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The Age of Excellence: What a ride

SCV Sports: The Decade in Review

Posted: December 25, 2009 10:55 p.m.
Updated: December 26, 2009 4:30 a.m.
Saugus’ Shannon Murakami paces the Centurions’ girls cross country team during a Foothill League meet Oct. 12, 2006, in Central Park. Murakami now runs for UCLA. Saugus’ Shannon Murakami paces the Centurions’ girls cross country team during a Foothill League meet Oct. 12, 2006, in Central Park. Murakami now runs for UCLA.
Saugus’ Shannon Murakami paces the Centurions’ girls cross country team during a Foothill League meet Oct. 12, 2006, in Central Park. Murakami now runs for UCLA.
Hart girls basketball celebrates its victory over Canyon in the CIF-Southern Section Division I-A championship on March 4, 2006. It was the Indians’ fourth trip to the title game in five seasons. Hart girls basketball celebrates its victory over Canyon in the CIF-Southern Section Division I-A championship on March 4, 2006. It was the Indians’ fourth trip to the title game in five seasons.
Hart girls basketball celebrates its victory over Canyon in the CIF-Southern Section Division I-A championship on March 4, 2006. It was the Indians’ fourth trip to the title game in five seasons.
The 2006 CIF Division I State Champion Canyon High School football team raises the trophy it earned with a 27-13 win over De La Salle of Concorde on Dec. 16, 2006. The 2006 CIF Division I State Champion Canyon High School football team raises the trophy it earned with a 27-13 win over De La Salle of Concorde on Dec. 16, 2006.
The 2006 CIF Division I State Champion Canyon High School football team raises the trophy it earned with a 27-13 win over De La Salle of Concorde on Dec. 16, 2006.

This was an eventful one.

Arnold Palmer, Cal Ripken Jr. and Jerry Rice all visited the Santa Clarita Valley.

But that was just the beginning,

The valley got its second Hart-Canyon CIF title game matchup in four months.

Bigger than that, Canyon football had the most eventful season in valley football, maybe even sports, history.

Oh, and Saugus cross country’s dynasty began.

Oh, there’s more.

Much more.

Get ready — 2006 was one of a kind.

Jan. 10 — Hart girls soccer ends Canyon’s 22-game unbeaten streak with a 3-2 victory. Canyon’s streak dated back to Feb. 11, 2003.

On the same day, though, the Hart girls basketball team sees its 34-game Foothill league winning streak end with a 54-53 loss to Burroughs.

Jan. 13 — Canyon girls soccer’s bad luck continues as Saugus defeats the Cowboys for the first time since Jan. 26, 1998.
Just three games into the Foothill League season and 17 games into the regular season, Hart’s Matt Valaika establishes a single-season school record. Valaika scores two goals in a 3-0 win over Burroughs, making his total 28 for the season. Valaika, who is currently a middle infielder at UC Santa Barbara and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft, would eventually be named the 2006 All-Santa Clarita Valley Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

Jan. 17 — Hart senior basketball player Taylor Lilley scores 31 points against Saugus — the program she played for as a freshman. The Centurions score just 18 points in a 60-18 loss. Lilley hits nine 3-pointers in the game — a school record.

Jan. 27 — The rapper Tone Loc’s son, Chris Smith, hits a 3-pointer from 10 feet beyond the 3-point line as time expires to tie Canyon 60-60. Then the Burroughs player takes over in overtime to down the Cowboys 72-66.

Feb. 7 — Hart girls soccer captures its first Foothill title since 2000 when the Indians defeat the Indians of Burroughs 7-0. The duo of Sarina Coutin and Brittany Clark each score twice in the game. That brings Coutin’s season total to 37 and Clark’s to 23. Coutin finishes the season with 38 and Clark finished with 25.

Feb. 9 — Canyon boys basketball wins the Foothill League title after a 64-56 victory over Hart.
On the same day, Foothill champions Hart girls basketball pounds a disappointing Canyon team 50-28. Canyon finishes the league season at 5-5. The Cowboys would flip the switch in the playoffs. It wouldn’t be the final Hart-Canyon matchup.

Feb. 15 — In a tiny gym in Santa Maria, Hart’s Nate Bichara lifts the visiting Indians past Santa Maria High in the wild-card round of the CIF-SS Division I-A basketball playoffs. Bichara hits nine 3-pointers and scores 37 points to lead the Indians to the 83-61 victory.

