Los Angeles Preps: Jordan Payton

Payton's wild recruiting experience

February, 1, 2012
2/01/12
8:28
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Jordan PaytonJohn Lazar/Special to ESPNLosAngeles.comOaks Christian's Jordan Payton went from committing to USC to Cal to Washington and signing with UCLA.

In the span of 48 hours, Oaks Christian wide receiver Jordan Payton switched commitments from Cal to Washington to UCLA. Before that, as a junior, he verbally committed to USC.

He told a third of the schools in the Pac-12 Conference that he was going to play football for them.

He is one of the top recruits in the country, a talented receiver who can also play defensive back. He is tall, 6 feet 3, and fast, ranked 15th in the nation at wide receiver by Scout.com and Rivals.com. He was the 29th-ranked wide receiver in the nation by ESPNU. He would have been a valuable piece to any college offense.

But he might have become a victim of a relentless recruiting process that demands high school players make decisions before they are ready.

“It’s crazy, but the people have to understand this process is crazy,” Payton told the Los Angeles Times on Wednrsday. “You’re giving an 18-year-old kid a decision of a lifetime. I wanted to make sure I made the right decision.”

That decision left some coaching staffs and fans in the Pac 12 a bit upset.

By the end of signing day, Payton’s Twitter account had been disabled. He wasn’t taking phone calls for interviews and only talking to a few close friends and family once he committed to UCLA. ESPNLosAngeles made several attempts throughout the day to reach Payton to no avail.

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Lawler signs with Cal, ending big day for I.E.

February, 1, 2012
2/01/12
3:35
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Upland wide receiver Kenny Lawler, the last major unsigned recruit from the Inland Empire, made it official Wednesday afternoon, announcing he will sign with California.

Lawler took a last-minute recruiting trip over the weekend to California after visiting Oregon State and Washington State the two prior weekends. Heading into Wednesday’s national signing day, he was reportedly down to California and Oregon State.

The Bears return leading receiver Keenan Allen, but second-leading receiver Marvin Jones has exhausted his eligibility. A spot opened up for Lawler in Cal's recruiting class after Oaks Christian wide receiver Jordan Payton, who had committed to the Golden Bears in early January, switched to Washington last week before ultimately signing with UCLA.

Lawler said on Fox Sports Prime Ticket that a major factor in his decision was California hiring one of his longtime coaches, Charlie Collins, as a staff member.

“I know he’s going to have my back up there,” Lawler said.

The 6-3, 185-pound senior committed to Arizona State shortly after last year’s national signing day, the first school to offer him a scholarship. He stuck by the commitment until late November, shortly after the Wildcats fired coach Dennis Erickson.

Lawler caught 53 passes for 1,267 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, including nine scores in the final four games. His size and reach allows him to out-jump most defensive backs.

Lawler is one of four Upland players to sign a letter of intent Wednesday. Running back Donte Abron, Jr., defensive back Marques Mosley and fullback Christian Powell signed with Colorado earlier in the day.

Here's a full list of signings from Wednesday:

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Crespi's Harper stays true to Cal

February, 1, 2012
2/01/12
10:49
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ENCINO -- Wide receiver Chris Harper is going to Cal in the fall. He caught 37 passes for 846 yards and 13 touchdowns in his senior season at Crespi.

UCLA made a late push for Harper, but he said his commitment to Cal was never in doubt.

“I went up there during the summer,” Harper said. “I like the campus and I liked the interaction with the coaches. I just fell in love with the campus as soon as I got there.”

Cal lost several commitments, including Oaks Christians wide receiver Jordan Payton to Washington, in recent weeks. Harper said going to Washington or another school never entered his mind.

“I was fully committed since they offered me,” Harper said. “It was a done deal from there.”

Payton ends up picking Washington

January, 31, 2012
1/31/12
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Wide receiver Jordan Payton from Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian committed to Washington on Tuesday, making his choice known during a live announcement on ESPNU.

