Early Lead Adds to Another Win for Lady Lancers

By Mike Bush  |  2016-02-03
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In a home Sierra Valley Conference home game Tuesday night, the Cordova High School girls basketball team needed a win to stay pace with conference rival El Dorado.

The Lady Lancers did just that against Union Mine, posting a 44-35 win. Cordova remains tied for first place with El Dorado in the SVC at 6-1. The Lancers improve to 12-11 overall.

Cordova 60, Galt 12

The Lady Warriors jumped out to a 25-7 lead in the first quarter of their SVC road game at Warrior Gym on Jan. 29th.

Cordova’s defense was too much for Galt’s offense in the second quarter, 8-0. That led to a 33-7 advantage at halftime. The Lancers outscored the Warriors 27-5 in the second half.

Two Lancers scored in double figures; Kelsie Graf had 16 points that included four 3-pointers and Erika Wilson 10. Jullissa Reis followed with nine points, Adrienne Hammond seven, Annalise Tate five, Leila Cooper and Josephine Apole four each, Julia Rosales three and Nikki Jones two.

Apole had nine of the Lancers’ 42 rebounds. Cooper had seven and Wilson six. Hammond had four of the team’s 14 assists.

Tonight, Friday, at 7 p.m., Cordova plays at El Dorado in their SVC rematch. The Lancers won the first meeting, 44-40, last month. Next Tuesday, Cordova plays at Liberty Ranch. Both games are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.


Defense Carries Cordova Hoops to More Wins

By Mike Bush  |  2016-02-03

Cordova guard Damion Baldwin battles for a loose ball with a Rosemont player during a recent SVC game. Baldwin and the Lancers are 6-1 in conference action. Photo by Rick Sloan

After finishing the first half of Sierra Valley Conference action early last week, the Cordova High School boys basketball team opened the second half against Galt at home.

The Lancers’ consistent pressure on defense in the second quarter broke open a close game that led to a 64-49 win over the Warriors on January 28th. Cordova remains in second place in the SVC at 6-1 and 14-10, one game back behind first place Liberty Ranch, which is 7-0 and 24-0.

The game was tied was tied at 11-11. Then Cordova boxed out Warrior players around the net in the second quarter. The result led to a 20-10 advantage and the Lancers taking a 31-21 halftime lead.

“We just got it going [in the second quarter],” said Cordova head coach Fletcher Johnson. “We stepped it up on defense.”

Defensive pressure continued to favor the Lancers in the second half. That led to outscoring the Warriors 33-28 for the win.

Lancer swingman Mike Brown was the leading scorer with 15 points. DeAnte Wilkins followed with 12 points. Other Cordova scorers were guard Jason Novik with nine points and Kyle Lorena, another guard, with eight.

Cordova 63, Rosemont 55

The Lancers trailed 38-28 at halftime against the Wolverines in a Jan. 26th home game.

Then Cordova used a variety of zone defenses to shutdown Rosemont in the third quarter. The result was holding its visitors to four points and rallied to take a 58-32 lead.

“The first half was competitive, very close game,” Johnson said. “When we went to our zone defenses (2-3, 3-2 and 1-3-1) we stepped up the intensity.”

Novik was hot for the Lancers in scoring in both halves of the game. He had 27 points that included four 3-pointers and sank 7-of-8 free throws.

Wilkins also had the hot shooting hand for the Warriors with 18 points. That included four 3-pointers.

“They did make a nice 1-2 punch,” said Johnson of Novik and Wilkins. 

Last night, Thursday, Cordova continued SVC action hosting El Dorado.

Next Tuesday, the Lancers play their final home game of the regular season when they face Liberty Ranch. In their first meeting last month, Cordova jumped out to an early lead but the Hawks rallied to post a 77-60 win.

Next Thursday, Feb. 11th, Cordova will close out the regular season at Rosemont. Game times for both games are 7 p.m.


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Cordova Wrestlers Dominate on Senior Night

Story and photos by Rick Sloan  |  2016-02-03

Senior Damian Jackson had control of his opponent the entire match before getting the victory with a pin.

