Thousand Oaks Will Have a One-Back Mind Tonight

Times Staff Writer

Going into tonight’s Marmonte League game matching Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, Lancer Coach Bob Richards has Simi running back M. J. Nelson on his mind.

Nelson, who has rushed for 708 yards in seven games, has led the Pioneers to a 6-1 record, 3-0 in league.

Richards noted that 16 of Nelson’s career touchdowns have come on plays longer than 50 yards “There aren’t many players around who have done that,” he said.

His concern doesn’t stop there. “He’s quick and durable,” Richards added. “Sometimes a sprinter is fast, but not quick. Nelson is fast--10.6 in the 100 meters--and quick.


“And he’s part of a strong defensive team. Nebraska and teams like that are looking at him as a defensive player. He could play as a receiver or defensive back. There’s no doubt he can play major college football.”

Then Richards added: “But they would have success this year even without Nelson. They have more than him. They have a strong linebacking corps, and league championships are won by good defensive teams.”

Simi Valley ranks first in scoring defense in the Marmonte League. The Pioneers have given up 67 points.

“All year, our defense has been the key,” Pioneer Coach Dave Murphy said. “Offensively, we’ve been able to break some big ones.”


Simi Valley, which has hardly been a football power in recent years, turned its program around last year, according to Murphy.

“Last year, when we beat Westlake, 27-24, it was the turning point,” he said. “They were beating us, 24-7, with a minute to play in the third quarter. And we came back.”

Since then, the Pioneers have won eight of nine.

In the pivotal game against the Warriors, Murphy, who is in his second year as coach, beat his brother, Dan, defensive coordinator at Westlake.


“I call the plays on offense for us,” the Simi coach said, “and he calls their defensive plays. We love each other very much, but the week we play them, brotherly love goes out the door.”

Add Marmonte: In an attempt to explain how fast M. J. Nelson is, Richards said: “He’s just about as fast as (Westlake running back) Gary Wellman.”

Wellman has been timed at 10.3 seconds in the 100 meters. He finished seventh in the state track finals in the event last year.

“I doubt there is any other league in Southern California,” Richards said, “that has two football players with the speed of Wellman and Nelson. If you want to see speed, watch the Westlake--Simi Valley game. You could put together one heck of a relay team with those two teams.”


Westlake Coach George Contreras on Wellman: “He’s just a good football player who happens to be extremely fast.”

The coach noted that his 5-9, 165-pound back has generated considerable interest from major colleges. Among those showing interest: Washington, Brigham Young, Notre Dame, and Maryland.

“I think, because of his size, his future is as a receiver or defensive back,” Contreras said. “There’s no question that he’s our best athlete.”

Wellman has broken 18 school records so far. Among them: most points scored in a game (30), season (132), career (192); most touchdowns in a game (five), season (21), career (31); most touchdowns rushing in a game (five), season (15), career (23); most touchdown passes received in a game (four), season (six), career (eight); most two-point conversions received in a season (three); most passes caught in a season (24), career (45); most yards gained on pass receptions in a season (397), career (701).


Many of Wellman’s totals are still increasing. Contreras said he is close to the record for total offense and could break the record for rushing totals for a season and career.

This season, Wellman’s most notable stat could be that he averages 10.6 yards every time he touches the ball; he scores every 4.4 times he touches the ball.

“Everybody knows he’s there,” Contreras said. “They zero in on him, but then we go to (quarterback Brad) Gossen and (running back) Steve Sidler.

“After 16 years of coaching, I know you hate to play balanced teams. If a team can pass and throw, a defense can’t load up. . . . We’re averaging 40.1 points per game. Offensively, this is the best team I’ve had here.


“Our defense has been a problem.”

The Warriors have allowed 314 yards per game, which ranks them next to last among Valley-area Southern Section teams.

Westlake is 5-2 overall, 2-1 in league.

Crespi Coach Bill Redell, who is back at Crespi this year after working as an assistant for the United States Football League’s Portland Breakers, said he is glad he has returned to coach high school.


“The first four weeks, I was a hero,” Redell said. “The last three weeks have been tough.” The Celts won their first four games and have now dropped three straight.

“The difference in coaching high school is that coaches don’t have as much time to spend coaching. I teach five classes. In pro football, you work 14 hours a day on football.

“But I use the same motivation now as I did before. The only difference is the skill level. You teach high school kids the same way you teach the pros.”

Burbank Coach Dave Carson is not too happy about the way things have gone for the Bulldogs this season. Last year, Carson’s team finished 7-4. This year, Burbank has fallen to 2-5 overall, 0-2 in the Foothill League.


“Going into the league,” the coach said, “we thought we had a chance, but . . . it’s kind of bleak at this point.

“We’re just not making the plays we made last year. We’re not as good in the interior lines--we’re not as big. We haven’t been able to control the line of scrimmage. We knew we wouldn’t be big, but we thought our quickness would make up for it. Everybody we’ve played has been bigger than we are. Things just aren’t going well.”