Los Angeles Preps: Mike Christensen

No. 17 Loyola 36, No. 23 Crespi 35 (OT)

November, 12, 2011

VALLEY GLEN -- The Loyola football team erased a 15-point deficit and beat visiting Crespi, 36-35, in overtime in the Serra League season finale at L.A. Valley College on Friday night.

The win sealed second place in the Serra League for Loyola. Crespi’s playoff fate was left in a three-way coin flip at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High School.

Crespi, Notre Dame and Bishop Amat ended up in a three-way tie for third place in the Serra League with 1-3 records. The third and final spot from the Serra League in the Pac-5 Division playoffs was decided by coin flips. Bishop Amat, which had completed its regular season and did not play Friday night, won the flips and will advance.

Alemany beat Notre Dame, 21-14, to wrap up its second Serra League championship in a row and complete a 4-0 undefeated league run.

Even though Loyola didn’t need to win its league finale to make the playoffs, the Cubs played as if it were an elimination game in the playoffs.

“That’s who we are,” Loyola receiver Chaz Anderson said. “That really displayed our personality out there.”

Loyola’s Kodi Whitfield caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nick Cotton in the first overtime period to tie the score, 35-35. Conrad Ukropina knocked through the all-important extra point to win the game.

“We kept battling,” Loyola coach Mike Christensen said. “It was nice to see. We preach that stuff all year.”

Crespi scored a touchdown on a one-yard quarterback sneak by Cody Cordell on the Celts first possession in overtime. But kicker Patrick Cassley missed the extra point. It was his third missed point-after try in the game.

When asked if the missed extra points were the difference in the game, Crespi coach Jon Mack could only say, “Who knows?”

Christensen pointed out that his kicker missed a field-goal try and that evened out the missed extra points. Either way, the game was decided by inches, be it on extra points or at the goal line.

Crespi took an early 10-0 lead in the first quarter and extended it to 22-7 in the second quarter. But Loyola battled back, tying the score in the third quarter and sending the game into overtime on a one-yard touchdown run by Wyatt Bradford with 3:31 to play in the fourth quarter.

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No. 12 Alemany 28, No. 13 Loyola 14

November, 5, 2011

MISSION HILLS – Alemany coach Dean Herrington had two words of advice for his junior quarterback Devon Dunn in the middle of his game-winning drive in the fourth quarter against Serra League rival Loyola.

Be careful.

Easier said than done on a muddy and sloppy field that was pelted by showers all afternoon.

But Dunn took his coach’s words to heart and found receiver Corey Sims with 46 seconds left to score the go-ahead touchdown. Alemany scored two touchdowns in the final minute of the game to beat Loyola, 28-14, on Friday night at Alemany High School.

The four-yard touchdown catch by Sims -- one of Herrington’s favorite two-point conversion plays that produced an all-important six points -- gave Alemany a 21-14 lead. Defensive back Steven Mitchell intercepted a pass and returned it 55 yards to ice the game and hand Loyola its first Serra League loss of the season.

Alemany (7-2), the No. 12 team in the ESPNLA.com Top 25 rankings, clinched at least a share of the Serra League championship with a perfect 3-0 record and one game left to play. Loyola (7-2), ranked No. 13 by ESPNLA, is alone in second place in the Serra League with a 2-1 record.

Down by seven points at halftime and five minutes into the fourth quarter, Loyola tied the scored, 14-14, on an 18-yard touchdown catch by Kodi Whitfield.

Alemany got the ball back with 6:35 left to play and drove 67 yards to take a seven-point lead. Dunn completed three passes for 36 yards in the drive, including the four-yard touchdown to Sims.

Alemany only needed a field goal to win the game, but Herrington was not comfortable attempting a kick on the sloppy field.

“With the mud and stuff, it’s not a given,” Herrington said.

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Alemany's Mitchell quite a top catch

November, 2, 2011
When the season started, Alemany coach Dean Herrington knew he had a special group of receivers on his football team.

Junior Steven Mitchell has emerged as the best of the bunch.

He leads the team with 34 catches for 741 yards, an average of 92.6 yards per game, and nine touchdowns. He has nearly three times as many receiving yards as UCLA-bound Jerico Richardson, who is second on the team with 265 yards. Mitchell’s nine touchdowns are more than Richardson, Jeff Farrar and Corey Simms combined.

“He has unbelievable speed and great body control,” Herrington said. “Against Dorsey, he only touched the ball four times. That will never happen again.”

The game against Dorsey was one of the few hiccups this season for Alemany (6-2), the No. 12 team in the ESPN Los Angeles prep football Top 25 rankings. The Warriors lost that game, 14-13. Both of Alemany’s losses have been by one point. The Warriors also lost to J.W. North 36-35.

When Alemany plays Loyola (7-1), the No. 13 team in the ESPNLA rankings, on Friday night at home in a crucial Serra League game, Herrington will make sure Mitchell is very much in the mix.

Alemany and Loyola are tied for first place in league with 2-0 records. The winner of Friday night’s game is guaranteed at least a share of the league title.

