All Ball Sports: Mira Costa football, volleyball move forward, USC, UCLA fall back, Lakers’ not so ‘greats’

Mustang senior running back Matthew Kraskoukas powers in for a 6-yard TD run, early in the first quarter. Photo by Ray Vidal

by Paul Teetor

The rivalry game quickly turned into a rout.

Mira Costa’s football team pulverized Redondo Friday night in front of a full house at Waller Stadium, jumping out to a 35-0 lead before easing back on the throttle and settling for a 55-34 victory.

The blowout in the annual, end-of-the-regular-season rivalry game earned the Mustangs a .500 record at 5-5 overall and 2-2 in the Bay League. That was good enough for third place in the league and propelled them into the Division 7 State playoffs. They will open post-season play Thursday at Garden Grove Pacifica.

Redondo’s Christian Hunt led a late surge, but it wasn’t enough. Photo by Ray Vidal

Redondo finished its season with a 2-8 record and will look forward to next season for repair and redemption after one of the toughest seasons in the school’s long and proud football history.

Any suspense about the annual backyard brawl between the ancient archrivals was over quickly. Costa’s high-octane offense came out firing on all four cylinders – run, pass, catch and kick – while Redondo’s offense couldn’t get anything going until it was too late.

Mustang senior quarterback Casey Pavlick started the onslaught with a 17-yard touchdown pass. Junior running back Matthew Kraskoukas powered in for a 6-yard TD run, and before everyone was seated the Mustangs were already up 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Mustang QB Casey Pavlick finished league play with a strong showing. Photo by Ray Vidal

The boulder kept rolling downhill for Costa as Kraskoukas muscled his way over the goal line for a 2-yard TD run, and Pavlick followed that up with a 44-yard TD pass as the home team’s lead blew up to 28-0.

Late in the second quarter Kraskoukas demonstrated he has speed and elusiveness as well as raw power when he broke through the line and sprinted all the way for a 49-yard score to make it 35-0. Redondo quarterback Christian Hunt temporarily stopped the bleeding with a 7-yard TD pass, and as the coastal fog rolled in and blanketed the field the first half ended with a 35-7 Costa lead.

Sea Hawk Jake Douglas breaks away. Photo by Ray Vidal

Hunt threw two more TD passes in the second half to make the score respectable, but it wasn’t nearly enough to make it a real contest. Pavlick kept throwing darts, Kraskoukas kept bulling his way through the defense, and Cole Crotty kept catching passes all over the field to tack on another 20 points. The Sea Hawks scored 27 points in the second half to make the final score appear closer than it really was and give themselves reason for hope that next season will be better than this one.

Mustang coach Don Morrow saw his team improve as the season progressed. Photo by Ray Vidal

Costa VB wins league

A similar pattern played out in the girls volleyball playoffs. Costa, which won the Bay League title, advanced to the state tournament. Redondo finished second in league play, and also advances.

Meanwhile the Mustangs beat Village Christian in the quarterfinals in straight sets, 25-23, 25-23, and 25-17. They were led by Drew Knight’s cascade of kill shots and Isabel Wilmot’s pin-point power serving on the key points.

But the victory train came to a screeching halt Saturday night against the number one team in the nation, Marymount, which came in to the semifinal game with a 29-0 record.  They rolled right over the Mustangs 25-20, 25-9, and 25-18.

Now Costa will have to wait and see who it draws in the state playoffs next weekend. As long as it’s not Marymount, they have a good shot against anyone else.

USC football loses while winning; UCLA wins while losing         

What a wild weekend for college football in LA.

USC won its game but lost its best player.

And UCLA lost its game, but won new hope that it will soon get a better coach.

It’s been a crazy, topsy-turvy season for college football fans who were expecting both USC and UCLA to finally begin the long journey back to national relevance this fall.

Instead, both college programs are in a state of limbo, waiting for the next anointed savior to hit town and usher in a return to the glory days of yesteryear – or yester decade, in UCLA’s case. 

