Josh Bryan #studentfirst, heading to University of Notre Dame

Josh Bryan #studentfirst, heading to University of Notre Dame

Josh Bryan #StudentFirst Video

by Tony Ciniglio

They would meet early morning. Or during study period. Sometimes at lunch or after school. 

Sierra Canyon senior Josh Bryan and chemistry teacher Mary Espanol found ways to carve out time together as Bryan navigated a whirlwind schedule that included his commitment to the school’s championship football team and his rigorous academic workload loaded with advanced placement and honors courses.

“Our football team, it’s like a mini professional league, and the schedules are crazy,” said Espanol, a 40-year teaching veteran in her ninth year at Sierra Canyon. “You get students who want to do well in their courses and classes, and that’s what sets Josh apart. He made sure he did not miss time or assignments. He was always prepared for the tests.

“It’s amazing when you find kids who are passionate and who work so hard.”

Bryan was not just a highly recruited kicker and hard-hitting linebacker who sparked Sierra Canyon to back-to-back CIF Southern Section championships. His academic record is as impressive as his 50-yard field goals.

Student First.

Bryan emerged as an ideal candidate for Sierra Canyon’s new Student First campaign that recognizes standout student-athletes who handled their business on the field and in the classroom.

“He is the epitome of what you look for in a student-athlete,” Sierra Canyon football coach Jon Ellinghouse said. “You do not hear many kicker-linebacker combos. That requires a different type of dedication. Off the field, he is quiet and focused. He’s not a diva. You never hear any complaints about him. He just gets the job done, no matter what.

“It’s impressive on his part and also on Sierra Canyon’s part because you have teachers who are willing to go the extra mile and make themselves available if a kid wants to excel.”

Bryan had a fairly simple time management method: just write it down.

“Sierra gives you a planner on the first day. So I just wrote in that and kept track of everything,” Bryan said. “If you try to remember on your own, it’s not going to work out. 

“You just have to go to school and be able to communicate with your teachers. Communication is key.”

His results were as true as his field goals.

Bryan maintained a 4.25 grade-point average despite a gauntlet of a schedule.

His advanced placement courses included Chemistry, Calculus, U.S. History, World History, Government, Environmental Science, English Language and English Literature. One AP as a sophomore, three as a junior and four this year.

His honors courses included Biology, Chemistry, Spanish and English.

Bryan credited his teachers, especially Espanol, who was both his honors and AP Chemistry teacher.

“What more could I ask from a teacher – she was with me every step of the way,” Bryan said. “As much as I work hard, the teachers here at Sierra were always there for me. That’s what’s great about Sierra Canyon. They were always willing to help out and make time for me.”

Espanol said she began to see the reserved Bryan expand his comfort zone during Espanol’s labs.

“He’s always doing his very best, and one of the things I tell my students is to love what they are learning. That is much more important than the grades,” Espanol said. 

“Josh loves our lab experiments. He’s very intense, and he thrives in those environments. He’s a leader. He sizes up the labs, feels out the experiment and thinks about how he will apply it.”

Bryan said he plans to major in Pre Professional Studies that serves as the groundwork for a Pre-Med major. He is open to different ideas for jobs in the medical field.

“Big picture, I want to help others,” Bryan said. “I want to be there for someone, whether it’s helping them overcome an injury, or help with rehabilitation or helping children through sickness.

“There’s so many ways to help people. If I am able to go into a department I enjoy and make a difference, that would be my hope.”

The bonus for Bryan is that he will get an opportunity to follow this path while attending prestigious Notre Dame and getting a chance to kick for a program steeped in tradition and history.

“He was the top-ranked kicker in the nation, and now he gets to play at Notre Dame. That’s one of the coolest experiences,” Ellinghouse said. “We want our kids to do great things. He’s a great example of how he came in and became a well-rounded young man. 

“He’s ready to tackle the world and be successful in whatever he does.”

 

ESPORTS finishes season on strong note

 ESPORTS FINISHES SEASON ON STRONG NOTE

The impact has been immediate for the Sierra Canyon eSports team.

The freshman trio of Lance Matthies, Logan Matthies and Asher Gottlieb have formed the Rocket League team that has helped Sierra Canyon earn the No. 3 seed in the 32-team state tournament.

Just like last season’s loaded squad.

Co-coaches Javy Martinez and Julie Ahring believe Sierra Canyon is in a great position to make another deep state run.

“I’m very happy, and so is Julie,” Martinez said. “We’re picking up right where we left off in the fall. Last year we were the No. 3 seed and made the semifinals. We can’t ask for a much better spot.”

Sierra Canyon opened the playoffs on Saturday with a 4-0 victory over Salesian.

