Eagles talon-grip playoff berth with 46-10 win over Cantwell-Sacred Heart High School

Running back Jacob LaRue benefits from a strong screen as he gains yardage during the decisive 46-10 Verbum Dei win against Cantwell-Sacred Heart High School in Montebello, Friday, October 25.  Image by Marcel Viens, Verbum Dei High School

By John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei 

Reversing a long history of defeat at the hands of the Cantwell-Sacred Heart High School Cardinals, the Verbum Dei Eagles varsity squad flew over their Del Rey League
opponent with a score of 46-10, Friday, October 25.  The sometimes contentious homecoming game at CSHHS was thrilling to watch, and it showcased the gritty determination and winning resolve that has become the hallmark of Verb football.

Reciting St. Ignatius’ Prayer for Generosity, the Eagles took the field marching in ranks
from under their goalpost – territory that was to be largely untrodden by Cardinal cleats during the game.  The night’s Eagle offensive juggernaut began with Tyler Frey’s 37-yard kickoff return and continued with a series of running plays resulting in several first downs.  Jacob LaRue and Christian Pimental carried the ball down the field in lurches and sprints; Pimental, who would ultimately garner the MVP for the game, emerged from a Cardinal dogpile with a three-yard gain resulting in a critical first down. Davir Hamilton – once while carrying one half of the Cardinal squad along with him – joined LaRue in moving the ball deeper into Cantwell territory.  Ultimately, Pimental would get the honor of scoring the first touchdown of the game.  With four minutes remaining in the quarter, LaRue carried a successful conversion to bring the lights to 8-0.

David Castillo brought down his Cardinal opponent on the kick return, and a Cantwell
drive downfield was aided by a personal foul penalty against the Eagles.  Verb’s defenders took a strong stance deep in their own territory.  The defensive pressure was so great that the Cardinals threw an incomplete pass to a wide-open receiver; however, the Cantwell field position allowed a successful field goal from the Verb 13-yard line.  With little time remaining in the first quarter and the scoreboard reading 8-3, Tyler Frey sprinted 63-yards on the kick return.  A LaRue carry brought the ball to Cantwell’s 30-yard line to end the quarter.

The second quarter continued with Hamilton carries to a short run goal position, and again, Pimental was given the honor of scoring from the Cantwell two-yard line.  Hamilton’s successful conversion at the corner of the end zone brought the score to 16-3. The Cantwell kick return ended abruptly at its 26-yard line with a spectacular tackle by sophomore Omar Soto.  The Cardinals then took to the air with a series of incomplete passing plays.  A Nigel Beckles tackle helped to interrupt the Cardinal’s flight path, and the subsequent turnover on downs presented another scoring drive opportunity to the Eagles.

Hamilton carried the ball 60-yards, deep into Cantwell real estate.  Beckles ran an additional 10-yards, and LaRue carried for another Eagle touchdown. Another successful conversion by LaRue brought the score to 24-3.

Edwin Suro’s kickoff for the Eagles went deep.  The Cardinals slogged out to mid-field with a series of short gains.  A pass completion and a personal foul call against Verbum Dei moved the line of scrimmage into Eagle territory.  With five minutes remaining in the half, tackles by Jabril Frazier and Gregory Woods and a force out of bounds by Castillo held the Cardinals and slowed their advance toward the Eagle’s end zone.  An incomplete Cardinal pass and another Frazier tackle brought a fourth down.

Cantwell decided to run rather than punt, and a highly disputed force out of bounds call allowed the Cardinals a first down within scoring range.  Cantwell’s scoring drive and subsequent field goal were successful, yet the “Home – 10” digital readout on the scoreboard would be unchanging for the duration of the game.

A short 15-yard kickoff return by Frey, a series of dogged carries by Hamilton and
LaRue, and an off sides penalty necessitated an Eagle punt.  Returning to familiar mid-field territory, the Cardinals tried a series of frantic pass attempts, which ultimately led to an interception by Zachary Burge.  The final Verb possession of the half resulted in a touchdown by Hamilton and a successful conversion by LaRue.  The score at the half was 32-10.

