Football

Player Profile: MHS Running Back Tyree Miles

This article originally appeared in the Monrovia Weekly.

Tyree Miles is excited for the Monrovia High School football season to begin. It will be his first and last season as a Wildcat.

Miles moved from Fontana earlier this year. He said the team has welcomed him in.

“It’s been a very good transition,” Miles said. “I love my team. I love my coaches.”

Miles plays three positions: running back, wide receiver and cornerback. He likes all three, but he favors running back.

“It’s a childhood favorite of mine. I’ve been playing it for the longest,” he said.

Miles has played football since he was five. He played all three years at his high school in Fontana and looks to contribute to the Monrovia team in a strong role. He said he’s been working on improving in the offseason.

“I’m trying to have better on the field vision,” Miles said. “I want to help the team win big this year. I want the team to be as good as we can and hopefully get a ring.”

Miles said his vision is his strongest trait as a running back. He compared his play to New York Giants star running back Saquon Barkley.

“He just has really good vision and cuts,” Miles said. “That’s what I’m trying to get my game to be, his level.”

When he’s not playing football, Miles enjoys relaxing and watching other sports including soccer and basketball.

Thomas McConnell Aims to Break More Records for Poly Football

This article was originally published in the Pasadena Independent.

Thomas McConnell has high expectations for Polytechnic High School’s football team this year. A record breaking linebacker, McConnell brings veteran leadership as a senior with 11 years of football under his belt.

McConnell thinks the team will fare much better than last year when they won eight games, but lost in the first round of the CIF-SS playoffs. He projects the team will go deeper because they moved down two divisions, from Division 10 to Division 12, to play schools of comparable size, and because the team won’t face the same initial struggles they did last year.

“We lost a ton of really talented seniors before last season. We only have seven total seniors on the team. We initially dealt with a lot of behavior our coach was not a fan of,” McConnell said. “But we came together a lot toward the end of the year.”

McConnell recalled the highlight of the season, when Poly beat their rival, Rio Hondo Prep.

“That was where our season culminated. We really dominated that game,” McConnell said. “It was a good experience to come together as a team after working for the whole season to achieve our goal of beating our rival. That was a goal we had set for ourselves on the first day of camp. All our work paid off that day.”

Although Poly will start the season off with some harder games, McConnell thinks these will bring beneficial experience when the team goes to the postseason tournament. McConnell said the ultimate team goal is to win CIF; however, he is focusing on some personal goals for the time being.

“I improved a lot from sophomore year to junior year and I want to do the same this year. Last year I broke the school record for tackles in the season with around 112. This year, I want to tie or break my brother’s record for most tackles in a single game (18),” McConnell said.

After high school, McConnell plans to go to a top notch academic school. He currently has a 4.29 weighted GPA. McConnell said he might play football in college, but academics come first and he won’t sacrifice the academic experience for the athletic one.

When McConnell is not playing football, he enjoys hanging out with his friends, wakeboarding and shopping at thrift stores.

Although the season doesn’t start for more than a month, McConnell is already putting in the work to have another record breaking year.

Athlete Profile: MHD DB/WR Gaylen Wilson

This article originally appeared in the Monrovia Weekly.

Gaylen Wilson has been playing football for more than half his life. The Monrovia High School senior defensive back/wide receiver used his experience of playing since he was six to earn a spot of the varsity team during his sophomore year.

Wilson became inspired to play at such an early age after watching former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick play.

“I loved watching Michael Vick. Even though I’m a 49ers fan, I wanted to be like him,” Wilson said.

While Wilson sticks to DB/WR now, he has also played quarterback, running back, and other skilled positions over the years. He said he likes DB/WR the best, so he’s sticking to them. He doesn’t know which he will play yet in college, but  he does plan to play in college. He has been in conversation with a few coaches from NCAA Division I schools, but he is still waiting on a formal offer.

Wilson had more than 20 catches and 40 tackles last year, with an interception and two punt return touchdowns as well. He even had a kickoff return for more than 90 yards. He does it all.

“I love scoring touchdowns and dominating other people,” Wilson said.

This year, Wilson has set an even higher bar. He wants to have more than 10 touchdowns and five or more interceptions. Wilson compared his playing style to Oakland Raiders receiver Antonio Brown for his good routes and speed and Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters for his ball hawking skills, always being around the ball.

A big factor in this will be Wilson’s speed. He is also a sprinter on the track team, running the 100-meter dash in under 11 seconds and the 200-meter dash in under 23 seconds.

