The Century League, which has produced five Southern Conference champions in the past eight years, may be considered one of Southern California’s strongest football leagues, but that won’t stop the Southern Section from breaking it up next year.
A re-alignment, reducing the league from eight teams to six, will move Tustin High School to the Sea View League and Orange High to a newly formed league with Costa Mesa, Woodbridge, Laguna Hills, Laguna Beach and Trabuco Hills.
This will be their last year in the powerful Century League, but you won’t find Tiller Coach Marijon Ancich or Panther Coach S.K. Johnson getting all choked up or teary eyed.
Ancich doesn’t care which league he plays in, as long as the competition is equitable. Johnson? He’ll be glad to get out of the Century League alive.
Johnson’s three-year experience in the Century League can best be described as dreadful. During that span, his Panther teams have combined for a 4-25-1 record, including a winless season in 1983. They’ve been overwhelmed, and the situation won’t improve much this year.
“For the kids, I’m glad to get out,” said Johnson, who coached Lynwood to the Southern Conference championship in 1980. “They’ll have a better chance for success. I like the competition, but I’d also like to be in a battle I have a chance of winning once in a while.
“I’ve been at the top and I’ve been at the bottom, and it’s great being at the top. But being at the bottom puts everything into perspective. You realize you’re in it for the kids and not for yourself.”
Teams such as El Modena, Foothill and Villa Park will do that--put things in perspective for weak teams--and quickly. They’ve made life miserable for Johnson, and they’ll be terrorizing the Panthers for one more season.
Those three teams, along with Santa Ana, will challenge for playoff berths, with the edge in the race for the league title going to El Modena, the two-time defending Southern Conference champion, and Foothill.
The Vanguards return several key players from last year’s 13-1 team, including linemen Don Gibson and Allen Ennis and running back/linebacker Ross Bauer.
Quarterback Brett Johnson, who passed for more than 2,000 yards, has moved on to Arizona State, but Coach Bob Lester, entering his 20th season at El Modena, will have a capable replacement in senior Chris Gallego.
“He’s a tall boy (6-feet 3-inches) and he throws the ball as good as anyone I’ve seen, but he hasn’t played in a varsity football game,” Lester said. “He’s a mystery but a potentially good quarterback.”
Foothill, under Coach Ted Mullen, will have two impressive tandems on both sides of the line with returning running backs John Fischbeck (1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns in 1984) and John McTaggart, and returning linebackers Tom Quinn and Barry Walshe.
Santa Ana, which fell to a disappointing 3-7 in 1984, should be a much-improved team, while Villa Park, which went 7-3 and finished in third place, should stay in the running for a playoff spot.
Tustin and Canyon may challenge for third place, while Orange and Santa Ana Valley are considered longshots.
Here’s a closer look at the Century League:
CANYON: Key Personnel--Todd French (6-2, 185), QB; Chuck Zacour (5-10, 165), WR; Mel Green (6-2, 195), OT; Scott Homiczewski (6-1, 210), OT; Scott Wallingford (5-11, 175), C; Drew Batieste (6-1, 185), DE; Steve DeShano (6-1, 200), DT; Matt Alario (6-2, 195), LB and Tim Dunn (6-0, 185), LB.
Top Newcomers--Frank Everett (6-2, 180), DB; Dietrich Gumbrecht (6-2, 175), WR; Richard Herman (6-0, 185), OG; Dareld Karns (5-11, 170), FL; Ray Shull (5-11, 175), RB; Jason Wilborn (6-2, 195), TE and Rodney Wright (5-11, 175), TB.
Outlook--The Comanches got off to a 3-0 start last year but injuries prevented them from challenging in league, where Canyon finished 2-5 and in sixth place. In all, the Comanches lost eight starters who occupied 11 positions. “Being able to put the same team on the field two weeks in a row would be a good start this year,” Coach Rod Hust said. Whatever lineup Hust does field, it will be devoid of superstars or major college prospects. “We have the type of team that you can’t look at and say you have to stop any one individual,” Hust said. But he is confident that his quarterback, French, who started the last four games in 1984 and threw for about 600 yards, will be able to raise the Comanches to a playoff-caliber team.
EL MODENA: Key Personnel--Don Gibson (6-3, 255), OT/DT; Allen Ennis (6-1, 220), OG/DT; Ross Bauer (5-9, 165), RB/LB; Robert Nasser (6-4, 190), OT/DE; Joe Scagliotti (6-0, 200), LB and Pepe Jezek (5-11, 175), RB/LB.
Top Newcomers--Chris Gallego (6-3, 180), QB; Greg Gill (5-11, 165), DB; Jeff Meyer (5-10, 160), DB/WR; Bobby Reitz (5-10, 160), DB/WR; Jeff Blake (6-2, 185), DE/TE; Tim Haapala (5-11, 200), C; John Thompson (6-0, 195), LB/WR; Don Thompson (6-0, 178), FB/LB and Grant Grable (6-1, 215), DE/OG.
