U.S. Army Arena Bowl week kicked off Monday with the annual Kern County indoor football game's banquet, where several all-stars were rewarded for on- and off-field accomplishments.
Several new scholarships were awarded this year, including the Nathan Garcia Memorial Scholarship, given in memory of a 13-year-old youth football player who died of brain cancer in December.
Nathan's mother, Jessica, gave an emotional presentation before Cody Kessler, a family friend, Centennial graduate and USC quarterback, presented the award to Liberty running back Corbin Jountti, who overcame several off-the-field hardships to become an All-Area running back at Liberty.
In addition, Arena Bowl director Paul Press announced that the Nathan Garcia Fund, founded to help children with cancer, would receive the proceeds from a signed jersey auction during Friday night's 7 p.m. game at Rabobank Arena.
Also awarded for the first time was the Ray Permenter Scholarship, given in honor of an East High football player and cousin of legendary Foothill coach Ned Permenter who died in combat in World War II. Ned Permenter presented the scholarship to West High senior Micah Mitchell, a two-sport athlete who carries a 3.6 grade-point average and has an active-duty military father.
Justin Verrell, a Garces graduate who played in last year's game and made connections that eventually enabled him to land the starting long-snapper job on Bakersfield College's state-championship team, decided he'd try to pass on his good fortune in the form of the Justin Verrell Giving Back Scholarship. He presented it to Independence senior Preston Hodges, the All-Area Offensive Player of the Year who's also active in community service.
The Arena Bowl handed out three other scholarships: The Hard Work Scholarship went to Arvin's Jordan Wood, the Community Service Scholarship to Liberty's Devin Stevenson and the Academics Scholarship to Tehachapi's Ryan Flick.
Arena Bowl live on TV
Brighthouse Networks announced it will air the U.S. Army Arena Bowl live on Brighthouse Channel 11. The game also will be available for replay on Bakersfield On Demand, Channel 300. The broadcast begins at 7 p.m.
Newton pops big jumps
Several local track and field athletes shined at the West Coast Relays on Saturday in Clovis, none moreso than Bakersfield High junior Scotty Newton, who swept the long jump and triple jump with season-best marks.
Newton's winning 49-0.5 in the triple jump came in wind-aided conditions, but it is the longest all-conditions jump in the state this season. He also had a 48-2 wind-legal jump that extends his section lead. Newton's 24-2.25 in the long jump vaults him into the Central Section lead.
Stockdale junior Blake Haney, a week after breaking a 46-year-old Central Section record in the 3,200 meters, took over the section lead in the 1,600 with a 4:10.39 that held off Madera South's Jose Herrera (4:12.03) for victory. Haney then scratched the 3,200.
On the girls side, Liberty sophomore Morganne Hill finished second in both the 100 and 300 hurdles, improving her 300 hurdles time to 43.15, which ranks No. 5 all-time in the Central Section.
Kennedy football combine
Kennedy football coach Shawn Austin is organizing a football combine, to be held May 25 at Kennedy High School in Delano, that will mimic the NFL Scouting Combine, with 40-yard dash, shuttle runs, bench press, broad jump, position drills, etc.
The combine begins at 9 a.m., with registration at 8. Cost is $40. Players in sixth grade and older interested in participating can call Austin at (661) 720-5264 for more details.
Bell sets Penn State records
Liberty graduate Cassidy Bell hit her 17th home run of the collegiate softball season on Saturday, breaking the Penn State single-season school record.
The record-breaking home run led off the first inning and also was the 34th of Bell's career, tying the Penn State career record. On Wednesday night, Bell broke that record, too, with her 35th career homer coming against Purdue.
Another former local softball standout, Stockdale graduate Victoria Valos, was named Atlantic-10 Conference Player of the Week last week after she went 5-for-10 with two home runs, six runs and seven RBIs as George Washington went 4-0 on the week.
Muncy sets school record
Former Kern Valley track standout Rusty Muncy set the school record at Briar Cliff University on Saturday, running 57.32 in the 400-meter hurdles at the Sioux City (Iowa) Relays. Briar Cliff is located in Sioux City.
Muncy holds the 300 hurdles school record at Kern Valley, where he graduated last year.