Top 10 Boys’ Athletes of the Year: Scott proves great for St. Francis

Brilliant individual efforts, strong team finishes and plenty of success highlighted another year of honors and acclaim for the city of La Cañada Flintridge and its high schools. League titles were won, deep playoff runs were had and excellence was anything but rare.

Leading the way was the 2016-17 La Cañada Valley Sun Boys’ Athlete of the Year, Daniel Scott of St. Francis.

Here is the list of the La Cañada Valley Sun’s top-10 boys’ athletes in 2016-17.

1 Daniel Scott, St. Francis football/basketball: In terms of individual success, few area athletes could match the exploits of the Golden Knights’ two-way, two-sport player.

Scott committed to UC Berkeley after a season in which he was named the All-Area Football Player of the Year, the Angelus League Most Valuable Defensive Player of the Year, team co-MVP and an All-CIF Southern Section Division III first-team choice.

That acclaim was built upon a season in which the defensive back impressively totaled 70 tackles, tied for second-best on the team with Will Mudie. Scott picked off five of his team’s 10 total interceptions, while he added four tackles for a loss and five pass break-ups.

Scott saw time on offense as well and led the squad with team-highs in catches (41), yards (688) and receiving touchdowns (10). For good measure, the graduated senior added one score on a punt return and another via a carry.

The Golden Knights’ standout was a linchpin for a squad that opened the season with eight straight victories, finished 9-2 and took second in the Angelus League.

“There was no moment too big for him,” St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds said. “And he wanted the ball in the big game with the money on the line. He wanted the ball.”

Though St. Francis was upset in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs, 38-37, at Palos Verdes on Nov. 11, it wasn’t because of a lack of effort from Scott.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound athlete corralled a game-high eight receptions for 105 yards and one touchdown. Scott also added 10 tackles, one for a loss, and an interception in what was his swansong.

“I just try to take on the role of being the clutch guy,” Scott said. “I want to have the ball in my hands when the game is on the line.”

In basketball, Scott primarily came off the bench and was a strong defensive player. The guard averaged 2.8 points and two rebounds per game for the Golden Knights. St. Francis finished with a 14-13 record and advanced to the playoffs.

2 Sean Estes, La Cañada basketball: Following the departure of several key players to graduation, Estes stepped in and proved to be a main pillar for the Spartans.

The 6-foot-7 senior forward helped La Cañada win its 25th Rio Hondo League championship since the start of the 1986-87 season. La Cañada finished 26-5, 10-0 in league and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division I-A quarterfinals.

Estes averaged a team-leading 20 points and six rebounds per game, en route to being named the league’s co-most valuable player and picking up All-CIF first-team recognition. Fourth-seeded La Cañada reached the quarterfinals for the fourth straight season.

“He’s fun to coach and that’s got a lot to do because of his work ethic,” La Cañada coach Tom Hofman said. “When Sean gets hot, he can carry the team for long stretches. He’s not intimidated, either.

“He worked hard at becoming a much better inside defender. He could block or alter shots well. He became a strong interior defender. He also brought a scoring presence, especially making the long shots.”

Estes contributed 19.5 points and six rebounds in two playoff games.

3 Matthew Sox, La Cañada baseball: Team ace pitched in several big innings and games for the Spartans, who enjoyed a renaissance in 2017.

The University of Whitman College-bound hurler posted a 6-1 record with a 1.57 earned-run average in nine starts and 49 innings. Sox fanned 49 batters versus allowing 17 walks.

When he wasn’t on the mound, Sox played in the infield and was a strong defender. At the dish, Sox was a strong hitter and batted .356 with 17 runs batted in, 13 runs and 12 stolen bases.

For those efforts, Sox was named the Rio Hondo League Most Valuable Player, an All-CIF Southern Section Division V and All-Area First Team pick.

This past season, the Spartans posted a 13-game winning streak en route to finishing 23-6 and unbeaten in the Rio Hondo League at 12-0, which clinched the program a share of its first championship since 2013.

La Cañada went further than any other area team in advancing to the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs.

4 David Vardanian, La Cañada football/wrestling: Despite battling injuries his entire season, the senior was a sensation in two sports.

Vardanian earned an All-Rio Hondo League and All-Area first-team selection for football in a season in which he played on the offensive and defensive lines and also rushed the ball as a bruising fullback.

On defense, Vardanian tallied 101 tackles, including a whooping 19 1/2 for a loss, with 7 1/2 sacks and one interception in nine games.

When on offense, the punishing back carried for 245 yards and six touchdowns.

As for the Spartans, Vardanian helped lead the team to its best league finish since 2010 as La Cañada ended the year tied for second with a 6-4 record and 3-2 mark in league. Perhaps the team’s signature victory took place in the finale when the Spartans upset reigning league champion San Marino, 28-13.

In wrestling, it was a magical year for La Cañada, which finished 4-0 in league and captured its first league championship in five years.

Vardanian injured himself before the Rio Hondo League individual wrestling finals, advanced to the championship bout of the heavyweight division but bowed out due to an injury default.

Vardanian advanced to the CIF-SS Inland Division Championshipx and posted a 3-2 record. For the playoffs, Vardanian was 4-3.

5 Evan Pattinelli, Flintridge Prep cross-country/track and field: Look at the small-school rankings and Pattinelli’s name was certain to be near the top.

