Prep Sports

Here are several samples of my sports writing for The Beverly Hills Courier.

Originally Published in the Nov. 16, 2007 issue of The Beverly Hills Courier
Water Polo: Normans fall in Quarterfinals
Chris H. Sieroty

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – After defeating Downey and Cresenta Valley in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Beverly Hills (27-3) on Saturday dropped a one-goal game to Chadwick.

The Normans boys’ varsity water polo team lost 8-7 in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs at Santa Monica High School.

“It’s always disappointing when the season ends, no matter how deep you go in the playoffs,” said head coach Rob Bowie.  “We won the league for the first time in 24 years and were undefeated in doing so. If I could go 27-3 every year, as we did this season, I’d surely take it.”

Bowie said this season had been the most successful in his coaching career and described the 2007 boys’ varsity team as “one of, if not the best team in  Beverly Hills water polo history.”

On Saturday, Benji Koltai had three goals and Mikey Lee added two goals for the No. 3 seed Beverly Hills. The loss to Chadwick snapped the Normans 15-game winning streak

Taxi McDermontt had four goals, four steals, and six ejections drawn and Kurt Buchbinder added two goals for Chadwick (17-8), the No. 6 seed.

“I’m disappointed for the guys because of all the hard work they put in,” Bowie said. “We may have fell a little short of our goal to make the CIF finals, but I couldn’t be more proud of this group and I’m going to miss the graduating seniors.”

Beverly Hills will lose Lee, Koltai, Mich Smith, Jonathan Pony, Kevin Mead and Carlo Flascha to graduation.

“I don’t know when the next time I’ll have such a talented group to work with,” Bowie said, “But that’s life, they’re on to bigger and better things and I can only hop that their time in the Beverly Hills water polo program was a positive one that they can look back on with great pride and satisfaction.”

——

Originally Published in the Nov. 16, 2007 issue of The Beverly Hills Courier

Culver City wins Ocean League, Remains Undefeated

By Chris H. Sieroty

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – It was the perfect end to the regular season for the Culver City football team last Friday.

The Centaurs defeated rival Beverly Hills 31-21 in front of a capacity crowd at Nickoll Field to win the Ocean League title and record their first 10-0 regular season in the 50-plus year history of the high school.

The two teams had played to ties the last two years, 13-13 and 56-56. Culver City came close to a perfect seaon five years ago, but were beaten by Morningside in the final game of the season.

With Culver City (10-0, 5-0) ahead by three points in the fourth quarter, running back Jeremi Anderson took a screen pass from quarterback Darius Banks 61 yards to give the Centaurs a 31-21 lead.

Banks’ performance helped Culver City overcome Beverly Hills (4-5-1, 3-2), which was looking to earn a share of the Ocean League title. Last season, Culver City and Beverly Hills sahred the league title, after the Normans captured the Ocean League in 2005.

The senior quarter back was 13 for 22 for 236 yards and two touchdowns. Banks also finished with 88 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown.

“We are still perfect and Ocean League champs …. theta’s what matters,” Banks told The Courier on the field after the game as Centaur fans chanted Ten and Oh! Ten and Oh!. “This is where we wanted to be after our final regular season game.”

He also attributed the Centaurs’ success to playing on a team with a lot of experience, “Our experience comes from the fact that we have a number of three year starters,” he said.

Culver City running back Lowell Rose began the coring with a 14-yard touchdown in the first quarter, before finishing with 70 yards and the one touchdown on 14 carries.  Banks’ first touchdown of the game went to wide receiver Zach Davis on a 12 yard pass in the first quarter, Davis finished with 68 yards and the touch down on four catches.

Beverly Hills scored its first touchdown early in the second quarter on a two-yard run by running back David Saedi. Saedi, who finished with 32 yards on seven carries, scored his second touchdown on a two yard run with 4:30 left in the second quarter.

Beverly Hills senior running back Ramon Judkins rushed for a game-high 184 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown. He also made several crucial plays on defense at cornerback, including breaking up a 40-yard attempt from Banks to wide receiver Antwon Moutra with about 6 minutes to go in the second quarter.

Dex Lucci completed 3 of 8 passes for 39 yards. He also had one fumble.

“As of this moment, we are a better running team than a passing team,” said head coach Carter Paysinger. “The holding calls and turnovers killed us. When you have first down and 20, it’s just going to make it harder for you to accomplish the things you want to do.”

