November 03, 2022
By Amanda Scurlock
The Maywood CES Wolfpack vs Marquez Gladiators football game marked the first time in CIF City Section history that the officiant squad was made of women.
The officiant squad included Crystal Nichols, LaQuica Hawkins, Connie Wells, Kim Bly, and Zina Jones. Prior to the game, they received commendations from Huntington Park mayor Eduardo Martinez. The all-female officiant team was also created in honor of Breast Cancer awareness month.
Hawkins was overwhelmed and humbled by being chosen to officiate in the historic game.
“It gives me chills, it’s just such a special opportunity, that’s something that one of my mentors has been putting together for years,” Hawkins said.
“I’m so happy and honored to that post-COVID we can finally put it together and do something so special here at Marquez.”
Wells has been a football official for 13 years along with refereeing basketball for 23 years and volleyball for 15 years. She noted the importance of being proactive when it comes to health.
“We want to encourage women to self-check monthly,” Wells said. “If we catch [cancer] in time, you can be cured.”
Nichols has worked with all-female crews when she worked as an official in Sweden, Finland, and Germany for the NFL.
This was the first time she worked with a crew of all Black females.
“I have three high school championships but all my international medals were all with women but they were with women who didn’t speak my language, I didn’t speak their language but our heart was on the football field,” Nichols said.
“To officiate with girls that I’ve done basketball with and football with and help recruit, it’s fun, it’s a Blessing.”
Being an officiant helped Bly with her communication and leadership skills along with improving her confidence. For aspiring officials, she recommends going to check in with their local units to see the requirements needed to become one.
“We can use this platform to inspire young girls, not just of African American origin, but all girls to pursue their goals, go out and do what you want to do,” Bly said. “You have to believe that you can, even if it doesn’t come when you think it should.”
Officiating a game that honored breast cancer awareness hit home for Jones as her sister survived two bouts with the disease.
“For me to have that incentive to press other people to become more aware, get tested,” Jones said.
“I think that everybody needs to be tested and know their bodies.”
Veteran football official Keith Scooter Goldsmith was inspired to have an all-female officiating crew at Marquez when he worked a game there in 2012.
“Each woman that’s on that field is there for a reason,” Scooter Goldsmith said.
“They officiate a lot of different sports.”
Marquez defeated Maywood CES 61-20, Gladiators senior Jonathan Aguirre scored three rushing touchdowns in the matchup.
“It’s good to be a part of history,” Aguirre said. “The mayor was out here, everyone was out here, it was a great atmosphere.”
October 06, 2022
By Amanda Scurlock
Longtime high school football coach, Jason Miller is now the head coach of the Bellflower High School football team. Miller has led the Bellflower Buccaneers to a 6-1 overall record during this season.
Miller also has his brother Keith on the coaching staff at Bellflower. Along with being coaches, they were hired to be full-time teachers at the high school.
“It’s stuff that means a lot to us: helping kids get better at everything,” Miller said. “Parents want to see their kids grow up, they want to see them make a commitment.”
The Miller brothers want to build the best public school football team in the state and help youth gain life skills. Keith teaches physical education to Bellflower middle and high school students. Miller teaches emotionally disturbed special education.
Their goal is to not only coach the youth that attend Bellflower, but to coach their own children and other family members. Miller noted how he and Keith “work better together.”
“I’ve always tried to bring Keith along with me or be able to coach together, just kind of as an older brother,” Miller said. “But it was very tough being that it’s usually just one on-campus job available. With Bellflower, it gave the opportunity for us both to work on campus.”
Both Miller brothers have a penchant for turning football programs around for the better. Keith helped revitalize the football program at Compton High School.
“Within a year, not only did we turnaround the football program, but the school was turned around,” Keith said.
"If you have a good football season, you’re going to have a good school year and the administration becomes supportive.”
Before coaching at Bellflower, Miller coached at the academically prestigious Gunn High School in Palo Alto.
“They had a reputation of suicide clusters and being only in academics,” Miller said. “Not just winning, but affecting the football team’s culture. We were known for letting that spill over to Gunn High School.”
During his time at Gunn, Miller also taught a social justice class. The students began working to help their classmates and others in need.
“We took the regular classes and looked at them through a social justice perspective,” Miller said. “I volunteered into a whole movement.”
The students petitioned the principal for feminine products to be offered in restrooms, they also hosted voter registration drives and a rally in support of Ukraine. The football team attended Black Lives Matter rallies and wore “Stop Asian Hate” stickers on their helmets.
As Miller prepared to move from the Bay Area to Southern California, Keith ran practices with the team over the summer. A video of his opening remarks to the Buccaneers went viral.
“I gave an impassioned speech about how we were going to do things, how we were going to move forward, how we were going to win,” Keith said. “ Within a week, maybe two weeks, I was approached by the principal … and he said “I don’t know what you did, but the whole school was talking about the football team,””
Miller knew that he wanted to coach at a young age, as his father and grandfather were coaches. His first student and player under his tutelage was Keith.
“I was always interested in politics and history and I’d be trying to teach [Keith] about American government,” Miller said. “I got my first head coaching opportunity, I might have been in ninth grade. It was Boulevard basketball three-on-three basketball tournament and I coached Keith’s friends.”
October 06, 2022
By Amanda Scurlock
Centennial High School recent graduate Andrew Munns played for the Apaches baseball team during his senior year. Munns played baseball at an early age, but spent some time away from competing in the sport.
“I’ve been playing since I was eight or nine, then I stopped playing,” Munns said. "Then my coaches … got me to play out here again.”