Golden Valley boys soccer loses its first-ever playoff game 2-0 to Marshall Fundamental in the Division V wild card.

Feb. 16 — Golden Valley girls basketball sees its most successful season ever, even to this date, end with a 53-28 loss to Atascadero in the first round of the Division III-AA playoffs.

Feb. 18 — The headline in The Signal was prophetic: “Is Canyon This Year’s Cinderella?” The answer was yes. Canyon girls basketball knocks off No. 2 seeded Buena 37-36 in Ventura in the first round of the Division I-A playoffs. It marked the first time in Canyon girls hoops history that the Cowboys won 20 games. It was also the program’s first playoff victory and it marked the first time since 1976 that Buena had lost in the first round.
Hart girls soccer picks up its first playoff win since 1999 with a 3-1 victory over Moorpark in the first round of the Division II playoffs.

Feb. 24 — Golden Valley head football coach Rob Swartz resigns. The Grizzlies varsity debuted in 2005 with a 2-8 record.

Feb. 27 — Legendary golfer Arnold Palmer visits the Santa Clarita Valley to announce plans for Los Valles — a private golf club and residential community near Castaic. The goal at the time was for it to open in 2008. In late 2008, Los Valles spokesman Dave Williams was quoted as saying: “We have modified our original scheduling and delayed our sales opening and golf course completion until an estimated time of fourth quarter 2009.” Yet that hasn’t happened.

Feb. 28 — Lilley hits a 3-pointer with 43 seconds left and Megan Ford knocks down a couple of free throws to lead Hart girls basketball to a 51-48 victory over Pasadena in the Division I-A semifinals.
Canyon makes the improbable probable with a 56-55 victory over J.W. North. It’s Nicole Leon (who is currently playing at Cal State Bakersfield), Cheryl Stevens (Princeton) and Brittany Thomas (Hampton) who carried the team up to this point, but unheralded Christina Hall hits a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left after turning the ball over, leading to the Cowboys’ victory.

March 2 — A sign of the future? Canyon football head coach Harry Welch tells his booster club that if he doesn’t get assistance in the form of more coaches, then 2006 might be his last season. Longtime assistant Scott Blade, who was passed over for Golden Valley’s first head coaching position, left after the 2005 season. Blade is now coaching at Oak Ridge High in Tennessee. He became the head coach at Hillsboro High in Nashville in 2006 and led that program to a 37-5 mark and a state championship in 2008.

March 4 — After reaching a CIF final for the fourth time in five seasons, Hart girls hoops finally wins a title. The Indians defeat Canyon 54-37 to claim the Division I-A championship. Lilley leads all scorers with 19 points. She hit a half-court shot to beat the buzzer in the first quarter. Lilley is now a senior at Oregon. She was a 2006-07 Pac-10 All-Freshman selection, the 2007-08 Oregon team MVP and 2008-09 Pac-10 Honorable Mention. Hart would go on to win one game in the CIF state tournament — a 61-59 victory over San Diego High March 7.

March 5 — Bill Oates contract is not renewed by The Master’s College, ending his 13-year tenure as men’s basketball head coach. Oates went 283-137 at TMC, but finished 12-17 in his final season.

March 6 — Baseball Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr., Ozzie Smith and Dave Winfield compete in a pro-am at valencia Country Club for the AT&T Classic. Kirby Puckett was also supposed to participate, but before his flight, he suffers a stroke and dies. Puckett was 45. Later in the week, NFL all-time great Jerry Rice participates in a pro-am at VCC.

March 12 — Tom Kite wins his second Champions Tour event at Valencia Country Club. Kite shoots a 54-hole score of 12-under 204 to win the AT&T Classic.

March 14 — In another sign of things to come, junior pitcher Jordan Taylor no-hits Rio Mesa and sophomore Jessica Spigner then one-hits the same team. Taylor would leave Valencia as arguably the greatest pitcher in this valley’s history. Spigner would go on to become the Gatorade State Player of the Year as a senior.

March 20 — After a dramatic 57-56 victory in overtime over Montana State, keyed by Jessica Seyler’s game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer sent The Master’s College to the NAIA Final Four, the Mustangs exit with a 62-51 loss to Union University.

March 22 — The Valencia girls swim team defeats Hart for the first time ever.

March 31 — The Signal reports that the Santa Clarita Valley is just a stadium away from securing a Golden Baseball League franchise. The independent minor league level baseball organization approved the SCV for a team in August of 2005. After a couple years of squabbling, a lack of organization and the inability to get a stadium, the baseball team never happens.

