When it comes to football tradition in the San Gabriel Valley, there are not many high schools that have enjoyed as much success in recent years as Bishop Amat of La Puente and Los Altos of Hacienda Heights.
Consider this season when Bishop Amat completed its third straight undefeated regular season and won the Angelus League championship and Los Altos, defending CIF Eastern Conference champion, captured its second Sierra League title and has reached the conference final for the second year in a row.
So it should come as little surprise that Bishop Amat and Los Altos have the most players on the 46-player first- and second-team Los Angeles Times All-San Gabriel Valley all-star squad. Each placed three players on the first team and Los Altos also landed three and Bishop Amat two on the second squad.
Los Altos placed wide receiver Blake Hayward, defensive lineman Mike Zorn and linebacker Royce Risser on the first team and offensive lineman Robert Coleman, linebacker Hans Ruiz and defensive back Scott Mahaffey on the second squad.
Bishop Amat landed running back Mazio Royster, offensive lineman Aron Gideon and defensive back Stephon Pace on the first team and offensive lineman Kevin Szalonek and punter J. R. Phillips on the second team.
Cross-town rivals Muir and Pasadena--which have produced many talented players--were next in line in all-star selections. Muir placed defensive lineman Chad Brown and linebacker Al Robinson on the first team and quarterback Tarrel Amos and defensive lineman Craig Hudson on the second team. Pasadena landed running back Jon Lee and offensive lineman Brian Wright on the first squad and offensive lineman Mark Duzian on the second team.
Three other schools with two first-team players are Baldwin Park, Claremont and Damien. Baldwin Park has wide receiver Robert Levesque and quarterback Kirk Gair, Claremont landed defensive lineman DeNail Sparks and place-kicker Kenny Allen and Damien added offensive lineman Larry Bryan and linebacker Charles Lough.
South Pasadena placed one player on the first team and three on the second squad, Arroyo, Wilson, Diamond Bar and South Hills each has one first-team and one second-team selection. San Gabriel placed three players on the second team.
Pace is the only repeater from last year and running back Daryl Green of Nogales is the only junior on the first team.
Nineteen schools are represented on the first and second teams.
The selections were based on a poll of 50 11-man football coaches in the Times San Gabriel Valley area, covering the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys. Players were selected on the basis of their regular-season performance.
The first teams from all Times sections will be honored at the annual Times High School Football Awards Brunch at 9 a.m. Sunday at the Anaheim Hilton, 777 Convention Way.
The program, sponsored by the Los Angeles Times Fund, will honor first-team all-stars from the San Gabriel Valley Section and 11 other Times circulation areas: Orange County, Westside, San Fernando Valley, Ventura County, Inland Empire, South Bay, Glendale, Southeast, South Coast, San Diego County and Central Los Angeles.
First-team players will receive a gold helmet plaque and a certificate.
The featured speaker will be Larry Smith, who coached USC to the Pacific 10 title and the Rose Bowl in his first year with the Trojans.
The Times San Gabriel Valley Section's coach of the year, lineman of the year and back of the year will be named. The winners will receive trophies.
Parents and the head coach of each first-team all-star have been invited to the brunch.
Every year the valley seems to produce a long list of outstanding running backs, and this season was no exception.
Heading the pack is Bishop Amat's Royster, a 6-1 and 179-pounder who rushed for a valley-high 1,702 yards and 18 touchdowns in 263 carries to lead the Lancers to an 11-1 record and a fourth-straight berth in the CIF Big Five Conference quarterfinals.
The Lancers were supposed to have difficulty replacing All-CIF running back Eric Bieniemy, who graduated after establishing the school career rushing record. Royster, who had rushed for 707 yards as a junior behind Bieniemy, more than filled the void. For seven straight years a Bishop Amat back has surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing plateau.
The elusive speedster has been recruited by Washington, Pittsburgh, USC, Iowa, Syracuse, Nebraska and UCLA.
Another running back who turned in a big senior season is Pasadena's Lee. The 6-0, 190-pounder suffered through an injury-plagued junior year but this season was the team's leading rusher and second in the valley with 1,366 yards and 11 carries to lead Pasadena to the second round of the CIF Coastal Conference playoffs. That has attracted the interest of Penn State, Arizona, UCLA and Colorado State.