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The Age of Excellence: Fitting bookend

Posted: December 28, 2009 10:45 p.m.
Updated: December 29, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Members of the Santa Clarita Christian football team pose with the CIF-SS Division I 8-Man Football championship trophy on Dec. 5.

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As the decade comes to a close, amateur athletics are as popular as they have ever been, and the spotlight shone brightly on the Santa Clarita Valley in 2009.

A lot of teams and athletes rose to the challenge amid the pressure.

Like the Saugus girls cross country team, which won an unprecedented fourth straight CIF state championship.

Valencia’s Aly Drake finished her meteoric rise on the track with a state championship in the 800-meter run.

Three different teams and four different athletes won CIF championships.

The Golden Valley boys basketball team captured the school’s first league title in any sport. The West Ranch football team earned the program’s first Foothill League win against someone other than Golden Valley.

Amateur golfer and Valencia resident Alison Lee turned in a stellar performance at the U.S. Women’s Open, while a pair of local athletes appeared in Sports Illustrated.

Some teams had disappointing exits early in the playoffs.

The spotlight caught up to some people, and it even caused scandal to erupt in the Canyon girls basketball program early in the year.

But for the most part, 2009 was a strong reminder that Santa Clarita Valley sports are in excellent shape heading into the next decade.

Before seeing where that next decade takes local sports, here’s one last look back.


Jan. 15 — Stan Delus gives up his job as head coach of the Canyon girls basketball team and the program forfeits its 11 victories because of two falsified student records. The two players implicated were Vanessa Aguilar and Alexa Davison, who transferred to the school prior to the 2008-09 season from Grant High School of Van Nuys and Cleveland High School of Reseda, respectively. Canyon would finish the season 7-19 overall and third in the Foothill League at 6-4, but the Cowboys would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker to West Ranch and miss the playoffs. Delus is replaced by Todd Jackson on an interim basis, and when Chuck Johns is named the new head coach after the season.

Feb. 4 — Local athletes announce their college choices on National Signing Day. Among the athletes to commit is Saugus quarterback Desi Rodriguez, who verbally commits to the Air Force Academy. Before seeing the field, however, he has to complete basic training and spend a year in the Air Force’s prep school. West Ranch football players Jake Bernards and Shane Waterman commit to San Diego State and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, respectively, and they are the first two players in football program history to receive athletic scholarships. Prized College of the Canyons wide receiver Hayo Carpenter commits to the University of Minnesota.

Feb. 6 — Valencia senior David Stroud, a cancer survivor, scores the first two points of the boys basketball team’s game against West Ranch thanks to a prearranged agreement between the two schools. The Vikings allow the Wildcats to score, and the Wildcats then let Stroud score on a layup. Valencia goes on to win 70-64 in a game that was more lopsided than the final score.

Feb. 6 — Saugus senior Gabrielle Conn ties the school’s career scoring record by scoring 18 points in a 78-28 win over Golden Valley. Conn would go on to break Sheridan Arredondo’s record of 1,255 points in a loss to Canyon on Feb. 10.

Feb. 7 — The Canyon boys soccer team clinches the Foothill League title when Saugus and Golden Valley tie 1-1, making it impossible for either team to catch Canyon in the standings. The Cowboys would later fall to Bloomington in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division III playoffs. Goalkeeper Andrew Wilson is later named Foothill League Player of the Year.

Also, Canyon quarterback Jordan Adamczyk accepts a scholarship offer from Weber State in Ogden, Utah.

Feb. 12 — Golden Valley’s boys basketball team clinches the first league title of any kind in school history by hammering West Ranch 84-66 to finish 9-1 in Foothill League play. Trevor Wiseman scores 31 points and keys a big third-quarter run.

Additionally, the Saugus girls basketball team beats Hart 50-36, and the Centurions clinch the Foothill League championship outright when Valencia loses to Canyon on the same night. Nicole Hicks scores 16 points and breaks the school’s single-season scoring record of 447 points. Saugus made the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division IIA playoffs before falling to Newbury Park. Hicks would later be named Foothill League Player of the Year and The Signal’s All-SCV Player of the Year.

Also, Canyon and Valencia share the Foothill League girls soccer championship after a 0-0 draw. The Vikings would be upset by Arcadia in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division II playoffs, and Canyon would lose to Corona Del Mar in the second round. Canyon’s Milan Cabrera and Valencia’s Alyssa Triana later share the Foothill League Player of the Year award.

