Consider experience. Coaches consider it currency.
The combination of talent and training is as intangible as it is important, and as elusive as it is exalted.
In football, particularly, where the school of hard knocks instills the most long-lasting lessons, there is no better teacher. No number of X’s and O’s, drills or workouts, can quite replace game experience.
Coaches at Pierce, Valley and Moorpark colleges know this all too well. In fact, they are clawing at their chalkboards this season for experienced players.
Only 18 sophomores are listed on the 86-man roster at Pierce. Just two of the 22 Brahma starters in last season’s Potato Bowl are back. Similarly, less than 25 of the players on Valley’s 85-man roster are returning sophomores. Moorpark lists 23 sophomores on its 57-man roster.
A team bottom-heavy with freshmen is referred to, in coaching vernacular, as “rebuilding.”
Cases in Point:
“My expectations are a bit more of an unknown, more of a challenge,” Pierce Coach Jim Fenwick said.
“I think we could be good,” Valley Coach Chuck Ferrero said. “But we’re very, very young. . . .It’s hard to tell.”
And from Moorpark Coach Jim Bittner: “We’re going in very optimistic. We do have good players, but not much depth.”
Despite Bittner’s caution, the word is that Moorpark is the team to watch.
The Raiders were 4-5-1 and finished fourth in the eight-team Western State Conference last season. But with an overhauled defensive line and a solid nucleus of returning offensive starters, the Raiders may prove to be the WSC’s most balanced team--and biggest improvement.
The core of the Raiders’ offense is quarterback Ken Lutz and wide receiver Dan Russell, who have been teammates since their sophomore year at Royal High. The duo dominated WSC offensive statistics last season--earning All-WSC honors--and are ready for more of the same this fall.
But Bittner hopes to balance his pass-oriented offense with the addition of freshmen Kyle Opp and Jim Bittner (his son), and sophomore tailback Uasi Latu. Latu will replace WSC all-purpose rushing leader Tyrone Moore, who transferred from Moorpark to UC Berkeley. Opp, an All-Ventura County pick from Simi Valley High, should start at tight end, and Bittner will be at fullback. Bittner was an All-Ventura County fullback for last season’s Coastal Conference champion Camarillo.
“If we have few injuries, I think we will be very good,” Coach Bittner said. “We’ve recruited well, although we’re not too deep in the offensive line.
“The big difference is that our defense is much better. We’ve got better defensive speed and better size on the line than in the past.”
The changes should help, because there is no place for Moorpark to go but up in the WSC defensive categories. With Russell, Lutz and Moore, the Raiders led the WSC in offense but finished last in defense.
In contrast, Valley showed considerable defensive muscle last season while finishing 6-4 in the Southern California Conference. The addition of Dan Brown as defensive line coach this season should shore up the defense, which was hard hit by graduation.
“Last year, we had a tremendous defense--all sophomores except for two--and tremendous maturity and leadership,” Ferrero said. “But we’ve lost an awful lot of good players this year and we’ve moved a number of freshmen into key roles.”
Indeed, Valley’s quarterback, Andy Ramos, is a 6-4, 195-pound freshman from Cleveland High. First-year running backs Allan Rouse (San Fernando) and Elvin Ware (Verbum Dei) will challenge returning sophomore Clifford Cannon in the backfield. Jerry Garrett, a transfer from Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, will join Neosia Morris at wide receiver. And Valley’s offensive line features two notable additions--Jonathan Newman, who redshirted last season, and freshman tackle Tim Brown.
“Our success will really depend upon how we progress and improve week by week,” Ferrero said. “I believe we’ve got the talent to be good. The competition will be between Pierce and us.”
Fate--and university recruiters--have left Pierce with a similar squad of inexperienced sophomores and freshmen. Although Fenwick says his team is not as experienced as he would like, he’s optimistic.
“I’m still excited about what we can do,” said Fenwick, who led Pierce to a 10-1 record in 1984. “There are so many fresh personalities and players with good character and attitude. . . .”
Character and attitude are fine, but the points those qualities score are not necessarily on the playing field. Fenwick, however, scored some equally fine freshmen, who should translate into points on the scoreboard.
To fortify the offensive backfield, Fenwick has brought in freshmen Robert Davis (Cleveland High) and Myron Jones (Chatsworth). Jones, an All-City first-team choice last season, is a strong contender for a starting position. Returning sophomores Tyrone Beaulieu, Ardies Stefin and Joe Velez had little chance to prove themselves last year while playing behind All-SCC starters Mike Bryne and Kevin Burgess.
The addition of Greg Eskridge, a transfer from the University of Minnesota, will offer depth at wide receiver. Other receivers are sophomores Fred Dussett and Anthony Sargent. The exit of All-America tight end Jeff Markland, who transferred to the University of Illinois, opens a spot for Mark Schrater, Mark Setterberg or Bruce Moore. Freshman Rick Rosales will join John Gorecki and Dave Rovetti at offensive tackle.
Fenwick recruited freshman Steve Haddad at quarterback, but sophomore Joe Broussard, who played behind Erik Kramer last season, will present a strong challenge. Haddad redshirted last season after suffering a stress fracture in his right leg.
“We’re hoping for big things from Haddad if he can stay healthy,” Fenwick said. “He’s still learning every day, but we’re taking it slow and keeping things simple until we build up his confidence. Right now, he’s still somewhat inexperienced.”
