Los Angeles Preps: Lio Lafaele

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

February, 1, 2012
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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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Powell switches from UCLA to Colorado

January, 31, 2012
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Less than 24 hours before national signing day and high school football recruits from the Inland Empire continue to sway on their decisions, or learn that a previous offer is no longer on the table.

UCLA and Colorado are two schools in the middle of some down-to-the-wire movement involving I.E. recruits.

Christian Powell, the third-ranked fullback recruit in the nation, committed to UCLA earlier this month but switched to Colorado on Monday night, reports several outlets, including Greg Biggins of ESPN Recruiting Nation.

He would be the third player from Upland to be part of the Buffaloes' recruiting class, joining running back Donte Abron, Jr., and wide receiver/defensive back Marques Mosley. Powell, at 6 feet, 250 pounds, also played defensive line for the Highlanders, recording 15 sacks last season, but is expected to play fullback in coach Eric Bienemy's offense.

Corona Santiago offensive lineman Isaiah Folasa, also once a UCLA commit under former coach Rick Neuheisel, will reportedly sign with New Mexico State on Wednesday, according to Santiago coach Jeff Steinberg.

Folasa took a recruiting trip to Colorado the weekend of Jan. 21, but the Buffaloes were unable to accept his commitment because they had ran out of available scholarships for this class, Biggins reported. In addition to the Upland trio, Arlington defensive lineman Samson Kafovalu and Citrus Hill running back Davien Payne have also pledged to Colorado.

Here’s the latest list of recruits from the I.E.

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I.E.: Top football recruits for class of '12

December, 22, 2011
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Now that the high football season has ended, the recruiting period is in full swing. The Inland Empire, which has stockpiled a number of collegiate conferences over the years, has its share of blue-chip recruits again this season. Here’s a list of seniors who have made non-binding verbal commitments to schools in advance of the national signing day in early February, followed by a list of those who are still undecided.

COMMITTED RECRUITS

QB -- Matt Morin, Chaparral (San Diego State); Austin Decoud, Redlands East Valley (Idaho).

RB -- Donta Abron, Jr., Upland (Colorado); Davien Payne, Citrus Hill (Colorado).

ATHLETE -- Damontae Kazee, Cajon (San Diego State); Bryan Harper, Colony (Washington); Jamaal Williams, Summit (BYU).

OL -- Lio Lafaele, Corona Centennial (Utah); Dylan LaFrenz, Los Osos (Arizona State); Isaiah Folasa, Corona Santiago (UCLA); Kyle Hart, Ridgecrest Burroughs (San Jose State).

DL -- Jeremy Castro, Vista Murrieta (Oregon); Teddy Queen, Chaparral (San Diego State); Samson Kafovalu, Arlington (Colorado).

LB -- Scott Starr, Norco (USC); C.J. Dozier, Chaparral (Arizona State); Darnell Murray, Citrus Hill (UTEP).

DB -- Donte Deayon, Summit (Boise State); Corbin McCarthy, Norco (Duke); Marques Mosley, Upland (Colorado).

UNDECIDED

ATHLETE -- Reshawn Hooker, A.B. Miller (Boise State, UCLA).

WR -- Kenny Lawler, Upland (UCLA, Oregon State, California, Michigan State).

DL -- Milo Jordan, Corona Centennial (USC, UCLA, Arizona State, Nebraska, Washington); Christian Powell, Upland (Washington, Nebraska, Texas A&M).

LB -- Joe Robinson, Chaparral (Nebraska, Arizona); Robert Wagner, Colony (Arizona, San Diego State); Nolan Peralta, Elsinore (Fresno State, San Jose State).

I.E.: All-region football teams

December, 19, 2011
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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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Corona Centennial blazing a familiar path

December, 5, 2011
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LONG BEACH -- The drive to The Grand hotel should be a familiar one for Corona Centennial football coach Matt Logan, yet he might need a GPS the next time he makes the 40-mile trek.