The second half began with a litany of tackles: Pimental on the kick return at mid-field
and Beckles and Woods on running plays.  Cantwell, again roaming familiar turf, allowed a turnover on downs at the Verb 34-yard line.  The following scoring drive featured carries by LaRue and Hamilton; a Verb touchdown and follow-up conversion by LaRue brought the score to 40-10.

As Cantwell attempted to regroup, strong Eagle defensive play kept the red birds on the ground.  A Chase Moore tackle on the return, followed up by shared and individual tackles by Pimental, Burge, and Castillo kept the defense busy.  Frazier swatted down a high pass, forcing Cantwell to punt.  LaRue gained 65-yards on one carry and punched through the Cardinal offensive line to score.  A failed conversion attempt left the score at 46-10.

Again mid-field and in disarray, Cantwell struggled. Frazier and Woods had back-to-back sacks before the clock began to run for the duration.  Hamilton carries – one long, one short – eventually led to a turnover on downs.  The Cardinal possession began at mid-field, but personal foul penalties against both teams kept the action confined between the 40s.  As the clock readout diminished, Cantwell was unable to consistently complete passes and remained bogged down mid-field.  Ricardo Fragoso added his name to the game’s defensive stats with a late game sack.  A Moore interception sealed the score at 46-10 with 44-seconds on the running clock.

The decisive, vindicating win earns the Eagles a CIF Southern Section playoff spot against a favorable first round opponent. With the win, the Eagles bring their Del Rey League record to 4-1 and 6-3 on the season.  One final league game remains in the regular season. The Eagles will take on Bishop Montgomery of Torrance, Friday, November 8 at 7:00 P.M. on their home field at LA Southwest College.  Halftime festivities will recognize and honor athletes from the Class of 2014, whose exploits and spirit on the gridiron have contributed to a record season.

Upstretched arms by stripe-sporting officials were a common sight during the VDHS Eagles 46-10 season wind-down game against CSHHS in Montebello.  Image by Marcel Viens, Verbum Dei High School


VDHS varsity Eagles dehorn Vikings 48-12 in dramatic SBHS homecoming spoiler

By John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei

Solidifying its reputation as the team that a reasonable school should not invite to its homecoming, the Verbum Dei Eagles trounced the St. Bernard Vikings, their Del Rey League rival, Friday evening.  The 48-12 victory was a dramatic reversal from the teams’ last meeting two years ago, when the Vikings tethered the Eagles 63-26.

As a full moon rose over the main school building behind the stadium, junior Tyler Frey started the game in grand fashion with a 70-yard kickoff return.  That auspicious start was tempered by a Verb fumble, which gave the Vikings possession at their own five-yard line.  Bernard pushed back with a 26-yard completion, but mirrored their opponent with a turnover fumble.  The Eagles mid-field drive began with a 30-yard run by freshman Davir Hamilton, continued with two quarterback keepers, and culminated with touchdown by Jacob LaRue, whose deft running has been impressive all season.  A razzle-dazzle play featuring a quick series of hand-offs – quarterback Evan Rambo to LaRue to Hamilton – resulted in a successful conversion to put Verb in lights on the scoreboard 8-0.

With 5:11 remaining in the quarter, the Vikings kick return brought the ball mid-field.  Jabril Frazier and Nigel Beckles created what Coach Miller deemed a “Verb sandwich” in sacking the Bernard quarterback for a 12-yard loss. After the turnover on downs, Hamilton continued to amass yardage with an impressive 83-yard touchdown run.  Another successful conversion brought the score to 16-0.

Junior Chase Moore dashed the Viking’s hopes of getting some illumination on their own scoreboard with a dramatic interception in the final moments of the first quarter, yet the Vikings had a brief reprieve with another Verb fumble.  An Eagle possession and a series of running plays by Christian Pimental, Hamilton, and Rambo ended the quarter.

On a sloppy field that seemed more a peat bog in places than a gridiron, the second quarter began decisively with a 42-yard pass from Hamilton to receiver Frey, who sprinted to the end zone.  Hamilton, the newly placed aerial component of Verb’s formerly non-existent passing game, has made his diverse skills known since his first start last week.  The successful conversion punched through by LaRue brought the score to 24-0.

