COACH: Brent Newcomb, 17th year
LAST SEASON: 8-4 overall; second in Golden League, 4-1
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Newcomb says that although his team is youthful, it is well-balanced and will probably make it to the Southern Section playoffs again. He has two all-league players in returning defensive lineman Matt Kimbro (6-2, 240 pounds) and linebacker Michael Fly (6-1, 170). Joining Fly will be middle linebacker Ryan Lie (5-11, 185), and fullback/linebacker Ted Metzgar (5-9, 165). Returning junior Eric Mortensen, who started at cornerback last year, will play at both corner and running back this season--with good reason. He is a league 100-meter, 200- and 220-meter sprint champion who has the agility and speed to excel at both positions. Sophomore Ron Whipple, who was brought up from the freshman team, will start at quarterback. "He's a young kid," Newcomb said. "But people will know about him." On the offensive line are James Richards, Brian Caldwell, Richard Bass, Harold Morrow, Billy Fox and Michael Stewart. All the receivers--Larry Rucker, Boyd Parker and Andre Coleman--are seniors. Coleman (5-6, 145 pounds) doesn't look like a wide receiver, but Newcomb says: "He's a scooter." Vincent Tolliver will share running back duties with Mortensen, and John Conedy will split his time at running back with Metzgar. Versatile Ricky Cage will play safety, punter and place-kicker.
OUTLOOK: "We don't have the big-play guys this season," Newcomb said. "Our quarterback and tailback went to Hawaii and others graduated. But we do have a good group and a solid nucleus of returning starters. It's more of a team this year because we don't have the game-breaker type kids. Everyone will have to chip in and do their part to help out the team."
COACH: Gene Vejtasa, 2nd year
LAST SEASON: 3-6 overall; tied for third in Golden League, 2-3
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Coach Gene Vejtasa lists 20 returning players on his 50-man roster. That gives him the experience most other Golden League teams are lacking this season. All of the Burros' defensive backs are returners, providing the team with defensive consistency and strength. Senior Alan Celestine, an all-league selection, will be joined at defensive back by John Carter, Ray Haleman. Gene McNabb will play cornerback. Linebacker will be led by Chad Walke, an all-league choice. The Burros also look strong offensively, with several returning starters in key positions. Senior Steve Burdette will be at quarterback, senior Jerry Gerrick, who was all-league, will be at wide receiver and senior Chad Stoner will be at fullback. Chad's brother, Neil Stoner, also a returning senior, will play outside linebacker. Haleman will see double-duty this season, splitting his time between defensive back and tailback. "I think we should be a little bit better on offense this season," Vejtasa said. "One of our goals for this year is that we want to be able to pass the ball effectively while developing a running game. We're aiming for balance on the offense." Another standout at Burroughs is returning senior Robert Scanlan, an offensive lineman and tackle, who weighs in at 230 pounds, but runs the 40 in 5.0. "He's big, but he has speed," Vejtasa said. "I think he's one of our better players."
OUTLOOK: "The major difference between last season and this season is a more balanced offensive attack," Vejtasa said. "Last season, we had Tim Lewis, who is now at Antelope Valley College, at running back and we concentrated on our running game. But, we should be able to make up for our change in offense with lots of returners."
COACH: Harry Welch, 4th year
LAST SEASON: Northwestern Conference champions, 14-0 overall; Golden League champion, 5-0
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Cowboys, who have won the Northwestern Conference the past two years, have suffered injuries and have an inexperienced offensive line this season. Under the direction of Welch, however, Canyon may be able to overcome the obstacles. In the past two years, Welch has led the Cowboys to 24 straight wins and an overall record of 27-1. Welch says that one of this season's leaders is junior Randy Austin (6-3, 210), who play linebacker and tight end. "Randy's a truly sensational football player," Welch said. "He'll be an All-American." Another one of the Cowboys' few returning starters is nose tackle Joe Zacharia, who was named All-Southern section last season. Joining Austin at linebacker will be Greg Smith, Troy White and Paul Chadwell. All-Golden League linebacker Cary Caufield is one of a dozen players sidelined with injuries. The list of players struck by injuries reads like a who's who of Canyon's defensive backfield and wide receiver corps: Jeff Paskwietz, Ron Lindberg, Tim Wilson, Lance Cross, Joe Kershner, Jay Maltzman, Kevin Kelleher, Frank Hernandez, Dom Spainhower, Jeff Dolder, Chad Ziegler and Travis Reynolds. "If we can stay out of the hospital and on the playing field," Welch said, "we'll have a good year." Still on their feet are second-team All-Golden League quarterback John Watkins, and backup quarterback Ken Sollom, who led Canyon in last season's last minute, rain-soaked, come-from-behind playoff victory over St. Joseph
OUTLOOK: "With all these inexperienced players and injuries, you have to coach harder," Welch said. "I don't really believe any individual person or group is responsible for a team's success. As each team rolls over, year after year, you establish a new chemistry and identity as a team. . . . But in all my years of coaching, I've never seen so many injuries on a team. It's going to be tough."
COACH: William Norton, 2nd year.
LAST SEASON: Tied for fifth place with Quartz Hill; 1-7-2 overall, 1-4 league.
