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Los Angeles Galaxy MLS Playoff bound

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By Gary Montgomery, BVN Sports –

By virtue of their 2011 regular season performance, the Los Angeles Galaxy has once again established themselves as the club to beat. By amassing 67 points this year, the best in MLS, the Galaxy is now poised for soccer’s second season.

MLS has decided to expand their playoff format from eight to ten teams this year. The Western Conference includes the top seeded L.A. Galaxy followed by Seattle and Real Salt Lake.

The Eastern Conference is led by Sporting KC, Houston and Philadelphia. In addition, wild card qualifiers include, FC Dallas, Colorado, Columbus and New York.

The playoff format has the Galaxy in a first round bye, while the wild card clubs face each other in a single game elimination. The Galaxy will play their first playoff game on the road, October 30th. The home and home format will then move to the Home Depot Center on November 3rd at 5 pm for the Western Conference Semifinal.

As in recent years, the winner of the two game series will be determined by the aggregate score. Winning teams will earn three points, one point for a tie and zero for a loss. To the advantage of the Galaxy, the first criteria for a tie-breaker is the regular season record and Los Angeles has the league best at 67 points.

In a year when the Galaxy has also competed in CONCACAF Tournament, top Galaxy players have been pulled for national team duty, the club added top Irish striker Robbie Keane. He suffered an injury while playing for Ireland in an international match and has been on the mend.

Landon Donovan (Redlands East Valley H.S.) has also been out with a strained quadriceps.

Donovan is likely, Sean Franklin returned to action last week, but Robble Keane may not be ready for the Western Conference Semifinal. Donovan Ricketts, last years Goalkeeper of the Year, who had a league leading 11 shutouts is now available.

David Beckham, who finished a close second in league assists with 11 in 27 games, appears to be healthy and energized.

Negotiations are ongoing to keep him in Los Angeles.

Black College Football Finds Its Way

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Alabama State tames Grambling

By Collin Smiley, BVN Staff –

Montgomery, Al – After living in California for years, it can become difficult to remember the feel, flavor, and excitement generated down south during the college football season. The intra-state rivalries, the battling bands, the trash talk and the local pride garnered from a winning football team.

Although many Californians have a direct lineage to the south, years of living in the west can erode that bound. Here, we are overexposed to the new Pac-12, Big East and ACC because of their athletic prowess with an assist from ESPN’s nonstop highlight reels.

But many years ago before the Black athletes were allowed to showcase their skill at the major institutions the Black athletes had to attend HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). HBCU’s are a rare site west of the Rocky Mountains. So, Californians tend to lose out on the excitement, pageantry and originality innate to these institutions.

In the years after segregation began to drain away the top Black athletes, its ultimate affect on Black college sports was a concern shared by many, particularly in the football community.

Would historically Black colleges and universities be able to field quality teams?

I am here to tell you that, like its people the HBCU’s have figured it out, retooled, rebranded and moved on with the times. Black college football classics populate the eastern half of the country like post season major college bowl games dominate the month of December.

I can confirm the health of HBCU football after attending the 35th meeting between the Alabama State Hornets and the legendary Grambling Tigers at the Crampton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama.

On a cool September evening in Alabama, absolutely perfect for football, alumni great and former Super Bowl MVP, Doug Williams led his G-Men onto the field against ASU head coach Reggie Barlow, also a Super Bowl winning alumni and his Hornet team. Barlow starred at ASU before heading to the NFL and winning his championship ring as a member of the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team.

Williams, was one of legendary coach Eddie Robinson’s greatest players, a member of the Black College Hall of Fame, Super Bowl MVP and his name is currently being floated for an NFL Hall of Fame ballot spot. Adding more entertainment value to this game, Grambling’s starting quarterback D.J. Williams is Doug’s son.

There are roughly 65 HBCU classic games scheduled during the 2011-12 season. Many of them are showcase games in cities with no HBCU school presence but have adopted the games as traditional celebrations coupled with a scheduled community event.

By branding their games as classics and moving them around it has made these events more attractive to sponsors and increased their marketing options. Classic games like the Circle City Classic, Music City Classic, Chicago Football Classic and College Fair, Southern Heritage Classic, State Fair Classic and Morehouse-Tuskegee Classic have achieved national name recognition and like the very famous Bayou Classic in New Orleans have built an annual following in the thousands.