Paysinger said the plan going into the game was to keep Culver City’s offense off the field as much as possible. Beverly Hills had a total of 268 yards of rushing and 39 passing. The Normans committed three turnovers, all fumbles, and were penalized 10 times for 94 yards.

——

Beverly High Opens Practice For 2008 Football Season

By Chris H. Sieroty

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.  – Practice for the 2008 high school football season began Thursday in preparation for Beverly Hills High School’s first game against Marshfield High School under the lights at Nickoll Field in two weeks.

But as Beverly High quarterback Dex Lucci and others seniors prepare for their final season, Calpreps.com recently announced its predictions for what will happen this season in the CIF Southern Section’s Ocean League and Western Division.

The consensus is that Culver City will win the Ocean League for the third consecutive season, followed by Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.  Calpreps.com rates Culver City No. 12 in the Western Division pre-season rankings with Beverly Hills 15th. Santa Monica was ranked 20th, followed by Inglewood at 23, Morningside at 27 and Hawthorne 30th.

“Santa Monica, Culver City, Inglewood, Morningside, anyone one of those teams could win the Ocean League alone with us,” Beverly High head coach Carter Paysinger told The Courier on Thursday. “Hawthorne has been down, but they have the talent and have been putting it together.”

The top three teams in the Western Division are St. Paul, Palmdale and Gahr, according to the high school sports and recruiting news Web site.

Beverly Hills had a 4-6-1 record last season and lost 15-14 to Redondo in the first round of the CIF playoffs. Over the last three years, the Normans have had a 10-3-2 record in the Ocean League and both ties were against
Culver City. Beverly Hills has also won two league titles since 2005.

Lucci, who enjoyed modest success last season with seven touchdowns and six interceptions, while averaging 127.5 yards passing yards per game, will have to face life as a senior without running back Ramon Judkins and wide receiver Dominque Sandifer.

Paysinger said as a junior Lucci’s “maturity level on occasion need to be a lot higher.”  But over the summer, he said, Lucci “transformed himself into the leader on the field.“

He’s (definitely) mature enough to run the team,” Paysinger said. “He’s maturing physically. He’s got some tools and a strong arm.”

Brandon Huffman, a recruiting analyst with Scout.com, wrote Lucci “will be a passer to watch in the class of 2009.”

In March, he was one of three quarterbacks who led “CaliTwo” to the title at the Badger/New Level Passing Tournament in Las Vegas. According to the website, seven colleges, including San Diego State, Oregon, and Alabama, have shown some interest in Lucci, but have yet to make a scholarship offer.

Judkins, who averaged 113.5 yards per game, and Sandifer both graduated and are now at San Diego State. Even with the loss of Judkins, Paysinger expected Beverly High to be strong at running back with junior Kenny
Bassett (27 carries, 203 yards) and senior David Saedi (24 carries, 96 yards) getting most of the carries.

He expected junior Mauricio Menache to be named the starting fullback. To replace Sandifer (54 catches, 877 yards) at wide receiver, Paysinger expected Erik Munzer and Daniel Bradberry would be starting on Sept. 6. He described two transfers, Taylor King and his brother, Steven, both seniors from Fairfax High School as “very talented receivers.”

Beverly Hills will open its season Sept. 6 hosting Marshfield High School. The high school located near Boston comes to Los Angeles two years after the Normans defeated the Rams 31-20 in Massachusetts.

On Sept. 12, Beverly Hills will play at Jordan in Long Beach, before returning home for games against Santa Barbara (Sept. 19) and West Ranch (Sept. 26). The Norman’s final nonleague game on Oct. 10 is a trip
to the Coachella Valley to face Desert Hot Springs.

When league games begin, Beverly High will host Hawthorne (Oct. 17), followed by a road game at Santa Monica (Oct. 24), before hosting Inglewood (Oct. 31) and Morningside (Nov.7).

The regular season for the Normans will conclude Nov. 14 on the road against Culver City. Beverly Hills lost 31-21 to Culver City last season in the final week of the regular season.

(Published Aug. 22, 2008)

——

Growth Spurt: Lacrosse Has Taken Off In Beverly Hills

By Chris H. Sieroty

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Like most young boys, Benji Rosen looked forward to spring and the chance to play organized baseball.

