COACH: Bill Foster, 1st year
LAST SEASON: 2-7 overall; tied for sixth place in North Valley League, 1-6
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Foster has the Lancers working hard in the weight room and on the practice field. He says his team may surprise some people. Look for linebackers Todd Barr (6-2, 210), and Sean Pettway (6-2, 210), to lead the defense. Pettway, who is the catcher on the Lancers’ baseball team, and Barr will also play on the offensive line. Leading Grant’s defensive secondary will be free safety Robert Canton, a returning starter. Leading the offense will be quarterback Jay Ongan. He was a backup last season as a junior and did not play much. Even so, he won the starting position over two other candidates. When Ongan goes to the air, look for Mike Papaly to be downfield. Papaly (5-8, 170), is fast, has good hands and is one of the team’s few returning starters. Grant will use the split formation and the I. Senior running back Wallace Hollins (5-8, 170 pounds) will run out of both formations.
OUTLOOK: “I think some people are going to be surprised,” Foster said. And just how are they going to be surprised? “If I mentioned them, then it wouldn’t be a surprise. I think we’re going to have a different season than last just because of the dedication and determination of the kids. I think they’re very optimistic about having a good season. We’re bringing a positive football attitude back to Grant.”
COACH: Fred Neilson, 11th year
LAST SEASON: 1-8 overall; tied for seventh place in North Valley League, 1-6.
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Neilson hopes that academic ineligibility and injuries won’t take the same toll on his team as it did last season. Running back Pookie Conner, who sat out part of last season with a broken leg, is expected to spark the Huskies’ offense this season. The 5-11, 200-pound senior has been on the varsity for three years; he gained more than 400 yards in just four games last season. As a sophomore, Conner played behind All-City running back Clark Watson. “He is quick and he’s fast--he can slam dunk--and I’m confident he’ll have a great season,” Neilson said. “He is a strong back with huge legs.” Neilson has three quarterbacks vying for the starter’s job and is particularly impressed with one, Cedric Nelson. “Nelson was the starter for the B team last season,” Neilson said. “He also was our 440 man on the track team. With Cedric at quarterback, our backfield becomes a real running threat.”
OUTLOOK: “Although I don’t think the league will respect us that much because of last season, I think we can play head-to-head with anybody,” Neilson said. “We have some experience on the offensive line, which we didn’t have last year, and we have more depth this season than I have ever seen. If somebody goes down, we’ll be able to replace him adequately.”
COACH: Dick Windham, 25th year
LAST SEASON: 5-4 overall; tied for third place in North Valley League, 3-3 THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Returning to the defensive secondary is all-league free safety Jerry Gilmore. He’ll team with returning starter Ken Tatum. The captain of the Poly defensive unit is Greg Wilson (6-0, 230), a linebacker who will see some action on the offensive line. Twins Shelton and Shayland Brown will flank Wilson on defense for the Parrots. Poly is hurting on defense, so look for many of its players to play both offense and defense. At 5-8, 170 pounds, Kenny Brown is hardly the ideal offensive lineman. But Brown will start at center because of his tenacity. Leading the Poly offense out of the Delaware wing-T formation will be returning starter Don Senegal (5-8, 155). He will be handing the ball off to Gilmore, a tailback, and throwing to tight ends Wilson and Eric Taitano. Taitano (6-0, 180), will also play on offense as a tackle.
OUTLOOK: “We’ll be a better than average Poly team, with a strong backfield,” Windham said. “Depth has always been a problem. It will be tough for to compete against the two-platoon teams like Westchester. I’m not saying those teams can’t be beat. But on paper, they should come out on top. On any given night when we’re healthy, we can beat anybody.”
COACH: Joel Schaeffer, 8th year
LAST SEASON: 7-3 overall; tied for second place in North Valley League, 5-2
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Reseda is consistently one of the better teams in the area. Under Schaeffer’s guidance, the Regents have been to the playoffs five straight years. The most important returner is a last season’s quarterback controversy. Both Scott Schaeffer, the coach’s son, and Daryl Mickens will share the responsibilities. Schaeffer will start the first game. Last season, the two quarterbacks combined for 17 touchdowns--running for nine and passing for eight. Not surprisingly, the Regents averaged 27 points a game. Doug Britton and Carnell Martin, an all-league linebacker, will split time as fullback. After missing much of last season with an injury, Rod Wells, an all-league wide receiver in 1983, begins his third season on the Reseda varsity. Another receiver, Marcus Coleman is the younger brother of Chris Coleman, a Times first-team defense selection last season. He will also play in the defensive secondary with Marcus Moore and Tony Gilmore.