“It’s a big game in the sense that we control our own destiny,” Loyola coach Mike Christensen said. “You can’t take a breath in this league. If you do, you’re going to get beat.”

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No. 15 Loyola 14, No. 14 Bishop Amat 3

October, 28, 2011

LA PUENTE—One standout player returned from a knee injury Friday night, while another hobbled away on crutches.

Chaz Anderson of Loyola, injured four weeks ago in a non-league loss to Upland, returned to provide a lift against Bishop Amat in a Serra League game. The Boise State-bound receiver and defensive back caught a key third-down pass late in the first half to set up Loyola’s second touchdown in a 14-3 victory at Bishop Amat.

Just minutes before the reception, Bishop Amat quarterback Rio Ruiz had to be helped off the field after suffering a left knee injury when he was sacked by Loyola linebacker Bryan Christensen.

Ruiz, expected to be selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft in June, watched the remainder of the game from the sideline, a large ice bag taped to his knee and his leg supported with crutches. The shortstop and right-handed pitcher homered at Dodger Stadium in June to lead the Lancers to the SS-Division 4 title.

Bishop Amat coach Steve Hegarty did not have an update on Ruiz’s injury at the end of the game, but his mother, Dolores Ruiz, said at halftime that she didn’t believe the injury was serious.

Even with Ruiz in the game, the Lancers struggled to move the ball and couldn’t do much in the second half as sophomore Koa Haynes took over behind center.

"It wasn't pretty, but we'll take it," said Loyola coach Mike Christensen.

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No. 16 Loyola 28, Valencia 10

October, 8, 2011

VALLEY GLEN -- The Loyola football team came up with four big, game-changing plays against Valencia at L.A. Valley College on Saturday night. But Loyola coach Mike Christensen said a little nine-yard touchdown pass and dominating defense were the reasons for his team’s 28-10 win over the visting Vikings.

However the game is dissected, one player stood out: Loyola’s Eamon McOsker.

He scored two touchdowns, one on a 65-yard fumble recovery and another on a nine-yard catch. He returned the opening kickoff 66 yards to the Valencia 33-yard line and set up his team’s first touchdown.

McOsker had a complete game, coming up with big plays on offense, defense and special teams. His touchdown catch in the third quarter impressed Christensen the most.

“That catch was the best play of the night,” Christensen said. “I think he’s our best football player. We’re glad he’s on our side.”

On a night when there weren’t that many great plays, McOsker came up with the most. Both teams played a great defensive game. Valencia (2-3) gave up only 74 yards of offense to Loyola in the first half. Loyola (5-1) held the Vikings to 107 yards of offense at halftime. But the Cubs, the No. 16 team in the ESPNLA.com prep football Top 25 rankings, went into halftime with a 14-3 lead.

The difference in the first half was the opening kickoff return by McOsker and two short touchdown runs by Cameron Walker. The first kickoff return resulted in a four-play, 33-yard drive that was capped by a four-yard touchdown run by Walker.

Walker scored his second touchdown on a one-yard run in the second quarter. He only rushed for 23 yards in eight carries in the first half and didn’t have a single carry in the second half.

Valencia’s only points in the first half came on a 19-yard field goal by Brett Schreiber in the second quarter. Valencia drove down to the Loyola two-yard line but couldn’t punch the football in for a touchdown.

“Defensively, we dominated the game,” Christensen said. “Offensively, there’s a lot of plays that didn’t work because of penalties.”

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L.A. South: The Top 10

October, 2, 2011
A City Section school not named Carson or Narbonne pulled off perhaps the year's biggest shocker and, as a result, makes its first appearance in our south Los Angeles County rankings. In all, seven of last week's ranked teams emerged victorious. (Note: Last week's rankings are in parentheses.)

1. (1) Long Beach Poly (4-1)
As if Poly needed more offensive options, highly regarded basketball recruit Roschon Prince, a 6-foot-5 junior, hauled in three touchdown passes to help the Jackrabbits pull away. Last week: Beat Compton, 41-14. Next: vs. Long Beach Jordan at Veterans Stadium, Friday.

2. (2) Bishop Amat (4-1)
Senior running back Jalen Moore continued his post-Servite tear, scoring three touchdowns Friday to raise his total to 10 since the Lancers' lopsided loss in Week 1. Amat's offense is rolling. Last week: Beat Cathedral, 56-7. Next: at Venice, Thursday.

3. (3) Loyola (4-1)
Consider the Cubs' first loss an ultimate hangover. Coach Mike Christensen says he thinks the Cubs were "resting on [their] laurels" following a statement victory against St. John Bosco. Last week: Lost to Upland, 38-23. Next: vs. Valencia at L.A. Valley College, Saturday.

4. (4) St. John Bosco (4-1)
Contributions from all sides for the Braves, who bounced back nicely on the road. The defense had five takeaways and Bryce Treggs had 192 receiving yards and two scores. Last week: Beat La Habra, 41-6. Next: vs. JSerra at Saddleback College, Oct. 14.