During the cross-country season, Pattinelli won the Prep League Championship (15:42.1) at Pierce College on Oct. 29, while leading the Rebels to their 24th team title over the past 25 years.

Pattinelli followed up that effort by becoming his school’s fourth straight CIF Southern Section Division V individual champion when he captured the crown in 15:10.8 at the Riverside City Cross-Country Course on Nov. 16.

Pattinelli then finished off his season by taking second at the state Division V championships in 15:39.3, while the youngster guided Flintridge Prep to second as a team. He was an All-Area selection at season’s end.

As for track and field, Pattinelli continued his roll by winning the Prep League 3,200 (9:52.37) and taking second in league in the 1,600 (4:36.20).

Pattinelli capped the season by winning the CIF Southern Section Division IV Championship in the 3,200 (9:43.79) at Cerritos College on May 20.

6 Danny Syrkin, La Cañada swimming: Maybe no one had a better breakout season than did the freshman, who did play a big role in the Spartans’ success.

Syrkin was a member of the Spartans’ Rio Hondo League 200-yard medley relay team, which won in 1 minute, 35.27 seconds. Individually, Syrkin won the 200 freestyle championship in 1:42.87, while he took second to South Pasadena’s Jacob Mullen (eventual Division II champion) in the 100 butterfly (49.38).

At the CIF Southern Section Division II championship, Syrkin finished third in the 100 butterfly in a school-record mark of 48.76.

Syrkin and his teammates initially won the Division II title in the 200 medley relay but had the title stripped because of a controversial disqualification.

As a squad, La Cañada finished second in the Rio Hondo League.

7 Kendall Kikkawa, Flintridge Prep football/basketball/baseball: There wasn’t much time off for the Rebels senior, who played in the fall, winter and spring.

Kikkawa was part of a resurgence in football as the squad took up the eight-man variety.

Kikkawa totaled 14 rushing touchdowns and eight receiving en route to the running back being named to the All-Area second team and All-CIF eight-man Division I squads.

Flintridge Prep finished 7-4 and advanced to the Division I semifinals.

On the court, Kikkawa averaged 9.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists per contest for Flintridge Prep in being named to the All-Prep League first team. The Rebels finished 12-9, took second place in league and they advanced to the second round of the Divsion IV-AA playoffs.

Kikkawa concluded his prep career in baseball and was named to the All-Prep League first team and All-Area second team after batting .364 with 23 runs, 21 runs batted in and seven doubles.

Flintridge Prep finished 14-8-1 and 7-5 in league to finish in third behind archrival Pasadena Poly and Rio Hondo Prep.

8 Ryan Graves, Baseball/Basketball: Graves enjoyed a breakout season in baseball, while he continued to be a force for stability in basketball.

In baseball, Graves earned Rio Hondo League Most Valuable Pitcher honors and was selected to the All-Area First Team.

In 11 appearances and eight starts, Graves tallied a 7-1 mark and a 1.17 ERA with two shutouts. Graves struck out 27 batters and walked seven, while allowing 12 runs (nine earned). At the plate, Graves batted .344 with 11 hits in 32 at-bats.

La Cañada won 13 more games in 2017 than it did in 2016 in finishing with a 23-6 record and 12-0 mark in league that included the team’s first league title since 2013 and first advancement to the quarterfinals since 1989.

In basketball, Graves was a league second-team selection at forward after averaging nine points and four rebounds per game.

The Spartans posted a 26-5 record and like the baseball team, went undefeated in league (10-0) while advancing to the quarterfinals of the Division I-A playoffs.

9 Michael Bonds, St. Francis football: In his lone season with St. Francis, Bonds delivered often for the Golden Knights. The quarterback grabbed control of St. Francis’ talented offense and helped St. Francis finish 9-2, 4-1 in the Angelus League for second place. St. Francis appeared in the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs, garnering a No. 4 seed.

Bonds was selected the league co-most valuable offensive player and was named the team most valuable player before being selected to the All-Area first team.

Bonds threw 25 touchdown passes and just four interceptions in 11 games.

He threw for 2,201 yards and completed 63 % of his pass attempts. Bonds showed he could handle all capacities of the signal-calling responsibilities, rushing for 228 yards in 64 carries and four touchdowns.

10 Matthew Molina, St. Francis basketball/track and field: It was a spring of unparalleled heights for the sophomore, who competed in track and field after playing basketball.

On the track, Molina captured the Tri-County Invitational in the high jump on March 11 in a personal-best mark of 6 feet, 7 inches.

While Molina also competed in the 110-meter hurdles, 1,600-meter relay and triple jump for the Golden Knights, he became best known in the high jump.

Molina finished second in the competition at the Mission League finals in 6-1 on May 5, before earning the silver at the CIF Southern Section Division III championship at Cerritos College in 6-6.

Molina was one of three area competitors to advance to the CIF-SS Masters Meet and finished his season there.

In basketball, Molina averaged three points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.

Honorable Mention: Sam Adida, La Cañada soccer; Ian Freer, St. Francis tennis; Jack Freer, St. Francis tennis; Reed Fundtner, La Cañada water polo; Warren Hossenion, Flintridge Prep football/track and field; Andrew Ricci, La Cañada golf.

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