Now Sierra Canyon has a chance to avenge one of its two regular-season losses in Monday’s second round against Schurr.

Sierra Canyon appears to be on a collision course with second-seeded Los Alamitos in Wednesday’s state semifinals for a shot at top-seeded and undefeated Bishop O’Dowd in Thursday’s final.

“If things go well, I think we have a very good shot at making the state final,” Martinez said. “If we get a chance to play Los Alamitos, we’re going to need our ‘A’ game against them. Hopefully it will be one of our best performances.”

Usually the eSports team had one matchup per week. The compact almost-daily state schedule will certainly be a test for Matthies, Matthies and Gottlieb, especially with school finals scheduled concurrently.

“It’s a new situation for them, but we’re going to get together as a team and discuss how best to approach this week,” Martinez said. “These guys are great students, and they are great athletes who compete in other sports at Sierra too, so they should be able to handle it.”

Matthies, Matthies and Gottlieb impressed following a 1-2 start that included back-to-back losses to Mater Dei and Schurr.

Sierra Canyon rattled off consecutive victories over St. Vincent De Paul, Reseda, San Jacinto, Valley Christian and Sunny Hills to finish with a 6-2 regular-season record. It had beaten La Jolla Country Day in its opener.

“Julie and I talked to the players after the two losses,” Martinez said. “The scores were close. And we had a case of bad internet against Schurr. That kind of thing can happen, especially when competing at home. It was out of our control. A loss is a loss. Our guys did a good job accepting it and moving on to the next match.”

Sierra Canyon might get reinforcements in the spring. 

It has been developing an Overwatch team consisting of Brady Fernandes, Ethan Sarris, Ethan Hirsch, Harrison Felipe, Jonathan Smyrmos and Alexander Rahmel that has been able to scrimmage against national competition throughout the fall.

The CIF Southern Section is expected to approve Overwatch for eSports in the spring.

“The great thing is that these guys are getting real-world experience,” Martinez said. “When we come back in the spring, these guys should help us compete for state.”

 

Sierra Canyon Alumni finding own voice on the microphone at Indiana University

Sierra Canyon Alumni finding own voice on the microphone at Indiana University

 

Student broadcaster Zak Ibrahim had envisioned this moment for a long time, practicing it over and over in his head.

In the midst of a Sierra Canyon basketball game in his senior season, Ibrahim channelled his inner Ralph Lawler and Bob Costas and delivered the line that he had carefully crafted. 

“Stanley lets it fly, and he dots the ‘I,’ ” Ibrahim exclaimed as Cassius Stanley sank a 3-pointer.

A catchphrase was born. And perhaps a promising broadcasting career.

Ibrahim has forged a burgeoning broadcasting background that started at Sierra Canyon and continues at Indiana University, a nirvana for a basketball aficionado like Ibrahim.

“Indiana is a basketball state, and IU is a basketball school, and I would love to call a basketball game at IU,” said Ibrahim, who started at Sierra Canyon as a kindergartner.

It is another example of a Sierra Canyon student excelling at the college level.

Like he did at Sierra Canyon, Ibrahim is jumping on any and all sports. His idea was to get as much on-air time as possible to allow himself to build a resume and hone his craft.

Ibrahim took on sports like field hockey, water polo, swimming and diving, wrestling and softball in his freshman year.

His rationale was that his time for basketball would come soon enough if he put in the work and continued to strive to get better.

“The ability to get on-air as a freshman was a big draw for me,” Ibrahim said. “Honestly I was not thrilled about calling water polo or wrestling. I did not know anything about field hockey and had to learn the rules and listen to other broadcasts to learn the terminology. But I understood I was getting paid in exposure.

“Plus if you can cover a field hockey game and you can learn about it and be confident in what you’re saying, there’s no way you can mess up a basketball game.”

Even during the pandemic, Ibrahim followed the model of so many pro announcers by calling a football game off a TV screen. 

Ibrahim and fellow student Griffin Epstein called the Indiana-Rutgers football game remotely.

“Not seeing the whole field, it’s tough,” Ibrahim said. “But I was still calling a college football game.”

Ibrahim took a similar approach while at Sierra Canyon.

After trying to launch a podcast that never took off in the summer before his junior year – “it was so boring – it was basically just me rambling with a friend or family member” – Ibrahim discovered the Sierra Canyon broadcasting network when his lacrosse friend Cooper Endicott said they were looking for students to broadcast games.

His first assignment was a boys basketball game against Viewpoint with veteran Sierra Canyon play-by-play announcer Mike Kaufman.

“I was hooked,” Ibrahim said. “I was never more nervous than I ever was during that game, but I never had more fun.”