USC has already taken the first and most important step – firing coach Clay Helton two months ago after eight years of maddening mediocrity. They have installed former assistant Coach Dante Williams as an interim head coach, and have launched a national search for Helton’s successor while making it clear that Williams – the first Black head coach in SC history – really has no shot at getting the permanent job.

That harsh reality has been obvious for at least the last month, but it got even clearer Saturday afternoon as the Trojans barely hung on to beat an 0-7 Arizona squad by a scary-close score of 41-34. 

Even with Williams’ inspiring backstory – he grew up just a few blocks from the Coliseum and his first idols were Trojan greats like Keyshawn Johnson, Mike Williams and Carson Palmer – Athletic Director Mike Bohn has made it clear that he wants a big-name coach, someone with a national reputation, someone who will get the mainstream media interested in the program again.

LSU Coach Ed Orgeron, who made such a great impression at USC as an interim coach before Helton took over, would be the ideal choice. 

Back then he didn’t get the permanent job because of his blunt personality’s rough edges, his busted-chainsaw voice and his overall lack of personal polish that was considered essential to woo USC’s big-bucks boosters. But his players loved him, he was a great motivator and a great recruiter, a savvy on-field coach, and now he’s available after he and LSU agreed to part ways after this season is over.

USC fans should hope and pray that Bohn is open-minded enough to give him a fair shot at the job he should have gotten instead of Helton eight years ago. He has all the attributes Helton lacked as well as a national championship – won just two years ago — on his resume.

One attribute Orgeron – or whoever gets the USC job – won’t have is Drake London, the nation’s best wide receiver. London, the 6-foot-5 stud who runs like a gazelle, was leading the Pac-12 in receptions and touchdowns. He had already caught two more TDs in the first half against Arizona when he went down with what looked like a really bad ankle injury. His foot was quickly encased in a plastic boot and he was carted off the field, although he was later spotted on the sideline hobbling around in a walking boot. But after being diagnosed with a fractured ankle on Sunday it is clear he will not play again this season. After that, despite the serious injury he still figures to be a high NFL draft choice, unless he decides to come back and help USC with its rebuilding project under a new coach. 

Not very likely. The clear lesson from his serious injury: get the money as quickly as you can. Your career could end on the next play.

While USC hung on to barely beat one of the worst teams in the nation, UCLA put Coach Chip Kelly’s job in further peril after yet another failed comeback that resulted in a 44-24 loss at Utah.

As usual, the Bruins fell way behind in the first half, trailing 28-10 at halftime. They just couldn’t stop Utah’s running game. Kelly, the alleged offensive genius who washed out in the pros after failing in both Philadelphia and San Francisco, has never taken much interest in run defense and continued that pattern Saturday night. Utah running back Tavion Thomas led the Ute’s rushing attack with 160 yards and four touchdowns, while the team as a whole piled up 293 yards on the ground. At times the Bruins linemen looked like a bunch of fat guys in too-tight jerseys who weren’t particularly proud to wear the blue-and-gold unis and didn’t feel like sacrificing their bodies to help Kelly keep his job.

Of course, it didn’t help that Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, a four-year starter who is still Kelly’s best and highest-rated recruit after four years as the Bruins coach, was unable to play due to an injury to his throwing hand.

DTR was replaced by Ethan Garbers, the red-shirt freshman who put in a surprisingly solid showing for an untested QB making his first start against one of the best teams in the PAC-12.

Garbers connected on 27 of 44 passes for 265 yards, with one interception and two TD’s.      

Unless DTR leaves for the NFL – and there is no certainty that he would be drafted as a quarterback, since his passing skills are not at an NFL level yet – whoever is coaching UCLA next year will be in good shape at the quarterback position with both DTR and Garbers available.

But frankly, it’s hard to believe that UCLA Athletic Director Martin Jarmond – who came aboard three years after Kelly was hired to replicate his success at Oregon more than a decade ago – will be willing to put up with another year of indifferent defense, mistake-prone offense, a lazy coach who already got his money and lacks any sense of urgency, and a half-empty Rose Bowl full of unhappy fans howling for a coaching change.

So with the annual UCLA vs USC rivalry game coming up on Nov. 20 at the Coliseum, unhappy college football fans may be in for an unusual post-game treat: both coaches get fired.