Wherever he ends up in college, Wilson plans on studying law or science because the fields have strong job security.

“There’s a big need for them and they make a lot of money. I’m not sure which specific ones yet, but I want to end up in those fields,” Wilson said.

Although Wilson is not a huge player at 5-feet-10 and 170 pounds, he said he thinks a lot of people think he’s mean because of the way he walks around campus.

“Before they meet me, most people probably think I’m mean,” Wilson said. “But once you get to know me, I’m pretty nice.”

APU Summer Sports Camps Build Community

This article was originally published on APU.edu.

Azusa Pacific University’s campus is quiet over the summer—for all of three weeks. Then, at the beginning of each June, hundreds of excited kids and talented high school athletes flood campus to participate in six summer sports camps—baseball, basketball, football, softball, soccer, and volleyball.

APU football head coach Victor Santa Cruz leads an annual camp where more than 375 high school athletes attend each sold out session. “We draw athletes from all around California, Colorado, Texas, and even Hawaii. Parents will put their kids on a plane to travel here because they don’t want to miss our camp,” he said. “We limit the camp size to ensure the best experience possible. We provide personal attention to each student athlete.”

Santa Cruz said he recruits many of these high-caliber players. “Camp gives us a good opportunity to find students with strong character, academic skills, and athleticism. We’re looking for visionary young people who want to do something bigger with their lives,” he said. “We share who we are spiritually and academically. These athletes are really hungry for that. We often hear, ‘You guys are different. How can I be a part of this place?’”

APU’s other sports camps focus on a younger crowd (grades K-8). Cougar baseball head coach Paul Svagdis has led a summer camp for 10 years. The program has grown from about 25 kids in 2009 to 100 children per session today. An average day at camp is jam packed, beginning at 8 a.m. with warm ups, throwing, and stretching. Campers then split into two groups to practice offense on the Cougar Baseball Field with stations, including base-running and hitting, and defensive fundamentals at the Dillon Recreational Complex. After an hour, the groups switch, then they take a lunch break before afternoon games. “We play games on different parts of the field. They always want to play in center field because they can hit home runs there,” Svagdis said. “While home runs are great, we reward kids for demonstrating good character and sportsmanship. That’s where the big bucket of candy comes in.”

A Glendora resident, Svagdis said he often sees kids across town wearing their Cougar baseball gear from summer camp. “I’ll be in a grocery store and a little guy will come up to me and say, ‘Hi Coach Paul, do you remember me?’ They’ll tell me how excited they are for camp next year and how they asked for a week of baseball camp for Christmas,” he said. “Their parents will even tell me how they did extra chores all year so they could attend a second week of camp.”

Svagdis said APU’s camp is truly special because of the student athlete volunteers. “APU students are first class,” he said. “Just a couple weeks ago, I had four players travel to a little league game to support one of the kids who came through our camp. That’s not uncommon with our players. We build relationships within the community and it opens up opportunities for people to connect with the university.”

APU women’s soccer head coach Brooke Lincoln seconded this. “It’s pretty special to see these kids interacting with my college players. It gives our players an opportunity to give back. It wasn’t that long ago that they were one of those little campers. Now, it’s come full circle for them,” she said. “Some of them want to coach in the future, so this is an opportunity for them to get their feet wet. For other players, it gives them a different perspective on the game, not just as a player, but as a teacher. They can be a bright light, an encouragement, an inspiration, and a role model for these children.”

Lincoln said the best part of summer camp came months after camp ended last year. “We had a lot of these kids come to our games,” she said. “We invest in them for a week or two, help them develop their skills, and they come out to support us at our home games. They’ll never know how much that means to us.”

To learn more about APU summer sports camps, click here.

Mario Minor Wants to Bring Success to MHS Football

This article was originally published in the Monrovia Weekly.

Mario Minor is not a typical cornerback.

The 6-foot-1 defensive back/wide receiver from Monrovia High School doesn’t like to boast about his speed or skills. He likes to let his play do the talking. “I feel like I’m a pretty humble person,” Minor said. “I just want to succeed but I don’t want to brag about it like that.”

Minor transferred from Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga last year. After playing his freshman and sophomore years at Etiwanda, he helped Monrovia to a strong season where they made it to the first round of the CIF-SS Division Nine tournament. Minor said the transition went well.

“I made a lot of good friends. Everybody here is really welcoming. Nobody acted weird or anything,” Minor said. “They welcomed me in with open arms and were willing to be my friend.”