Sierra Canyon Assistant Athletic Director David Sobel approached Ibrahim about doing more games.

Ibrahim jumped at the opportunity.

“Sobel basically had told me that if I kept improving that first year, he would let me be the play-by-play guy. That inspired me,” Ibrahim said.

After serving as a color analyst on Kaufman’s broadcasts during Ibrahim’s junior year, Ibrahim became the Voice of the Trailblazers in his senior season, calling as many games and as many sports as possible.

Ibrahim said it was a big thrill for him to call games for Sierra Canyon’s nationally ranked boys basketball program and said he relished the Player of the Game postgame interview.

“It felt like it became my weekly chat with Cassius Stanley, I interviewed him so much,” Ibrahim said. “The best part of calling the game at the high school you attend is that you are rooting for these guys off the court. At first it was nerve-wracking. But then it’s like, ‘Hey, I helped this guy in chemistry last week.’ I can do this.”

Ibrahim also makes sure he can get a copy of his broadcast. Not for nostalgia, but so he could dissect his performance.

“Usually I will listen to a game all the way through like one or two days afterward,” Ibrahim said. “I would see what worked and what did not work. I’d write down the best calls and put them in my demo reel. But I would also critique my performance, like ‘why am I yelling here’ or why did I say that?

“Demand comes in the preparation, both pregame and postgame.”

Ibrahim said he looked up to Lawler (the longtime Clippers announcer) and Costas (longtime NBC Sports announcer) growing up and called Dodgers broadcaster Joe Davis “a stud.”

“Ralph Lawler had been the Clippers play-by-play guy for 40 years, and he was so fun to listen to. He got excited when the team was doing well and less excited when they were not,” Ibrahim said. “And Costas is an all-time legend. But I try not to imitate them. I try to find my own voice.”

Ibrahim capped his Sierra Canyon career with an emotional broadcast – calling a Sierra Canyon lacrosse match against Viewpoint with his brother Samie, a former Chaminade High School lacrosse standout.

Ibrahim said Sierra Canyon gave him a wide avenue to help him find his voice.

“I can’t say just how thankful I am to Sierra Canyon – they watched me grow up,” Ibrahim said. “Honestly I had no idea what I wanted to do, but it is a great school and they allowed me to have an epiphany.”

Ibrahim let it fly, and he is dotting the I.

 

Esports freshmen gaining valuable experience

Esports freshmen gaining valuable experience

Initially it felt like a sucker punch.

The Sierra Canyon eSports team suffered a tough 3-2 loss to eSports powerhouse Mater Dei last week. 

“It was our first big test,” Sierra Canyon co-coach Javy Martinez said.

It was a dramatic departure from last season when Sierra Canyon steamrolled its opponents en route to the state semifinals to become a sort of on-campus phenomenon.

Then COVID hit.

The season was delayed. Sierra Canyon’s once-robust roster of 17 competitors shrank to three. Its high-tech multi-media room that became a go-to destination on game days became off limits, forcing team members to compete from home.

“It really hit our numbers,” Martinez said. “The room is definitely an attraction. I think everyone liked being together and being with their friends. There was an atmosphere. The players had swag. They even wore polos, and teachers and students would come support the team.

“Our players felt like they were part of a team. Now it is almost like they are independent contractors.”

Yet Sierra Canyon has found a way to endure and is currently the only Sierra Canyon team competing in any sport.

Sierra Canyon, a top-three team in the state last season, is ranked No. 13 out of 65 teams despite being down to just one Rocket League team. It had beaten La Jolla Country Day in its season opener.

Then came Mater Dei.

Sierra Canyon’s trio of freshmen – Lance Matthies, Logan Matthies and Asher Gottlieb – pushed Mater Dei’s senior-laden team that boasts multiple L2 grand champions to the brink, losing 2-1 in the fifth game.

“It was very, very close,” Martinez said. “We want to be competitive and we want to compete with the best, and even with COVID, we are continuing to do that this year.”

Sierra Canyon will compete against Schurr in its next match on Thursday as it ramps up for the playoffs that begin on Dec. 9. 

Martinez said Los Alamitos and Bishop O’Dowd are the state favorites this season, but he said he expects Mater Dei and Sierra Canyon to vault several teams because both are battle-tested.

“Some of the teams ranked ahead of us have not faced stiff competition yet,” Martinez said.

Martinez also earned a distinction of becoming a recognized “expert coach” by the eSports community.

Martinez and co-coach Julie Ahring helped ensure the eSports team remained engaged despite the pandemic with Zoom call meetings or phone calls while keeping them on track for the season despite the delays and the adjustments.