But his love of baseball gave way to a new sport after spotting a banner in elementary school advertising a chance to learn how to play lacrosse. Today, a senior at Beverly Hills High School, he has put away his glove, instead sending a ball across the field at high speeds with a stick in hand.

Lacrosse has become one of the fastest-growing team sports in the United States. And if you’re looking for proof, look no further than Beverly Hills.

In its second year as a varsity program, the Beverly High lacrosse team continues to expand and attract student athletes looking for an alternative to more traditional Southern California high school sports.

“I grew up playing a lot of baseball and going to games with my father,” said Rosen, a midfielder and senior captain on the Norman lacrosse team. “But after I saw the sign I asked my father if I could try it … he told me to go ahead.

“I’ve played a lot of sports, but lacrosse is my favorite because it’s physical and fast-paced. Finally, I gave up baseball to play lacrosse full-time.”

And now with Rosen and several other seniors, along with an experienced coaching staff, the Normans look to help make Southern California a lacrosse stronghold.

It’s the experience that emerged from the community that is likely the reason for both the growth and success of the program. Tim Ray, a former lacrosse player at Division III Marymount University in Arlington, Va., and head coach of the club team at the University of Florida, has overseen the growth of the Beverly Hills program as its head coach.

“We have 65 kids this year, between our varsity and junior varsity teams,” said Ray. “I’ve been asked to coach at other high schools and at Loyola Marymount University, but I love it here. It’s just great to see all these kids here.”

Ray said shortly after taking the job he was taken out to dinner by a player’s family to talk about lacrosse, which had never happened before.

Other former lacrosse players have joined Ray’s coaching staff. John Silva, assistant coach and defensive coordinator, played four years on a club team at University of Illinois.

Silva is joined by assistant coach Greg Glenday, who captained the 1996 Notre Dame team and was on the roster in 1995 when the Irish went to the NCAA Final Four. Assistant coaches Eric Baker, Boston University, Chris Bray, Salisbury State and Perry Taylor, U.S. Naval Academy, also bring a wealth of experience.

Ray said the challenge for both him and his coaching staff was turning high school athletes into great lacrosse players.

“With so many kids coming out this year, I got the chance to pick the kids I thought would give the varsity team the best chance to win,” he said. “The others were placed on the junior varsity team.”

The difference between varsity and junior varsity, according to Ray, is that coaches have to spend time teaching junior varsity players technique, stick skills and fundamentals, while varsity players need to learn about strategy and understand the game.

This season, 17 players were chosen for the varsity team. After losing to Mira Costa in the playoffs last season, the Normans are 7-6 this year, including a 16-6 scrimmage win against Sleepy Hollow High School.

The scrimmage was part of a weeklong trip to New York that was used as a measuring stick to see how far this program has come in two years.

“I felt we learned what it takes to be a good team,” said Ray. “We can be 6-2 in the Bay League every year and win the North Division, but the competition is not that good everywhere here. We went to the East Coast to find out how far we have to go.”

After performing well against Sleepy Hollow, Beverly Hills then lost 15-2 to Hendrick Hudson, the 75th ranked high school team in New York and the type of program the Normans hope to become in the next few years.

Ray said the difference was their depth. For example, he’d tell his team to focus on their two best players and for the most part would shut them down, but were out matched by the quality of their reserves.

Alex Kaufman scored off the opening face off, and Chase Bernard’s five goals and an assist led Hendrick Hudson.

“We played well,” said coach Craig Solomon in a phone interview. “I think our skill level is more than what (Beverly Hills) is used to. We have more skill players and play deeper teams every week.”

Solomon said the overall ability of the Beverly Hills players was good, but their stick skills and knowledge of the game should improve as they play more games against better competition.

“The game between our schools was great exposure for our sport,” he said. “MSG Network covered (the game) and it was featured on their weekly high school sports show.”

At Mamaroneck, Shane Ferguson had six goals and five assists, and Myles Monaghan had two goals and six assists, in the Tigers’ 19-9 win.

“They have some players that certainly have potential,” said Jeff Barnard, Mamaroneck’s head coach in a phone interview. “I was very impressed. It’s a very good second year program.”

So good, that senior midfielder Sam Forrest could have the opportunity to play at Division I Wagner. As for Rosen, his future could include playing club lacrosse at a West Coast college, or on scholarship for a program at a Division III school.

