Has a ring to it.
Joe Friday used to tell us every week, “This is the City.” When things got rough, that’s when he came in. He carried a badge.
The City. A basketball team in San Francisco used to wear that on its jerseys. It said it all.
In high school football, the City means Carson and Banning. As the season opens this week for Los Angeles Unified District Schools, Carson will be defending its City 4-A title. Nobody but Carson and Banning has won that title for nine years. Carson and Banning have played each other in the championship game six of those years.
Unlike Joe Friday, they don’t have to show you the badge. They own the City. When things get rough, they’re usually the ones dishing it out.
One local coach, asked to rate a preseason top 10, replied, “Carson and Banning. Nobody else exists.”
Once again Carson and Banning are rated tops in the City, with Gardena a contender in what should be a very strong year for City teams in the South Bay; Locke is ready to defend its City 3-A title, San Pedro could be Locke’s top competition in league and Narbonne looks competitive again after a down year. Westchester expects to be strong again on the 2-A level.
Carson is again the early favorite for City supremacy. Banning Coach Chris Ferragamo calls his team “very young” but says, “we’ll get better.”
Friday’s opening games and the schedules tell you the teams aren’t ducking anybody. Banning plays at Santa Maria, then takes on CIF powers Edison and Long Beach Poly. Carson opens at Lynwood, then faces St. Paul and Bishop Montgomery--the first Torrance school to play the Colts since 1972. Gardena hosts top-ranked Long Beach Poly, then plays Ocean View.
It doesn’t get any easier in league play. The Pacific League in the recent past has produced all four City semifinalists.
Here are how the teams shape up:
Carson (Pacific League, 4-A)--Veteran Coach Gene Vollnogle needs six victories to reach 250 in his high school coaching career. He figures to get them before the playoffs. Carson may have its fastest backfield ever, sporting two junior running backs, and should be able to score with regularity.
Vollnogle is more worried about the defense, which lost 10 starters to graduation. “If the defense develops we will be very tough,” Vollnogle said. “Until then we will have to outscore our opponents.”
The backfield will have quarterback Marc Walters, a converted receiver, and junior speedsters Alvin Goree and Calvin Holmes. Walters is highly regarded by college recruiters and by Vollnogle, who rates him “one of the best QBs in the state” at 6-2, 170. Goree (5-10, 180), started last year and led the team with 605 yards and 8 touchdowns. Holmes (5-9, 160) was a star sprinter in track--10.5 for 100 meters--and ran for a U.S. junior team this summer in China. “We could have the best tandem of backs in the state,” Vollnogle said.
Receivers Anthony Maddies and Tyron Smith will start. The offensive line includes returning starters Tau Itula (6-4, 240), Falaniko Iakopo (6-3, 205) and Danny Castro (5-10, 220).
The returning starter on defense is linebacker Peter McLachlan, who has speed and quickness to go with college size (6-4, 230). Other lettermen being counted on are lineman Randy Strickland (6-0, 240) and linebacker Lavati Manumaleuna (5-11, 215).
Banning (Pacific League)--The Pilots graduated their all-league backfield and will have a different look without all-star quarterback Jamelle Holieway. In his place is drop-back passer Eddie Kapu, who impresses Ferragamo with his ability to withstand pressure in the pocket. “He’s got a lot of guts. He showed a tremendous amount of fortitude in our scrimmage,” Ferragamo said.
The backfield is unsettled, though Eric Sharp (6-1, 200) looks like the probable fullback. Damon (Spud) Culver moves from receiver to tailback. The offensive line includes returning starter Mark Tucker (6-5, 255) and Sam Siufanua (6-4, 225). “They know how to fire out. They’re exceptionally good linemen,” said Ferragamo, a former offensive lineman. Josh Taotoi anchors the left side at 6-7, 255.
The defense is keyed by middle linebacker Earl Saunders (6-0, 185), an all-City performer. “He was all over the field in our scrimmage. He just took over. You don’t find many like Earl,” Ferragamo said. He also likes the looks of lineman Javier Muela (6-1, 235). The rest of the defense is largely new faces.
“The team is so young, frankly I don’t know what we have,” Ferragamo said. “I say rank us low and let us work our way up.”
Gardena (Pacific League)--The Mohicans lack the depth and some of the size of Carson and Banning but have several outstanding players, including the area’s top running back, Brian Brown. The 5-11, 180-pound speedster placed third in the state last spring in 200 meters and rushed for more than 600 yards as a junior, scoring twice against Carson in the City semifinal. Brown is considered one of the top running prospects in the state.
“We have excellent speed and quickness,” said Coach Bill Partridge.
