#ballerswithbrains – Long commits to Columbia

#ballerswithbrains – Long commits to Columbia

By Tony Ciniglio

The courtship began on Twitter.

Soon the Columbia University football staff started connecting with Sierra Canyon receiver Terrell Long on Zoom calls.

Ultimately Long took a virtual campus tour before ultimately committing to Columbia without ever stepping on campus.

Welcome to recruiting in a COVID landscape.

“It was cool – I saw the whole campus virtually, and I really liked the facilities,” Long said. “It was a good presentation.”

Long became the eighth Sierra Canyon football player to commit to an Ivy League school in the last nine years.

It is a phenomenon that Sierra Canyon football coach Jon Ellinghouse takes a lot of pride in, even coming up with a hashtag for social media.


“It is always such a pleasure to have a player achieve the highest success both on and off the field,” Ellinghouse said. “He is going to one of the most prestigious universities in the world while playing Division 1 football. Terrell is a great find for Columbia, and I have no doubt he will make us proud.”

Long maintained a 4.0 grade-point average with a slew of honors courses.

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Long said he also had offers from Harvard, Cornell, Bucknell, Dartmouth, Penn, Air Force and Northern Arizona before eventually choosing Columbia.

It was a triumphant moment for Long, who sustained a hamstring injury in Week 3 after transferring to Sierra Canyon from Harvard-Westlake.

“Terrell has been faced with a lot of injury challenges, but he always kept a great attitude and work ethic,” Ellinghouse said. “It is awesome to see great things happen to great people.”

Long had seven catches for 136 yards and one touchdown last season before the hamstring injury.

Long had 40-yard catches against both Westlake and Valencia last season and notched a touchdown against Oaks Christian.

Long worked hard to rehab and return to play in the CIF playoff opener against Santa Margarita, but said he re-aggravated his injury and shut his season down.

“I feel I have a lot to prove this year, even with the commitment to Columbia,” Long said. “I just want to show I can compete with everyone else.”

Sierra Canyon is coming off back-to-back CIF championships and back-to-back Regional bowl victories. Once again, the Trailblazers have moved up in divisions and begin ranked No. 7 in the preseason Division 2 poll.

Long figures to be a big target for quarterback Chayden Peery and an offense that totaled 6,557 yards and 60 touchdowns.

Long said due to the pandemic, he has had time to strengthen his hamstring.

“I am probably at about 90 percent and I have been practicing with no complaints,” Long said. “I did some hamstring exercises at home, and I don’t feel as nervous as I did last year with the hamstring. I’m not holding back now.”

Sierra Canyon opens the pandemic-delayed season on Jan. 8 at Calabasas. Long said he is amped to get going and

“I’m looking forward to the season – it’s going to be nice,” Long said.

Bonawandt ready to take boys soccer to next level

Bonawandt ready to take boys soccer to next level



By Tony Ciniglio

It is a move that might shake up the Gold Coast League boys soccer landscape.

Sierra Canyon has hired Chris Bonawandt from league rival Viewpoint as its next boys soccer coach.

Bonawandt brings college, academy, high school and club coaching experience and could be the sparkplug that helps Sierra Canyon rise in the league standings.

“They are always a good team, one that’s competitive and takes pride in their school and the jersey they wear,” Bonawandt said. “The reputation is strong, and everyone has been great to me so far here.”

Sierra Canyon is looking to build off a 2-12-5 campaign that saw the Trailblazers finish sixth in the seven-team Gold Coast League with a 2-7-3 mark.

Bonawandt said he is ready to take Sierra Canyon to the next level.

“My first goal is to get to know the kids and understand the personal side, the motivation,” Bonawandt said. “I want to try to instill certain character traits and behavioral patterns, the respect and language, all the things that go into making a good player.

“I want to share my knowledge of the game. I have a certain amount of experience, and I am hoping to transfer that to these young guys.”

Bonawandt was a standout high school soccer player in New York who played collegiately at SUNY-Onondaga before pulling a nerve in his neck that ultimately ended his playing career.

“It was one of those life moments,” Bonawandt said.

That jumpstarted a diverse coaching career, including an eight-year stint with the New York Red Bulls Academy and coaching stops at Queens College and Queensboro.

Then came a move to Southern California, where Bonawandt joined the L.A. Galaxy Academy. 