Minor said he enjoyed the season last year. “It was good. We started off good, but I saw our offense grow a lot. We started to get the plays better and click more and run faster,” he said. “The whole season was a good memory.”

However, Minor said the season ended disappointingly. He wants the team to go deeper in the playoffs this year.

“We’ve got a really good team this year. I know it. Our coaches know it,” Minor said. “Our goal this year is to win a championship, win CIF. The way it’s looking right now, it’s within arm’s reach. That’s the main goal, going undefeated and getting a ring.”

Minor also has personal goals on the field. He wants to notch 10 receiving touchdowns, 1,000 yards receiving, and at least six interceptions. These numbers represent big jumps from last year, but he has been putting in the work in the offseason to make them attainable, practicing with quarterback Nick Hernandez.

“We practice a lot together,” Minor said. “I call him Aaron Rodgers. We have a good chemistry. He puts the football where its supposed to be.” 

For his own pro comparison, Minor said he was similar to Jalen Ramsey as a defensive back and Jarvis Landry as a receiver.

Although he hasn’t received any official offers from colleges yet, Minor has been in contact with a couple schools. He is confident he will play for a college team next year.

In college, Minor said he wants to study business because he aspires to open his own business one day. “If football doesn’t work out, if I don’t make it to the NFL, I want to start my own training business, a training facility,” he said. “I want to train kids for football.”

For now, Minor said he is excited for the season to begin. Monrovia’s first game is on Aug. 16 at Northview.

Nick Hernandez Looks To Lead MHS To CIF Championship

This article originally appeared in Monrovia Weekly.

Nick Hernandez had to wait three games last year before getting the chance to start as quarterback for Monrovia High School’s varsity football team, but once he started he never looked back. Hernandez took the team from a 0-3 record to 5-6 at the end of the year, losing in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 9 playoffs.

Along the way to the playoffs, Hernandez tossed for 24 touchdowns, 2,213 yards, and eight interceptions. He completed 68.1 percent of his passes with a 129.7 quarterback rating.

“After three weeks, they decided to give me a shot and it turned out pretty well,” Hernandez said. “That first touchdown pass on varsity is something I’ll never forget. It was special with the crowd and the band on Friday night under the lights.”

Hernandez, 17, looks to improve further this year and lead the team further in the playoffs.

“I think it’s everyone’s goal, but this year I think we can really win our division of CIF. We have great athletes,” he said. “This year feels like it’s going to be something special.”

To achieve this, Hernandez has worked on improving his speed and arm strength in the offseason. He aims to toss for more than 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns this season.

“I want to break records at Monrovia,” he said. “I just want to contribute to the team. I don’t want to let them down at all.”

Outside of football, Hernandez likes to play video games or other sports in his free time. He also plays shooting guard for Monrovia’s basketball team.

A Monrovia native, Hernandez said he wants to play football in college. Although he hasn’t received any official offers yet, he has been in communication with an NCAA Division One program and is hopeful he will get an offer there in the coming months. Hernandez plans on studying engineering in college.

For now, Hernandez is focused on getting ready for this season.

“I’m more of a competitor than people think. I want to win every game we play,” he said. “I’ll do anything for my team.”

Cougars Win Big In Program's 500th Game

This article originally appeared in ZU News.

 

Azusa Pacific beat rival Humboldt State 45-13 on Oct. 15 in the program’s 500th game, led by the efforts of junior quarterback Andrew Elffers and a three-headed rushing attack.

The Cougars jumped out to an early 7-6 lead, and didn’t let the Lumberjacks score again until the game was well into the fourth quarter.

Sophomore running back Kurt Scoby broke through a group of Humboldt defenders on the two-yard line to open up scoring with a 17-yard touchdown.

Humboldt countered with a score of their own on the next drive, when Humboldt quarterback Robert Webber hit wide receiver Richard Doctor for a 50-yard touchdown. APU blocked the point after touchdown and never lost the lead.

On the next APU drive, Scoby fumbled the ball and Humboldt recovered. The Lumberjacks appeared to have some momentum until they fumbled, and APU sophomore linebacker Aaron Berry recovered the ball and returned it 62-yards for a touchdown.

“I picked it up and I took it five yards and the ref didn’t say anything. I looked to the side and I saw a couple other [teammates] who I knew would block for me, and I took it to the house,” Berry said. “I just ran for dear life.”