After the kick return, the Vikings gored their way onto the scoreboard with a 61-yard run followed by a quarterback keeper touchdown.  An unsuccessful conversion brought the score to 24-6.  The Eagle possession that followed the kick return was marred by a holding penalty, but ended well with a 53-yard touchdown run and subsequent conversion by LaRue.  Verb shored its lead to 32-6.

In the final minutes of the half, the Eagles were both glorious and inglorious: inglorious in a face mask penalty and glorious in an impressive tackle by Zachary Burge and in a gritty defensive stand on their own 6-yard line that resulted in a Bernard turnover on downs.  A scoring drive fueled by dogged runs by LaRue and Hamilton brought the Eagles to the Vikings one-yard line.  Hamilton punched through for both a touchdown and a successful conversion, bringing the score to 40-6 as the half loomed near.  The Vikings attempted to regroup after their kick return, but tackles by Burge and Frazier brought the half to a close.

The third quarter passed with no change of the lights on the scoreboard as both teams slogged it out in the muddy mid-field.  Fine defensive play by the Verb squad kept the Vikings in check including a sack by sophomore Omar Soto for a Bernard 8-yard loss.

An Eagle possession began the final quarter.  Pimental ran for 48-yards – his longest run of the season – followed by an 8-yard carry by LaRue.  Freshman Steven Anderson had the honors of running the remaining three yards for a touchdown and successful conversion.  With jumbo jets intermittently roaring from the runway of adjacent Los Angeles International Airport, the score was 48-6.

A Kirk Smith tackle on the Viking return left the Bernard squad in familiar mid-field territory, but shortly thereafter a successful 37-yard pass completion brought the Norsemen to the Verb seven yard line with three minutes remaining on the clock.  Verb’s defensive squad put up a strong goal line stand, but the Vikings punched through for their second and final touchdown with one minute remaining.  A failed conversion attempt ended the game with the score 48-12.

With the win, the Eagles bring their Del Rey League record to 3-1 and 5-3 on the season.  The squad will face Cantwell-Sacred Heart High School, Friday, October 25 at 7:00 P.M. at C-SHHS in Montebello as the regular season draws toward its close. 

LAPD officers teach Brazilian Jui Juitsu at Verb

Verbum Dei students watch a demonstration of a Brazilian Jui Juitsu technique by their instructor.  Photograph by John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei

By Bryan Moriera, Staff Writer

“Tap! Tap! Tap!” is a constant sound heard in the MPR after dismissal on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Since September 25, Los Angeles Police Department officer Pete Zarcone and a few of his fellow officers have come to the Verb to teach a class on Brazilian Jui Juitsu, a type of fighting done on the ground. Some of the techniques learned thus far include submissions such as the “Kimura,” “Triangle Choke,” and the “Arm bar” and sweeps and tosses such as the “Sit-up Sweep” and “Hip-Toss.”

In a confrontation, fighting may begin in a standing position; however, it can move to the ground. At one point during the first few classes, Officer Zarcone said that “…people may often panic in a fight if it goes to the ground.” Consequently, Jui Juitsu offers students an effective form of self defense. Officer Zarcone was asked about his hopes and goals in offering Jui Juitsu classes at Verb. “My goal is to get as many students interested and giving them a good and healthy physical activity to which they may grow a passion for as I did when I first started,” he replied after a moment of pondering.

To this point, the classes are still being held weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays. ”Everyone present has shown a good attitude and willingness to learn,” Zarcone said. Twice a week, groups of students on campus show up, are ready to learn new techniques, and are evidence to what Officer Zarcone observed. José Gasca, one of the assistants, commented, “Everyone is doing a good job and show open mindedness at a young age which is a very good thing.”

Students practice wearing gi, martial arts clothing similar to that worn by karate enthusiasts; the clothing is provided and is kept by the students until they stop attending classes. The students and teachers practice barefoot on mats set up in the MPR before practice and put away after the session has ended.

Zarcone plans to offer the classes at Verb ”as long as students are interested.” So as long as any students are interested in learning and make an effort to come out, the classes will continue to be held twice weekly.  Anyone interested is encouraged to come join the free classes.  The officers are encouraged to see students come out and show a willingness to learn.

Verb seniors Jorge Contreras (left) and Raul Erazo (center) practice martial arts techniques following instruction in Brazilian Jui Juitsu.  Photograph by John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei.