Among the many others thought to be in the running for a pledge from the senior were Cal and UCLA.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder initially committed to USC. Payton changed his mind recently and appeared heading to Cal. In the end, however, the Huskies proved to be the best fit for Payton, considered one of the Southland's premier players.

“I like everything about Washington, I had a visit, it went well and I think I can go there and play right away if I do what the coaches tell me,'' Payton said. “I wanted to make my college pick today and have a clear mind about the future."

Payton had scholarship offers on the table from some of the country's powerhouse programs. Florida, Notre Dame, Michigan and Oklahoma had courted him for quite some time. Arkansas and Penn State were believed to be players at one point as well.

“Jordan is the type of player that is going to make an immediate impact once he reaches the next level,'' Oaks Christian coach Bill Redell said. “He was able to do plenty of special things for us here. We're talking about a kid with a bright future ahead of him.''

Staying close to home and playing in the Pac-12 Conference proved to be too good of an opportunity to pass up, apparently. Payton will have the chance to make things official on Wednesday morning during national signing day.

“There was a lot of indecision at first. It was hard for me to choose a school. I learned plenty of things along the way though,'' Payton said. “The whole recruiting process has been crazy. It's not one of those things for everybody. Only a few select people go through some of the things I did. Bottom line is, I'm a Husky. I couldn't be more happy.''

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Lawler explores his options

January, 19, 2012
1/19/12
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LOS ANGELES -- The Southland is home to its share of quality wide receivers. Kenny Lawler, however, has emerged as one of the hotter commodities around due in large part to the fact the Upland (Calif.) senior remains uncommitted and National Signing Day is right around the corner.

Oregon State appears to be the leader for the 6-foot-3 and 175-pound pass-catcher. The Beavers have recruited Lawler for a while now and the somewhat close proximity of the school to his Southern California roots could end up being one of the deciding factors.

“I really like Oregon State, I had a visit up there and it went really good, the coaching staff is great there,'' Lawler said. “They are at the top of my list right now.''

His family is on the same page when it comes to the future.

“It's coming down to the wire, but I'd have to say that Oregon State is in the driver's seat,'' said his father, Kenny Lawler Sr. “We had a visit with them last week and it went well. They are leading now, but that could all change. The next couple weeks will be interesting.''

Washington State is also considered to be a major player in the Lawler sweepstakes. Coach Mike Leach was in the family home on Wednesday night, presumably in an effort to make one final pitch. The plan is for Lawler to visit the Cougars campus this weekend.

“I was impressed with Coach Leach and his whole staff, I like what they have to offer me,'' said Lawler, who finished with 1,267 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns this season for Upland. “I have a decision to make soon and I'm going to think about all my options.''

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Monrovia's McCarthy commits to Cal

January, 7, 2012
1/07/12
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Monrovia defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy, the fifth-ranked player in the state, verbally committed to Cal on Saturday at the U.S Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.

He is ranked No. 43 among all national prospects, according to ESPNU Recruiting. McCarthy led Monrovia to its second consecutive CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division championship last season. The 6-foot-5, 311-pound McCarthy considered USC and Oregon.

"I like the program a lot," McCarthy said during an in-game interview. "I built a relationship with the team. ... We'll try to get a BCS bowl berth or make it to the Rose Bowl."

Oaks Christian receiver Jordan Payton, a former USC pledge, also committed to Cal during the game.

"We're going to do great things up there," Payton said.

Payton joins local receivers Bryce Treggs (Bellflower/St. John Bosco) and Darius Powe (Lakewood) among those committed to play their collegiate ball in Berkeley.

National signing day is Wednesday, Feb. 1.

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.

Two Oaks Christian players on West roster for U.S. Army All-American Bowl

January, 4, 2012
1/04/12
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The U.S. Army All-American Bowl has 16 players from California on the West roster.

Two players, seniors Jordan Payton and Ishmael Adams, are from Oaks Christian.