Berry’s touchdown was a momentum changer as it appeared that Humboldt was on the verge of scoring again and taking the lead.

“Coach says that we all put a brick onto this wall that APU has built. Every player that has played here has added on to the wall. It’s just amazing that I was able to put another brick up on that wall,” Berry said.

The Cougars forced a three and out on Humboldt’s next drive. APU also punted on their next drive, but came up with a field goal on the following series.

On their last drive before the half ended, Elffers connected with senior wide receiver Ethan Zeidler for a 28-yard catch that would have set the Cougars up for first and goal if they hadn’t drawn an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The penalty was one of seven Cougar penalties during the game that cost the team 60 yards. The offense was able to make up for their mistake, and Elffers was able to overcome this and hit Scoby for a seven-yard touchdown.

“In football, you don’t want to let your emotions get too high or too low. Mistakes will happen, yet it is not about the mistakes but how you come back from them,” Elffers said.

The Cougars led at halftime 24-6. On the second-half kickoff, the Cougars went for an onside kick, which Humboldt recovered in APU territory. The Cougars were able to defend their decision by forcing a second three and out.

Neither team scored during their first three drives of the second half. APU had two turnovers during this span, which the Lumberjacks were unable to capitalize on. Humboldt went for a fourth down conversion but failed. APU took over on downs and junior running back Aaron Baltazar ran for a 40-yard touchdown on the first play of the drive. Junior running back Chris Solomon led the team in rushing on the night, racking up 68 yards on six carries.

“It’s great to see Baltazar get out there. It’s really exciting to see Chris Solomon be able to be in there also and get some carries,” head coach Victor Santa Cruz said.

The Cougars scored again twice before the end of the game on an 18-yard touchdown run by Elffers and a 10-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Chad Jeffries.

Humboldt managed to score once more, but the game was well out of reach with only three minutes remaining.

Speaking to the occasion of the 500th game, head coach Victor Santa Cruz believes it was an important moment for APU, for both current and former players, coaches and students.

“This 500th game marked a special opportunity in life to come out and display a lot of what this school represents,” Santa Cruz said. “It makes a statement about what this program has stood for, about what the alumni are a part of.”

Santa Cruz saw how special this game was, highlighted by hundreds of APU students wearing a commemorative 500th game shirt. He also noted the importance of big plays in a game such as this one.

“Big plays beget big plays. You can sense the frenzy on the sideline start to take over,” Santa Cruz said.

This game was especially important for APU to bounce back, as it followed the Cougars’ first loss of the season.

“Last week’s loss was a great lesson, a teachable moment, and our guys took the teaching,” Santa Cruz said. “Within themselves, they wanted to grow more and get after it.”

This was APU’s second time playing GNAC rival Humboldt State this season. They won the first meeting 38-27 on Sept. 10.

“In the GNAC, we have a very competitive league,” Elffers said. “It’s hard to beat a team twice, but that’s part of the joy of playing in this league. Our team accepts the challenge and we’ll battle any team that comes in front.”

Coach Bo Beatty has seen the success this year and through hundreds of the program’s previous games. Beatty is a linebacker coach that played for APU in 1992 and ’93 and has been coaching for the Cougars since 1995.

“This team to me this year is special because I’m watching first-teamers coach up second-teamers. Guys truly care about each other and enjoy their success,” Beatty said. “To me, when a guy cares more about his teammates than he does himself, that’s when I think you’re onto the right thing.”

After another dominant performance at Simon Fraser on Oct. 22, the Cougars defeated the Clan 57-0 and tied an NCAA Division II record with three pick-six plays on defense.

The Cougars moved up four spots over the past two weeks in the AFCA D-II Coaches Poll, jumping to 15th in NCAA Division II football.

The Cougars will play their next game against Central Washington at APU’s Homecoming game on Oct. 29. The game will have major implications as both teams are fighting to finish in first place of the GNAC. APU beat Central Washington 27-17 on Sept. 17, but since then, the Wildcats have been on a four game winning streak.

APU is currently 7-1 on the season and remains undefeated in GNAC Conference play.

Brothers On & Off The Gridiron

This article originally appeared in ZU News.

 

Josiah and Jonathan Thropay were raised in a different way than most people. Their father would often wake them up at 6:30 a.m. to run 2.5 miles followed by push-ups, sit-ups and singing lessons, all before school started.

Fast forward to today, and the Thropay brothers are both seniors at APU who lead the football team both on and off the field.