The major HBCU conferences, SWAC, MEAC ,SAIC and CINA have combined to offer a full schedule of televised games with broadcast partners ESPN, CSS, OVC Sports TV, Sport South, Versus and SWAC conference holding SWAC TV. Several of these same conferences have also combined to offer a comprehensive schedule of available games via the internet.

No longer the choice of top recruits and understandably so, the HBCU’s have continued to provide a great on field product with the talent available to them. Currently there are 37 active players in the National Football League from Historically Black Colleges And Universities.

Although there are no current players the likes of Walter Payton, Doug Williams, Steve McNair or the many greats of previous generations in the league today, there are many starters and key contributors.

After its weakest draft ever in 2010 when only two players were signed by the NFL, the 2011 draft resulted in a total of four players being taken by the league. Kendrick Ellis a DT from Hampton was taken by the Jets, Johnny Culbreath, OL from South Carolina State went to the Detroit Lions, Frank Kearse, a DT from Alabama A&M went to the Miami Dolphins and Curtis Holcomb, a DB from Florida A&M was taken by the San Francisco 49ers.

And most important, HBCU’s have reinvented themselves without the ability to recruit top best athletes. They have used diversity and all its benefits to attract student athletes from many ethnic backgrounds to their institutions all in pursuit of the common goal of athletics and educational enrichment. That formula can never be undermined.

G. Montgomery contributed to this article: Colin Smiley and G. Montgomery can be reached at Sports@blackvoicenews.com

Citrus Valley All Over Riverside Notre Dame, 53-14

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By Jon D. Gaede, BVN Staff –

The visiting Notre Dame Titans from Riverside met a tough squad at Citrus Valley in Redlands as they dropped their Mountain Valley League opener 53-14.

In a reversal of last year’s matchup, when Notre Dame won by a large margin, the Blackhawk’s returned the favor on their home turf. The Blackhawk’s varsity squad is fielding senior players for the first time, as they represent Citrus Valley’s first graduating class.

To be expected, the Blackhawk’s have struggled in their first two seasons. Under coach Pete Smolin, the offense is executing well and his defense is much bigger and tougher.

Quarterback Dalton Douglas, a UCLA prospect, can pass from the pocket or on a roll out. His arm strength must be respected by opposing defenses. Douglass is always a threat to run as he did against the Titans for 46 yards on the second play.

Running back Andrew Gonzales scored four touchdowns as the Blackhawks rushed for seven on the night. The Notre Dame squad kept fighting and were able to put together two second half drives that resulted in two scores. Citrus Valley’s running game and stingy defense was too much for Riverside.

Blackhawk running back Jason Snow had a nifty 145-yards and speedy Sophomore Sir Vantti Campbell scored on a 77-yard run in the fourth quarter. At 5-1, the Blackhawks will travel to Banning next week.

UCLA Beats Washington State

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Bruins need Princely effort to overcome injury to top The Cougars to preserve Pac-12 hopes

By Gary Montgomery, BVN Staff –

Pasadena – It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the loser of Saturday’s game between the UCLA Bruins (3-3;1-1) and the Washington State Cougars (3-2;1-1) would fall out of any hope for Pac-12 title contention and be relegated to out dueling Colorado for the bottom spot.

Early in the evening it seemed that the Bruins were about go quietly into to the bottom slot contest. For most of the first quarter it was three-and-out for the Bruins on every position. Thanks to the Bruin defense, Washington State could only muster field goals and take a 6-0 lead at 13:32 of the second quarter. UCLA starting quarterback Richard Brehaut was 4 – 7 for 28-yards when the Bruin strategy turned to quarterback rollouts.

After a 14-yard completion to Randall Carroll – his longest completion of the evening, Brehaut dashed around the left side for a 5-yard gain and took a hard shot from the Cougar secondary. For reasons only known to the Bruins brain trust, the designed quarterback rollout was called again. This time Brehaut could not return to the huddle and UCLA would have to call on former starter Kevin Prince.

Prince, the Bruins starter at the beginning of the season was unceremoniously benched last month after throwing 3 interceptions in the first quarter of 49 – 20 loss to the Texas Longhorns. Brehaut came in and picked up the starting duties and after that was able to guide the Bruins to a win over Oregon State and a pretty good showing against Stanford. Brehaut would leave the game with a fracture of the lower left leg.