Outlook--The Vanguards have won the last two Southern Conference championships, but Lester doesn’t see his team becoming overconfident as the 1985 season approaches. “If they take after their coach, they won’t feel any different, because he’s a very humble man,” he said. “I go into every game scared to death. Winning two titles is nice, but the only problem is we become very desirable to beat, and we don’t want to get beat.” They certainly won’t get beat up. Lester has some excellent size in the line with Gibson, Ennis and Grable, while Jezek, Scagliotti and Bauer are three tough linebackers. The Vanguard offense may be geared a little more toward the pass this year under new backfield coach Pete Parker. Parker replaced 12-year offensive coordinator Tom Shine, who is now an assistant at Rancho Santiago College.
FOOTHILL: Key Personnel--Tom Quinn (6-2, 225), LB; Barry Walshe (5-10, 195), LB; Chris Cutliff (6-2, 190), DB; Brian DeCoite (5-11, 200), DT; Bill Medina (6-0, 175), WR; John Fischbeck (6-0, 185), TB; Carrick Brewster (6-2, 200), K and John McTaggart (6-0, 195), TB/FB.
Top Newcomers--Brian Healy (5-10, 220), DG; Chris Fergus (6-1, 190), QB; Paul Fiore (5-11, 185), C; Mike Gazzaniga (6-1, 220), TE; Adam Hairston (6-0, 180), LB; Mike Horton (5-10, 165), DB; Brett Bloom (5-10, 160), DB; Randy Laycock (5-10, 180), DG; Keith Takabayashi (5-9, 150), FL; Brian Woods (5-11, 210), OG and Todd Stewart (6-2, 195), LB.
Outlook--The Knights appear to be a very strong defensive team, and they have two of the league’s best running backs in Fischbeck and McTaggart, but the quarterback position is still a question mark. Fergus, a junior, and senior Brian Horten are contesting for the job, but neither has had varsity experience. “They both have strong arms, but how well they throw under pressure is something we’ll have to find out,” Mullen said. “If worse comes to worse, I’ll just have them hand the ball off to the backs.” Mullen lost his entire starting offensive line, which included Steve Hingst, Jon Rice and tight end Dave Gazzaniga, but there’s plenty of talent up from a 9-1 sophomore team and several returning lettermen to fill in.
ORANGE: Key Personnel--Steve Acuna (5-11, 195), OT; Paul Patino (6-0, 220), DT; Mark Holman (5-11, 160), CB/WR); Bill Spejcher (5-10, 170), DE and Gabe Trejo (5-11, 165), QB.
Top Newcomers--Eddie Lee (5-10, 160), WR/CB; Frank Talafus (5-11, 165), DB/WR; Steve Barton (6-0, 230), OT; Frank Prelesnik (6-1, 180), OG; Jim Murphy (6-2, 215), OT; Chris Macias (5-11, 160), QB/LB; Mike Stock (5-11, 165), QB; Ernie Vasquez (5-5, 150), RB; Gerald Salazar (5-4, 150), RB; Ron Salazar (5-6, 150), RB; Paul Maund (5-10, 175), RB/LB; Rowland Serna (6-0, 180), LB/TE and Carl Wyckhouse (5-8, 165), TE/DE.
Outlook--Johnson has just 43 players on the combined varsity and junior varsity rosters, and only four started all season for the Panthers last year--Acuna, Patino, Holman and Spejcher. He’ll use the same offense he has used in the past, the triple-option veer. If only he could find more opponents that fear the veer. With Santiago, Norco and Katella on its nonleague schedule, Orange should be able to match and, perhaps, surpass last season’s three-win total. But the Panthers’ chances of reaching the playoffs are still remote. Johnson likes Maund’s potential at running back and linebacker. “He reminds me of El Modena’s Ross Bauer,” Johnson said of his sophomore. “He can be a great back. He’s just finding out now that he can possibly be a man.”
SANTA ANA: Key Personnel--Eric Turner (6-4, 190), QB; Liale Afualo (6-0, 240), OG/DT; Tony Gonzales (6-1, 235), OT/DT; Lanier Bridges (6-6, 215), TE/DE; Carlos Sanchez (5-11, 205), OG; Danny Perez (5-9, 165), LB; Steve De La Riva (5-10, 180), LB; Derrick Jones (5-10, 190), TB/LB; Frank Arechiga (6-0, 180), DB; Hector Olivares (5-9, 160), WR/DB) and Oscar Tavares (5-10, 170), DB.
Top Newcomers--Paul Hurley (6-0, 170), WR/DB; Royal Wilbon (6-0, 170), WR/DB; Robert Lee (6-0, 190), TB; Sergio Rocha (5-10, 250), C/DL; Richard Lenoir (5-10, 180), C/DL; Albert Ruiz (6-3, 195), DE/TE; Mark Braden (6-0, 185), TE/DE; Eferain Islas (5-9, 160), WR/DB and Emle Leausa (6-0, 230), FB.