“They’re leaders on the team. Every player to them matters,” head coach Victor Santa Cruz said. “They hold guys accountable. They’re also trying to relate and communicate to all of the team.”

This is Jonathan’s fourth year playing for the Cougars. He is an outside linebacker who was named first team all-GNAC last year. As a junior in 2015, he led the team with 81 tackles, including seven for a loss and a sack.

Despite the big numbers, Santa Cruz is quick to point out that it’s the brothers’ behind-the-scenes work that really makes the difference.

“The thing that stands out is their love for the team and their love for the game,” Santa Cruz said. “It shows up in the off-season in how you practice, how you prepare. They go the distance when it comes to practice and watching film.”

Josiah transferred from Mt. San Antonio College his sophomore year. In 2015, he led the Cougars’ tight ends with 12 catches for 209 yards and two touchdowns.

“I’m here, number one, because of Jonathan and two, because of what was happening here at APU. It’s been one of the best decisions of my life,” Josiah said.

Although they’re both seniors on the team, Josiah is actually 11 months older than Jonathan. When Josiah transferred, it was the first time they had ever played together on the same team.

“He’s my brother, my best friend,” Josiah said. “I don’t view him at all as a teammate. We’re each other’s biggest fans. He gives me added motivation to be great. Aside from personal ambition and wanting to do good for the team, I want to be good for him, too.”

Both brothers are constantly watching each other. When one is on the sideline, the other is on the field playing.

“When he makes a play, does something good or something bad, it affects me way more than if someone else on the field was to mess up,” Jonathan said. “Or, if [Josiah] makes a big play, I’m more excited than if another teammate was to make a good play.”

The Thropay brothers have come a long way since they started playing football at APU. Jonathan remembers the days when he would be late to practice and even fall asleep at team meetings.

“There was a lot of immaturity I was dealing with,” Jonathan said. “They hold you to that much higher of a standard here than high school football. That’s where I’ve grown the most.”

Josiah has also grown with the help of his coaches at APU.

“For me, it’s been a mental growth,” he said. “The coaches have definitely challenged me and said things to make me go work on myself. I’m able to process and not get down on myself—[I’ve learned how] to conquer any situation.”

Although the coaches have helped the Thropay brothers throughout the last three years, there is one mentor that set the example for them long before they ended up at APU.

“The person I’ve looked up to most my whole life is my dad,” Jonathan said. 
“He’s the one who taught me my work ethic. He created that desire in us to be the best we could, be the strongest we could be.”

Their father, Reuben Thropay, was a walk-on for the UCLA football team in college, and worked hard to instill personal values and a love for sports in his sons.

“He put us in this thing called Care Youth League. That’s where we got introduced to football, basketball, baseball and soccer,” Josiah said. “Growing up, we fell in love with football.”

Reuben Thropay sang devotionals with his sons when they were young and ran with them before school started, four days a week.

“Everything I believe a man should embody, as far as characteristics, is what my dad is,” Josiah said. “He never let us quit something. He always said you’re gonna finish the season. It’s always played out for the better for us…He molded us into the people we are today.”

Josiah Thropay will graduate this year with a degree in accounting and plans to become a Certified Public Accountant.

Jonathan Thropay, a physics major, plans to get a job at his uncle’s business, a company that deals with medical physics. But before he does that, he plans to take a year to serve as a missionary in another country.

While it’s going to be hard losing the Thropay brothers, Santa Cruz is confident the team will continue to succeed.

“It’s always hard replacing players like that,” Santa Cruz said. “I think we will fare well because they are setting an example, a legacy that’s going to be passed on.”

Not only are the Thropays leaders on the team, but they also helped recruit the team’s starting runningback, Kurt Scoby.

“I’ve known the Thropays all my life. I went to church with them,” Scoby said. “I’m stoked that I transferred. They helped me out with this great decision.”

Scoby transferred from Fresno State University where he redshirted his freshmen year. Scoby led the team last year with 1,167 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. He was named first team all-GNAC in 2015 as a freshman.

“Jonathan told me that my mindset would be completely different than it used to be. I was starstruck,” Scoby said. “They’re great people. They love you and care about you, not just the football part of you. They always want the best for the person ahead of them, not just themselves.”

The Cougars are currently 5-0 this season for the first time since 2002, and for the fifth time in school program history. APU is currently ranked 10th in the AFCA Division II Top-25 coaches poll, which is a first in program history since entering NCAA Division II football. They will look to continue their success on the road on Oct. 8 against Colorado School of Mines.