Bonawandt was also part of the coaching staff that helped the Providence High boys soccer team in Burbank earn its first CIF Southern Section postseason berth. Last season, Bonawandt coached at Viewpoint and was able to see Sierra Canyon up close and personal.

“The more I learned about Sierra, I knew that’s the place where I wanted to teach,” Bonawandt said.

Bonawandt has coached club soccer for Real So Cal and the Eagles SC in Southern California. He has also completed soccer internships in Brazil and Spain, including one with famed Real Madrid.

“I am a lifelong soccer person,” Bonawandt said. “All I do is eat, sleep and drink soccer. I am passionate about it, and I hope that transmits to the players.”

Sanny Pierce and Josh Bryan are among the key returners for Sierra Canyon, which is slated to open its season March 9 at Brentwood.


Bryan sets sight on Pac-12, commits to Boulder

Bryan sets sight on Pac-12, commits to Boulder

Sierra Canyon kicker Josh Bryan knows all about pressure.

A last-second field goal? No problem. The increased tension of the postseason? Clutch. A national competition? Nails.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Bryan had the perfect mentality to handle the stress of recruiting during the COVID-19 outbreak despite the increased uncertainty for kickers.

“I was just kind of waiting,” Bryan said. “A lot of schools don’t know their needs yet, especially with COVID.”

Bryan said he had been talking with Colorado for months and had enjoyed his on-campus visit, but had not received an official offer.

Bryan waited. And waited.

Finally Bryan got his long-coveted offer from Colorado this past weekend and jumped at it.

“They blew me away,” Bryan said. “I knew that’s where I wanted to be. I was blown away by how beautiful the school was and by everything there.”

Bryan said he also considered Yale, Navy, Army and Air Force, but said Colorado checked all the boxes, especially the allure of competing in the Pac-12 Conference.

“I liked those other schools a lot, but I wanted a bigger football school and Colorado was the best,” Bryan said. “Plus I have family up there on my dad’s side. I want to go into some sort of pre-med course, and they have a super top-level science network and their pre-med is one of the best in the country.”

With the COVID closures, Bryan could not practice at the school during his recruitment. In order to stay sharp, Bryan went to a local park and kicked at the light poles, usually without the benefit of snaps or holds.

Bryan tried to raise his profile by posting videos of his practices on social media.

“I was trying to film as much as I can and put it on Twitter,” Bryan said. “I wanted to show a progression on Twitter as much as I could.”

What might have moved the needle was Bryan’s performance at the Chris Sailor showcase in Dallas.

Sailor held a head-to-head competition on the final day with a March Madness-type of bracket. The ultimate prize was a spot in the Polynesian Bowl in Hawaii.

Bryan emerged as the showcase winner, punctuating his victory with a 55-yard field goal to clinch it.

“That was special, going against some of the best kickers in the nation,” said Bryan, who had attended Chris Sailor camps since seventh grade.

Bryan has been a fixture for Sierra Canyon as a kicker and linebacker and has helped Sierra Canyon to back-to-back CIF crowns and back-to-back state finals appearances the past two seasons.

“A lot of kickers don’t play another position, but I have a lot of fun at linebacker,” Bryan said.

Bryan’s career numbers have been skewed by blocked kicks or poor holds.

He has converted 22 of 38 career field goals and 120 of 133 PATS, including 11 of 19 from field-goal range last year and 54 of 61 on PATs.

But Bryan delivered when it mattered.

Bryan converted a field goal in the final minute to take down Rancho Cucamonga this past season. He had a long of 47 yards against Helix.

Bryan also went 6 for 7 on field goals in the playoffs last season, including a 2 for 2 performance in the state championship game against Central High of Fresno.

“Last year was a tough year, but to be able to do that in the playoffs was rewarding,” Bryan said.

McClendon Commits to George Fox University

McClendon commits to George Fox University

It started as a detour, a side trip so to speak.

Sierra Canyon baseball player Shane McClendon had already scheduled a recruiting trip to the University of Puget Sound in Washington. George Fox University in Oregon was a last-minute drive at the end of the trip, just to check it out.

It turned out to be the ultimate destination.

McClendon fell in love with George Fox University and verbally committed to the Bruins this past month, culminating a unique recruiting experience for him in the midst of a pandemic.

