Los Angeles Preps: Vontaze Burfict

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

August, 10, 2011

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

Inland Empire: Centennial's opponents know Jack

November, 2, 2010
Ryan Jack is quiet, unassuming, a modern-day Opie Taylor if there ever was one.

He’s also the face of the Corona Centennial defense.

Far and away the most efficient tackler for the Huskies, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound middle linebacker is averaging 10.1 takedowns a game, 4 more than the team's next leading tackler. He’s a big reason why the Huskies, ranked No. 4 in the Southland by ESPNLA, have not allowed more than 13 points in a game while running their record to 8-0.

Courtesy of Paul Moureaux
Ryan Jack tackles Norco running back Kelsey Young, in blue, during last Friday's game.

He had a season-high five solo tackles in a 45-0 victory Friday against then-No. 13 Norco in a Big VIII League game, including the one pictured here.

On that play, Norco was inside the 20-yard line when Stanford-bound running back Kelsey Young took a direct snap, headed around the right end and then lowered his shoulder as he cut up field. Jack quickly closed the gap and slammed into Young, throwing him to the turf with a violent heave from his right arm.

"We knew it was coming," Jack said of the direct snap the Cougars employed in key situations.

With all the talent on the Centennial football team this season, Jack is still the only Husky committed to a Division I college program. He pledged to San Diego State last month, a school he followed since he was a youngster.

Jack had big shoes to fill last season when he took over the middle linebacker position previously occupied by Vontaze Burfict, a U.S. Army All-American selection who now anchors Arizona State’s defense.

He filled them supremely, totaling 145 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks, and earning a spot on the All-Southern Section Inland Division team.

Jack hopes to play couple more games this season. The Huskies were eliminated in an Inland Division semifinal a year ago. This season, they are clear favorites to win the Inland Division title and possibly represent the South in the Division I state bowl game.

Here's what Jack had to say following the Huskies' victory over Norco.