Payton is a 6-feet-2 wide receiver who is expected to announce where he will play in college after the game on Saturday. His choices have been whittled down to three: Notre Dame, Cal and UCLA.

Adams was a two-way player in high school, at cornerback and running back, and is headed to UCLA as a defensive back.

Other players from California on the West roster include Crespi offensive lineman Jordan Simmons, Dominguez cornerback Brandon Beaver, Monrovia defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy and Muir defensive back Kevon Seymour.

The U.S. Army All-American Bowl will be televised from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, on Saturday at 10 a.m. on NBC.

Westlake junior is Hunt-ed not Hunt-er

December, 13, 2011
12/13/11
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WESTLAKE VILLAGE -- Line up Dashon Hunt at running back, put the football in his trusty hands, and he is more than capable of gaining the necessary yardage on the ground to keep the chains moving. Straight up the middle, or to the outside, it doesn't matter.

Slot the junior from Westlake at receiver and Hunt might run by the defense en route to the end zone. Position him in the slot and he is not afraid to risk his body going over the crowded middle to make the difficult catch against teams geared toward stopping him.

Hunt's effectiveness isn’t merely limited to life on the offensive side of the ball. Stick him on an island at cornerback, and odds are, he will lock down the opponents top pass-catcher. Allow him to roam free in the secondary at safety and don't be surprised to see Hunt deliver a game-changing hit. Forcing a fumble is always a distinct possibility.

He is a jack-of-all-trades, Hunt plays a number of positions, each of them equally well. And we haven't started to discuss the special teams impact he makes.

His versatility and ability to excel in most any situation, of course, is what separates Hunt from most his underclassmen peers. Furthermore, the well-rounded skill set he possesses has been instrumental in helping guide the Warriors into Saturday night's CIF State Bowl game, an Open Division showdown against Concord De Le Salle at the Home Depot Center.

“Dashon is a darn good football player, a force to be reckon with, and we're glad he is on our side,'' Westlake coach Jim Benkert said. “He is an individual who can change the complexion of a game with one play, at any time and from any spot on the field.''

Hunt proved as much in the Southern Section Northern Division championship game last week against rival Westlake Village Oaks Christian. The 5-foot-9, 175-plus pound UCLA commit rushed for a team-high 154 yards in 24 carries and scored four times.

As if that weren't enough, Hunt was assigned to shadow Lions' senior receiver Jordan Payton, one of the premier prospects the Southland has to offer. Hunt finished with four tackles and an interception return for a touchdown in an all-important 49-42 victory for Westlake (14-0 overall), which has held the No. 1 spot in the ESPNLosAngeles.com rankings for several weeks.

“I'm always up for a challenge. Always have been. Always will be,'' Hunt said. “I've seen all kinds of things this season, on offense and on defense. Coaches and players know that I'm a good athlete. I'm not sure if they are intimidated by my play-making ability or what.''

“When I'm running the ball, most teams blitz or try to stack the box with seven or eight guys. I've seen some double teams when I'm running pass routes too. On defense, teams don't usually throw to my side of the field. All that stuff is a respect thing, I think.''

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Preview: Westlake at Oaks Christian

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
10:16
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The sequels are never quite as good as the originals. There are exceptions: “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Godfather II” come to mind.

The CIF-Southern Section Northern Division championship game between Oaks Christian and Westlake is a rematch of last year’s title game. It will be hard to exceed the hype, drama and outcome of the original.

The cast of players for Westlake has changed dramatically. Quarterback Justin Moore took over for Nick Isham, who started for Lousiana Tech this season as a freshman. Running back Dashon Hunt has taken over admirably for Tavior Mowry. Connor Cook has emerged as a big-play receiver in place of the reliable Nelson Spruce from last year’s Westlake team.

The Oaks Christian roster has some familiar names, including Arizona State-bound linebacker Carlos Mendoza, highly recruited receiver Jordan Payton and a double-threat at corner back and running back in Ishmael Adams.