Also on hand are wide receiver Pee Wee Smith (6-0, 175), tight end/middle linebacker Nate Morris (6-1, 205) and offensive tackle Michael Hatter (6-3, 220). Junior Jon Matamoros takes over at quarterback and will take some pressure off Brown if he can hit Smith regularly. Partridge is also high on 217-pound junior running back Jon Frazier.
Crenshaw, Dorsey and Fremont round out the league. Crenshaw is normally in the running for a playoff spot. However, Crenshaw and Fremont have new coaches.
Locke (Freeway League, 3-A)--The Saints come marching in with a loaded backfield and a huge offensive line, possibly the biggest in the City. Leading the way is all-league quarterback Leon Otis, a multiple threat in Locke’s triple option. Last year he passed for 1,000 yards and rushed for about 300 and he has grown to 6-1, 195.
He’ll pass to Gene Clark and Ronald Porter. Clark is a two-year starter. Andrew Thompson will be featured at running back. Center Tim Wayne, a three-year starter, is part of an offensive line that averages 260 pounds, with two players topping 290.
The defense has two three-year starters at linebacker, Donald Overton (6-0, 205) and Enis Waite (6-3, 215). Otis also plays free safety. If the Saints don’t dominate in the league again, “We’ll be right there,” says Coach E. C. Robinson.
Locke hosts Dorsey at 3 p.m. Friday.
San Pedro (Freeway League)--If Locke doesn’t dominate, it might be because San Pedro puts up strong opposition. The Pirates may have the league’s best player in flanker/safety Michael Ford. The 6-2, 205-pound senior was one of the state’s top sprinters last spring and will be the focus of the Pirate attack. He also handles punting and kicking. “He’s good at everything he does,” says Coach Henry Pacheco. “We’ll be throwing him the ball quite a bit.”
Junior quarterback Randy Galosic, a returning starter, is the one entrusted with getting the ball to Ford out of the veer. The running game is also solid with returner Lionel Robinson at fullback and junior Steffan Smith, last year’s B league most valuable player, at tailback. The lines include returning center Leonard Miller (6-0, 185), tackles Lee Ursich (6-0, 220) and Paul Ramirez (5-11, 190) and guards Scott Batchelor (5-11, 190) and Anthony Falangetti (6-0, 190).
The solidly built Robinson (5-11, 220) anchors the defense at middle linebacker, where he was all-league in San Pedro’s 4-3 setup that Pacheco characterizes as “very aggressive.” Pacheco also likes Anthony Maleta at linebacker. The 190-pounder is a league weightlifting champ. Defensive end Traveon Adams has college potential at 6-1, 210 and junior Anthony Babich (6-2, 220) is a promising tackle. Ford is the top defensive back at free safety.
The Pirates open Friday evening at Granada Hills.
Narbonne (Freeway League)--The Gauchos fell on hard times last year but Coach Lee Haley is confident that things will be different when they open Friday at Bell. “We look pretty good,” Haley said. “We expect to give everybody a good ballgame.”
The return of most of the offensive line is reason for some optimism. That includes tight end Mike Lassiter (6-0, 205), tackles Jason Able and Ken Ashe (6-2, 220), guards Jason Kimura (5-9, 225) and Glen Maugham and center Chris Eastburn (5-11, 215). They’ll protect quarterback Carlos Vega, running backs Dwight Sims and DeSean Beasley (6-0 195) and flanker Eddie Taylor (6-0, 185). Haley tabs the latter two as college material. Beasley, also the team’s top linebacker, is quick and Taylor is the fastest player on the team.
Most of the same faces are on defense.
Garfield, Franklin and Wilson complete the league. Garfield is expected to be a contender.
Westchester (Pac-8 League, 2-A)--Coach Larry Wein has a mostly new team but feels there is talent to compete for the league title. Only three starters return: guard Barry Jensen (5-10, 190) and all-league center Arthur Easton (6-2, 230) on offense and linebacker Derrick Franklin on defense.
The Comets’ best new prospects are quarterback/wide receiver David Bradley, junior quarterback Steve Kristi and junior running back/linebacker Keith Bowen (6-1, 200). The plan is for Kristi to develop so that Bradley can play wide receiver. The Comets also have wide receiver Chris Charles. Franklin will see action at tailback in Wein’s slot-I offense.
The defense has two promising juniors on the line, tackles Ken Webb (5-10, 200) and David Brandon (6-0, 180). Larry Bonner joins Bradley and Charles in the defensive backfield.
“I’m optimistic about us coming around. We just need some game experience,” Wein said. On-the-job training starts Friday night at home against Jordan.
The far-flung league also includes Grant, Venice, Reseda, Poly, North Hollywood, Sylmar and University.