“When I was there, it just felt right,” McClendon said. “I loved the campus. I loved the small-town feel. There was a real community feel on campus. It felt a little like Sierra.”

George Fox is a Division 3 school. McClendon said he also considered Puget Sound, the University of San Francisco and Loyola Marymount University among others..

McClendon and his father Dilly (a former Palmdale High baseball player) flew into Washington to check out Puget Sound. The last-minute trip to George Fox – about 25 miles outside of Portland – turned into a revelation.

McClendon said he intends to study business and psychology and said George Fox impressed him in these areas.

“I liked that it was a smaller campus and had smaller class sizes,” McClendon said. “It is like 14 students per class.”

The pandemic created a bit of uncertainty for McClendon, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound catcher and outfielder who said he would have benefitted from playing in games and showcases that were wiped out by COVID-19 closures.

“I filmed everything I could and I posted on recruiting apps and wherever else recruiters might be looking,” McClendon said. “I’m a smaller guy, so I am not going to pass the eye test. Because they could not see me play, I had to rely on video.”

McClendon said he takes pride in his catching. His framing and blocking are strong, and he has a good arm.

McClendon also knows how to build rapport with his pitching staff.

“It’s about getting to know who he is and how he plays,” McClendon said. “It’s about building a camaraderie and a special bond outside of baseball.”

McClendon will be a four-year letterman, left an indelible mark during Sierra Canyon’s pandemic-shortened 7-1 season.

McClendon delivered a walkoff hit against Grace Brethren in a battle of small school powers for a Sierra Canyon team that finished No. 7 in the final CIF Southern Section Division 2 poll.

“Honestly it should have been a double, but I started celebrating a bit too early,” McClendon said, laughing. “It was a pretty high fly ball into the gap. When we saw it drop, we were jumping up and down and celebrating. My jersey started to get pulled, and I was worried it was going to rip.”

McClendon will be at the forefront of the 2021 season for Sierra Canyon. He said having his recruiting decision finalized will be a boon for him entering his senior season.

“There won’t be the pressure of having to perform (to get signed),” McClendon said. “It will just be about getting better and helping make the team better.”

New Head Coach Rajeev Datt making impact with girls tennis

New Head Coach Rajeev Datt making impact with girls tennis

By Tony Ciniglio

@TCiniglio on Twitter

New Sierra Canyon girls tennis coach Rajeev Datt has seen it all.

From juniors and high school tennis to junior college and Turtle Bay, Datt has coached almost the entire tennis spectrum.

“I think it’s code for that I am really old,” Datt said, laughing.

Datt’s coaching experience makes him the ideal candidate to help Sierra Canyon gain a foothold in the robust Gold Coast League that boasts tennis powers like Campbell Hall, Viewpoint, Brentwood, Crossroads and Windward.

Datt, who is in his 50s, said he is looking forward to working with his coach Giancarlo Bertumen to raise Sierra Canyon’s tennis profile.

“I want to try to establish a tennis culture here,” Datt said.

Datt has coached high school tennis at Crossroads and Windward. He coached for 10 years at Pierce College and has had players compete at the famed Ojai Tournament.

Datt also launched the Northridge Tennis Academy that operates at Cal State Northridge in addition to private lessons at Turtle Bay and the Riviera Country Club.

“I’ve helped produce high-performance players,” Datt said. “A few of the girls already have private instructors, and I am happy to work in conjunction with them.

“It’s a matter of getting the kids comfortable with myself and with (Bertumen). I coached him when I was at Pierce, and we have good communication and trust. We’ll try to establish the same kind of communication and trust with the girls.”

Ultimately Datt would like to have Sierra Canyon establish a tennis program in its lower schools to build a foundation with students at a younger age.

“You get them started and aware of the sport, and it’s fun, especially in second, third, fourth, fifth grade,” Datt said. “By the time they hit high school, it becomes a matter of repetition. How many times they can touch the ball with the string, how will they become more acclimated to hitting shots and how they will learn how to handle the pressure to compete.

“It’s tough to ask a ninth grader who has never handled a racket to go play against a nationally ranked girl from Brentwood.”

Datt said he has already met several of the current Sierra Canyon players and is still assessing their ability levels.