5. (6) Lakewood (4-1)
Darius Powe had a successful return from injury ... literally. The area's top uncommitted receiver had missed the previous three games but didn't skip a beat, scoring on a 72-yard punt return the first time he touched the ball Friday. Last week: Beat Long Beach Wilson, 42-28. Next: vs. Compton, Friday.

6. (7) Charter Oak (4-1)
A return to normalcy for the Chargers, who showed no signs of trauma following their stinging loss to Rancho Cucamonga. Travis Santiago had 231 yards of total offense and accounted for four touchdowns. Last week: Beat Santa Fe, 49-0. Next: vs. South Hills at Covina District Stadium, Oct. 14.

7. (9) Narbonne (2-2)
Better late than never, right? The Gauchos were finally on the good end of a dramatic, late-game situation. Troy Williams had four touchdowns, helping Narbonne avenge last year's loss to the Cavs. Last week: Beat Serra, 26-20. Next: at Culver City, Friday.

8. (5) Carson (1-3)
Only one reception for Darreus Rogers, who dealt with triple-team treatment from Mission Viejo. The Colts stumbled for the third straight week but will the lumps translate into improvement? Last week: Lost to Mission Viejo, 31-0. Next: at San Diego Lincoln, Friday.

9. (NR) Dorsey (4-1)
No bigger surprise across the Southland than the one the Dons pulled in the Valley on Friday night. Jaydon Mickens scored the go-ahead touchdown, and the Dons survived a potential game-winning two-point conversion attempt. Last week: Beat Alemany, 13-12. Next: vs. West Adams at Rancho Cienega Park, Oct. 14.

10. (10) St. Paul (4-0)
The Swordsmen had to hold on after building a 16-point advantage. Michael Ortega and Paul Echeverria combined for 287 yards rushing, and the defense handled its business late. Last week: Beat Ayala, 30-27. Next: at Schurr, Friday.

Dropped out: Gardena Serra (8)

Five more, in alphabetic order: Gahr (4-0), Maranatha (5-0), San Pedro (4-0), Serra (3-2), West Covina (4-1).

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

Football: No. 21 Upland 38, No. 15 Loyola 23

September, 30, 2011

UPLAND -- Inland Empire teams probably wouldn’t mind playing the Serra League a little more often.

Upland scored the latest upset against the vaunted private-school league to the north, scoring three consecutive touchdowns after falling behind early Friday night against Loyola and cruising to a 38-23 victory at Upland High.

Vista Murrieta also toppled higher-ranked Crespi on Friday night, two weeks after J.W. North stunned Alemany.

“I think we were resting on our laurels from last week,” said Loyola coach Mike Christensen, referring to his team's 28-14 victory against St. John Bosco. “Maybe they read too many newspapers.”

Upland (5-0) still had a bitter taste in its mouth from last season’s loss to the Cubs (4-1), when the Highlanders were soundly defeated, 30-13, in their final tuneup before nonleague play. Upland coach Tim Salter said the difference this time was his team's work in the trenches.

“We felt last year when we lost the game we didn’t control the line of scrimmage, and I really felt tonight we did,” he said. “They knew we were going to run the power and we ran it anyhow, even late in the game.”

The Highlanders also came up with a big momentum-changing passing play in their rematch with the Cubs, something they were unable to do last season.

Trailing by three points early in the second quarter, Upland wide receiver Kenny Lawler made a brilliant 40-yard reception that set up a two-yard touchdown run by Donta Abron and the Highlanders never trailed again.

“That really gave us some momentum,” Salter said.

Abron finished with 187 rushing yards in 24 carries and scored four touchdowns, including an 80-yard run that gave Upland a 38-17 lead with 2:51 left in the third quarter.

Now the Highlanders have a week off before playing Etiwanda on Oct. 14 at Colony High and then a key matchup the following week against Rancho Cucamonga, ranked No. 13 in the Southland.

Loyola, meanwhile, plays Valencia next week in its final nonleague tuneup. The Cubs could be without wide receiver/defensive back Chaz Anderson, who left in the third quarter because of a right knee injury and struggled to put weight on the leg while standing on the sideline. Anderson has committed to Boise State.

LA South: Loyola 10, Mira Costa 7

September, 4, 2010
MANHATTAN BEACH -- Loyola's defensive front had to come up with one more stop.

The Cubs' defense had been impressive all night Friday, locking the Mira Costa Mustangs in a corral of sorts. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

But with less than two minutes left and Mira Costa down just five, Loyola needed to throw away the key. Bury it. Swallow it. Anything.

Lineman Jack Semcken came up with what first-year coach Mike Christensen was looking for, dropping tailback J.R. Tavai for a huge loss and forcing a fourth-and-long. Mira Costa quarterback Dalton Crawford's next pass fell incomplete and Loyola's defense had done it.

"It shows that we're a real team," Loyola quarterback Jerry Neuheisel said. "When one of us goes down, the other one can step up. The D stepped up for us. They made a lot of plays for us, especially in crucial situations."

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