Munn’s father got him into baseball in his youth. However, his father wished he had prepared him for another sport after Munns endured a growth spurt that put him over six feet tall.
“My dad he said he didn’t know I was gonna be this tall, he would say he would have put me in basketball,” Munns said. “He put me in baseball, and I just started liking baseball a lot.”
During his time playing baseball, a piece of advice that he found to be valuable was to keep his head in the game.
“When my teammates mess up, I show it, like I get mad, I start walking off. That’s what I need to work on too,” Munns said. “I don’t care when I get mad. So I just need to sit down … stay calm and just work on teamwork.”
Right before games, Munns would make himself angry to rev up his competitive spirit.
“I be thinking I’m gonna lose … I’m not gonna hit or nothing,” he said. “I think of something to get mad and then come out here and play hard.”
To balance being a student athlete, he focuses on his schoolwork during school hours and concentrates on baseball after school.
“I go to class and stuff, do my work and when it’s time to go, I keep it separate,” Munns said. “When it’s time to go play baseball, I gotta play. When it’s school, I stick to school … I do be tired though.”
Munns’ favorite class is Ingenuity; he assists the teacher with tasks around the classroom.
“I already did all my work in Ingenuity, so I am a helper,” he said. “When she asks me to go get papers from the office, I go get it.”
Last April, Munns competed with the Apaches in the Jackie Robinson Classic that was held at Gonzales park in Compton. The Classic was meant to commemorate the iconic Dodgers legend who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Centennial lost to King/Drew 6-2 in the Classic.
“I’m excited to be out here, I’m happy to be with my friends,” Munns said. “Even if we lost, I’m still happy that we’re here.”
September 29, 2022
By Greg Beacham
Several months after the basketball world collectively assumed Russell Westbrook and the Los Angeles Lakers were definitely headed for a breakup, the guard reported to training camp on September 26, wearing the same gold jersey.
Westbrook’s return to the Lakers is among the biggest surprises to come out of an eventful NBA summer — and nobody knows for certain how long it will last given the trade rumors still swirling around the 2017 MVP.
But Westbrook and his fellow Lakers — even Patrick Beverley, his former nemesis — are determined to make it work after it decidedly did not during his first season back home in LA.
“Whether they want me here or not doesn’t really matter, honestly,” Westbrook said. “My job is to be a professional. Show up to work like I’ve always done thus far. Do my job to the best that I know how to, and that’s it.
We all have jobs that sometimes people at our jobs don’t like us and don’t want us there, as you (reporters) could probably attest.”
LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Westbrook are back to try it again after they managed to play in only 21 games together last season. Injuries to James and Davis were the primary factors in the Lakers’ dismal 33-49 campaign, but Westbrook’s inability to mesh with his new teammates and coach Frank Vogel’s concepts was another harbinger of disappointment.
Westbrook’s 18.5 points per game were his fewest since his second NBA season 12 years earlier, and his 7.1 assists were well off his best seasons. While his field goal percentage was decent on paper, Lakers fans became infuriated by his struggles with mid-range shots or from distance as he made only 7.0 field goals per game — again his worst performance in 12 years.
General manager Rob Pelinka didn’t deny he has explored ways to move Westbrook and his massive salary. He also praised the high-scoring guard for his offseason work and his growing bond with Darvin Ham, who got his first head coaching job in part because of his determination to get Westbrook into roles he can play.
“He’s all-in to do whatever it takes for this team to win, in whatever role that means,” Pelinka said of Westbrook. “I think coach Ham is going to bring another level out of him that we didn’t see last season.”
Ham reiterated his strong support of Westbrook and praised the guard’s offseason commitment to teamwork and improvement. He also praised the relationship between Westbrook and Beverley, whose public sparring over the past several seasons left some NBA observers thinking they couldn’t possibly be teammates with the Lakers.
That’s all nonsense, according to Beverley, the pugnacious veteran guard who joined the Lakers in a trade last month.
“If I had to pick a best friend out of the team, and you usually have those, it would be him,” Beverley said. “Obviously, you guys think that we have the worst relationship in the world, and at times on the court, just like in a profession, I know a lot of you guys don’t like each other, either. You guys aren’t the best co-workers, so it’s that same vibe. But when you get two people who love winning, two alpha males, and you put them together it usually works. I’m super-excited to see how it goes.
“In order to get to where we’re going, (the Lakers) have to become great friends, so I’m super-excited about that.”
JAMES STAYING PUT
While Westbrook’s future remains somewhat uncertain, James is back for his 20th season with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career scoring record in sight this winter. The superstar also agreed to a two-year, $97.1 million contract extension through the 2024-25 season, and James said he’s “committed to the franchise for as long as my career, as long as my contract is.”
Davis is also back at full health after a round of injuries that have forced him to miss more games than he has played in the past two seasons. While Davis’ absences are the single biggest reason for the Lakers’ mediocrity during that span, he is encouraged by the offseason roster makeover that provided LA’s Big Three with a fresh supporting cast.
“It’s totally different from last year,” Davis said. “We had a lot of vets, and this year we’ve got guys we kind of need to speed up and help out. I’m excited for these young guys to learn, and they’re going to bring the energy out of us. Last year, we were a little slower. These guys are going to be running, and it’s going to push us to play at their speed.”
Ham’s Lakers will ramp up slowly to full capacity in training camp: German guard Dennis Schröder could miss the first week while sorting out normal visa issues, while new signees Troy Brown Jr. (back) and Lonnie Walker IV (ankle) will be limited early in workouts. Point guard Kendrick Nunn, who missed all of last season with a bone bruise, is fully healthy.