1. St. Francis coach Jim Bonds’ return to the sidelines
St. Francis football coach Jim Bonds suffered the toughest loss of his long coaching career to end last season.
In a crazy game against Rancho Verde for the CIF Southern Section Division 3 title last fall, the Golden Knights took their first lead of the game on Kevin Armstead’s go-ahead touchdown with 1:01 left to give the Golden Knights a one-point lead.
But in the final seconds, Rancho Verde ran out the clock with a game-winning 37-yard field goal for a 44-42 win, denying St. Francis its first championship in 53 years.
But when Bonds returns to the sideline for Friday’s season opener at Mira Costa, overcoming the championship loss pales in comparison to the continuing fight he had over the spring and summer after learning he had cancer.
Bonds was diagnosed with a treatable form of Multiple Myeloma cancer in May — and the trips to doctor’s offices for treatment along with diet and exercise changes have been a long and trying experience.
“It came out of nowhere,” Bonds said earlier this month. “I had trouble breathing, so we went to the doctor, ran some tests. When the tests came back – that is when we found out.”
But the good news is that Bonds’ health is improving and strong enough that he won’t skip a beat, returning for Friday’s opener with all the ups, downs and angst of a high school football game that makes everything feel normal again.
It will be the highlight of the weekend just watching Bonds put a headset on again, and you can bet his competitive juices will take over after that.
2. What will Northview’s Deshon Thompson do for an encore?
Northview’s Deshon Thompson is only a sophomore, but get use to hearing his name. In last week’s 48-14 victory over El Rancho, Thompson caught four touchdown passes and amassed 179 yards in the process. They were his only receptions of the game. Not bad, right?
Thompson is also a free safety, but the dual threat gives the Vikings several weapons for first-year junior quarterback James Jimenez, who threw for 221 yards and four touchdowns.
Jimenez takes over at QB for Steven Comstock, a four-year starter now at Fresno State who lost just one league game in his career with the Vikings.
But if you expected the Vikings to slow offensively with Comstock gone, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.
“Deshon is one of our main guys, he’s going to be special,” Northview coach Marcel Perez said. “And James had a good night and just needs more playing time. We’ve got a bunch of playmakers on our team so if you’re going to break in a new quarterback, it’s not a bad way to do it with all these weapons.”
Deshon’s older brother Damion Thompson is a junior and was the Valle Vista League defensive MVP last season after hauling in eight interceptions a year ago. He’s another dual threat.
Northview (1-0) visits San Marino (1-0) on Friday in what is shaping up as one of the best games of the weekend after the Titans destroyed Pasadena, 42-7 in their opener.
“Oh for sure,” Perez said. “San Marino’s a good program, they’ve got (Beau) Hobbie (running back, strong safety) over there and other playmakers, it’s going to be a barn-burner and a good test for both of us.”
3. Who is El Monte’s Davon Booth?
Booth, a junior transfer to El Monte from Las Vegas, rushed for 310 yards and five touchdowns in the Eagles’ surprisingly easy 61-30 victory at Baldwin Park in last week’s opener.
It was the best rushing performance in the CIF Southern Section in Week 0 and could transform the Lions’ football team into a Mission Valley League contender after going 5-5 overall and finishing fourth in league in 2017.
Booth didn’t play high school football his first two years living in Las Vegas, however he did play a lot of youth football growing up and it showed.
“He’s good,” Eagles coach Jesse Ceniceros said of Booth. “In our scrimmage against Ganesha he did the same thing. He had some huge runs. He has a lot more to accomplish. He’s just barely getting into shape so we’re excited about him.”
The Eagles already had a threat in senior running back transfer Ben Owsley, who played at Paramount last season. Owsley rushed for 53 yards and a pair of touchdowns as well. And there is also junior returner Abel Cuevas, who rushed for 1,600 with the Eagles as a sophomore.
“It’s quite a backfield of guys,” Ceniceros said. “Ben and Dev”It’s like a one-two puch, he’s more of a bruising guy. A guy from last year, Abel Cuevas, he rushed for 1,600 yards as a sophomore, Ben and Davon are sharing the three-back role and Cuevas is our four-back guy. We feel like we can do a lot of things with those guys.”
Those are some serious weapons considering El Monte is in Division 13 where one or two players can take over and lead a team to a title. Whether Booth, Owsley, Cuevas or all of them together are those type of players remains to be seen, but there has to be optimism after their easy win over the Braves.
El Monte should be put the test in the coming weeks taking on South Pasadena (1-0) on Friday, followed by games against San Marino and Orange Vista, all of whom won its season openers.
4. Is Charter Oak in trouble?
Charter Oak has been one of the most consistent teams in the San Gabriel Valley over the last two decades and rarely loses non-league games at home like it did last week to Muir 35-24 in its opener.
There’s a combination of factors working against the Chargers. It graduated several players from last year’s CIF Southern Section Division 3 semifinal team and several of its assistant coaches, and most notably defensive coordinator Roger Lehigh did not return to the sidelines, leaving longtime coach Lou Farrar and his son Dominic Farrar, also the athletic director and offensive coordinator, to remake its coaching staff, something it hasn’t had to do in years.
The Chargers should eventually get it together, but with tough Alemany at home on Friday followed by Glendora the next week, there’s a strong chance the Chargers could start 0-2 or 0-3. When’s the last time that happened? Nobody can seem to recall, but it’s safe to say it’s been a long, long time.
There are improvements to me made everywhere. Quarterback Joey Bustillos needs to be more consistent and the Chargers’ defense in the post Lehigh era needs to find an identify.
And if it doesn’t?
Then it could be a super long season for the Chargers because after a tough non-league schedule, the Hacienda League with Diamond Ranch, South Hills and Los Altos all showed in Week 0 they will be tough customers.
5. Should Bishop Amat be concerned?
Nobody likes to lose its season opener, but Bishop Amat knew what to expect when taking on defending mythical national champion and defending state champion Mater Dei in Week 0, losing 42-14.
Truth is, with several transfers over the summer, Mater Dei could be even better than last season. Time will tell, but Bishop Amat shouldn’t be overly concerned. For the Lancers, the season starts this week at home against Paramount, maybe the easiest non-league game it has scheduled in years.
Paramount opened with a 26-18 victory over Mission Hills, but it is not the kind of section power that resulted in the Lancers starting 0-4 last season before winning five straight in the Mission League.
The tests will get tougher for the Lancers with Rancho Cucamonga and Cathedral to follow, and how they do against those teams will determine what their chances in the Mission League look like.
The positives from last week’s loss to Mater Dei was that senior quarterback Blake Archuleta looked the part, completing 22 of 29 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns against one interception.
He also found a reliable target in senior Jaden Allen, who caught eight passes for 104 yards, and he spread the ball around with eight players making catches.
The only concern is how junior running back Damien Moore came out of it. There are some rumors he was banged up and will be a game-time decision on Friday after rushing for only 37 yards last week.
But with or without Moore, the Lancers should win and win big in their home opener at Kiefer.