April 25 — Taylor tosses a perfect game against Burroughs in a 10-0 Valencia victory. It is her third no-hitter in eight days.

April 27 — Canyon boys track and field wins its fifth straight Foothill League title, led by the performances of Stephen Kent, Trevor Habberstad, Shane Anderson and Paul Ned.
April 28 — Valencia resident and former Major League pitcher Steve Howe is killed when his pickup truck rolls over in Coachella on his way home from Arizona. Howe, who battled drug addiction during a once-promising career, was the 1980 National League Rookie of the Year and recorded the last out for the Los Angeles Dodgers in their World Series-clinching victory over the New York Yankees in 1981. Brian Howe, his son and a Valencia High baseball player, played for the Vikings on this day after getting the news of his father’s death. He recorded the last three outs on the mound in Valencia’s 12-2 win over Burbank.

May 2 — Valencia’s Jack Zapala wins the Foothill League boys tennis singles title by defeating Hart’s Matthew Taoatao. Nonetheless, Taoatao would later be selected the All-SCV Boys Tennis Singles Player of the year for the third straight season.

May 3 — Valencia’s Louis Amira takes the Foothill golf MVP and Hart wins its fourth straight league title.

May 4 —  Hart girls swim claims its 25th league championship and the Hart boys swim claims its 20th. Daniel Hofstedt and a freshman swimmer named Jordan Danny shine for the Indians. We’ll hear more from Danny in the  years to come.

May 5 — Saugus runner Shannon Murakami sets league records in the 800- (2 minutes, 13.40 seconds) and 1600-meter (4:47.99) runs and claims the league title in the 3,200 at the Foothill Finals.

May 8 — Led by former Hart High standout Joe Greiner, the College of the Canyons men’s golf team wins its third state title of the decade. It also won in 2002 and 2002.

May 9 — Taylor breaks the valley’s season strikeout record in a 3-0 perfect-game victory over Burbank. In the fourth inning, Taylor strikes out her 374th batter of the season, breaking the 24-year-old mark of Hart’s Samantha Ford.
The Hart boys golf team gets three scores of 1-under 70 (Johnny MacArthur, Jason Kang and Mike DeGreiff) to win the CIF-SS Northern Team Divisional.

May 19 — Alemany hires former Hart quarterback and offensive coordinator and COC offensive coordinator Dean Herrington to be its football head coach. Herrington would later lure his brother Rick to Alemany from Hart to be the school’s defensive coordinator. Alemany lost 24-21 to Mira Costa in the school’s first ever CIF title game on Dec. 11.

May 27 — In what goes down as one of the greatest comebacks in SCV history, Valencia boys volleyball claws back from two games down to defeat Corona Del Mar in five and win the CIF-SS Div. II title. Led by Jamey Ker and Teddy Goetz, the Vikings claim their third title of the decade. Both are currently playing the sport at UCLA.

May 31 — 2000 Hart graduate James Shields makes his Major League debut in Baltimore in a 6-5 loss for his Tampa Bay Devil Rays against the Orioles. Shields goes five innings, allows five earned runs and strikes out five. He would get a no decision in the game. In four seasons with the Rays, he is 43-36 with a 4.01 ERA.

June 1 — Saugus junior Nick Delio shoots a 1-over 73 at the CIF-SCGA Boys Golf Southern California Championships and misses the cut to the state championship. Delio would end his career as Saugus’ most successful boys golfer ever. He currently golfs at Cal State Northridge.

June 2 — It’s announced as a retirement, but former College of the Canyons head baseball coach Mike Gillespie is nudged out at USC from the same position after 20 seasons and one national championship with the Trojans. His son-in-law and Valencia resident Chad Kreuter takes over for him. Gillespie will enter his third season as UC Irvine head coach in 2010.

June 3 — Saugus athletes Shannon Murakami and Jeanette McConnell finish third and fourth respectively in their events at the CIF State Track and Field Championships. Murakami runs a personal best 4 minutes, 43.04 seconds in the 1,600-meter run and McConnell throws the discus 144 feet, 10 inches.

August 2 — rates Canyon football as the No. 14 team in the nation in its preseason poll.

