Carson’s Gene Vollnogle is 54 years old, has been coaching high school football for 32 years and is six victories away from his 250th win.
He shows no signs of slowing down. Neither does his team.
Carson, the 4-A champion in 1984, will open the ’85 season Friday night against Lynwood as The Times’ top-ranked team in the City. Missing will be last season’s starting quarterback Carl Thompson, wide receivers Melvin Smith and Derek Hill and free safety Chris Wright. But, those losses aren’t necessarily devastating.
A good example of Carson’s strength is at quarterback, where Mark Walters, a wide receiver and backup to Thompson last season, has not only become the starter but a starter from whom much is expected. Vollnogle said Walters may be the best in California.
“He’s in the exceptional class,” Vollnogle said. “I’ve seen the guy at Claremont who is supposed to be the best in the state (Dan McGwire), and Mark is better than him. We went and played them in a
summer game, so I know.”
The Colts could conceivably start an offensive line including three 6-foot 4-inch players and put two speedy junior running backs, Alvin Goree and Calvin Holmes, behind them. Wide receiver looks just as solid with Myron Freeman, a transfer from Texas, joining the improving Tyrone Smith and Anthony Maddies.
On defense, Vollnogle is hoping that linebackers Pete McLachlan and Lauati Manumaleuna and linemen Randy Strickland and Tui Suiaunoa will make up for an inexperienced secondary.
“A couple of years ago our defensive backfield had 33 interceptions, which still stands as a City record,” Vollnogle said. “And that secondary was not much better than this one.
“The thing is, we had a great line up front that was making the quarterback run for his life. In other words, if we get the linebackers involved and the down linemen charging the quarterback like they did then, we can make the defensive backs look better than they are.”
The big game will be against Banning Oct. 19 at East Los Angeles College, Carson’s Pacific League opener. The nonleague schedule is no cupcake, however, with games against San Fernando, a team the Colts beat by only a touchdown in the first round of the playoffs last season, and Lynwood, which is coming off an 11-1 season.
The rest of The Times’ preseason top 10, with last season’s records in parentheses:
2--BANNING (10-2)--Coach Chris Ferragamo believes that his team is ranked too high. The way he sees it, the Pilots’ offense has been stagnant in workouts, there is too much inexperience at most positions, and Pacific League opponent Gardena has the ability to score a lot of points.
He puts Banning as the No. 7 or 8 team, but few coaches agree. Until Carson and Banning start losing more than one or two games a year, they will probably remain the top two.
The Pilots will have a strong defense. Additionally, offensive tackle Mark Tucker, defensive tackle Javier Muela and linebacker Earl Saunders all figure to be among the best in the City.
“He is one of the best linebackers Banning has ever had,” Ferragamo said of Saunders. “Greg Battle (now at Arizona State) was outstanding. John Truitt (now at Oklahoma) was outstanding. But Earl is as good as any of them were at this stage. Just a great player.”
This team could make or break its season early, with consecutive games against Santa Monica, Huntington Beach Edison, Long Beach Poly, Granada Hills Kennedy and Carson.
3--GARDENA (5-6)--Don’t be fooled by last season’s record, because opposing coaches aren’t. The Mohicans--after losing to Long Beach Poly, San Fernando, L.A. Banning, Crenshaw and twice to Carson last season--have quarterback John Matamoras and Brian Brown, one of the City’s top running backs. They should help Gardena make it a legitimate three-team race in the Pacific League.
“They can be very, very good,” Banning’s Ferragamo said. “What a dynamite backfield.”
The receivers--flanker Demiterious Smith, split end Fred White and tight end Nate Morris--are good, too. A problem area could be inside, where the Mohicans will have three starters on the offensive line under 6-0.
4--LOCKE (11-1)--With quarterback Leon Otis and running backs Kenneth Williams, Bruce Williams and Leonard Thomas, the Saints worked the wishbone to an 11-0 record before losing in the 3-A final. The Williams cousins and Thomas have graduated, but the ’85 team will hardly be hurting for offense.
Not with Otis, one of the more versatile players in the City. Not with Gene Clark and Ron Porter returning as wide receivers. Not with running back Andrew Thompson, who will become a three-year varsity player. And not with all-league center Tim Wayne, tackles Edgar Bonner and Lewis Schackleford and guard Osia Slone also coming back.
“Basically, we were a running team last year,” Coach E.C. Robinson said. “But with Leon and the two receivers, we can open it up. We have to throw more often.”
The defense will be rebuilding, although linebackers Donald Overton and Ian White and defensive tackle Demonzo Smoot will all be starting for the third year.