“I think we’ve taken a different way every time,” he said Monday at the Southern Section football luncheon, an annual get-together that recognizes the teams that qualified for this weekend’s championship games.

The Huskies have had a table at the event seven of the last 12 years. They arrive so regularly, they might as well save their nameplate for next December.

This season’s group will travel to Vista Murrieta on Friday night for the Inland Division championship game. It’s a rematch of last season’s final, won by Centennial, 45-21. The top-seeded Huskies are 6-0 in section championships, but remain leery of an opponent that’s loaded with talent on both sides of the ball.

“They’re a very good team,” Logan said of the Broncos. “They’ve got some great athletes mixed in with what they do already. It’ll be a challenge for us.”

So far, the biggest obstacle for the Huskies has been themselves. Led by first-year starters at quarterback and running back, the offense faced some early adversity and a pinch of self doubt, but responded by scoring 41 points or more in the last 11 games.

Looking back, the turning point seems crystal clear.

After blowing a six-point halftime lead in the season opener and scoring just seven points in the second half of a 29-27 loss to visiting St. Bonaventure, the Huskies trailed Mater Dei by two touchdowns midway through the third quarter the following week, again with just seven points on the scoreboard.

The coaching staff looked at one another and just shook their heads.

“We were kind of at our wit’s end,” Logan said. “As coaches, we were like, ‘What are we doing here? It looks like we haven’t been practicing, or doing anything.’ "

But the Huskies finally found their rhythm behind quarterback Hayden Gavett and running back Romello Goodman and pulled out a 28-20 victory. The Huskies haven’t come close to losing since.

“In my mind, that was a complete turning point for us,” Logan said. “We mounted that comeback and things kind of clicked from there.”

Getting the mental part of the game under control was the biggest hurdle.

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No. 6 Centennial 52, No. 23 North 34

October, 7, 2011
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CORONA -- A casual observer might look at the final score of the Big VIII League game between Corona Centennial and J.W. North and consider it a shootout.

In reality, the game was over before halftime.

Centennial scored 42 points in the first 13 1/2 minutes Friday night, then cruised to a 52-34 victory against the visiting Huskies.

Centennial pulled its starters with 3 1/2 minutes remaining in the third quarter and J.W. North took advantage by scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns against the reserves to make the score closer than the game ever was.

“I was really happy with our play, especially the first-team units,” said Centennial coach Matt Logan. “The first-team defense only gave up two touchdowns to a very good offensive team.”

Despite hardly moving the ball in the fourth quarter, Centennial still finished with 573 yards of total offense.

Romello Goodman rushed for 223 of his 229 yards in the first half, and all three of his touchdowns. Centennial quarterback Hayden Gavett finished with 139 yards rushing in five carries and also scored three first-half touchdowns. He contributed another 178 yards through the air, including a 34-yard touchdown pass to Chase Krivashei, his final play before exiting the game.

“We thought they were going to come out and it was going to be a shootout,” Goodman said. “We put together out best game of offense this year.”

(Read full post)

No. 7 Corona Centennial 48, Riv. Poly 6

September, 29, 2011
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RIVERSIDE -- The Corona Centennial football team moved the ball at will Thursday night against Riverside Poly, pulled its starters late in the third quarter at Ramona High and built such a large lead that a running clock was instituted during the fourth quarter.

And still Centennial coach Matt Logan had a look of chagrin after the 48-6 victory in the Big VIII League opener for both teams.

“We’ve got a ton of room for improvement, more than we probably need,” he said. “It’s disappointing because I expected us to really progress this week.”

The Huskies, ranked No. 7 in the Southland by ESPNLA, were again hampered by ill-timed penalties and costly turnovers, the kind of mistakes they could get away with against Riverside Poly but which cost them a victory earlier this season against St. Bonaventure and forced them to come from behind late in the game to beat Mater Dei.

Centennial had two touchdowns called back in the first half on holding penalties and another long run inside the five-yard line wiped out by a yellow flag.