Sept. 15 — Canyon football loses its second straight game — a 21-14 setback to St. Bonaventure. A late fumble by Canyon running back J.J. DiLuigi with the score tied 14-14, just a couple of yards from the end zone, is the key play.
Less than a week after his father dies, Hart running back Delano Howell rushes for 180 yards and scores four touchdowns in the Indians’ 39-16 win over Bishop Amat. On Sept. 23, big brother and Hart grad Dan Howell intercepts a pass for Washington and returns it 33 yards for a touchdown to lead the Huskies past UCLA 29-19.

Sept. 29 — Delano Howell establishes a new Hart record with six touchdowns in a 55-6 win over Antelope Valley.

Oct. 14 — On a night that was supposed to belong to Canyon and Hart football, Valencia senior running back Shane Vereen steals the show.
In an otherwise disappointing season for the Vikings, Vereen rushes for a valley record 354 yards against lowly Golden Valley on just 14 carries. Vereen rushes for six touchdowns in a 58-7 Valencia win.
Back to Canyon and Hart. The Cowboys defeat the Indians 41-25 as DiLuigi rushes for 196 yards and four touchdowns.

Oct. 20 — It’s one of the most controversial games in this valley’s history. Canyon football trounces Golden Valley 90-0. The Cowboys go up 70-0 at halftime. The 90 points break the previous valley record of 77, established by Canyon in 1989. The Golden Valley line is that Canyon plays its starters too long. Canyon’s line is that it began putting in reserves in the second half.

Oct. 26 — Golden Valley’s Grace Nam makes history by becoming the first Golden Valley athlete to earn an individual playoff berth. Nam qualified for the last CIF girls golf playoff spot from the Foothill League but would later exit in the first round of the postseason.

Oct. 28 — Oregon State quarterback and Hart graduate Matt Moore helps lead Oregon State to a 33-31 victory over No. 3 USC, snapping the Trojans’ 27-game Pac-10 winning streak.

Nov. 9 — Canyon football clinches the Foothill League title with a 62-17 beating of valencia. DiLuigi ties his own school record with six touchdowns.

Nov. 17 — Howell rushes for a school record 271 yards in leading Hart to a 41-19 CIF-SS Northern Division first round playoff victory over Thousand Oaks.
Saugus wins its first first-round playoff game since 1999 with a 34-27 upset victory over Atascadero. Sophomore running back Ryan Zirbel rushes for 124 yards.

Nov. 20 — Valencia girls tennis suffers a 12-6 defeat in the CIF-SS Division III championship to Chadwick. Head coach Annie Kellogg returns to watch the match after having surgery due to breast cancer. Monique Palmera and Chloe Kwock take two sets on the day.

Nov. 24 — An eventful day has Hart football knocking off No. 1 seeded St. Bonaventure in the Northern Division quarterfinals 27-14, Canyon beating Rio Mesa 76-14 and Saugus losing 37-15 to Moorpark and top running back recruit Darrell Scott. Scott runs for 268 yards and scores four touchdowns.

Nov. 25 — The run begins. Saugus girls cross country wins the state’s CIF-Division I Cross Country championship. It is the first of four consecutive state titles. Senior Shannon Murakami leads the way with a fourth-place finish overall. Murakami now runs for UCLA.

Dec. 1 — DiLuigi leads Canyon football on offense with 202 yards and four scores, but the Cowboys’ defense puts the clamps on Westlake in a semifinal 42-7 victory. The following day, Moorpark handles Hart 56-27 setting up the title game.

Dec. 9 — It will go down as one of the best title games ever as Canyon football fights back to defeat Moorpark 24-22 in the Northern Division championship game. After trailing 21-7, Moorpark takes a 22-21 lead late in the game. With 1:15 left in the game, Ben Longshore completes passes of 36 and 37 yards and sets up the game-winning 18-yard field goal with 7.6 seconds left. The next day, Canyon is selected to play in the inaugural CIF-Division I state football championship game.

Dec. 16 — Canyon football upsets national No. 1 Concord De La Salle 27-13 to win the CIF Division I state championship. The Cowboys offense leads the way in the first half, but the defense picks the team up late after the offense sputters. It is considered one of the biggest sporting victories in Santa Clarita Valley history.

Dec. 28 — Canyon graduate Nate Longshore shines in the Holiday Bowl, leading Cal to a 45-10 victory over Texas A&M. Longshore is named the game’s co-Offensive Player of the Game after passing for 235 yards and two scores.

Dec. 29 — Moore is named the Sun Bowl MVP after leading Oregon State to a 39-38 victory over Missouri. Moore throws four touchdown passes and scores another on the ground.



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