5--SAN FERNANDO (5-4)--The Tigers’ strength will be their strength.
All five offensive linemen, including two returning starters, weigh 215 pounds or more, and the defense isn’t far behind. Two of the three defensive linemen from ’84 return, with Robert Pulido, a 6-foot 5-inch, 275-pound junior nose guard, the key. Four others return on defense.
Mix that with speedy running backs David Richards, Lance Harper and Terry Smith and quarterback Dwayne Calloway, also a starter last season, and they appear to have the balanced attack Coach Tom Richards is hoping for.
“What’s really good is that we have a lot of depth,” he said. “We have got 60 people out for varsity football, a lot more than we’ve had the last few years. We are going to be pretty good eventually. I just don’t know exactly how long it will take.”
6--KENNEDY (6-3)--Coach John Haynes believes that if the Golden Cougars are to challenge for the Valley 4-A League title, they they must improve their passing game.
They seem ready to do just that, with a senior combination of quarterback Eric Evans, an All-City pick as a pitcher, and wide receivers Dion Lambert and Marcus Jones. Most of the offensive line also is back, including three-year starter Ara Derderian.
Haynes is concerned with the inexperience of the defensive line and linebackers. Things are more settled in the secondary, where Marcus Jones and Brett Logan start as cornerbacks and John Diggs and James Davidson or Stacy Ramsey as safeties.
7--JORDAN (5-5)--Edward Woody has replaced Hank Johnson as coach but he has no false hopes for replacing Le-Lo Lang, The Times’ All-Central City quarterback last season. But that doesn’t mean he can’t hope to come close.
“You just don’t fill the shoes of a guy like Le-Lo Lang,” said Woody, an assistant coach last season when Lang passed for 22
touchdowns and later signed with the University of Washington.
“All we can do is bring somebody in and hope they do the job. But we do have someone we like an awful lot. James Gibson is a senior and he can throw the ball just as far as Le-Lo. He’s got a good arm. And the thing he has that Le-Lo didn’t is size. He’s 6-3 1/2 and weighs about 220 pounds, and that is pro size.”
The rest of the backfield looks good, with 230-pound fullback Tim McDaniel complementing speedy Edward Lair. Keith Edwards will play both tight end and defensive end, and Woody has added Ken Simon, a forward on the basketball team, as a wide receiver-cornerback.
8--CRENSHAW (6-5)--The offense is inexperienced, particularly in the line, but Coach David Frierson has enough seniors around for a solid nucleus.
Best of all are the linebackers--Anthony Glover, Colin Smith and Keith Coleman--and the secondary, led by David Boxley and Michael Smith, the Pacific League’s defensive MVP last season.
Battling for the quarterback position are Jeff Sullivan and Steven Stepter. Both are seniors, as are wide receiver Calvin Abbott and running back Anthony Washington, who figure to be the two best on offense.
9--GRANADA HILLS (6-4)--Greg Fowble, All-City at wide receiver, returns, as does quarterback Carl Yeargain, but the pass won’t be the Highlanders’ only offensive weapon.
This season, Coach Darryl Stroh has depth, with four running backs--seniors Scott Tosti and Bob Allen, and juniors Kahlid Ali and Mike Davis--to make sure defenses won’t be able to key on Fowble. He’s also got a good battle for the starting quarterback spot between Yeargain and Brent Spurlin, a transfer from Hart.
With all that, Stroh, who has won five City titles with the baseball team, figures his team should be able to go around stronger teams instead of trying to push them around.
“The only way to beat the big boys--we are not a real physical team, after all--is to establish the passing game and then work in the run,” he said.
10--MANUAL ARTS (10-2)--The team that won 22 of 24 games the last two seasons, including consecutive 3-A championships, figures to run into problems this year.
Linebacker Fred Knox is the only returning starter on defense. Junior running back Herman Nash, ineligible for much of last season, represents the experience on offense. Even the co-coaches, Steve Landress and Jeff Engilman, left after ’84, leaving Rodney Spencer, former B-team coach, with plenty of holes to fill.
John Gonzales, a wide receiver on the B team last season, is now the varsity starting quarterback.
Times’ Preseason Top 10
1. Carson 10-2 2. Banning 10-2 3. Gardena 5-6 4. Locke 11-1 5. San Fernando 5-4 6. Kennedy 6-3 7. Jordan 5-5 8. Crenshaw 6-5 9. Granada Hills 6-4 10. Manual Arts 10-2
Records listed are 1984’s