Both coaches said they would be interested in brining their teams to the West Coast. “If we can generate enough money through fundraising, we would like to come out to Southern California next year,” Solomon said.

As for Beverly Hills, a trip over spring break next year is already being planned.

“Maybe next spring will travel to San Francisco to play teams in Marin,” said Ray. “The more teams we can play the better we’ll become.”

(Published September 2007)

———–

Judkins Does It All In Win Over Santa Monica

By Chris H. Sieroty

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.  – It was only one win, but for a team that had gotten off to a slow start this season, last Friday night’s 28-26 win over Santa Monica was as sweet as it gets.

Not only was it Beverly Hills third win in a row over the Vikings, but it vaulted the Normans (3-3-1, 2-0) into a share of first place in the Ocean League.

“We sent a shock wave through the division tonight,” head coach Carter Paysinger told his players in the locker room after the game. “Everybody in the Western Division will know that Beverly Hills is back.”

Now that the Normans find themselves on top, they intend to stay there.

“Our goal … is to win an Ocean League title and the CIF title,” Paysinger said. “Santa Monica is one step towards that goal.”

Up next for the Normans is Inglewood (3-4, 1-1) tonight at 7 p.m. at Nickoll Field in their homecoming game.

The Sentinels, who lost their Ocean League opener 24-6 to Culver City, rebounded on Friday to defeat Hawthorne 33-9. After Inglewood, Beverly Hills finishes its league schedule with a game at Morningside (Nov. 2) and at home (Nov. 9) against Culver City.

On Friday, Ramon Judkins turned in a dominant performance in the Normans’ win against Santa Monica. Given the ball again and again, the senior running back responded with 279 yards rushing on 26 carries and scored three touchdowns.

“Ramon has been the difference in the game for the past three years,” said Santa Monica head coach Zach Cuda. “He is an outstanding talent that we have not had an answer for.”

Santa Monica was ranked seventh in the Southern Section Western Division poll released Oct. 15. The loss dropped the Vikings out of the Top 10.

Judkins scored his third touchdown on a 56-yard run with 1:26 left in the fourth quarter. With a conversion, Beverly Hills led 28-20.

Santa Monica responded as senior quarterback Ryan Katz threw his second touchdown pass to Taylor Wright, setting up a two-point conversion. But with 14 seconds to play, Katz was stopped by Judkins a half-yard short of the goal line on the two-point conversion try.

“I was pleased with the fact that we answered offensively to every score that Beverly Hills had,” said Cuda. “But in all three phases of the game we were nowhere near physical enough to win the football game.”

Senior wide receiver Ben Bradbury recovered the ensuing onside kick and Beverly Hills ran out the clock.

“This was a great high school football game,” said assistant coach Vonzie Paysinger. “It came down to one or two plays … and we made them.”

Assistant coach Chuck Kloes, who is in his 43rd year at Beverly High, told the players that it was “one of the best wins (Beverly Hills has) had in a long time.”

Judkins scored his first touchdown on a three-yard run that capped an eight play, 86-yard opening drive. The all-Ocean League running back second score came on a 47-yard run early in the second quarter.

“It feels great to perform so well, especially since this is the last time I’ll get to play Santa Monica,” Judkins said. “The offensive line played really well. I’m glad we won.”

Last year, Judkins gained 109 yards on 18 carries and had two touchdowns in a 34-27 win against the Vikings. In 2005, he scored four touchdowns and gained 255 yards on 21 carries as Beverly Hills defeated Santa Monica 52-36.

Dex Lucci and Dominique Sandifer also contributed to the Beverly Hills offense. Lucci completed 13 of 19 passes for 121 yards with one touchdown and an interception, while Sandifer caught 10 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown.

Paysinger, who is in his 18th year as head football coach, said tonight’s game against Inglewood would present the coaches and players with a different set of challenges.

“Their running back is very hard to bring down,” he said. “On defense, they have two of the best tackles in the league,” in seniors Eddie Wade and Veylin Stedham.

Senior running back David Freeman, who has committed to the University of Washington, gained 270 yards on 16 carries and scored three touchdowns in Inglewood’s league win over Hawthorne (0-7, 0-2).