These two teams know each other well. This championship game on Friday night at Oaks Christian will be the fourth meeting in the past two seasons.

Westlake (13-0) comes in as the overwhelming favorite and the No. 1-ranked team in the ESPN Los Angeles prep football Top 25. Several outlets have Westlake ranked as the No. 1 team in the state. The Warriors are 39-2 over the past three seasons and won the Northern Division championship in 2009.

Oaks Christian (11-2) is the reigning Northern Division champion, ranked fifth by ESPN Los Angeles and is making its ninth straight CIF championship game appearance. The Lions moved up to the Northern Division last year after competing in the Northwest Division. Oaks Christian is 6-2 in CIF championship games and playing for its seventh CIF football championship in the past nine years.

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L.A. North: The Top 10

December, 4, 2011
12/04/11
11:07
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The championship game of the Southern Section Northern Division playoffs is the same as it ever was. Oaks Christian, the reigning champion, will play Westlake, the No. 1-ranked team in the state and by ESPN Los Angeles.

The Westlake football team pounded poor Thousand Oaks in the semifinals of the Northern Division playoffs.

Oaks Christian had to rally in the second half to knock out St. Bonaventure in the other Northern Division semifinal setting up a rematch of last year’s championship game. It will be the fourth time in the past two seasons that Westlake and Oaks Christian have played.

Westlake is 2-1 in the previous three meetings. Oaks Christian’s only win came in last year’s Northern Division championship game, 29-28.

Here’s a look at this week’s L.A. North top 10:
  1. (1) Westlake (13-0) – The Warriors will be well-rested for their championship matchup against Oaks Christian. Quarterback Justin Moore threw for 98 yards and two touchdowns in one half of work. Running back Dashon Hunt gained 75 yards in eight carries and scored on a 42-yard punt return, all in the first half. Westlake will be making its third Northern Division championship game appearance in a row. The Warriors won the title in 2009 and lost to Oaks Christian last year.
  2. (2) Oaks Christian (11-2) – The reigning Northern Division champions are making their ninth straight CIF championship game appearance. The Lions have won seven CIF championships, but last year’s was their first in the Northern Division. Brandon Dawkins was about as efficient as a quarterback can be in the semifinal game against St. Bonaventure. He completed 25 of 29 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. Oaks Christian coach Bill Redell said he was surprised he didn’t go 29-for-29. One area of concern might be that the longest pass of the night came on a halfback option. Chris Davis completed a 37-yard pass to Jordan Payton to set up a touchdown run by Dawkins in the third quarter.
  3. (3) St. Bonaventure (10-3) – The Seraphs came up a game short of the Northern Division championship again. Injuries plagued St. Bonaventure before and during its 27-24 loss to Oaks Christian. Starting quarterback Marc Evans sat out because of an injured shoulder. Receiver and kick returner Montre Lee injured his elbow during a key drive in the fourth quarter and was taken off the field in an ambulance. Not to make excuses, but a healthier St. Bonaventure team might have been able to hold a 10-point lead against Oaks Christian. At least the lights stayed on at the stadium.
  4. (4) Chaminade (10-3) – For the second year in a row, Chaminade ended its playoff run in the Western Division semifinals. Arroyo Grande beat Chaminade, 45-36. Running back Terrell Newby ended the season with 188 yards against Arroyo Grande and set the school record for rushing. He gained 2,073 yards in his junior season, easily breaking the record of 1,741 yards set by Tim Lavin in 1987. Newby scored 35 touchdowns this season and has 57 TDs in his career with one year to go.
  5. (5) Sierra Canyon (13-0) – Running backs Danny Jordan and Xavier Menifeld combined for 282 yards rushing – each had 141 yards -- and kicker Noah Zgrablich made three field goals in their team’s 42-16 win over Bishop Diego in the East Valley Division semifinal. The top-seeded Trailblazers get a rematch against Paraclete, the reigning East Valley Division champion, in the title game on Saturday night.