Verb baseball encounters sunny skies, rough waters in Avalon, Catalina double-header

Coach Ed White counsels and encourages the baseball team between games at the March 3 double-header in Avalon on Catalina Island.  The Avalon High School Lancers defeated the Eagles in this back-to-back pre-season matchup. 

Photographs and story by John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei

The Avalon High School Lancers defeated the Verbum Dei High School baseball team twice in the March 3 doubleheader on Catalina Island.  The final scores of the preseason games, considered a practice exercise by the Verb coaching staff, were 9-22 and 6-12 respectively.

“This is like our spring training,” said Coach Ed White.  “We need this practice.”  The need for a honing of fundamental skills was evident in double digit errors by the Verb squad in each of the two games.  The team is reestablishing itself with some seasoned veterans and several new players, said White.  “We were a little tentative at the plate,” said White on the return boat from Catalina Island, where decades earlier, the Chicago Cubs held their own spring training.  “For many, it was their first game.”

The opening game started well for the Eagles with three runs scored in their first at-bat.  However, after finishing the first scoreless, the Lancers began chipping away at that early lead in the ensuing two innings; the score at the bottom of the third inning remained with Verb on top 7-2.

“The fourth inning – we gave them seven outs,” said White, when asked about the turning point of the game.  Three critical infield errors and one fielding error began to turn the blue Pacific tide to Avalon’s favor.  The inning ended with the Lancers scoring nine, bringing their lead to 11-7.  Standout defensive play by junior Christopher Gomez and sophomore Noe Vera did little to stem the tide, as Avalon added three to the scoreboard in the fifth, four in the sixth, and another four in the final seventh inning. Held scoreless through the middle of the game, the Eagles managed to add two runs.   The batting prowess of senior Victor Perez was evident on the scoreboard.

The Eagle squad took the field in the second game as home team, while Avalon began to exploit their knowledge of their intimate home field with a strong offensive display at the plate.  The first inning ended 0-5.  Verb rebounded defensively in the second inning, holding the Lancers scoreless, but the third and fourth innings proved devastating.  While White observed that the second go-round was a “more winnable game” than the first, he admitted, “The fourth inning got us again.”  The fourth ended 0-10.

A late inning rally of sorts put Verb on the scoreboard with five runs scored in the bottom of the fifth.  The rally was comprised of two hits, three bases on balls, and one hit batter.  Verb batters were hit by pitched balls more frequently than normal, commented White.  Eight Eagle batters were hit by pitched balls in the back-to-back games.  As a pair of deer began foraging on the ridge above the ballpark during the final innings, the Eagles added one to the scoreboard and Avalon added two.

Clean-up batter senior Christian Depraect begins his sprint toward first base after connecting with the ball in Game One of the March 3 double-header.  The game began well for the Eagles with an early lead that lasted until the third inning. 

SBHS Vikings tether Eagles in 63-26 victory

By John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei

In a match-up marked by plodding resolve, egregious turnovers, and heated exchanges, the St. Bernard High School Vikings grounded the Eagle varsity squad Saturday night 63-26 at SBHS.  The Bernard victory was not unimpeded however, as the Eagles executed a series of impressive first down upon first down drives based on tried and true running plays and agile running backs Anthony Charles and Dylan Hall.

Early in the first quarter, the Viking offense blundered in a missed hike, which led to the loss of 15-yards, but such Bernard errors were rare for the duration of the game.  Bernard was first to show on the scoreboard with a touchdown and successful field goal.  The Verbum Dei High School defense kept the Vikings mid-field for the remainder of the quarter, owing much to key tackles by senior linebacker Avery Crump and Charles. As the roar of jumbo jets from adjacent Los Angeles International Airport filled the air, a VDHS possession and the first in an impressive series of first downs on a scoreless drive ended the quarter 0-7.

The second quarter began with a Verb possession, but the squad faced a strong Viking defense.  A string of punchy running plays culminated in a long pass to running back Hall, who deftly caught the ball after it bounced off the hands of a Viking defender.  Hall’s touchdown brought the score to 6-7.

