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Metro-Mesa League Preview : Sweetwater Looks Good, Streak or No Streak

It was on a rainy Friday night last November that the steak ended. Not just any streak, but Sweetwater’s 36-game winning streak, the longest in San Diego Section history. It came to an end when Helix defeated the Red Devils, 15-6, in a 3-A semifinal game at Southwestern College.

The streak had been in jeopardy a couple of times earlier in the season--Sweetwater beat Bonita Vista, 6-0, on a fourth-quarter touchdown--but the Red Devils’ awesome mystique helped hold everything together.

“A lot of teams didn’t really believe they could beat them,” admitted Chula Vista Coach George Ohnesorgen, whose Spartans have lost nine straight to Sweetwater.

Along with putting an end to Sweetwater’s two-year reign, Helix has helped rejuvenate the confidence of the rest of the teams in the Metro-Mesa League. They will all be chasing Sweetwater again this season.

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“I’m hoping that they won’t be as good as they have been,” Ohnesorgen said. “But you can never count them out. Gene (Alim, Sweetwater’s Coach) always puts together a fine team.”

However, this year, some of the mystique may be gone. Also gone is Sweetwater’s outstanding running tandem of tailback Terry Rodgers, The Times’ Back of the Year, and fullback Martell Black.

“That’s the thing a lot of people don’t remember,” Ohnesorgen said. “Everybody thought they just won because they were Sweetwater. But they had some real talented kids.”

This year, Alim is counting on a new running back duo of Robert Phillips and Pierre Jones. He also has a new quarterback in Danny Aina.

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What’s still intact is Sweetwater’s 31-game winning steak in Metro League play. The Red Devils haven’t lost a regular season game since Bonita Vista beat them, 13-12, in the final game of the 1980 season.

If anybody can overtake the Red Devils, it figures to be Chula Vista. The Spartans made the 2-A finals in 1984 under Ohnesorgen before moving up to the 3-A last year. Thanks to a strong defense, Chula Vista reached the playoffs before bowing out in a 10-7 loss to Grossmont League champion Granite Hills.

At Bonita Vista and Montgomery, headline players from a year ago must be replaced. At Bonita Vista, second-year coach Jim Wilson must find a replacement for All-County linebacker David Woodhouse, who graduated. And at Montgomery, first-year coach Steve Summers will be looking to replace the county’s leading rusher of a year ago, Daryl Crawford.

Here’s a look at the teams:

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BONITA VISTA

Last season’s record: 2-2, 7-3

Finish: Third

Coach: Jim Wilson, second year

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Top returners: Teddy Ehrhardt (RB, 5-7, 165, Sr.); Randy Abshier (QB, 5-10, 180, Jr.), and David Comer (DB, 5-11, 190, Sr.)

Top newcomers: None

Outlook: Wilson brought Bonita Vista a long way in his first season and hopes to continue an upward swing this year. The Barons started last season with a 36-0 victory over Madison that was forfeited because of the use of an ineligible player. Bonita Vista came back to win its next five games and go 5-1. Losses to Chula Vista, 17-9, and Sweetwater, 6-0, kept the Barons from making the playoffs. Wilson will have to replace All-County linebacker and running back David Woodhouse. An experienced offensive line should help the Barons on offense.

CHULA VISTA

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Last season’s record: 3-1, 8-2

Finish: Second

Coach: George Ohnesorgen, fifth year

Top returners: J.J. Mercado (LB, 5-9, 170, Sr.); Brian Murphy (QB, 6-0, 160, Sr.), and Sione Fehoko (RB, 5-11, 175, Sr.)

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Top newcomers: None

Outlook: The Spartans, after reaching the 2-A championship game in 1984, were moved up to the 3-A Mesa League last season. Chula Vista ran off five straight victories to go 7-1 before losing the league title game, 20-0, to Sweetwater. A strong defense allowed more than 10 points only once. This year, Ohnesorgen must find replacements for All-County linemen Greg Molina and Bobby Bleisch. If the offensive and defensive lines are shored up, the presence of returning starters like quarterback Brian Murphy and 1,000-yard rusher Sione Fehoko should make Chula Vista formidable once again.

HILLTOP

Last season’s record: 0-4, 3-5-1

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Finish: Fifth

Coach: Joy Gritts, second year

Top returners: David Mossman (QB, 6-1, 195, Sr.); Judd Rachow (TE, 6-2, 205, Sr.), and Henry Negrete (WR, 5-10, 175, Sr.)

Top newcomers: None

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Outlook: The Lancers, like Chula Vista, also moved up from the 2-A last season. However, they did not fare as well. After a pair of victories and a 7-7 tie against Southwest, Hilltop slumped, winning only one more game. Hilltop lost, 13-9, to Chula Vista but otherwise were overwhelmed in league play. Mossman, Rachow and Negrete give the Lancers a solid nucleus at the skilled positions but there are a lot of other question marks elsewhere.

MONTGOMERY

Last season’s record: 1-3, 5-5

Finish: Fourth

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Coach: Steve Summers, first year

Top returners: Kevin Crawford (RB, 5-11, 195, Jr.) and Alex Gill (LB, 5-11, 190, Sr.)

Top newcomers: None

Outlook: Summers takes over this year for John DeVore and immediately faces one key problem. How to replace the county’s leading rusher a year ago, Daryl Crawford? Well, Summers didn’t even have to leave the family. He’s got Daryl’s brother, Kevin, to carry the ball. In other areas, it may a little harder for Summers to find answers. The Aztecs started 4-1 last season, but then won only one league game, beating Hilltop, 35-10. Summers must find some adequate replacements in the secondary and at some other key skill positions to have a chance.

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SWEETWATER

Last season’s record: 4-0, 10-0

Finish: First

Coach: Gene Alim, seventh year

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Top returners: Robert Phillips (RB, 5-10, 175, Sr.); Danny Aina (QB, 5-11, 180, Sr.), and Pierre Jones (RB, 6-0, 195, Sr.)

Top newcomers: None

Outlook: It used to be said that the University of Oklahoma didn’t rebuild, it reloaded. It will be interesting to see if Sweetwater can reload this year. Terry Rodgers, The Times’ Back of the Year, played his first game at the University of Nebraska on Saturday. Martell Black, Sweetwater’s fullback last year, is also gone. Those two were the keys to the Red Devils’ second straight undefeated season. Alim, however, said Phillips and Jones can also run the ball. The defense, solid last year, figures to be tough again. Sweetwater had six shutouts a year ago. Even if it is just rebuilding, Sweetwater is still the team to beat.


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