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No. 7 Oaks Chr. 27, No. 8 St. Bona. 24

December, 3, 2011
12/03/11
12:59
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VENTURA – Oaks Christian quarterback Brandon Dawkins said his team was flustered, a little surprised and came out cocky against St. Bonaventure in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Northern Division playoffs on Friday night.

The Seraphs jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first half, but Oaks Christian scored two touchdowns in the first six minutes of the third quarter and eliminated St. Bonaventure from the playoffs, 27-24, at Ventura High School.

Dawkins passed for 195 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for 74 yards and scored two more on the ground. Dawkins peppered St. Bonaventure with an array of screens and quick-outs to chew up the clock and engineered two long drives that produced key touchdowns against a stingy St. Bonaventure defense.

Oaks Christian coach Bill Redell agreed with Dawkins that his team didn’t play well in the first half of the game.

“I don’t have an answer for it,” Redell said. “We have been playing well in the playoffs. We didn’t play like we should have.”

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Upland's Lawler attracts attention

November, 22, 2011
11/22/11
10:16
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UPLAND -- Kenny Lawler emerges from the huddle at midfield, and immediately, the receiver hustles over to his position on the outside. The first order of business for the senior from Upland is taking a quick glance through his facemask to see what the defense has in store for him.

A cornerback moves right up in front of Lawler, seemingly with the intent to somehow disrupt the route with bump-and-run coverage. A linebacker takes a step to the immediate left, presumably in an effort to help slow down the burst of speed he possesses. A safety proceeds to roll over to his side of the field as well, in what figures to be an attempt to double-team him over the top.

[+] EnlargeUpland High School Kenny Lawler
Upland High School Kenny Lawler committed to Arizona State months ago, but is still taking recruiting trips.
No big deal. Lawler has seen plenty of this pre-snap shuffling in the not-so- distant past. Gimmick-type schemes designed around stopping him is something that simply comes along with territory, especially when you are considered as one of the Southland's premier players at the position.

“I don't think anything surprises me anymore. Honestly, nothing does,'' Lawler said.

With the ball set in motion, a stutter step at the line of scrimmage creates much-needed separation. A head-and-shoulders fake by Lawler freezes the would-be tackler at the second level. A sprint toward the end zone follows as he blows by the last line of defense in the secondary.

Lawler is celebrating seconds later, having hauled in another highlight-reel worthy touchdown catch. The opponent looks on, of course, wondering about what could have been.

Odds are, the 6-foot-3 and 185-pound senior will be in a similar situation in Friday's Southern Section Inland Division playoff game against Covina Charter Oak. And if the Highlanders hope to make a postseason run, Lawler must continue to excel in his role of being the difference-maker.

“I know I have a target on my back, I'm cool with that, it's a sign of respect,'' Lawler said. “My goal is to work hard, and when teams try to stop me, that's motivation. Nothing in life is easy. You'll never be able to accomplish anything if there isn't some kind of challenge put in front of you.''

Overcoming obstacles has become commonplace for Lawler considering playing time on the varsity level was difficult to come by in his first two years with the Highlanders. They were loaded with talent during his freshman and sophomore seasons. Nevertheless, Lawler managed to persevere.

When the opportunity to contribute on a more consistent basis presented itself as junior, he made sure to take advantage. And then some. Lawler emerged as the go-to-guy for Upland and finished with 42 catches for 887 yards, a 21 yards-per-catch average. He also had nine touchdowns.