Lakers have too many all-time greats

When the NBA opened for business in 1946, it was known as the BAA (Basketball Association of America) and didn’t change its name until 1950. But it has always claimed 1946 as its starting point. So this week the league announced a list of the 75 greatest players to mark the league’s 75th anniversary.

When you consider that thousands and thousands of players – maybe more – have put on an NBA uni in those 75 years, it was downright amazing to realize that the Lakers – not the franchise in its entire history, but the team and its current roster right now – has four of those 75 greatest players, plus another one in Dwight Howard who was one of the last cuts on the greatest list.

So how come a team with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrick – sorry, Westbrook – only has a 3-3 record as of Sunday?

Let us count the reasons.

First, LeBron can only do so much. He’s still a great, great player – third best in the world behind only Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant – but he’s in his 19th season and the wear and tear is starting to show. He has already missed two games due to minor injuries, and he figures to miss a lot more due to further injuries and load management before the playoffs start next spring.

Second, because AD, while still a top-10 player, is also still a fragile, brittle athlete who isn’t built to take the pounding and physical abuse he has to endure when the Lakers need him to play center rather than his preferred spot of power forward.

Already he has had a very public shoving-and-shouting match with Howard in the middle of a game with the whole hoops world watching. Team sources snitched that the argument was over a defensive assignment in which Howard left AD to handle the heavy lifting while he opted to cover a smaller guy.

Granted, Howard is one of the biggest knuckleheads in the entire league, and has been from the moment he was drafted first overall as an 18-year-old high school senior, all the way back in 2004. But still AD has to accept some of the blame for the very embarrassing incident. Both players have refused to discuss it, other than to say it’s over. But clearly something is simmering beneath the surface between one of the classiest players in the league and one of the goofiest players in the league. Can they co-exist for an entire season with all its ups and downs, all its stresses and strains? 

TBD.

Third, because Westbrook has proved all the pre-season critics who threw shade on the Lakers 3-for-1 trade with Washington – compulsive shooter Kyle Kuzma, bulldog defender Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and undersized board beast Montrezl Harrell for Westbrook and his $44 million per year contract – correct.

At least so far.

All three ex-Lakers are playing great for the Wizards, helping lead them to a franchise-best 5-1 start, while Westbrook’s most notable stat has been his first career quadruple-double highlighted by the 10 turnovers he accumulated in one game last week. And what a game it was: a 123-115 loss to the worst team in the league, the Oklahoma City Thunder. With LeBron sitting out with a foot injury, Westbrook dominated the ball and piled up 20 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists to go along with his 10 turnovers. But the most amazing part about the game: the Lakers raced out to a 26-point lead before squandering it all while Westbrook ran amok without LeBron to rein him in.

As predicted, he is having trouble fitting in on-court with LeBron, since both of them are ball-dominant players. Indeed, his two best games were the two games LeBron missed. Coach Frank Vogel has already figured out that Westbrook must be in the game when LeBron is out, and vice versa, but that doesn’t solve the problem of how they will fit together on the court at the same time. Westbrook is a below-average shooter who is particularly off-target from the 3-point line, and that simply will not work in the playoffs. In today’s modern NBA game, LeBron needs to be surrounded by dead-eye outside shooters, and that just isn’t Westbrick and never will be.

Which brings us to Anthony who, while still a great offensive player, is reduced now to coming off the bench and jacking up 3-pointers from all over the court. When he’s stroking his shot – like when he hit nine 3s in a game last week – he’s fitting in fine.

But his go to move during his Denver and New York glory days – setting up shop at either elbow and backing down his defender while the rest of the team stops and watches – is no longer a part of the Lakers offense.

Despite the problems already emerging with the Lakers ancient roster, they will surely make the playoffs as long as LeBron and AD stay healthy,

But with six months and more than 75 games to go, if either of them misses extensive time or is not fully healthy for the playoffs, Lakers fans can forget about this team contending for a title.

No matter how many of the 75 greatest players in NBA history are on the squad. 

Contact: teetor.paul@gmail.com. Follow: @paulteetor ER                  

 

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