Paysinger said the challenge will be to contain Freeman, while also establishing a consistant offense against a very defensive-oriented team.

The Sentinels are coached by Charles Mincy, who played cornerback at Washington in 1989 and 1990. Mincy also played for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.

(Published October 2007)

————–

Beverly Hills Rebuilds Its Wrestling Program

By Chris Sieroty

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – They don’t have the star wrestlers or the great tradition of some of Southern California’s other high schools, but with a respectable showing at a recent CIF tournament head coach Kevin Villegas is confident Beverly Hills wrestling is headed in the right direction.

Beverly Hills ended the season finishing 32nd among 41 teams at the CIF Coastal Division Wrestling Championships at Marina High School. The squad finished the tournament with a 7-10 record.

“As far as we can tell from school records, this is the team’s best season in recent history,” said Villegas, a former assistant wrestling coach at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa.

Despite the early success, Villegas said there is still a lot of work to do to rebuild a program that didn’t have much of a budget this year and has been either ignored or almost put on the chopping block by school officials.

“Over the next few years as the program begins to grow, Beverly Hills should be among the best in the Pioneer League,” he said. “My goal is to promote the sport and build a foundation that will last.”

That foundation is being laid with the performance of sophomore Weston Cage and the financial support provided by his mother, Christina Fulton, and his father, Nicolas Cage.

“I got behind the program because of my son,” said Fulton, who paid for the team’s travel, uniforms and equipment. “My son is a dynamic wrestler who enjoys the sport.”

Fulton even paid for the black and orange paint so the team could paint the high school’s wrestling room. Next season, Fulton says she and Nicolas, who attend all of Weston’s matches, plan to purchase new mats and uniforms.

“We want these boys to walk into a match and feel good,” she said. “If anyone has walked into the wrestling room they know, how bad it was. We’ve painted, but we still need to replace the wrestling mats.”

Fulton said she’s hooked on the sport and is in the process of completing a wrestling documentary. “It’s a unique culture, with long days of waiting around for matches to begin and concerns about making weight.”

Cage’s final record was 26-5. This season he also placed first in his weight class at two meets, the Pioneer League Finals Tournament and the North Torrance Freshman and Sophomore Tournament of Future Champions.

Villegas described Cage as a talented wrestler who is going to improve with more coaching and practice. He said people have to understand that Cage has been extremely successful wrestling in the 285 lbs class, even though he weighs only 215 lbs.

“Every win was a pin,” the first year coach said. “Fifty-five seconds was his average fall time. But in his losses he would make rookie mistakes, especially when he was wrestling a senior with more experience.”

Besides Cage, the team has several other talented but inexperienced wrestlers. Earning points for the Normans at the CIF tournament were freshman John Rodgers (103 lbs.), who went 2-2; junior Brian Kim (145 lbs.), who went 3-2 losing only to the number one and number three seeds; junior Jake Marchiafava (160 lbs.), who was 1-2 in the tourney, and junior Sae Bin Park (189 lbs.), who went 1-2.

Don Garriott, wrestling coach at North High School in Torrance, said he was impressed with Beverly Hills and the improvement they’ve made in such a short time.

“Actually they are better off than I was when I took over North’s program in 1991,” Garriott said. “They have more wrestlers than I did in my first year and they even have some [outside] financial support.”

He also described Beverly Hills as an “aggressive team who doesn’t mind mixing it up.”

Today North High School has a total of 109 kids on two varsity, one junior varsity and one freshman wrestling team. Garriott said he built the program by recruiting from the school’s physical education classes.

“With football and basketball there are size limitations, but with wrestling there is a spot for everyone,” he said. “We also started being successful and that has helped bring some stability to our program.”

Villegas, who moved to Los Angeles to work on a Master of Arts degree in cross-cultural studies from Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of Intercultural Studies in Pasadena, took over the program in November two weeks before the season began.

“Since [he] has taken over at Beverly Hills High School, he and I have been in touch many times,” said Bryan Brunk, head wrestling coach at Messiah College. “I think my biggest advice was to stick to some basic technique and then require from everyone hard work, discipline and attention to detail.”

Brunk also said he encouraged his former assistant coach by telling him that he had everything he needed to run a successful program. With a majority of sophomore and junior wrestlers returning next season, Villegas expects Beverly Hills to be more competitive in all weight classes.

(Published September 2007)

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