Riverside Poly scored its only touchdown after the ball was snapped over the head of quarterback Hayden Gavett and the Bears recovered at the Huskies 32.

“Obviously we had some snapping issues,” said Logan, who earned his 150th victory not quite halfway through his 15th season at the school.

To the Huskies defense, they were playing without starting center John Hamilton, who sat out because of a sore Achilles tendon. Another starting offensive lineman, left tackle Lio Lafaele, left the game because of a sore knee.

“He had surgery on it in the offseason, so it was just more of a precautionary thing,” Logan said of Lafaele, one of four returning starters on the offensive line.

The Huskies need to be careful with their injuries and find a way to clean up their act, as they face perhaps their toughest test in league play next week, hosting undefeated J.W. North. Logan says he expects both Hamilton and Lafaele to be ready for the Huskies. Whether they can avoid any further mistakes is yet to be seen.

“You make mistakes against those guys, they’re touchdowns,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to get ready.”

Gavett has definitely been a bright spot this season. He completed 12 of 18 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns against the Bears.

Running back Romello Goodman also chipped in 120 rushing yards in 11 carries and scored twice.

Even the reserves for Centennial proved to be too much for Riverside Poly, outscoring the Bears starters, 14-0.

Football: No. 2 Corona Centennial

August, 30, 2011
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Corona Centennial has firmly established itself as the prominent program in the Inland Empire. The Huskies are coming off their second trip to the state bowl championships in the last three years and sixth Southern Section title since 2000.




Centennial enters 2011 in a unique situation, however. The Huskies lost standout quarterback Michael Eubank (Arizona State) and running back Barrinton Collins (Weber State) to graduation, but return four offensive linemen, the most experienced group Matt Logan has coached in 15 years at the school.

Centennial will have far fewer holes to fill on a defense that allowed an average of 14.2 points a game, though most were scored well after the game had been decided.

Here’s a closer look at the Huskies.

Team: Corona Centennial.

Coach: Matt Logan, 15th season.

2010 Record: 14-1. Lost to Palo Alto in the Division 1 state bowl championship.

Returning starters: 10 total. Four on offense, six on defense.

Key players on offense: RB Romello Goodman, OT Lio Lafaele, OG John Hamilton, OT Cameron Hunt, QB Hayden Gavett, OL Anthony Juarez.

Key players on defense: DL Milo Jordan, DL Ngata Tuihalamaka, CB Izaac Colunga, LB Ahkeel Chambers, OLB Isaiah Ashby, DB Miquan Johnson.

Difference maker: His statistics didn’t really stand out last season but Centennial defense lineman Milo Jordan sure did, routinely absorbing two or three blockers at a time, enabling a linebacker to roam free and make the tackle. Opposing coaches certainly noticed Jordan’s game-changing abilities, electing him defensive MVP in the Big VIII League. Jordan, at 6 feet 3, 280 pounds and firmly committed to Arizona State, is expected to be an even more intimidating force as the Huskies try to defend their Inland Division championship.

Newcomers: WR Chase Krivashei, WR Isaac Crandall, OLB Vann Dennis, WR Ryan Pascarella.

Not to be missed: Sept. 9 vs. Ventura St. Bonaventure. No better way to test those preseason rankings than to match a couple of top 10 teams in Week 1. Corona Centennial is historically a first-half team, often securing a double-digit lead before the band takes the field for intermission. St. Bonaventure, meanwhile, is known for its in-game adjustments and ability to come from behind. Should be a good one.

Coach’s comment: “Well be pretty physical on both sides of the ball,” Logan said. “It kind of depends how fast we can get experience [in the backfield]. It might take a couple weeks or so but we expect to be a much better team midway through the season.”