Feb. 21 — Lance Armstrong rides through the Santa Clarita Valley during the seventh stage of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California. Armstrong finished seventh overall in the race and Levi Leipheimer goes on to win his third straight Amgen Tour of California title.

Feb. 24 — Golden Valley guard Maverick Ahanmisi scores 41 points in the Grizzlies’ 75-72 victory over Foothill of Santa Ana in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division IIIA playoffs. Ahanmisi would later be named Foothill League Player of the Year and All-SCV Player of the Year, and he would make the CIF-SS Div. IIIA first team.

Feb. 27 — The Golden Valley boys basketball team loses to Gahr 96-87 in the CIF-SS Div. IIIA semifinals, ending its breakout season. Steven Thornton scores 41 points in the loss. All six Foothill League boys basketball teams made the playoffs, and four of them reached the quarterfinals in their respective divisions.

Feb. 28 — The Master’s College’s women’s basketball team snaps Point Loma Nazarene’s 20-game winning streak with a 63-48 victory, but the Mustangs would get bounced from the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament in the first round.

March 6 — The Saugus girls soccer team beats Harvard-Westlake 2-1 to win the CIF-SS Div. II championship, the first outright CIF girls soccer championship in Santa Clarita Valley history. Erin Ortega scores the first goal in the third minute, and Ortega assists on the game-winner later with a pass to Jamie Molacek. Ortega would be named CIF-SS Div. II Offensive Player of the Year and The Signal’s All-SCV Player of the Year, and Molacek would be named the Defensive Player of the Year. Head coach Lisa Rollo went on to be named Coach of the Year, but the Centurions lost to Buchanan of Clovis in the first round of the CIF-Southern California Division I Regional playoffs.

March 7 — The COC women’s basketball team loses to Ventura 77-51 in the Southern California Regional Finals. The Cougars did manage to win the Western State Conference title outright. In the decade, COC won seven conference titles and went 107-12 in WSC play. The Cougars won 234 games in the decade.

March 10 — West Ranch hires Sean O’Brien as its new head football coach. Former coach Mike Kane resigned in December 2008 to spend more time with his family.

March 24 — Golden Valley names Andy Campbell as its new head football coach. Campbell formerly coached at Silver Valley High in Yermo, and he replaces Steve Pinkston, who resigned in Dec. 2008.

March 26 — Golden Valley boys basketball head coach Chris Printz abruptly resigns, citing a lack of time spent with family. Printz would later return to the position.

April 1 — The West Ranch baseball team beats Valencia 7-1 for the first victory over the Vikings in school history.

April 2 — Golden Valley beats Hart 4-2 for its first baseball victory over the Indians in school history.

April 21 — Valencia freshman pitcher Carly Mortensen tosses a no-hitter in a 4-0 win over West Ranch.

April 27 — Former Valencia and Oregon State wide receiver Shane Morales signs a free-agent deal with the Arizona Cardinals, and former COC safety Troy Nolan is selected in the seventh round of the NFL draft by the Houston Texans. Nolan is still on Houston’s injured reserve list, but Morales is cut during training camp.

April 29 — The Saugus boys track and field team wins the school’s first league title since 1986 by beating Hart 102-35, and the girls team beats the Indians 107-29 for its fourth consecutive Foothill League title.

Also, West Ranch wins the Foothill League title in boys golf, but it’s Valencia that later advances to the second round of the CIF-SS Northern Team Divisional.

April 30 — The Valencia boys volleyball team extends its league winning streak to 81 matches by beating Canyon 3-1 to finish 9-0 in the Foothill League and win its ninth straight league championship. The Vikings would later fail to make the CIF-SS semifinals for the first time since 2000, losing to Royal in the quarterfinals. Jon Souisa is later named the Foothill League Player of the Year and All-SCV Player of the Year.

Also, the Valencia girls tennis team beats Canyon 14-4 to win the league championship for the seventh time in the last eight years.

May 6 — West Ranch’s Jordan Hovis wins the Foothill League boys tennis singles title, while Valencia’s team of J.R. Macalutas and Matt Cheng wins the doubles title. Hovis is the first Wildcat to win the honor, and West Ranch loses to Westwood in the second round of the CIF postseason.

May 8 — Valencia sophomore Jasmine Hall is a part of four league championships at the Foothill League track and field finals, while teammate Aly Drake is a part of three. Canyon’s Anthony Pizzo outlasts Saugus’ Brandon Jauregui in a white-knuckle 3,200-meter run final.

