When it comes to turnaround stories, there might not be a better one in high school football than the one at Chino High.
The Cowboys came into the season with an 18-game losing streak. Now they are 9-0 under first-year Coach Matt McCain and ranked No. 5 in the Central Division.
"We feel we can be a CIF championship team," receiver Promise Amadi said.
Added McCain: "The kids have bought into the program."
Chino was a powerhouse under John Monger, who retired in 2005 after 19 years as coach. The school stadium is named after Monger. McCain was a longtime assistant under Monger. He took five years off from coaching to become athletic director and help raise his three children.
"It was time to get back," McCain said.
He brought back several former Monger assistants and persuaded athletes on campus to play football.
One of those players was senior Quinton Pedroza, a 6-foot-3 baseball player who has become a standout receiver-defensive back with 13 touchdown receptions in his first season of football.
"The coaching staff and a lot of the players convinced me to play," said Pedroza, who starts in center field for the baseball team.
The Cowboys got rid of their wing-T offense and replaced it with a wide-open attack that features junior Sean Molles, who has passed for more than 1,900 yards
Now McCain's sons, ages 9 and 7, serve as ball boys, and his 5-year-old daughter is a cheerleader.
And fans have returned to Monger Stadium.
"Last year, you would barely see anyone in the stands," Amadi said. "This year, everybody in Chino is coming out."
Courting Mater Dei
There's a longtime perception that top athletes from Santa Ana Mater Dei end up at USC. After all, that's where high-profile quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Matt Barkley went and where current Monarchs quarterback Max Wittek is headed.
But UCLA has been quietly making progress in attracting Mater Dei athletes. On Friday, the Monarchs' top baseball player from the Class of 2012, outfielder Ty Moore, committed to the Bruins. He'll join former Mater Dei infielder Tyler Rahmatulla.
UCLA's basketball team includes ex-Mater Dei players Tyler Lamb, Travis Wear, David Wear and Blake Arnet. The football team has lineman Chris Ward and defensive back Andrew Abbott. And the Woepse brothers, Greg and Michael, are top pole vaulters for the Bruins.
Mack returns to Notre Dame
Encino Crespi Coach Jon Mack had better not expect a warm welcome when he returns to his alma mater, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, on Friday night. Yes, his old friends will shake his hand, wave from the stands and even say hello, but a Pac-5 Division playoff berth will be on the line, and the two sides are in full trash-talk mode.
As one Notre Dame fan put it in a comment from Varsity Times insider, "Crespi, congratulations on your first Serra League victory. And it only took you three years and a Notre Dame Knight as coach to accomplish it."
And a Crespi fan wrote: "How many times have the Knights won a Big 5/Pac-5/Division I championship? How many times have they been to the finals? Semifinals? … Zero."
A 27-play drive
On its opening drive last week against Lake Balboa Birmingham, Granada Hills ran off 27 plays after taking over the ball on its 12-yard line and took off more than 16 minutes from the clock before scoring on a one-yard touchdown run.
"It was remarkable," Granada Hills Coach Billy Parra said.