The marauding Vikings responded with a 57-yard kick return for a touchdown and successful field goal. A loose ball by the Verb offense resulted in a scramble, but after being juggled between two horn-clad Vikings, Bernard retained possession of the ball and scored, bringing the lights to 21-6.  The post kick off Verb possession near its own goal line was hard fought with the Eagles clawing only 10-yards in their efforts against the formidable Bernard defense.  The subsequent Viking possession led to touchdown pass and unsuccessful field goal attempt, ably blocked by the Verb defense.

A sustained Verb possession brought the half to a close.  With 5:25 remaining in the half, an Eagles offensive drive began deep in Verb territory.  Short passes and handoffs to running back Charles moved the squad down the field to a first down.  That first down was the beginning of a quick series of successful first downs, including a pass completion to Crump for a 16-yard gain and another running play gain of 15-yards.  Only 43-seconds remained on the clock when a successful reception by Charles resulted in a Verb touchdown.  The unsuccessful conversion attempt that followed brought the Eagles halftime score to 12-27.

The third quarter began with a number of Eagle missteps.  A Viking pass interception, a 43-yard touchdown run, and a successful conversion added lights to the Viking scoreboard.  An Eagle fumble, recovered by the Vikings deep in Verb territory, resulted in another Bernard touchdown and successful field goal, bringing the numeric lights to 42-12.

The post kick off Verb possession was true to form for the night with a quick series of successful ground plays dependant upon stalwart running backs Charles and Hall.   The successive first downs were halted by a Viking interception at their 20-yard line.  Impressive tackles on Viking running plays by Verb senior corner back Eddie Molina and safety Caylin Moore slowed progress as the Vikings sailed downfield toward another touchdown.  A successful field goal gained scoreboard insurance for the Bernard squad at 49-12.

Verb began yet another quick sustained drive with first downs gained upon the running backs of Charles and Hall with five minutes remaining in the third quarter. A touchdown and successful conversion by Charles illuminated the scoreboard 20-49. The Vikings retained a lighted 56-20 cushion on the board, the result of a quick touchdown and field goal drive of their own.

The remainder of the game included a handoff to Verb’s Crump, who showed the power, strength, and determination that has been a hallmark of his play this season.   Plowing through the Viking defense, Crump scored the final Verb touchdown, followed by an unsuccessful Eagle conversion attempt.  The score was 26-56 when Eagle junior Marquis McNeil quashed a potential Bernard touchdown on the kick return by grabbing the foot of the ball carrier and bringing him down mid-field.

A Viking pass completion resulted in a touchdown and successful field goal brought the game to a close with a final score of 63-26.  The Eagles, 2-3-0 in league play and 5-4-0 overall, will take on Cantwell-Sacred Heart High School in their final Del Rey League game of the season at 7:00 P.M. on November 4 at C-SHHS in Montebello.

Faculty/staff run/walk for Homeboy Industries

Verb faculty, staff, and friends and family support Homeboy Industries in the 2nd Annual Run/Walk for Homeboy 5K Saturday, October 29.  Fr. Gregory Boyle, SJ, Homeboy Industries founder, is pictured at far right.  Photographer unknown

By John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei

Several Verbum Dei faculty and staff participated in Homeboy Industries 2nd Annual Run for Homeboy 5K held October 29 at the California State Historic Park near Chinatown and Homeboy’s headquarters.  Father Gregory Boyle, SJ, founder of the organization that provides direction and meaningful work for at-risk youth and adults, walked alongside the athletes who ranged from first-timers to veteran runners.  The event, a fundraiser for the various gang intervention programs of Homeboy Industries, is reputed to reinvest 75% of registration fees into supporting the lauded organization.

Approximately 500 runners, walkers, and a fair number of dogs participated in the morning run around the circumference of the historic park.  Representing Verbum Dei were Principal Dan O’Connell, Cristina Cuellar-Villanueva of Corporate Work Study, Paul Hosch of Development, John Stradley of the English Department, Michael Putnam of Campus Ministry, Ronda Eddy and Yvonne Woods of Finance, and Martinique Belgarde of College Guidance.  Various friends and family members joined the Verb team in support of Homeboy Industries.  Top times for the Verb contingent on the 3.2 mile course were garnered by Putnam (4th in age category and 15th overall with 21:11.6 minutes) and O’Connell (17th in age category and 70th overall with 27:47.5 minutes).