“He will be back as soon as he can get back. If there is a tougher guy, I don’t know him. He’s a resilient son of a gun and I am proud of him too. There were a couple of balls earlier that could have been a little lower. We are going to miss Richard, but as in this case, the next guy has to be ready, and Richard will work his butt off to get back,” said Rick Neuheisel. Prince quickly validated himself by energizing the Bruins attack when he connected with wide receiver Nelson Rosario for a 41-yard reception to the 1-yard line. Derrick Coleman did the rest on a 1-yard plunge over left tackle to give UCLA its first lead of the game at 7-6.

The Cougars offense couldn’t get the ball into the end zone and had to settle for another field goal to regain the lead at half-time at 9-7.

“Certainly, they went up and down the field. But when we got them into the red zone, the way we stepped up, especially when they (after a penalty) three more downs, I thought that was awesome,” said Neuheisel about his defensive unit’s ability to stop the Cougar offense.

UCLA fans hadn’t forgotten Prince’s last appearance and greeted him with a faint chorus of boos which quickly dissipated after his 41-yard bomb to Rosario. Prince appeared to be fresh and playing with a confidence that wasn’t there early in the season.

“I don’t know if I am any faster or stronger, I was just happy to be able to help the team. I just approached it like this is something that I’ve done before. I’ve been out there before and have won some games before so it’s no different for me than before,” said Prince.

Washington State’s quarterback, Marshal Lobbrstael had just been named the Manning award winner for the week and a 376-yard performance against Colorado the previous week. The Cougar offense was averaging 379-yards passing per game and was ranked number 4 in the nation.

The second half turned into a dual of with both teams scoring a touchdown in the 3rd quarter. UCLA scored on another Derrick Coleman 1-yard run and the Cougars responded with an 8-yard toss from Lobbestael to Jared Karstetter to end the quarter with UCLA trailing 16-14.

The Cougars maintained a lead throughout the 4th quarter and with 3:35 remaining in the game and UCLA was trailing Washington State 25-20 and a 0-2 Pac-12 record starring the Bruins squarely in the face.

Just when UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel must have been thinking how many things can possibly happen to his team? At that moment Kevin Prince heaved a 58-yard pass downtown field nestling into the outstretched left hand of wide receiver Nelson Rosario and immediately changed UCLA’s night and possibly its season from one of explaining missed opportunities and what went wrong into an all out celebration and Kevin Prince, from a benched former starter to a hero.

“These are the kinds of things that can happen and serve as a catalyst for the season. Hopefully, some of our frontline guys will return to action. It’s great to have them celebrate like they are right now,” said an obviously relieved Neuheisel.

Saturday’s win was huge for the Bruins and will likely give them a boost going into their week off. The road ahead is tough but with an extra week to get some key people positions healthy they can make it a lot easier. UCLA will travel to Tucson in two weeks to take on the Wildcats in a Thursday night game.

G. Montgomery can be reached at sports@blackvoicenews.com

REV Stuns Mission Viejo 10-7 Remains Unbeaten

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By Jon D. Gaede, BVN Staff –

Redlands - At 5-0, Redlands East Valley has been seeded at the top of most county high school football polls. These rankings don’t mean much when taking on a traditional powerhouse like Mission Viejo of South Orange County.

On Friday night, the Wildcats held off the the Diablos in a classic defensive battle, 10-7.

They became the first San Bernardino County team to beat Mission Viejo in twelve years.

The Diablos, most recently known for producing former USC and now New York Jet quarterback Mark Sanchez, came to the Inland Empire ranked as high as number three in the state and expecting to win.

The Wildcats benefitted from good fortune as a punt by Brian Sanchez bounced off a Diablo player and was pounced on by a Wildcat special team player, to take a 10-0 lead at halftime.

Mission Viejo may not have anticipated a relentless Wildcat defense that has only allowed 19 points all year. That defense shut down every Diablo drive, but one second half touchdown. The Wildcat defense would be tested as they led 10-7 in the fourth quarter.

Diablo quarterback Alex Bridgford, a tall lanky lefty, would launch several passes into the Wildcat secondary in that fourth quarter. REV’s offense managed only 170 yards on the night, so their defense would have to come up big.

The Wildcat defenders repelled several Bridgford passes over four late possessions. Wildcat defender Stefen Kirkland tipped a ball that was intercepted by Trevor Douglass. Unable to get a first down, REV punted to give the Diablos one last chance. On fourth down, with no timeouts remaining, Bridgford launched a desperation pass that fell incomplete into the end zone. The victory was complete.

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