May 13 — The Valencia baseball team beats Saugus 10-3 and earns the outright Foothill League championship when Hart beats West Ranch. The Vikings would be upset in the first round of the CIF-SS Div. I playoffs by Vista Murrieta, but sophomore shortstop Christian Lopes is later named the Foothill League Player of the Year and All-SCV Player of the Year. He also sets a new Santa Clarita Valley record with 15 home runs.

May 15 — Hart’s Jordan Danny wins the 100-yard breaststroke title at the CIF-SS Div. I meet, and the Indians finish second as a team.

Also, Hart builds a 9-0 lead after four innings before the West Ranch baseball team explodes for 11 runs to take an 11-9 victory and clinch second place in the Foothill League. The Wildcats would go on to win the first playoff game in program history, a 6-2 decision over El Dorado.

May 20 — Collin Keoshian becomes the first football player in Santa Clarita Christian School history to earn a scholarship to an NCAA Div. I-A school when he verbally commits to Brigham Young University.

May 23 — Drake wins a CIF-SS Div. I championship in the 800-meter run at the CIF-SS finals, while Saugus’ Kaylin Mahoney wins the CIF-SS Div. II title in the 3,200-meter run. Saugus thrower Daniel Swarbrick wins the CIF-SS Div. II discus championship.

May 26 — Rollo resigns as Saugus’ head girls soccer coach, and she is replaced by Natalie Helgeson during the summer.

May 28 — Hart ace Destiny Rodino pitches a no-hitter against Esperanza in the CIF-SS Div. I quarterfinals, extending her scoreless innings streak to 21. The Indians would lose to Norco in the semifinals, but they split the league championship with Valencia, which lost in the third round. Hart catcher Jessica Shults and Mortensen share Foothill League Player of the Year honors, while Shults is honored as All-SCV Player of the Year. Mortensen is The Signal’s Co-Newcomer of the Year.

May 29 — Saugus becomes the first school to have four runners qualify for the CIF state finals in the 3,200 when Mahoney, Anne Randall, Stephanie Bulder and Karis Frankian all qualify at the CIF-SS Masters Meet.

June 6 — Drake caps an incredible rise in the 800-meter run, winning the CIF State Division I championship with a time of 2:07.45 at Buchanan High School in Clovis. Drake’s mark tops former Canyon star Alysia Johnson’s Santa Clarita Valley record of 2:08.97 in 2004. Also at the state meet, Mahoney finishes third for the second straight year in the 3,200 finals, while teammate Stephanie Bulder finishes fifth. Swarbrick finishes fourth in the discus and fifth in the shot put. Drake is currently playing both soccer and running track for the University of San Francisco, while Swarbrick will suit up for the track and field team at Iowa State this spring. Drake is later honored as The Signal’s Female Athlete of the Year and All-SCV Female Track Athlete of the Year, while Swarbrick is so honored for the boys.

June 10 — Four local players are drafted on the second day of the Major League Baseball draft, including Valencia graduate Virgil Hill, who is selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the sixth round and later signs with the team. Hill hit .216 with 22 RBIs and 11 extra-base hits for the Cardinals of the Gulf Coast League. Valencia graduate Jared Clark is taken in the 12th round by the Colorado Rockies, and Clark hit .348 with 11 home runs and 44 RBIs for the Casper Ghosts of the Pioneer League. Other locals selected include Hart graduate Matt Valaika, who is picked by the Cincinnati Reds in the 20th round, and Saugus graduate Kyle Hooper, who is selected in the 28th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Eight more local products are selected on the final day of the draft.

July 12 — Valencia resident Lee, just 14 years old, completes the U.S. Women’s Open with a 9-over 293 to finish tied for 26th. Lee shoots the same overall score as Lorena Ochoa, who was the top-ranked women’s golfer in the world and still is. Eun Hee Ji wins the tournament at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa., with an even-par score of 284. Jennifer Song shoots a 7-over 291 to record the best amateur score.

July 13 — Lopes and local soccer player Courtney Proctor are featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Where Will They Be?” section profiling future stars. In addition to his time with Valencia, the 16-year-old Lopes was also on the U16 USA Baseball team in 2008 but didn’t make the U18 this past summer. Proctor, who is home-schooled and 15 years old, plays with the Santa Clarita United Blazers and is a member of the U17 USA Soccer Women’s National team.

