It seems like ⎯ maybe I’m wrong ⎯ that anyone who shows up to watch a Citrus Valley High School football game has a story to tell. Some of those folks have Fontana backgrounds. Many of them live in Highland. Most of them are standing in the vicinity of the sidelines.
Check it out:
For openers, Citrus Valley’s the place to be these days if you’re a football watcher. It’s unusual in this little triumvirate area with Aquinas, San Gorgonio and Citrus Valley all being prominent in their own division this season.
Expect some deep playoff runs from each team.
Citrus Valley is unbeaten, ranked very high and have large expectations. Blackhawks’ coach Kurt Bruich has experience in leading teams into the playoffs.
Of course, Kurt’s dad, Dick, a four-time CIF championship level coach who introduced me one Friday night to Andy Newman, the second-year Cal State San Bernardino men’s basketball coach.
Dick holds down the fort in the north end zone of most Blackhawks’ games. Most people pay their respects to the older Bruich, whose own father roams the actual sideline during the games.
When I met Jack Ferguson on the sideline right before kickoff, I thought he was another Blackhawk assistant coach. Not quite.
“I played for Dick … graduated in 1990,” he said.
All of which means that Ferguson played on FoHi’s 1989 CIF championship team ⎯ unbeaten, of course ⎯ that scored a mythical national championship. That team was loaded. Ferguson, as an outside linebacker, probably got his hands on San Gorgonio’s CIF Player of the Year Ron Rivers a few times during that game at Anaheim Stadium.
FoHi beat San G convincingly, notching its second title in three years.
Ferguson? He’s the owner-operator of a business called 1st-and-10 Laundry Service.
It’s full disclosure time: I had no idea that high school teams send their uniforms out for laundry service. I thought they did their own dirty work.
* * *
Sabine Robertson-Phillips, Redlands Unified School District assistant superintendent, cheerfully greeted me in the south end zone of Citrus Valley’s homecoming game at halftime.
Something unusual was taking place here, folks.
Her son, Jaelan, was a dynamic defensive playmaker at Redlands East Valley, graduating in 2017, taking off for UCLA. Right now, it’s probably not the place to be if you’re a football player, so Jaelan transferred to University of Miami.
“Is there a story there?” I asked SRP.
Most, if not every single parent alive on this planet, couldn’t wait to answer “yes” to that question. They want stories on their kids at almost any cost. I’d love to ask Jaelan about Bruins’ coach Chip Kelly.
Jaelan’s mom held me off.
“No,” said SRP. “He’s not playing. He transferred, so he has to sit out this season.” It’s an NCAA rule.
Full disclosure: SRP was my son Danny’s sixth grade teacher at Crafton Elementary.
* * *
John Maloney, the retired principal from Redlands East Valley ⎯ they’re on their second one over there since he stepped away after 2015-16 ⎯ was spotted on the Citrus Valley sideline right before kickoff.
What’s going on here?
Maloney is the substitute principal at Grand Terrace. Why is he roaming Citrus Valley’s sideline? Shouldn’t he be across the field on the Titans’ sideline?
“Just checking,” he cracked, “to make sure they’re doing everything right over here.”
Full disclosure: Maloney has privately counseled me on some story ideas. More principals should do this, of course. Expect one in the coming months on Rhonda Fouch, who has long since grown into a legendary athletic director at … REV.
* * *
I first became aware of Paul Cullen when he was a Bulldog senior outfielder at the University of Redlands. Batted well over .400, which might’ve been higher if he hadn’t self-destructed against last place Caltech University of Pasadena, as I recall. They, apparently, had his number. (Insight: Caltech students use a lot of numbers.)
Cullen rattled off a string of RUSD campuses, spots he’s served as principal, probably more campuses than anyone.
Full disclosure: Way back in 1979, which is when he played his senior season at University of Redlands, Cullen served as the focus of my first-ever story for a local newspaper in this area.
* * *
Ferguson had my full attention when he told me about 1st-and-10.
Full disclosure: I learned something about high school football. Ferguson has a million-dollar industry in cleaning high school uniforms ⎯ Yucaipa, REV, Citrus Valley, San G, you name it.
“When the season is over,” he said, “I’m a counselor (at a youth facility).”
That possible coaching job at Tampa Bay?
“Chances are I wouldn’t have made the money coaching that I’m doing now.” He used the number, $1.5 million. Go compute that, Caltech.
* * *
Steven Pollard, a senior defensive end, had a magnificent game against Grand Terrace. He terrorized the Titans, leading a Blackhawks’ charge that produced well against a pretty physical team.
I’d interrupted a chat he was having with Isaiah Hopkins, an Arrowhead Christian Academy product from the 1990s ⎯ basketball, mainly.
Hopkins, of course, teased Pollard about being interviewed by the media. “Look at you trying to pretend you’re cool,” he said.
I hijacked Pollard along the sidelines with 3:15 left in the game to ask him about his role ⎯ four hits for lost yardage, etc. ⎯ and he smilingly responded with some keen insight into his team’s game prep.
Which paper is this going in, Pollard wanted to know?
“I’m from Highland,” he said.
Hopkins is a friend to a lot of those Blackhawks’ players.
“I’ve trained a lot of these Citrus Valley players in my gym,” he said, referring to a spot over on Park Street, near Tennessee, “and I would’ve really liked to have (Pollard).”
(Got a sports tip, some rumblings, or just chat about sports? Hit me up at email@example.com.)