Los Angeles Preps: Joseph Ajeigbe

I.E.: Top 10 football recruits for 2013

February, 3, 2012
2/03/12
6:40
PM PT
National signing day has come and gone, with the Inland Empire making another solid contribution to college programs across the country. It’s never too early to start looking ahead to next season’s class, just ask the college recruiters who are already extending offers to blue-chip athletes. With the amount of offers already on the table for several I.E. juniors, this is shaping up to be one of the strongest classes in years, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Here’s a preview of the region’s top 10 recruits for 2013.

Su’a Cravens, LB/RB, Vista Murrieta – Cravens has been offered by virtually anyone and everyone, beginning as early as the spring of his freshman year. He began his high school career as a freshman cornerback at Temecula Valley, switched to strong safety as a sophomore at Vista Murrieta and added running back to his resume last season, while playing more of a roving outside linebacker on defense. It’s anybody’s guess where Cravens will end up playing when all is said and done, and he’s providing few clues of his preferences, but it’s all but guaranteed the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder will play wherever and anywhere he wants.

Joe Mathis, DL, Upland – The Highlanders inked four players to Pac-12 Conference scholarships this week, and Mathis is lined up to be the leader of next year’s class. Mathis averaged 6.1 tackles a game, with six sacks, two caused fumbles and two recoveries. The 6-4, 250-pounder committed to Washington midway through his junior season but look for him to keep his options open heading into his senior year. UCLA, Oregon State, Colorado and Indiana have also reportedly offered.

Kylie Fitts, DL, Redlands East Valley – Fitts burst onto the scene with seven sacks in the first five games, including 2 in a monumental upset against nationally ranked Mission Viejo in Week 5. His production slowed as more teams schemed to block him, but the 6-4, 245-pounder still averaged 6.6 tackles a game for one of the Southland’s most stout defenses. UCLA has made an early offer to Fitts, following in the footsteps of Boise State.

Marcus Baugh, TE, J.W. North – At 6-5, 225, Baugh was a handful on both sides of the ball. He caught 30 passes for 528 yards and seven touchdowns and registered seven sacks on defense. UCLA had already offered Baugh, while Michigan is showing serious interest as well. USC is also reportedly kicking the tires and Baugh has let it be known the Trojans are an early favorite.

Kenny Clark, OL/DL, Carter – UCLA, Washington and Fresno State are also hot on the trail of this 6-2, 285-pound two-way lineman, offering him last month. Clark, one of the top heavyweight wrestlers in the state, recorded 6 sacks, three pass deflections and two fumble recoveries on defense and led an offensive line that paved the way for just under 3,000 yards rushing and 31 touchdowns.

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I.E.: All-region football teams

December, 19, 2011
12/19/11
11:34
AM PT
With the season officially over for Inland Empire football teams, it proved to be a memorable year with the parity that enveloped the area this season and a number of top players are expected back again next year. Here’s a look at the top players in the I.E. from the 2011 season.

MVP

Su’a Cravens, Vista Murrieta, Jr., 6-2, 205 – Cravens was a game-changer on both sides of the ball for the Broncos and a big reason for their first Southern Section title this season. He scored touchdowns when the offense needed them most, and on defense took turns making plays in both the backfield and secondary. Cravens touched the ball 95 times on offense, averaged 10.5 yards a touch and scored 19 touchdowns. On defense, he had 11 sacks and three interceptions, one for a game-clinching touchdown against Chaparral.

OFFENSIVE MVP

Romello Goodman, Corona Centennial, Sr., 5-5, 165 – Goodman took advantage of the talent around him and rushed for 2,758 yards and a state-leading 44 touchdowns. He was at his best in the postseason, rushing for 1,170 yards and 17 touchdowns in four games.

DEFENSIVE MVP

Christian Powell, Upland, Sr., 5-10, 240 – Powell was a force on both sides of the ball but he was especially dangerous on defense, recording an Inland Division-leading 15 sacks. Nebraska, Texas A&M and Washington are among the colleges in pursuit of his services.