Outlook--The Saints are the league’s only team returning a full-time starting quarterback, and Turner should have more time to throw this year thanks to an improved line, which features Afualo, Sanchez, Gonzales and Rocha. Santa Ana will be strong and deep at the receiver position, where Hurly, Olivares and Wilbon should be Turner’s best targets, and in the backfield, where Leausa and tailbacks Lee, Jones and De La Riva will handle the running responsibilities. “I think Eric will be one of the best quarterbacks in the county and he has a better group to work with this year,” Coach Dick Hill said. “We’re not fearful of anyone. I’d pick us at the top of the league, and I think the chances of that happening are more realistic going into this year than last.”
SANTA ANA VALLEY: Key Personnel--James Shipp (6-2, 185), QB; Mike Whitlock (6-2, 190), RB; Wayne Mack (5-9, 155), RB; Albert Acosta (5-9, 175), C; Marco Marquez (5-11, 180), OG; Daniel Alo (6-3, 260), DT; Larry Guillory (6-3, 385), DT and Tim Allison (5-9, 200), NG.
Top Newcomers--Peter Perez (5-7, 155), LB; Francis Talavoa (5-9, 185), DE; Paul Peters (5-11, 160), WR; Eddie Napper (5-9, 165), RB; Tim Robinson (6-1, 185), WR and Ed Burnell (6-3, 200), DE.
Outlook--Falcon Coach Willie Williams would rather forget last year’s 0-10 season, but he’s hoping his players will look at it as a learning experience. “I took it very hard, but there’s a whole different attitude this year,” Williams said. “That has got to pay off in a good season.” Santa Ana Valley should be an improved team, but the Falcons are still a long way from challenging in the league. What success Santa Ana Valley does have will probably stem from its running attack, which will feature Whitlock and Mack. The offensive line, with Alo, Burnell and Talavoa, is bigger and better. “As usual, El Modena, Foothill and Villa Park will be the league favorites,” Williams said. “I’ll just say that we’ll be competitive.” That would be an improvement over last year.
TUSTIN: Key Personnel--Chris Hord (5-11, 195), LB; Willye Thomas (5-11, 205), DT; John Ashman (6-6, 225), OT; Sean Quinn (6-2, 170), DB; Kent Katnik (5-11, 175), OG and Pete Chiampas (5-11, 180), C.
Top Newcomers--Dave Patstone (6-5, 210), TE; Tim Hollinger (5-10, 185), FB; George Menges (5-8, 145), QB; Mike Macias (5-10, 170), LB; Brian Hardin (5-10, 175), DB; Kevin Villar (5-11, 170), DB; Miguel Alcazar (5-10, 150), WR; Tim Linehan (5-7, 155), TB; Gary Sykes (5-9, 160), TB; Roger Orab (6-3, 205), DT; Jim Russell (6-2, 170), QB; Steve Dahlberg (6-2, 173), WR; Dave Schlemmer (6-1, 183), DE; Mike Audet (6-0, 178), DE and Shawn Reagin (6-2, 186), NG.
Outlook--When Ancich took over at Tustin last year, his major task was to eliminate the losing image that had long been associated with the Tillers, who hadn’t won a league championship in the previous 29 years. Turning a 1-9 team into a 6-4 playoff contender helped establish Tustin as a viable football school. This year, Ancich just has to rebuild his team, which returned only six starters. Menges and Russell are competing for the quarterback job, while Sykes and Linehan will try to create a running game. Katnik and Ashman are the only offensive starters back, while Thomas, Hord and Quinn are the veterans on defense. Tustin opens its season Saturday night when the Tillers play host to Kapaa High of Hawaii.
VILLA PARK: Key Personnel--Dave Rose (5-10, 180), FB/DB; Mark Johnson (5-10, 160), DB/WR; Pat Glenn (6-2, 200), LB/FL; Steele Kelly (6-0, 185), LB/OG and Rod Turner (6-0, 200), TE/DE.
Top Newcomers--Steve Cable (6-3, 210), OT; Jeff Zaremba 5-10, 180), OG/LB; Mike Cederoth (6-0, 160), QB; Tom Kelly (6-1, 170), QB; Ryan Hayes (5-7, 160), PK; Sam Oh (5-11, 185), OG; Jerry Linsmeyer (6-1, 180), DT; Nathan Bugg (5-9, 180), C and Dave Lahawn (6-0, 180), DT/OT.
Outlook--When Pat Mahoney took over as coach last season, he thought the Spartans, who were returning nine starters, had a legitimate shot at the league title. Villa Park, however, finished third. With just four starters returning this year, Mahoney has more modest expectations. “I see El Modena and Foothill as being powerhouses,” he said. “I see us as being in the hunt for a playoff spot.” Mahoney has an excellent fullback in Rose, who ran for 900 yards and eight touchdowns last year. “He’s a good receiver, too, if we can get him the ball,” Mahoney said. That responsibility will probably go to Cederoth, the senior quarterback who has an edge over Tom Kelly, the junior. “We have talent but lack leadership and experience,” Mahoney said. “We’ll have to mature quickly if we’re to compete.”