It’s been referred to as the longest, most grueling, and energy demanding six minutes an athlete can put him or herself through. Three, two-minute rounds determine whether your daily vigorous workouts and constant weight watching pays off. A sport that no matter how dominating one opponent can be, that dominance can turn 180 degrees with one mistake, ending in a loss by pin late in the 3rd round. Beyond just brute strength and endurance, a wrestler needs to be fundamentally skillful, clock and mat smart, as well as extremely focused in order to be successful.

On Wednesday, Jan. 28th, Senior Appreciation Night at Cordova High School, the Cordova Lancer wrestlers put on a spectacular performance as they dominated the visiting Liberty Ranch Hawks on their home mats. In the eight physical match-ups in the last home team dual match of the season, the Lancers outscored the Hawks, 53-24 by winning 7 out of 8 matches that included four pins and one technical pin.

Pinning their opponents were Junior Zachary Guerrero in the 113 lb. weight class; Junior Tim Wood in the 138 lb. weight class; Senior Dante Hume in the 170 lb. weight class and Senior Damian Jackson at 220 lbs.

Junior Derrek Burton had a technical pin (beating his opponent 15-0) in the 132 lb. class. Winning on points were Junior Angel Frost at 126 lbs. and Junior Tyriq Seymore at 160 lbs. Sophomore David Khudateplov put in a very tough fight only to lose by a couple of point in the waning seconds.

Varsity coach Marco Garcia said, “These guys are wrestling hard and putting great effort in practice. I couldn’t be prouder.”

Garcia also praised the work ethics of his six Seniors, four of which he has coached for four years alongside his junior varsity and girls’ coach, Rick Fullum. The Lancer wrestlers will compete for the League Individual Championships at Liberty Ranch High School on Feb. 13th and on Feb. 19th and 20th for the Boys Division IV Championship at Central Valley High.


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Cordova Girls Basketball Remains in 1st Place

Story and photos by Mike Bush  |  2016-01-27

Cordova girls basketball coach Raymond Bradley, right, talks with his players during last Thursday’s home game against Liberty Ranch. The Lady Lancers are tied for first place in the Sierra Valley Conference. Photo by Rick Sloan

On Tuesday, the Cordova High School girls’ basketball team closed out the first round of Sierra Valley Conference action against rival Rosemont.

In a game that the Lady Lancers started the road contest in first place and remained in that same spot. But now share it with El Dorado after the Lady Lancers fell to Rosemont 53-38. The loss puts Cordova and El Dorado at 4-1 each in the SVC. The Lancers are 11-11 overall.

Both teams were guilty of many turnovers in the first quarter of Tuesday’s game. The host Wolverines clung onto a 19-13 lead.

“We started off real flat,” said Cordova coach Raymond Bradley. “There were too many turnovers back and forth. There was no offensive flow.”

Moving the ball was limited for Cordova, which scored a combined eight points in the second and third quarters. Rosemont led 25-17 at halftime and 39-21 after three quarters.

Bradley was pleased with his team’s defense in the final quarter that transitioned into offensive shots for Cordova. The Lady Lancers outscored the Lady Wolverines, 17-13.

“We started pressing them harder,” Bradley said.

Cordova forward Kelsie Graf was the team’s leading scorer with 18 points. Guard Erika Wilson followed with eight points.

Cordova 52, Liberty Ranch 44

In an SVC home contest on Jan. 21st, Graf was on fire for the Lancers.

Graf scored 25 points that included four, 3-pointers. She also sank 3-of-6 free throws, grabbed seven rebounds and three steals.

Wilson had an excellent game from the defensive standpoint with 10 of the Lancers’ 28 steals. That was part of Cordova’s success on defense, which pressed for most of the contest. The result was grounding the Hawks to only four points in the first quarter, as the Lancers led 26-22 at halftime.

“We kind of relaxed them off a little bit, let them back in the game,” said Bradley of the team’s play in the second quarter. “In the third quarter, we jumped on them early.”

That led to a 12-7 advantage for the Lancers, who increased their lead to 38-29 going into the final quarter.

Behind Graf in scoring was Wilson with seven points. Nikki Jones and Adrienne Hammond followed with six points each. Jullisa Reis grabbed nine of the Lancers’ 35 rebounds.

Being in first place is a great feeling for Bradley and the Lancers.

“It’s one game at a time,” Bradley said.

Last night, Cordova started the second half of conference play at Galt. Next Tuesday, Feb. 2nd, the Lady Lancers will host Union Mine. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.