Sept. 12 — COC’s football team, ranked fifth in the state, is upset by Santa Barbara City College 17-14 to start the season.

Sept. 30 — West Ranch’s Jennifer Owen becomes the first non-Saugus girl to win a Foothill League cross country race since the 2004 league finals. She completes the course at Central Park in 17:59, topping the Saugus girls who were pacing themselves because they were taking part in a national meet that weekend.

Oct. 30 — West Ranch’s football team earns its first win over a Foothill League opponent other than Golden Valley by standing up Canyon at the 1-yard line in the waning seconds to beat the Cowboys 23-18. Defensive back Keever Parrish chops down Canyon quarterback Jonathan Jerozal short of the end zone on fourth down to send the crowd at Valencia High School into a frenzy. Canyon would beat Saugus to end the season, however, and then win the three-way coin-flip between the Cowboys, Centurions and Wildcats to earn its first trip to the playoffs since 2006.

Oct. 31 — The Master’s College’s men’s soccer team wins its first GSAC title by beating Biola 2-1. The Mustangs would advance all the way to the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship final before falling to eight-time champion and top-ranked Lindsey Wilson of Kentucky. TMC finishes 19-3-3, one win shy of a school record.

Nov. 5 — Valencia wins its eighth straight Foothill League girls volleyball championship by beating Golden Valley 3-0. The Vikings later advance to the second round of the CIF-SS Division IA playoffs before falling in five games to El Toro. Outside hitter Katie Hank is later named the Foothill League Player of the Year.

Nov. 7 — In a rematch of the 2008 CIF-SS Division I 8-Man title game, Santa Clarita Christian’s football team beats Faith Baptist 40-34 to earn its first Heritage League title outright.

Nov. 15 — Valencia’s football team earns the top seed in the CIF-SS Northern Division playoffs for the first time in school history after winning the Foothill League and finishing the regular season a dominant 10-0.

Nov. 16 — Hart’s girls golf team ends its season by finishing fifth at the CIF-WSCGA Foundation Southern California Girls Golf Championship. Brenna Carlson misses individual qualification by one stroke. It’s still another successful season for the Indians, who won the CIF-SS Northern Team Divisional and Foothill League title again. Indians golfer Nikki Prichard edged her teammate Carlson for league MVP by one stroke at the Newhall Land Cup/Foothill League finals.

Nov. 21 — A 31-20 loss to Saddleback College in the Western State Bowl ends a disappointing season for the COC football team, which finishes 6-5 just one year after falling short of the Southern California championship by a touchdown.

Nov. 28 — The Saugus girls cross country team wins an unprecedented fourth straight CIF state championship at Woodward Park in Fresno. All five of the Centurions’ scorers finish in the top 24 overall, paced by Mahoney, who finishes third overall in Division II. Mahoney was also the Foothill League champion and CIF-SS Division II individual champion. Senior Amber Murakami becomes the first girls runner in state history to be a scorer on four straight state champions. Also at the state meet, Golden Valley finishes third in Division III, led by Foothill League champion Seth Totten’s seventh-place finish. The Canyon boys make a triumphant return to the state meet by finishing fifth in Division II, while the West Ranch girls wind up seventh in Division II in their first trip to the state meet. The Saugus boys, who were Foothill League champions along with the Saugus girls, finish 10th in Division II. In their stellar season, the Saugus girls also won their fourth straight CIF-SS championship and their fourth straight Mt. San Antonio College Cross Country Invitational championship, to go along with a victory at the nationwide McQuaid Invitational in New York. The Centurions would go on to finish fourth at the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore.

Dec. 5 — Santa Clarita Christian’s football team wins its second straight CIF-SS Division I 8-Man championship by beating Faith Baptist 38-22. Keoshian rushes 33 times for 118 yards and three touchdowns while also throwing a touchdown pass. The Cardinals also forced three turnovers.

Also, the Valencia football team hits a wall in a 40-14 loss to Moorpark in the CIF-SS Northern Division semifinals. The Musketeers’ defense picks off Valencia quarterback Alex Bishop four times in the second half, and the Vikings defense can’t slow down tailback Austin Edmonson and the Moorpark offense. Bishop is later named Foothill League Player of the Year by the league’s coaches. Bishop completed 179-of-240 passes for a 74.6 percent completion percentage in 2009 — the third-best mark in state history. His 78.4 percent regular season mark (138-for-176) is the best in state history.

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