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L.A. North: Pick six games of the week

November, 3, 2011
11/03/11
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Agoura (1-7) vs. No. 2 Westlake (8-0), Friday (7 p.m.) – Westlake running back Dashon Hunt has been tough to stop in recent games. He is averaging 94 yards rushing and has scored six touchdowns in the past three games. He gained 99 yards and scored two touchdowns in Westlake’s 49-3 win over Newbury Park last week. One of his touchdowns came on a 42-yard punt return. He also returned an interception for a touchdown against Simi Valley three weeks ago. Agoura is coming off its first win of the season, 24-17, over Calabasas. The Chargers go from playing one of the worst teams in the Marmonte League to one of the best teams in the state. It could be a long night for Agoura.

No. 3 St. Bonaventure (7-1) vs. Calabasas (1-7), Friday (7 p.m.) – The Seraphs have surrendered only 31 points in their past five Marmonte League games, including shutouts over Agoura and Simi Valley. Shaun Wick and Zack Green combined for 256 yards and scored four touchdowns in a 50-8 win over Thousand Oaks last week. Calabasas has lost all seven of its Marmonte League games. It could be a long night for Calabasas.

Moorpark (5-3) vs. No. 11 Oaks Christian (6-2), Friday (7 p.m.) – Oaks Christian running back Ishmael Adams is expected to make his first start in three games after spraining his ankle in practice. He missed the past two games. While the return of Adams is good news, Oaks Christian might be without Arizona State-bound linebacker and running back Carlos Mendoza. He injured his shoulder in the 38-7 win over Simi Valley last week. Redell said he might roll the dice and rest Mendoza the next two weeks until the playoffs start. Wide receiver Jordan Payton is also nursing an injured ankle, but Redell said he looked pretty good on his 80-yard touchdown run against Simi. Moorpark needs a win to stay in the hunt for the playoffs. The Musketeers, 4-3 in Marmonte League play, are in a three-way tie for fourth place in league with Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley. Only the top five teams in league are guaranteed playoff spots.

No. 17 Bishop Amat (6-3) vs. Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (5-3), Friday (7 p.m.) – Notre Dame is slowly seeing its season slip away. After a promising 5-0 start, the Knights have lost three games in a row, including its two Serra League games. They had a bye last week and two weeks to prepare for Bishop Amat. But Notre Dame lost to Loyola, 27-14, in its last game. Bishop Amat is seeing its season spiral away too. The Lancers have lost two of their past three games and are 1-2 in league. Bishop Amat is coming off a 14-3 loss to Loyola last week.

No. 18 Chaminade (7-1) vs. Cathedral (3-5) , Friday (7 p.m.) – Chaminade is on a roll with a five-game winning streak including three straight Mission League games. The Eagles have outscored their Mission League opponents 117-19. They beat St. Francis, 31-13 last week. Cathedral has lost all three of its Mission League games and were shut out by Gardena Serra and St. Paul. The Phantoms lost to Harvard-Westlake, 34-26, last week.

Paraclete (7-1) vs. Sierra Canyon (8-0) at Granada Hills High School, Saturday (7 p.m.) – Paraclete is the reigning Southern Section East Valley Division champion and has won seven games in a row since losing, 7-6, to Serrano on opening night. Sierra Canyon is undefeated and coming off a 42-8 win over Brentwood. Paraclete is the No. 2 team in the East Valley Division poll after a 49-0 shutout over Calvary Chapel. Sierra Canyon is the top-ranked team in the East Valley Division. This game is about as big as it gets for small schools.

L.A. North: The Top 10

October, 30, 2011
10/30/11
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Three teams in the L.A. North top 10 stayed undefeated. The Westlake football team made quick work of Newbury Park. Ventura and Sierra Canyon also rolled to easy victories to stay unbeaten.

Two teams in the L.A. North top 10 lost and it cost one of them a spot. Thousand Oaks was no match for St. Bonaventure. Just when it looked as if Valencia had things figured out, the Vikings lost to Foothill League rival Hart.

The Foothill League is a mess with four teams with 2-1 records and tied for first place. Valencia beat Canyon. Hart beat Valencia. Saugus beat Hart. Canyon clobbered Saugus to open league play.