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Lancers Grounded by Hawks in Showdown

Story by Mike Bush  |  2016-01-27

Going up for a shot in Tuesday

In last Friday’s Sierra Valley Conference, the Cordova High School boys basketball team got off to a hot-shooting start in the first quarter against Liberty Ranch.

Moving the ball around the perimeter on a continual basis, the Lancers ended the first eight minutes of their contest against the Hawks. But Liberty Ranch came and ended the contest undefeated at 21-0 and 4-0 in conference with a come-from-behind 77-60 win over Cordova (4-1 in the SVC, 12-10) at The Hawks’ Nest in Galt. The loss puts the Lancers in second place in conference.

Cordova made five three-pointers in the first quarter that developed into a 25-23 lead. Then the Lancers used offensive rebounds that led to an 11-5 run, thanks to baskets and treys from Mike Brown and Jason Novik for a 36-28 lead halfway through the second quarter.

“The tempo was real fast for the guys,” said Cordova coach Fletcher Johnson. “Making shots was the main thing.”

But Liberty Ranch ended the quarter with its own run at 17-4. Hawks guard Isaiah Halsey, who made 4-of-6 in the first quarter, calmly sank his free shots that included the go-ahead lead at 41-40 with 2:30 remaining. He scored 17 of his points in the first 16 minutes of the game and made 10-of-15 free throws for 27 points in the game. Liberty Ranch led 45-40 at halftime.

Two minutes into the third quarter, Liberty Ranch’s defense forced Cordova into three turnovers. That led to a 7-0 run and a 52-40 lead.

Rebounds played a role for the Hawks in the second half. Most of their 40 boards came during this time. Cordova finished with 25 and had limited shots that gave Liberty Ranch a 63-46 lead and coasted for the win.

“What we wanted to do right out of the gate is not give up a ton of offensive rebounds, which they did,” Johnson said.

Cordova guard Damion Baldwin had 12 points. Angel Garcia and William Moore followed with 10 points each. Novik had seven points.

Cordova 51, El Dorado 36

In an SVC road game on Jan. 19th, the Lancers’ offense led to a 28-19 halftime lead. Cordova continued to outscore El Dorado 23-17 in the second half.

Wilkins had 16 points for the Lancers. Najee Clark followed with 11 points, Baldwin six and Brown four.

Last night, Cordova hosted Galt to start the second round of conference play. Next Tuesday, Feb. 2nd, the Lancers play at Union Mine and Thursday, Feb. 4th host El Dorado. Game times for both are scheduled for 7 p.m.


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Are You Ready to Rugby?

Ray Schwartz  |  2016-01-20

Today, top high school rugby players have often grown to compete over six or eight seasons, and in some cases, played under the same coach, or program, the entire time. The quality at the top keeps growing finer each and every year. 
--Photo courtesy David Barpal Photography

Sacramento Valley Rugby Foundation Set to Host The 32nd Annual “Kick Off Tournament” at Cordova High, Jan. 30th And 31st

What started from humble beginnings—an opportunity to get pre-season playing time for lots of young high school rugby squads—has blossomed into the largest Youth and High School Rugby Tournament in the United States (and likely the entire Western Hemisphere!).

The Kick Off Tournament, affectionately referred to as the KOT, is still run today by some of the pioneers who first took this on in 1984, when seven high school clubs were featured. Jerry Ahlin, Ray Thompson, Pete Deterding, Bob Lutrell, Joe Cavallero, Zack Finney, and a posse of their finest friends, come together in a massive volunteer effort to pull off quite a show, each and every year. They do so for the love of the game, and for the kids who love to play!

Many of the finest players, coaches, and rugby clubs in America have been featured over the years, including Jesuit High, many times over National Champions. Other top local clubs to have begun their season at the KOT, and gone on to compete that Spring at the National Championships include Cougars (Del Campo), Islanders (Burbank), Vacaville, Christian Brothers, and most recently Dixon, Granite Bay, and Sierra Foothills.

By 2005, the event had grown to 30 clubs, playing on three fields at Granite Park. The popularity of youth and high school rugby was beginning to explode at that time, not simply locally, but across the Bay Area and indeed America. In fact, a recent report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (according to the Maryland-based organization’s U.S. Trends in Team Sports Report) reveals participation in tackle football fell 21 percent from 2008-2013, while rugby experienced the biggest gain of all youth and high schools sports, growing a whopping 81 percent during that time!