“Julie and I work well together. She’s kind of like the team manager and I am like the general manager,” Martinez said. “We stayed in constant contact with the players and burned the midnight oil to make sure everyone knew what was going on.”

Martinez said he hopes to restore some of the lost numbers by the spring season.

“I feel comfortable with where the team stands in competition,” Martinez said. “And two of our guys are lacrosse players as well, Sierra Canyon athletes. I hope it shows that it it is not too time consuming and that they can do this too.”

 

Sierra Canyon preparing for COVID shortened seasons

The initial euphoria that the CIF Southern Section was going to allow a high school sports season in the midst of a pandemic gave way to a realization.

How exactly will one pull this off?

With a condensed season that presents logistics challenges on many fronts, the potential for Armageddon scenarios loom large.

Luckily Sierra Canyon has its own Bruce Willis-sized answer in Athletic Director Rock Pillsbury, who has overseen 12 state titles and 14 section titles since the school’s inception 13 years ago.

“There’s going to be a lot of moving parts,” Pillsbury said. “A condensed schedule, playing multiple sports simultaneously, it’s going to be crazy.”

Football, volleyball and cross country will begin their seasons in January. All the other sports will begin in March.

The doomsday scenarios are numerous.

Facilities will have to be shared. Sometimes athletes will need to be shared too for a school like Sierra Canyon that relies on multiple-sport standouts.

Scheduling will have to be creative not just in games but in determining practice times and locations. Transportation will be tricky too with COVID-19 guidelines.

The prevention of COVID-19 enters into the equation too.

The key will come down to preparation and the ability to adjust quickly to changing scenarios.

“We’ve got backup plans to backup plans,” Pillsbury said. “We can’t go too deep because it’s a waste to have too many contingency plans when you don’t know what is going to happen. We’ve done the best we can to move all the schedules around.”

Finding enough practice time will be a major challenge, especially with certain sports being pushed into an entirely different season.

For example, Sierra Canyon football coach Jon Ellinghouse likes to have his weekly walkthroughs the day before Game Day. But with concerns about inclement weather in January that would disrupt the precision of a walkthrough, Pillsbury decided to head off this problem by scheduling the walkthroughs in the gym.

That solution takes away gym time from the national powerhouse basketball teams and the volleyball teams that are going to be gearing up for their seasons.

There could be an issue with baseball and soccer being played at the same time because those facilities do not have enough space to host games simultaneously.

Then there is a headache of trying to split the gym among the varsity and junior varsity boys and girls basketball teams and the varsity and junior varsity boys and girls volleyball teams.

This will require precision scheduling, from both Pillsbury and the opposing athletic directors.

“You have to think of everything,” Pillsbury said. “I’ve found over the years that ADs (athletic directors) who are not good at scheduling are usually ADs who were not coaches. There’s an art to scheduling. You have to know different factors.”

Another interesting development involves club teams.

The Southern Section usually does not allow an athlete to compete for both their high school team and club team in the same season. But due to the condensed season, the Southern Section is waiving this restriction.

Pillsbury said he is trying to limit scheduling games on Friday and Monday to give athletes a chance to compete in the weekend tournaments and have a chance to recover.

Pillsbury is also trying to stagger game days for teams that have to share athletes with other sports.

“It’s going to tip the scales toward the big schools and make it more difficult to have the success that we’re used to,” Pillsbury said. “These scenarios make it harder on the AD, but I rather take on this responsibility rather than have a kid not being able to play somewhere because of a scheduling conflict.”

With the success of its athletic programs, Sierra Canyon has traveled throughout the state and even across the country for marquee matchups against the best competition.

But due to COVID-19 concerns about travel and the cost of adding transportation to accommodate the COVID-19 guidelines of social distancing, Pillsbury is trying to curb travel.

Pillsbury said he will try to avoid out-of-state matchups and is trying to find more local matchups and tournaments. Pillsbury is also encouraging parents to drive their own kids when possible.

“We’re not going to travel to the magnitude that we have in the past,” Pillsbury said. “We are trying to stay local as much as possible.”

Pillsbury had previously worked in Texas at Highland Park High School, the alma mater of future Dodger Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw and Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Pillsbury said he asked his contacts in Texas how they are handling athletics in the pandemic.

“The main thing is you have to make a decision on how to handle a potential outbreak. Do you forfeit or do you reschedule? Do you have contingency plans,” Pillsbury said. “We know we are going to start on time and stick to this schedule laid out by CIF no matter what.

“It’s going to be a very different year. It’s going to be crazy. But I think we are all happy to have a chance to play again.”

 

#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.

#BallersWithBrains.

“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.”