SPECIAL TEAMS MVP

Tyler Rausa, Vista Murrieta, Sr., 5-8, 170 – Rausa booted a Southern Section-leading 19 field goals in 14 games, an Inland Empire record for a single season. The Broncos were setting Rausa up for a game-winning kick in the Inland Division final against Centennial last week, but instead scored on 30-yard run in the 35-28 victory.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Coley Candaele, Vista Murrieta – Coming into the season, it didn’t appear Candaele had much in the cupboard on offense, but he found ways to move the chains and get it into the end zone, most notably giving Cravens a chance to run and catch the ball. Junior quarterback Nicholas Stevens also appeared to gain comfort with Candaele’s system as the season rolled along and, like Cravens, will be back next season for another run at the section title.

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No. 24 J.W. North 45, Norco 14

November, 11, 2011
11/11/11
11:16
PM PT


NORCO -- The route Justin Gheorghe takes to the end zone isn’t always pretty but it’s usually the most efficient.

The senior quarterback for J.W. North was at his best Friday night in a Big VIII League finale against Norco, throwing four touchdown passes and running for two more in a 45-14 victory at Norco High.

“Sometimes you want to choke him to death, and other times you just kind of shake your head in wonderment,” said J.W. North coach Mark Paredes. “I don’t think he was sharp tonight in our passing game, but he sure makes plays.”

Gheorghe now has 27 touchdown passes this season and has been intercepted just twice.

“The key has been making my reads,” said Gheorghe, a 6-foot senior left-hander who was a member of J.W. North's Division 1 championship baseball team last June.

Heading into the game, the Huskies (9-1, 6-1) had all but sewn up the league’s runner-up spot behind Corona Centennial, and Norco was destined to finish fourth and grab the final playoff berth into the Southern Section Inland Division playoffs beginning next week.

Norco (6-4, 4-3) played as if it had nothing to aim for, getting outscored, 31-0, in the first half.

“We came out lethargic because we already knew we had a spot in the playoffs,” said Norco running back Joseph Ajeigbe, who was held under 100 yards rushing for just the second time this season. “We didn’t come out with the intensity we should have. North came out better prepared. They’re a really good team.”

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I.E.: Games of the Week

October, 6, 2011
10/06/11
4:11
PM PT
Is this the week that Redlands East Valley jumps into the mix with a huge upset against an out-of-county foe? Can J.W. North become just the second team to ever win a Big VIII league game against Corona Centennial? Will some key additions for Corona Santiago help the Sharks get over the hump against Norco? These are just a few of the questions awaiting Week 5.

A-Game

(ESPNLA top 25 rankings included)

No. 23 J.W. North (4-0, 1-0) at No. 6 Centennial (3-1, 1-0), Friday ( 7 p.m.) – Forget that little matchup over in Redlands, this game actually means something to the Inland Empire landscape. J.W. North shocked the Southland in Week 2 when the Huskies went for two in the final minute to topple Alemany, 36-35, the same night Centennial came from behind in the second half to beat Mater Dei, 28-20. Neither team has trailed since. Centennial quarterback Hayden Gavett has settled in as a first-year starter, and running back Romello Goodman is doing his best Barrington Collins imitation, picking up where last season's main ball carrier left off. Centennial hasn’t faced a team as athletic as J.W. North. Justin Gheorghe is just the third Inland Empire quarterback to surpass 1,000 yards passing this season, and he has a sensational deep threat in 6-foot-3 senior receiver Aaron Peck, who is averaging just over 26 yards a catch with five touchdowns this season.