Final analysis: With the quarterback situation a lot greener this season and the nonleague schedule much tougher with the addition of St. Bonaventure, it’s possible the Huskies could take some lumps in the month of September. Any losses, as we’ve learned, are bad for the resume when it comes to awarding state bowl bids. Early on, as Hayden Gavett finds his wings at quarterback, it’ll likely be up to the defense to keep the Huskies in games, maybe even score a touchdown or two. If the Huskies live up to Logan’s expectations and begin to hit their stride midway through the season, that would leave them in good shape for Norco and Roosevelt, two of their main challengers for the Big VIII League title.

I.E.: A closer look at the Big VIII League

August, 10, 2011
8/10/11
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BIG VIII LEAGUE

Last season’s results: Corona Centennial (14-1, 7-0); Roosevelt (9-3, 5-2); Norco (9-3, 5-2); Corona (5-6, 3-4); Corona Santiago (4-6, 3-4); Riverside King (4-6, 2-5); Riverside North (2-8, 2-5); Riverside Poly (3-7, 1-6).

Players to watch: The strength of Centennial lies in the trenches this season, and Milo Jordan can take much of that credit. He was the league’s defensive co-most valuable player last season after helping the Huskies win the Inland Division title and advance to the Division 1 state bowl championship game. Jordan committed to Arizona State in June. Also returning to the Huskies’ defensive front is Ngata Tuihalamaka, who led the Huskies with 4 sacks last season. Centennial also returns three offensive linemen, led by senior tackle Lio Lafaele. Norco also returns most of its young offensive line from a season ago, as well as sophomore quarterback Coltin Gerhart. But no doubt the marquee player is outside linebacker Scott Starr, who committed to USC shortly after he was offered last spring. North should also improve behind senior quarterback/defensive back Justin Gheorghe, who was a first-team all-Big VIII selection on offense and defense last season. Gheorghe tasted success last spring as an outfielder for the North baseball team, which won the SS-Division 1 title at Dodger Stadium. Roosevelt, Santiago and Poly should also benefit from the return of their starting quarterbacks. Aaron Crone of Roosevelt threw for a league-leading 23 touchdown passes last season, Santiago junior Michael Darr averaged a league-best 206.1 passing yards a game and Steven Hamm returns behind center for Poly. Santiago might have the league's best offensive linemen in Isaiah Folasa, who committed to UCLA last month. Garry Lewis of Corona looks like the league’s best athlete. The senior wide receiver had the second-fastest time in the 40-yard dash (4.41 seconds) at the Nike SPARQ Combine last spring in Long Beach.

Projected order of finish: Centennial, Norco, North, Santiago, Roosevelt, Poly, Corona, King.

Key games: Sept. 9 – Ventura St. Bonaventure @ Centennial; Los Angeles Crenshaw @ Norco; Sept. 16 – Centennial vs. Mater Dei @ Santa Ana Stadium; Sept. 23 – Upland @ Norco, Temecula Chaparral @ Centennial, North @ Fontana Kaiser; Sept. 30 – Norco @ Roosevelt; Oct. 7 – North @ Centennial, Santiago @ Norco; Oct. 14 – North vs. Poly @ Riverside College, Centennial @ Santiago; Oct. 21 – Norco @ Centennial; Oct. 27 – Santiago vs. North @ Riverside College; Nov. 4 – Centennial @ Roosevelt; Nov. 10 – Santiago @ Roosevelt; Nov. 11 – North @ Norco.

Alumni in the NFL: Lonie Paxton, Denver Broncos (Centennial ’96); Toby Gerhart, Minnesota Vikings (Norco ’06); Heath Farwell, Minnesota Vikings (Corona ’00).

Fast fact: Centennial and Norco are intense rivals in the Inland Empire but a number of former players have gone on to become close teammates at Arizona State. Seven Centennial grads are listed on the 2011 roster, including four potential starters on defense, led by last season’s Pac-10 Defensive MVP, linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Norco boasts six players on the Sun Devils roster, led by Garth Gerhart, the brother of Coltin and Toby Gerhart, considered one of the top centers in the NCAA.

On the clock: Citrus Belt League

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