Exit Valencia. Enter Highland, winners of three games in a row and tied for first place in the Golden League.
  1. (1) Westlake (8-0) – Quarterback Justin Moore threw three touchdown passes and rushed for a touchdown in a 49-3 win over Newbury Park. Any chance the Warriors look past Agoura in preparation for St. Bonaventure in two weeks? Don’t count on it.
  2. (2) Alemany (6-2) – Alemany finally won a close game, 30-28, over Serra League rival Crespi. And it was an important Serra League win. Alemany improved to 2-0 in league. Crespi dropped to 1-2. Alemany coach Dean Herrington said quarterback Devon Dunn had his best game of the season. He passed for a touchdown, ran in two more and continually made plays to keep his team in the game.
  3. (3) Chaminade (7-1) – The Eagles started slow, but came on strong in the end and beat St. Francis, 31-13. It was the second loss in a row for St. Francis, winner of its first six games. Chaminade has won five games in a row, including its first three Mission League games.
  4. (5) St. Bonaventure (7-1) – Running backs Shaun Wick and Zack Green combined for four touchdowns and 256 rushing yards in a 50-8 win over Thousand Oaks. Any chance St. Bonaventure looks past Calabasas in preparation for Westlake in two weeks? See Westlake above.
  5. (6) Oaks Christian (6-2) – The Lions easily disposed of Simi Valley, 38-7. The Oaks Christian defense forced and recovered four fumbles, returning one for a touchdown. Oaks Christian racked up 242 rushing yards led by Jordan Payton’s 80-yard reverse for a touchdown. Chris Davis led the Lions with 65 yards on six carries.

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Hard work paying off for Crespi's Harper

October, 18, 2011
10/18/11
7:03
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ENCINO -- It appears to be a typical afternoon of football practice at Crespi. The first player to emerge from the locker room is Chris Harper. The senior receiver makes a beeline to the adjacent field. Right then and there, you get the sense that things are far from normal.

There is work to be done, and apparently, Harper is intent on being first in line for reps.

Chris Harper
Courtesy of Angela MeansCrespi's Chris Harper has 10 touchdown receptions this season, ranking among the state's top 10.
A few teammates walk and talk on their way to practice. Some individuals lightly jog. However, there does not seem to be a sense of urgency. That is, until Harper decides it's time to speed up the process. Some choice words of encouragement follow. He is ready to get started.

A grueling session ensues. The drills seemingly are never-ending -- too many to count.

More than three hours later, the sun is beginning to set. Practice has been finished for the better part of 30 minutes. Most of his teammates are long gone at this point. Nevertheless, Harper is at midfield, fine tuning his skill set with a group of Celts' assistant coaches.

His work ethic is relentless. Unwavering. On a different level from everyone else.

The resolve Harper exhibits during the week in preparation for game day separates him from his peers. That type of sheer determination is paying off underneath the Friday night lights, of course, and has Harper on the verge of adding his name to the Southland's list of premier prospects.

“I let my actions speak for themselves, there is always ways to get better, to improve, that's why I never take a day off, or a play off,'' Harper said. “Nothing in life comes for free. I was always taught that if you want something bad enough, you half to work for it. That's just the way I am.''

The strategy has worked out particularly well for Harper so far. Full steam ahead.

He has been largely, although not solely responsible for the fast start at Crespi (6-1 overall) this season. The Celts are No. 14 in the ESPNLosAngeles.com Top 25 rankings as they head into Friday's Serra League showdown against No. 16 La Puente Bishop Amat (5-2).

“You can see it in his eyes, Chris is a different person once he steps on the field,'' Crespi coach Jon Mack said. “He has bought it to what we're doing here. He's a leader, in every sense.

“What people might not know about him is, he's great student with a GPA well over 3.0. He has no issues in the classroom. There are no roadblocks in his future. When you think about what it means to be a student-athlete at Crespi, Chris Harper if one of the first kids that comes to mind.

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