Chloe Barakat, Ella Calderon, Samantha Hariz and Alexandra Marquez provide needed leadership as returners.

Datt said he likes having dual-sport athletes like soccer players Alyssa Abulaff and Peyton Gulfuso on the team because they have an athletic foundation.

Datt said Mariyah Jamali and Kai Smith have also shown potential for Sierra Canyon, which is scheduled to open the season Aug. 25 in a nonleague match against Royal at Cal State Northridge assuming high school sports are cleared to start in the midst of COVID-19.

“As time goes by, we’re going to figure out which girls to group together while still maintaining social distance,” Datt said. “We are going to use a lot of hand sanitizer and social distancing.

“Normally as a coach trying to build team culture, we give each other high fives, hugs and praise. They become sisters. Those are usually the best teams. We just have to figure out how to do that with the social distancing.”

Run the World. Sierra Canyon hires new Cheer Coach Reyna Joy Banks

Run the World.  Sierra Canyon hires new Cheer Coach Reyna Joy Banks


Tony Ciniglio

New Sierra Canyon cheerleading coach Reyna Joy Banks has followed this philosophy throughout a distinguished career.

Dancing alongside Beyonce, Usher, Toni Braxton and a young Justin Bieber, including Beyonce’s “Run the World” campaign. Collaborating with the likes of Kanye West, Chaka Khan, Ne-Yo and gospel stars Travis Greene, MAJOR and Kierra Sheard. Choreographing for the Grammys, BET Awards and Billboard Awards.

There have been TV shows – including Victorious with Ariana Grande and Hollywood Divas with Elise Neal – radio shows and commercials. She has written books, started her own international dance foundations and served as a motivational speaker.

Now Banks will attempt to elevate Sierra Canyon’s cheerleading squad to complement the school’s other high-profile sports programs.

“I go off my peace and what feels good – this felt good,” the 33-year-old Banks said. “We’re going to release the sound of the school.”

Banks has always had a grand vision since she started dancing when she was 8 and cheerleading at age 10. She attended Alta Loma High and then Dance and Radio-Television-Film at Cal State Fullerton.

Banks served as a cheerleader coach at Ontario Christian HIgh, Alta Loma and Pasadena City College. She also had her down dance studio – Joy to Dance – in Rancho Cucamonga.

Banks had roles in commercials for Nike, Adidas and Sketchers. She worked at radio station KJLH that features Steve Harvey, established a strong reputation with her voiceover work and was the first Princess Tiana at Disney’s El Capitan Theater.

By age 15, Banks was appearing on Soul Train. At 17, Banks was front and center in Usher’s popular “Yeah” video in 2003. Banks worked with Ne-Yo on the 2009 BET Awards.

Then there was Beyonce in 2011 during the “Run the World” tour and Chaka Khan in 2012.

Banks also was instrumental in Kanye West’s “Sunday Services” program.

Her book “30-Day Journey to Loving the Woman in Me” was published in 2015.

Banks helped found the Dance to Lift program which taught the art of dancing in several U.S. cities. Banks then established the program herself in Botswana and South Africa while helping expand to Japan, Brazil and the Philippines.

Banks also established Dance2LIVVV to provide artists with housing and other essentials to help launch their careers.

“If I say yes to something, I am going to give it 150 trillion percent,” Banks said. “That’s just the way I am.”

When Dr. Holly Carter – a friend and a TV producer – called Banks to tell her about an opening as a cheerleader coach for her daughter’s team at Sierra Canyon, Banks said she was intrigued.

“I was super excited about it,” Banks said. “Everything I do I do in the name of my Heavenly Father, and I want to be a light for other people.”


Now comes the business of taking Sierra Canyon cheerleading to the next level.

Banks does not intend to enter Sierra Canyon in national competitions. Rather Banks plans to build a Sierra Canyon brand and build off what returning assistant coach Solene Flores has helped establish.

Most of all, Banks wants to establish a strong foundation for the girls.

“I just want the girls to know they have worth and they are worthy of being the best,” Banks said. “I’ve had three days with them and I love them already. I will be there for them. I will be present for them. I will not let them down.”

Banks said she has eight “ride or die” cheerleaders on board and hopes to keep augmenting that number.