The KOT, a large, established structure on the game’s competitive calendar, was uniquely positioned to help foster this growth. 2006 saw the addition of Girls play, while 2007 saw the event expand to two days and include a free Middle School clinic. For the past three years, now at Cordova High, seven to nine fields have seen play all day, both Saturday and Sunday, featuring an average of 130 sides playing a staggering 205 30-minute matches!

Clubs have visited the KOT in the recent past, seeking some warm California sun, and the chance to compete with locals, the likes of the Jesuit Marauders…, clubs from across the Bay Area (Santa Rosa to Morgan Hill), but also from as far away as Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Washington, SoCal, and even several from Alberta, Canada.

Referees visit from even further, with several coming each year from Canada, but also Pittsburg, New York, Massachusetts, Idaho, Germany, and South Africa! In order for the KOT to grow, and to continue to provide quality matches, the word went out across USA Rugby, “Send us your refs!” Four brave souls answered the call in 2006, and more and more refs have come every year since.

As the KOT grew, however, the need to help produce and develop a local crop of refs came with the territory. So the KOT leveraged our wealth of sunshine and matches needing officials, to create a unique Referee Development Program. The KOT RDP features a free day of referee training Friday at Sac State, and two full days of valuable referee coaching throughout the event. Our own Raley’s College Greens donates all the food for the ref tent!

As richly rewarding as hosting young stars of the game can be (many ruggers who’ve played at past KOTs have gone on to play for, and even Captain, USA National teams), there’s no greater joy than watching U-8s and U-10s blossom into feisty U-12s and eventually become skillful, competitive middle schoolers!

It’s at these junior levels that the popularity of rugby has finally taken off. Today, top high school rugby players have often grown to compete over six or eight seasons, and in some cases, played under the same coach, or program, the entire time. The quality at the top keeps growing finer each and every year.

So why rugby?
To some rugby is a muscular ballet with mud and blood, while to others it just looks like a brawl. A violent contact sport with no padding? In this day and age of heightened concerns over sports concussions? But to those who take the time to peel back the veneer and take a closer look, they see adults mentoring children; coaches who carefully teach players to respect themselves, their opponents and the game itself.

With top notch coaching, confidence and skills grow over time. Fitness reigns supreme. The head and neck must never be a part of the rugby tackle. Speed and power, choreographed teamwork, brilliant ball handling and precision kicking are often on display. But look closer still and you'll notice there are no timeouts. The coach, who runs practice, has little to no input once the match has started. The coach elects a Captain, who is the only conduit to the Ref.  The Ref, in turn, tries to manage a fair contest between two sides through the Captains.

Rugby is certainly an interesting contradiction. Though the players seem to be trying to tear each other’s head off, they help each other up off the ground, and cheer each other (and meet to shake hands) after every match. And players will always refer to the referee as “sir.” While the ref is just trying to keep heads from being torn off, a good ref can bring a competitive match up to a boil, while never allowing it spill over. All players contribute, all get to handle the ball, and all shapes and sizes of players are welcome. Passion created from this game is measureable.

Why Sacramento Rugby?
Students of sports history know the oldest sport offered at Cal (UC Berkeley) is rugby, which started playing in the 1880s. Other local rivals, St. Mary’s, Santa Clara and Stanford, all share long, rich rugby traditions as well, with St. Mary’s having just won their first National Championship (in any sport), May 2014, at Stanford (featuring many local ruggers), and repeated in 2015!

As the First World War concluded, the Olympics embraced rugby, offering a Gold Medal (won by the USA) in both 1920 and ’24. Graduates of these Universities combined, with rugby players from San Francisco’s Olympic Club, to train, as they traveled by ship, and win these medals. Captaining the ’24 team was Colby “Babe” Slater from nearby Woodland. But after the Gold Medal match in Paris, where unruly French fans nearly rioted as USA beat France, rugby was dropped from the Olympic program.

The tradition of rugby, however, lingered across Northern California. Though college and then pro football took over, 1953 saw a small rebirth of rugby when the first Monterey Rugby Classic was held. Clubs and tournaments popped up everywhere throughout the 1960s (UC Davis and Sac State have both recently celebrated their 50th year of rugby). In 1982, a sturdy group of Sacramento sportsmen travelled to Europe on a rugby tour.  They went as players, only to return with a newfound desire to teach the game they grew to love. So a new high school rugby competition began in Sacramento, kicking off with our first ever KOT!