That’s always something to consider.
COACH: Jim Bittner
LAST SEASON: Fourth place in the eight-team Western State Conference; 4-5-1.
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Last season, the energetic freshman duo of quarterback Ken Lutz and wide receiver Dan Russell dominated the Raiders’ offense. Lutz and Russell stayed on top of the Western State Conference offensive statistical categories all season, and earned All-WSC honors. Although Lutz and Russell are returning, Bittner plans to diversify his offense with the addition of his son, Jim Bittner, who was an All-Ventura County fullback at Camarillo, and freshman Kyle Opp (Simi Valley), who should start at tight end. Returning sophomore center Mark Camper earned All-WSC honors as did returning cornerback Jim Grandpre on defense. Bittner says cornerback and kicker Kevin Green should be a major force on defense along with Pat Knowd at linebacker. The Raiders recruited extensively for their offensive line and defense, landing freshmen Blane Wingle, who will start at offensive guard, and tackle Matt Hickman, an All-Ventura County and Shrine game selection from Camarillo. Miller Apiu, an All-Southern Section pick from Channel Islands and Donny Ott, an All-Ventura County choice from Camarillo, will add considerable defensive strength as linebackers. Freshman Jeff Ebert, who also earned All-Ventura County honors at Camarillo, should be a valuable addition at safety. And Bittner says he thinks returning sophomore Gus DeLapena, at nose guard, will be another standout.
OUTLOOK: “Our defensive is much better this season, but we don’t quite have the speed on offense with Tyrone Moore and Spiro Kokkinos gone,” Coach Bittner said. “Those guys were sprinters. This year, we do have a more powerful running game, and with Lutz and Russell we can pass to get the big plays. I’m anxious to see how we do. I hope we can live up to all the predictions we’ve heard.”
COACH: Jim Fenwick
LAST SEASON: Potato Bowl runner-up; Southern California Conference title; 10-1
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: In a season that features only 18 sophomores on the Brahmas’ 86-man roster, the defensive line is dominated by returners Paul Corey (6-0, 221-pounds), Pete Warda (6-1, 240) and Paul Serina (6-2, 240). Fenwick says defensive tackle Ken Moffet should also be a standout. Sophomores Fred McFarland and Anthony Quaglino at inside linebackers should work well alongside freshmen Joe Gigantino and Ian Comes. Fenwick says the addition of Greg Eskridge, a University of Minnesota transfer, adds depth to his already strong wide receiver corps, which includes sophomores Fred Dussett and Anthony Sargent. Fenwick also recruited for depth at running back, bringing in freshmen Robert Davis from Cleveland and Myron Jones from Chatsworth to challenge returners Tyrone Beaulieu and Ardies Stefin. Also on offense, Fenwick has high hopes for freshmen tight ends Mark Setterberg from Hart and Bruce Moore from Thousand Oaks, who will be competing for Jeff Markland’s old job. Markland was an All-America tight end who transferred to the University of Illinois. At offensive tackle, Fenwick recruited Rick Rosales from Alemany. He believes the 6-3, 290-pound freshman will be a major force, although he says John Gorecki (6-5, 230) and Dave Rovetti (6-3, 220) also are fine tackles. Only a couple of members of last season’s offensive line remain: center Parke Elmore and guard Brian Adams.
OUTLOOK: “A significant difference this season is the lack of experience,” Fenwick said. “We have a lot of sophomores who haven’t played much, and last year we had a lot of sophomores who had experience and picked up things easily . . . But I think we will see improvement each week.”
COACH: Chuck Ferrero
LAST SEASON: Finished with a 6-4 record in the Southern California Conference
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Despite the loss of defensive players to graduation, Ferrero is pleased with his rebuilt defensive line, which includes Alain Greer (6-1, 270-pounds) and Chris Glaze (6-0, 265). He also says defensive backs Chris Truitt, Darrell Hartz and Arthur White should add strength and depth. Ferrero says he also has depth at linebacker with sophomores Clark Watson and Marty Steward and freshman Ron Johnson from Saugus. Offensive linebacker Jamil Hershewe will be joined by freshman Jonathan Newman, who redshirted last season. Another freshman to watch is Tim Brown at offensive tackle. The Monarchs’ offense appears strong with tight end Ricky Ame and wide receivers Neosia Morris and Jerry Garrett, a transfer from Snow College in Utah. But the rest of the offensive leaders, with the exception of returning sophomore Clifford Cannon at running back, are freshmen recruits. Running back Allan Rouse is from San Fernando High and Elvin Ware is from Verbum Dei. And starting quarterback Andy Ramos is a 6-4, 195-pound freshman from Cleveland High. Although Ferrero concedes that Valley is a young team, he believes the offense has balance. In addition, Ferrero is looking at punter Donald Cruse and place kicker Harry Konstantinopoulos as standouts. Valley takes on Rio Hondo next Saturday’s opener, but Ferrero thinks his toughest opponents will be Glendale and Pierce.
OUTLOOK: “Our goals for the year are hard to say because we are such a young team,” Coach Ferrero said. “But, of course, we will try to be as good as we can possibly be and will certainly aim for the conference championship. . . . Our success will really depend upon how we progress and improve, week by week.”