Banks has already established Journey Carter and Lucky Kyles as captains and Gianna Marshall and Jennifer Kaplan as co-captains after the girls completed an application process that included submitting a video and essay.

“I was blown away by their essays,” Banks said. “And Journey created a routine last year that brought the crowd to its feet. That’s what I’m looking for.”

Banks saw an immediate area she wanted to address to elevate her squad.

“The first thing we have to do is to get everyone on the same level on the jumps,” Banks said.

Banks unleashed suicide drills on the first day – a first for several of the cheerleaders – and established hardcore conditioning at the beginning and end of each practice. Banks also had them add ankle weights to give them the strength to make better jumps.

“Every cheer squad should be pumping iron,” Banks said, laughing.

Banks said she wants to build the stunts from halves to fulls.

She said every cheerleader has expressed interest in tumbling. Banks said she wants them to be able to perform standing back handspring, a roundoff handspring and a roundoff toe touch.

“We’ll start from there,” Banks said.

Banks said her vision includes reinstating wearing cheerleader uniforms to school on game days, ramping up the pep rallies and having giveaways and establishing weekly or gameday lunch music jams for the school to build excitement for the big game that night.

“We want to bring the excitement and fire,” Banks said. “We want to bring heat to the other sports. We want to build the brand.

“I want them to feel like they can conquer the world.”

Just like Beyonce.

Janae Weise heads to Ryder University, Class of 2020 going to great colleges

Tatum Solis will play college soccer at California State University, Fullerton
Jazzy Campbell will play soccer at Oregon State University
Ashley Chevalier will play basketball at the University of Texas.
Alexis Mark will play basketball at Boise State University.
Rosemary Odemumbi will play basketball at Pepperdine University.
Vanessa Dejesus will play basketball at Duke University.
Jaylen Jordan will play volleyball at Long Beach State University.


Baseball season cut short

Baseball season cut short

By Tony Ciniglio

Sierra Canyon ace pitcher Jaden Noot fired 94 mph smoke. Grace Brethren ace Josh Swales blistered the radar gun with 96 mph strikes.

Every pitch seemed to be magnified in front of approximately 18-20 scouts who converged on Sierra Canyon’s picturesque baseball field to watch this heated pitching matchup.

Sierra Canyon prevailed 3-2 in a matchup that lived up to the billing, the highlight of Sierra Canyon’s 7-1 start and the pinnacle to Coach Jerry Royster’s promising first season that was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That was special,” Royster said. “It was fun to watch. Their team said the same thing. To watch our guys compete against a pitcher like that … they got to see what a polished draft pick looks like.”

Sierra Canyon finished No. 7 in the final CIF Southern Section Division 2 poll.

Sierra Canyon recorded victories over St. Bonaventure, Dos Pueblos and Cleveland and even snuck in Gold Coast League victories over Campbell Hall (twice) and Viewpoint. 

Its lone loss came to Marmonte League power Thousand Oaks.

Royster, a 12-year Major League veteran who also has Major League managerial experience, said he had one major goal when he joined the Sierra Canyon program as an assistant coach three years ago: produce next-level athletes.

Royster said Sierra Canyon has a strong class of seniors who will play college baseball next year.

“The program has always had success here, but we were not producing a lot of frontline baseball players,” said Royster, who began his career with the Dodgers. “Our goal was to get them off to college baseball. Going through this process with these families was amazing. I wanted to cry, but obviously not in front of the players.”

Center fielder Max Nahmias will play for Northern Colorado. Third baseman Anthony Ciccarelli will play at Cal Lutheran. Shortstop Bleu Ellis will play for George Fox University in Oregon. First baseman and pitcher Luca Rubin will play at Babson University in Boston.

Royster said outfielder Zach Freeman and second baseman Aaron Gutierrez are weighing offers. Freeman is perhaps the best prospect of the seniors.

“These seniors really accomplished something special,” Royster said. “I feel bad for the seniors who won’t be able to finish off their season and display their skills on a team that was destined to be one of the best in school history.

“I’m hoping that we will be able to get together at some point, celebrate their accomplishments and have one final day together again.”

Sierra Canyon boasted a star-heavy pitching staff.

Noot, a sophomore, is an University of Oregon recruit who went 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA, 19 strikeouts and six walks in 17 innings.