Most years, weather permitting, Sacramento offers a long winter/spring playing season, as local clubs draw upon a wealth of coaches, referees, and administrators to help develop young players and squads to enjoy the game, the same game played in Olympics of old. The size and depth of the local competition here remains unrivalled across American rugby’s landscape. It is no coincidence that as soon as Sacramento built a top notch soccer facility, USA Rugby scheduled an International match here.

As USA beat Canada in front of a sold out crowd, 8,000 made it out to Bonney Field, June, 2014, the blazing Sacramento sunshine proved a valuable advantage. When USA played the mighty New Zealand All Blacks at sold out Soldier Field in Chicago, November 1st, three Jesuit grads suited up for USA (Lou Stanfill, Eric Fry & Blaine Sculley) while another three players came from Bay Area high school programs.

A doubleheader then came back to Bonney Field last July (during the State Fair) as we witnessed USA beat Japan, and Fiji tie Samoa. And as PRO Rugby announced its inaugural season (this coming April-June), Sacramento was awarded its first of six teams!

An abbreviated brand of the game of rugby called “Sevens” has traditionally been played locally, though only in the summers. Sevens is now introduced to the Olympics, with the first Gold Medals, Men’s and Women’s, on offer in 2016 in Rio de Janiero. With USA Women presently ranked 5th, and the Men ranked 9th (and rising!) on the World Sevens circuit, we can certainly expect to see Americans, and hopefully some Sacramentans, competing in the Medal rounds in Rio!

So, to get your rugby knowledge and appreciation flowing, plan to attend the 32nd Annual KOT at Cordova High Jan. 30 and 31! Matches kick off early both days!

This year’s KOT features (in addition to the usual local clubs) a first ever Girl’s Middle School seven-a-side competition, and far more Girl’s play than ever. Gridley makes its first appearance, fielding 6 sides! Davis and Dixon has combined to form Solo (Solano-Yolo) Rugby, Los Gatos United is coming strong, Liberty (Washington) returns for their fourth KOT, bringing 3 sides.


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Lady Lancers Remain Undefeated in SVC

Mike Bush  |  2016-01-20

Cordova guard Nikki Jones gets into the face of a Rio Americano player during a recent non-conference home game. Jones and the Lady Lancers remain undefeated in SVC action. 
--Photo by Mike Bush

Trailing at halftime in Tuesday’s Sierra Valley Conference home game, the Cordova High School girls’ basketball squad responded against El Dorado in the final 16 minutes of the game.

That led to the Lady Lancers posting a 44-40 win over the Lady Cougars in the battle of undefeated conference squads. Cordova improves to 3-0 in the SVC and 10-10 overall. El Dorado is now 2-1 and 7-13.

Behind 28-16 at halftime, Cordova’s offense and defense led to outscoring the Cougars 14-2. El Dorado made a late charge in the final quarter with a 14-10 run, but wasn’t enough as Cordova won.

Leading scorer for Cordova was Kelsie Graf with 18 points. Erika Wilson followed with 13 points, Leila Cooper and Nikki Jones 4 each, Jullissa Reis 3, and Annalise Tate 2.

Cooper had eight of the Lancers’ 32 rebounds. Jones, Graf, and Reis had two assists each, as Cordova finished with 12. Reis had four blocked shots.

Cordova 65, Union Mine 23
In an SVC road game at El Dorado on Jan. 14th, the Lady Lancers, who led 10-4 after the first quarter, raced past the Lady Diamondbacks in the second quarter, 22-2, for a 32-6 halftime lead.

Cordova launched 12, three-pointers in the game; Wilson had four and Graf had three. Reis followed with two shots behind the arc.

Wilson finished with 20 points and 11 of the Lancers’ 31 steals, Cooper 15, and Graf 11. Reis had eight points. Cooper had nine of the Lancers’ 23 rebounds and Adrienne Hammond six.

Last night, Thursday, Cordova hosted Liberty Ranch. Next Tuesday, the Lancers will wrap up the first half of SVC action at Rosemont. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.


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