OUTLOOK: “We don’t have the players we had last season, so I could say we’re having a rebuilding year,” Schaeffer said. “But we have gone to the playoffs during rebuilding years. Nobody is going to have an easy time with us. We have won 17 out of our last 21 games. We’re going to be a team to reckon with.”
COACH: Tom Richards, 3rd year
LAST SEASON: 5-4 overall; tied for fifth place in North Valley League, 3-4.
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Sylmar, a team known to spend more time in the air than on the ground, will switch to the wishbone offense this season. Richards will occasionally use the I-formation, but will let personnel dictate the shift to the wishbone. “We have very quick backs,” he said. “Our quarterback is more of a runner than a passer and we have a good offensive line.” The running quarterback is junior Shawn Fontnote (5-10, 170), a converted defensive back. “We really don’t have a quarterback per se ,” Richards said. “Shawn is just a junior, it’s his first year as starting quarterback, and I don’t think he’s ready for a passing offense.” Sean Hampton, who Richards called “the finest football player this school has ever seen,” will run out of Sylmar’s wishbone. Last season, Hampton ran for 465 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore.
OUTLOOK: “We have a small squad this season, so we’re going to have to avoid injuries,” Richards said. “To make it into the playoffs, we’re going to have to beat teams like Westchester, which doesn’t even belong in 2-A.”
COACH: Joseph Sedia, 3rd year
LAST SEASON: 5-4 overall; tied for second in North Valley League, 5-2
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Sedia has slated returning starter Jonn Moomaw to call the signals on offense this season. The senior quarterback completed 65 of 127 passes last season; 10 were touchdowns. William Harris, who shared all-league honors with Moomaw, will start again in the offensive backfield. The lack of an experienced front line will prompt University to go to the air often. Moomaw will be looking for returning starters Paul Richardson and Bill Greene. The only player on the offensive line with any varsity experience is Averil Kessee (6-2, 190), who will be the muscle of the team’s run-and-shoot offense. University’s secondary, led by strong safety Mark Hobbs, is still evolving, according to Sedia, so expect growth from Marc Rodgers, Reggie Smith and James Mackey. With only one lineman on the team with any varsity experience, University’s fate lies in its line’s ability to protect and defend.
OUTLOOK: “If our line comes through, we should be right in the thick of things and we should make it to the playoffs,” Sedia said. “Because of our experience, we have expanded our passing attack. We have good receivers and a good quarterback, so our passing game looks very good. Our success centers around our line.”
COACH: Al Dellinger, 11th year
LAST SEASON: 3-4 overall; fourth place in North Valley League, 3-4
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Dellinger is putting the fate of the Gondoliers’ offense in the hands of junior quarterback Ernie Soto (5-9, 160.) The B team’s Player of the Year last season, he has a strong arm and can run. Venice has a weak offensive backfield, but has a couple of capable receivers: Dwayne Lortie, who doubles at safety, and Kevin Riven, also a defensive back. Offensive backfield hopes lie with Bob Tomaselli, a fullback who will also play defensive end. Venice’s inexperienced offensive line is led by tackle Jim Ito (5-10, 220), and tight end David Gonzalez (5-11, 180)--both returning starters. Gonzalez will also play linebacker. The Gondoliers plan to use a multiple defense spearheaded by Paul Nikcevic (6-2, 170). The defensive end drew high praise from Dellinger, who believes defense is one of Venice’s strengths. Currently five players are battling to be the starting kicker.
OUTLOOK: “I would say we have a talented but unproven team that is young and predominantly juniors,” Dellinger said. “The team has good quickness but we really need somebody to come through at tailback. Our offensive line also has to come through for us.”
COACH: Larry Wein, 3rd year
LAST SEASON: 7-2-1 overall; North Valley League champion, 7-0
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Wein doesn’t expect a repeat of last season, but he remains optimistic. The reason? Talent--lots of it. Many players will be starting on both offense and defense. The Comets have only three returning starters. One of them, linebacker Derrick Franklin (5-10, 190 pounds), will play linebacker and tailback. In limited action last season, he rushed for 300 yards and three touchdowns. Two players may share the quarterback job. Senior David Brantly (5-10, 175), will probably run the option for the Comets, while junior Steve Kristi figures to head the passing offense.
OUTLOOK: “Last year we had a really experienced team,” Wein said. “We don’t have that kind of experience this season. We do have a lot of talent, but it’s just a matter of when it all comes together. The good talent we have will have to perform well on game night if we are to be competitive. Our offense and defense are very similar, in that both are very, very quick.”
Football previews were compiled by Dave Desmond, Mike Hiserman, David Keck, Gary Klein, David Morgan, Jeanmarie Murphy, Derek Raser and Johannes Tesselaar.