Kassius Thomas, a sophomore, is a Duke recruit who went 1-1 with 10 strikeouts and six walks in 7 1-3 innings. Junior Bryce Bond also provided Sierra Canyon with a high caliber arm.

“Our pitching definitely carried us,” Royster said.

Freeman sizzled to a hot start, batting .556 with a homer, five RBIs and seven runs scored. Max Martin hit .545 with eight RBIs. Gutierrez batted .444 with a homer and seven runs scored.

Royster also praised catchers Ryan Mittleman and Shane McClendon.

“All of these guys played so well – I was so proud of how they all were getting after it,” Royster said.

Royster said Sierra Canyon also benefited from bringing in iconic Chatsworth High coach Tom Meusborn onto the staff as an associate head coach.

Muesborn turned Chatsworth into a national power and helped develop future Major Leaguers Mike Moustakas, Matt Dominguez, Bryan Petersen and Josh Ravin.

“He added a lot to our program, and we learned a lot about preparation from him,” Royster said. “All the kids were locking into practice. It was a lot of fun to go to the field and watch these kids get better every day.”


Peery staying focused during unexpected break

Peery staying focused during unexpected break

By Tony Ciniglio

 Zoom team meetings. Virtual recruiting. Isolated workouts.

This is the new normal for Sierra Canyon senior-to-be quarterback Chayden Peery during these unprecedented COVID-19 times.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Peery said he has found a routine to help him push forward both in his recruiting process and toward Sierra Canyon’s Aug. 21 kickoff at JSerra, even with the world in a COVID-19 standstill.

“At some point, this is going to end,” Peery said. “We’re going to be able to play football on the field again.”

“We have to stay positive. We have to keep preparing. We need to stay in shape and do what we can so we are ready to go when it is normal again.”

Sierra Canyon is coming off a banner season in which it captured the CIF Southern Section Division 2 crown with a commanding victory over Chaminade. It also beat Helix in the Regional Bowl before falling to Central High of Fresno in the state final.

With the usual 7 on 7 passing tournaments and showcases off limits due to COVID-19, Coach Jon Ellinghouse has kept the Sierra Canyon players focused with individualized workouts.

And of course the daily 3:30 team video conference meetings on Zoom.

“Our meetings help us talk football and stay fresh mentally,” Peery said. “It’s pretty interactive, like a normal film session. Coach even shares his screen with the whole team so we can be even more prepared.”

Peery has made sure to get his daily workouts in as well.

Peery, a Lake Castaic resident, works out with his receiver Daniel Prado in nearby Valencia, with proper social distancing and safety protocols of course.

Prado has a gym setup in his family garage.

“Our coach has us working out, and we’ll send him a video so he knows we are putting in the work,” Peery said. “It’s not just playing video games.”

Peery is fresh off a stellar individual campaign where he threw for 3,401 yards, 18 touchdowns and just one interception on 236 of 393 passing. He also rushed for five more touchdowns.

Peery said he has 20 Division 1 offers on the table. His first offer came from the University of Nevada. Peery also said that Kansas, Michigan State, Syracuse and Duke are among his suitors.

“I want to try to narrow down my list in the next month,” Peery said.

Recruiting has taken a different turn to due COVID-19 precautions.

Since college coaches and recruiters are unable to see Peery in person and Peery is unable to visit campuses during the nationwide lockdown, Peery has gotten creative during his recruiting process.

Peery has taken to FaceTime calls and texting to strike a personal connection and has made videos of him throwing that he uploads to Twitter.

“Most coaches are pretty understanding. We’re all in the same boat,” Peery said. “There are some coaches that remain concrete, who won’t offer without seeing someone live or without a college visit. But we’re all adjusting.”

Peery will be the ringleader.

Peery, who will be a rare four-year starter, is 34-9 in three seasons at Sierra Canyon, throwing for 7,972 yards, 50 touchdowns and 17 interceptions while adding 16 rushing touchdowns. He guided Sierra Canyon to back-to-back CIF titles and Regional bowl victories in 2018 and 2019 and would love to cap his career with a state title.

Just as he is in the pocket, Peery is exuding cool under this COVID-19 pressure.

“It’s not been too bad to be honest,” Peery said. “I’m still getting in my football work, but I have been spending more time with family and I have had a lot more free time to do other things as well.”