Verb’s participation in the 5K was the culmination of more than a month of preparation by faculty and staff that included semi-weekly training runs/walks around Ted Watkins Memorial Park north of the campus.  Some participants utilized “From Couch Potato to 5K” training programs found on the internet to schedule their conditioning.

“Homeboy Industries free support services focus on case management, education (including Opportunities for Learning Charter High School), job training and placement, legal services, mental health counseling, twelve step meetings, pre-release and transition counseling, and tattoo removal,” according the event web page.

Mary Star falls in 43-27 loss as Eagles rise

By John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei

The Verbum Dei Eagles overtook rival Mary Star of the Sea High School October 14 in a spirited, and, at times, contentious 43-27 victory at Daniels Field in San Pedro.  The Blue and Gold’s offense was heavily dependent on the running game, but quarterback senior Caylin Moore took the game heavenward with successful passes at critical moments.

Although leading at the beginning of the 2nd quarter 13-7, Mary Star faltered defensively in the opening minutes, allowing a mid-line gap for runningback Dylan Hall to penetrate for a short-run touchdown.  Conversions were the Eagle order for the day, and senior Hall brought the additional points.  Mary Star responded with a long run. Though tackled near the goal line by senior cornerback Aaron Carrington, Mary Star brought the score to 20-15.  Effective passing and running plays added an additional Eagle touchdown and conversion.

Defensively impenetrable, the Eagles kept Mary Star scoreless and mid-field in the critical waning moments of the first half.  A Mary Star pass interception allowed the team possession with 17 seconds remaining.  Feeling resolute pressure from the Verb defensive squad, Mary Star threw a series of incomplete passes and ultimately attempted a 28-yard field goal, which flew wide, leaving the score 23-20 at the half.

The third quarter began with a remarkable show of power by Verb senior fullback Avery Crump who plowed through the Mary Star defense, dragging several players with him for an additional 10 yards on the return.  Verb’s running game began in earnest in the third quarter, as a hand-off to runningback Dylan Hall and three consecutive hand-offs to runningback Anthony Charles led to a touchdown and unsuccessful conversion.

Bringing the score to 27-29, Mary Star fought back with a series of successful running plays, aided by a 10-yard pass interference penalty against Verb.  A Verb offensive drive picked up momentum with five minutes left in the third quarter.  A quarterback-keeper with stand-in QB Dylan Hall began the drive.  Anthony Charles carried the ball down the field to Mary Star’s four-yard line.  Hall ran the ball for a touchdown, bringing the score to 35-27.  A failed Verb conversion ended unsuccessfully with a backfield tackle.

The Eagles scored once more in the forth quarter, while Mary Star, ending the game with no additional lights on the scoreboard, struggled offensively.  The Eagles, 4-3-0 overall and 1-2-0 in Del Rey League play, will take on LaSalle High School Saturday, October 22 at 5:30 P.M. in their Homecoming game at LA Southwest College Stadium.

Eagles bow to Bishop Montgomery 21-14

By John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei

In what could be billed as a defensive showdown in the Del Rey League opener, the Verbum Dei Eagles fell to the Bishop Montgomery Knights 14-21 September 30 at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Los Angeles’ Rancho Cienega Park.  Touchdowns were far and few between, and the defensive lines and rushing of both squads kept the scoreboard barren for nearly the entire first half.  Senior Full back Avery Crump plowed past the line of scrimmage to score one of the Eagles two touchdowns in the second half.

Bishop Montgomery, defending Del Rey League champions, effectively utilized on-side kicks numerous times to maintain possession, while the Eagles struggled to adapt to this strategy.  The Eagles’ offense was primarily based on a running game; Verb’s passing game, so devastating to their opponents in earlier pre-league games, was largely absent Friday.  Turnovers occurred with frequency.

When the Knights lost possession on downs after a failed 37-yard field goal attempt, the Eagle offense had a glimmer of hope for victory with a final down-field march in the last minutes of the game.  The Eagles made a valiant drive toward a mid-field first down with a series of punchy running plays gaining 4-5 yards each, but the clock was against the offensive squad.  The possession returned to Bishop Montgomery on downs with less than minute remaining in the fourth quarter.

The 3-2-0 overall Eagles will take on Bosco Tech October 8 in their second of six league games.