Calpreps.com computerized projection: Corona Centennial 42, J.W. North 26

ESPNLA: Corona Centennial 48, J.W. North 38

B-List

No. 2 Mission Viejo (4-1) vs. No. 21 Redlands East Valley (4-0) at University of Redlands, Friday (7:30 p.m.) – One of the surprise teams out of the gate has been Redlands East Valley, not so much that the Wildcats are still undefeated at this point, but how they got there. Three shutouts in four games and 12 points allowed overall will earn some attention, and a lot of folks in Mission Viejo are approaching this game with some concern. The Wildcats have a second-year quarterback in Austin Decoud, their leading rusher from last season in Jesse Riley, and four returning starters on the offensive line. They're just as stacked with experience on defense, especially up front with junior defensive lineman Kylie Fitts recording 4 1/2 sacks through three games, and senior strong safety Trevor Douglass having a hand in four of the team’s 12 takeaways. Mission Viejo quarterback Alex Bridgford hasn’t been flashy but he has been efficient, passing for at least 200 yards every game this season. The running game hasn’t been slowed too much by the loss of Buzzy Yokoyama, out since Week 1 because of a foot injury.

Calpreps.com: Mission Viejo 17, Redlands East Valley 14

ESPNLA: Mission Viejo 28, Redlands East Valley 14

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Football: No. 18 Norco

August, 22, 2011
8/22/11
6:37
PM PT
No team in the Inland Empire has a richer tradition or sustained streak of excellence than Norco. The Cougars have qualified for the Southern Section playoffs every season since 1987, winning five titles in that span and finishing runner up three other years.

Version 2011 should be no exception, as the Cougars return a number of key players from a team that won nine games with a freshman at quarterback and right guard. Throw in the addition of three quality starters who were ineligible last season and Norco might do more than just qualify for the postseason this year.

Here’s a closer look at the team.

Team: Norco.

Coach: Todd Gerhart, eighth season.

2010 Record: 9-3, lost to Vista Murrieta in the second round of the Inland Division playoffs.

Returning starters: 11 total. Six on offense, five on defense.

Key players on offense: QB Coltin Gerhart, OL Roy Faulkinbury, OL Cory Roth, OL Dustin Stanton, RB Joseph Ajeigbe.

Key players on defense: LB Scott Starr, DB Corbin McCarthy, DE Jake Hinson, DT Jake Ackling.

Difference maker: Norco has been funneling players to Stanford and Arizona State in recent years, but Scott Starr didn’t think twice when he was offered a scholarship to USC last spring. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound outside linebacker has 4.55 speed in the 40-yard dash, which allows him to track down opposing runners who dare round his corner. Once he puts a shoulder pad on an opponent, he seldom misses the tackle. The Cougars allowed at least 21 points in eight games last season, so those skills will be much needed if the Cougars want to cut down on their points-against average and take some pressure off the offense.

Newcomers: OL Artie Vasquez, WR Cameren Hemmings, LB Stephen Prescott, WR Marcus Jones, DB Justin Martin.

Not to be missed: at Corona Centennial, Oct. 21. The look on Todd Gerhart’s face after Centennial routed Norco, 45-0, last season was one of shock and awe. As head coach at the school, Gerhart had never lost by such a large margin and he wasn’t quite sure how to react. At least he wasn’t alone last season. This season’s matchup should be more rough-and-tumble, with both teams featuring hefty, experienced offensive lines. Norco’s line averages about 280 pounds and they should be better equipped to handle the Huskies.

Coach’s comment: “We’re still young,” Gerhart said. “We’ve got a sophomore quarterback and two sophomores on the offensive line, but it’s a good group of guys. We’ll score some points.”

Final analysis: With a son in the NFL, another at Arizona State and his youngest playing quarterback for the Cougars this season, Gerhart will certainly have a lot to think about again this fall. But the Cougars are certainly in better shape than a year ago. Coltin Gerhart has a year under his belt behind center and three of his five offensive linemen are returning. The Cougars also are set to gain the services of Cameren Hemmings, Stephen Prescott and Marcus Jones, all of whom were ineligible last season after transferring to Norco. Throw in a defense led by a future member of the Trojans and Gerhart also has plenty smile about this season.

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