbial wall, Temple City then took a big step in the right direction. The school hired Riley Saxon. Saxon played quarterback at Temple City guiding the Rams to the 2006 Rio Hondo League title. That was the last time the Rams won the league title, and they also advanced to the second round of the playoffs that year. Saxon, who currently teaches on campus, has served as an assistant coach at Temple City, and is very familiar with the program.
““I’m looking forward to the opportunity of not only building a solid program but also restoring the traditions and history that gave Temple City such a great association with high school football and what it should be all about,” Saxon told our sports editor Joe Torosian when he was hired back in February.
And restoring TC traditions, at this point, is what 2017 should be all about. 2016 is in the rear view mirror, and the Rams are now looking towards a new start in 2017.
Blair: Last year Blair canceled its football program three games in. Now reports have surfaced that there will be no football in 2017 as well. Back in the spring Blair indicated that they would play this year but recently rumors have the season being called off, although nothing has been confirmed as of yet. Erick Pineda was hired as the new coach in May but whether or not he has a team to coach remains to be seen.