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Coach William Norton is hoping this will be the year Palmdale pulls itself out of a 20-year-slump and makes the playoffs. "This year will be the 20th anniversary of the last time Palmdale made the playoffs," said Norton. "And I think this year we could mark that anniversary by making the playoffs." Norton's optimism is based largely on the strength and experience of his 12 returning starters, most notably Toney Edwards, a second year All-League running back, Tom Lanski, a 6-3, 206-pound defensive lineman, Tim Watkin, an all-league defensive lineman, and Mike Behen, the Falcons' starting quarterback. The offensive line features returning starters Dave Kleschick and Chris Bolls, junior John Adams, Lanski and Watkin. "Our offensive line averages 26 pounds more than it did last season," Norton said. "And we don't have any fat guys either. . . . Last season, we had two lineman weighing 150 pounds. Our smallest this year is 186." Senior Travis Irving will start at tight end and seniors Jose Mendez and Dave Armenta will start at wide receiver. Junior Fred Jenkins will start at fullback. On defense, Palmdale has eight seniors and returning starters including Mike Jones, Richard Kuhlman, Gus Valerio (an all-league selection), Tyrone Burshardt, Rich Bertell, Watkin, Lanski and Armenta. Junior Jason Tooman will be at middle guard, sophomores Bob Kline will start at inside linebacker and Eric Thomas will be at left defensive halfback.
OUTLOOK: "We're bigger, faster, smarter, stronger and quicker than we were last year," Norton said. "And this year's seniors believe in themselves more. If the kids lose the first two or three games, it will be a problem of confidence, and they'll think, "Oh no! Another losing year.' But if they win those first two or three games, it'll give them the confidence they need to win."
COACH: John Albee, 18th year
LAST SEASON: 3-6-1 overall; tied for fifth in Golden League, 1-4
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Quartz Hill has completely overhauled its offense and will go for the run-and-shoot, which is altogether different from anything the Rebels have used in the past three years. From 1982 to '84, the Quartz Hill offense was designed around Aaron Emanuel, who gained 4,806 yards rushing and scored 54 touchdowns. He will play at USC this fall. "We are blessed with some good slot backs and wide receivers this season," said Albee. "And the run-and-shoot offense will be opposite of what we did with Aaron Emanuel. Now that he's gone, we have to go and redesign what we've been doing." Competing to play slot back will be sophomore Ron Coleman, junior Keith Lalao, and seniors Joey Robbins and Eric Seeger. Seniors Chris Mangarin and Greg Burchman and junior Doug Costa will play at wide receiver. Junior Scott Weiss and senior Roeste Iribarren will share quarterback duties for the Rebels. If the offense has been weakened with the exit of Emanuel, the defense looks especially strong, with six returning starters. They include seniors Ian Scripter, Jeff Jenkens, Matt Hanna and Eric Seeger. Robbins will be busy--playing on offense as a slot back and on defensive as a back. Similarly, Weiss will split his time on the playing field between quarterback and free safety. Hanna will also have double duty--playing linebacker and offensive guard. Senior Scott Wall should also be a standout on the offensive line at tackle.
OUTLOOK: "Last year we relied on Aaron Emanuel," Albee said. "But, we just don't have the strength at running back this year, so we're going to go with the run-and-shoot. I think our strength will be in the passing game, and running short patterns, which is completely different from anything we've done before. . . . Our toughest opponents this season will be Antelope Valley and Canyon."
COACH: Al Hansen, 11th year
LAST SEASON: 6-5 overall; tied for third in Golden League, 2-3.
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: With only five returning starters, Saugus is an inexperienced team that will fill its ranks with recruits from the sophomore team. "We've got what we feel is a hard working bunch of kids," Hansen said."But they do lack experience." The Centurions have no returning offensive starters, but Hansen points to running back Rodney Bradshaw as a major force on the team. Although Bradshaw is a senior, he was sidelined last season with a broken ankle and did not play. "He's an explosive-type runner," Hansen said. "He's got good speed--he does the 40 in 4.6--and good moves." Hansen is undecided at quarterback, but lists Brian Reilly and Joel Condren as two possible choices. The wide receiver corps will be led by senior Kevin Gordon and junior Mark Allen, who played on the sophomore team. Sophomore starters Tom Erickson will start at offensive guard and Chacka Milby will start at tight end, but Hansen said the Centurions' offensive line is their weakest link. "It's very inexperienced," he said. "But returning seniors Judd Goodrich and Lance Ane should help." Goodrich and Ane, in addition to working the offensive line, will also anchor the linebackers. Rounding out the offensive line are Barry Crom, a transfer from Ridgecrest-Burroughs, at offensive guard; Mike Velek and Richard Sears at offensive tackles. Corey Geib will play fullback. The defensive secondary will include Steve Higgins, Eric Newbury and returning starter Gordon.
OUTLOOK: "We're going to try a variety of sets, plays, options," Hansen said. "There will probably be more running than last season, but we'll strive for balance. . . . Last year, the team was much more experienced, with lots of good people."
Football previews were compiled by Dave Desmond, Mike Hiserman, David Keck, Gary Klein, David Morgan, Jeanmarie Murphy, Derek Raser and Johannes Tesselaar.