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Football: Venice has a New Zealand connection making major contributions

One of the stars for Venice High this season is a foreign-exchange student from New Zealand, James Cherrington. The 6-foot-1, 216-pound 17-year-old has six sacks playing defensive end.

Not bad for someone who showed up last January having never played football. He was a rugby player coming to America to experience a year of Southern California culture.

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"I love it. There's nothing like it," he said of his football experience.

If he can help Venice knock off Crenshaw on Friday in a City Section Division I semifinal, he'll get the chance to play in the City championship game.

He's scheduled to return to New Zealand in January but would love to return. He could be a college football prospect.

"I don't want to go home," he said.

He has lived with a host family. Friends took him to eat lamb, a favorite meal in New Zealand, at a restaurant for his birthday. Teammates are always trying to copy his New Zealand accent. So far, quarterback Alexander Diamont ranks best.

"Apparently he sounds just like me, but I think he sounds South African," Cherrington said.

When Cherrington tried to put on a jersey and shoulder pads for the first time, he said, "I didn't know what I was doing."

Now he might be one of the best defensive ends in the City Section. And he's going to have lots of stories to tell in New Zealand.

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