Parity appears to be the watchword and revised leagues the look as CIF high school football opens the 1986 season this weekend.
There don’t appear to be powerhouses in the South Bay, but most teams look competitive and close league races are forecast all around.
If nothing else can be forecast before the first pass or tackle, it can be predicted that there will be new champions in several leagues because there are new alignments in nearly every league.
The good news for the sake of local rivalry is that the four Torrance schools are back together in the Bay League, along with Palos Verdes Peninsula neighbors and rivals Rolling Hills and Palos Verdes. Perennial Bay League power Santa Monica has shifted to the Ocean League. Torrance and North Torrance shift back from the Ocean League to the Bay. Mira Costa goes from the Bay to the Ocean.
Leuzinger will be back to defend its Pioneer League title, but not its Desert-Mountain Conference championship. The Pioneer League is now in the Northwestern Conference. A newcomer to the league is Redondo, which immediately becomes one of the league favorites, along with revived Morningside.
The constantly shifting Camino Real League loses St. Bernard, which moves up to the powerful Angelus League. “We’re looking forward to the challenge, even though the kids don’t know where most of those schools are,” said St. Bernard Coach Duke Dulgarian. Where most of the schools--including Servite, St. Paul and Bishop Amat--are is high in the CIF Big 5 rankings.
The South Bay team that earned the highest pre-season rating in coaches’ polls was little Chadwick, which has become a power in the Eight-Man Conference. The Dolphins are ranked second behind Templeton.
Here are how the league races shape up:
Bay League--West Torrance and North Torrance are ranked in the pre-season Coastal Conference top 10, but league coaches like South Torrance, which has one of the state’s top linemen in Brian Kelly (6-5, 245). The Spartans also return several all-league players, including tailback Steve Kujawa.
There’s a new look at North High, where Don Bohannon replaces Steve Schmitz, who stepped up to El Camino College after 10 years as North’s coach. Bohannon has one of the South Bay’s top receivers in Dustin MacGillivary among 14 returning starters. Another standout is linebacker Ryan Kanehaillia, who packs 190 pounds on a 5-8 frame. The 31 lettermen will be challenged by the young players from last year’s 9-0 junior varsity.
West Torrance, the surprise league champ last year, has a solid nucleus of 12 starters and 17 lettermen. Dominic Cefalone was on the All-South Bay team as a kicker and will add linebacking duties. Other who earned post-season honors were linebackers Jon Henderson and Steve Lancaster and lineman Vince Pellerito.
Torrance has a roster of juniors but can anchor its lines on two-way seniors Dan Hernandez (6-0, 215) and Todd Tuione (6-0, 230).
Palos Verdes is the league’s junior partner. About two-thirds of the players are juniors, including fast 185-pound halfback Matt Seaburn and 6-3, 215-pound tight end David Porter. The offense will revolve around senior running back Austin Peters, who gained 600 yards in a support role as a junior. Mark Choate, another backup a year ago, takes over at quarterback. Coach Bill Judy said Peters is also a blue-chip prospect as a defensive back. Senior nose guard John Milam (5-10, 225) anchors the line. Despite the preponderance of underclassmen, Judy said, “I think we have a good chance to make the playoffs.”
Rolling Hills returns one of the area’s top quarterbacks in Dan Bellow, and Coach John Mack Brown feels he has a major college prospect in tailback Greg Thomas, a 6-2, 200-pound senior who played fullback last year. The lines should be stronger and Brown has instituted a year-round weight program. The Titans had no all-league players a year ago but Brown is ready to turn that around. “We have a lot of very good athletes returning,” he said.
Ocean League--Santa Monica becomes the favorite merely through its introduction to the lineup. League coaches say Hawthorne may be the only other team with athletes to match Santa Monica. Area coaches say a league bunching Santa Monica, Hawthorne and Inglewood becomes a “speed league.”
As usual, Hawthorne boasts a lot of that speed, including several members of last spring’s state track champion team. However, much of Hawthorne’s talent pool is made up of untested underclassmen. Sophomore Curtis Conway, a member of the state champion 400-meter and mile relays, will start at quarterback, running an I formation that will feature Yke Valeri and Richard Harrison, a part-time starter last year, at tailback and Kevin Edison at fullback. Wide receiver Treamelle Taylor is a returning starter with speed and great hands. Reed also likes 6-4 junior Tony Church at receiver. The defense features returning linebackers Ed Logia and Elgin Lofton. The rest of the cast is new.
Mira Costa changes leagues but may not get much of a break. Coach Herb Hinsche’s squad is largely juniors and there’s not much speed. Hinsche terms his talent “young players with small size--and slow,” but he usually produces a competitive bunch.
Inglewood is a program with a problem. The Sentinels have a 14-game losing streak, longest in the South Bay, and will have their fourth coach in four years, Billy Mills at last report. The Sents have some talent; quarterback Wesley White and running back DeAndre Wolfe started last year. Lineman Alfredo Gonzales goes both ways and anchors large lines. The personnel fits in the “speed league,” but this is a program in search of stability.
Beverly Hills and Culver City round out the league. Culver returns all-league quarterback Frank Dolce and good receivers. Santa Monica boasts running back Mark Jackson leading a ground-oriented attack.
Pioneer League--The smaller schools in this league--El Segundo and Miraleste--hope they don’t get swamped by larger entries like Redondo.
Redondo enters the revamped league loaded for action. The 10 returning starters include quarterback Scott Yessner, who has accounted for 2,852 aerial yards the last two seasons, and 215-pound running back Nat Muzik. Yessner has two dependable receivers in Mike Stone and Todd Croce.
Morningside is ready to start pushing some people around again behind preseason All-American linebacker Corey Brown (6-3, 215), lineman Jimmy Porter (6-2, 195), receiver Charles Jordan and defensive back Alvin Smith. Brown will double at running back.
Miraleste may not have the depth to stay with Redondo and Morningside, but the Marauders have talent. Running back Mike Silane was among South Bay rushing and scoring leaders as a junior. Coach Gary Kimbrell calls Mark Comings “the best two-way lineman we’ve had in several years.” Junior center Sean Cole, lineman Chris Gagliano and defensive back Jim Patton are also returning starters. Kimbrell’s outlook is cautious, “not because I don’t think we’re good, but because the league is so tough.”
Leuzinger will have an entirely new offense and decent size on the lines, probably bigger than last year when the team won a CIF championship. The inexperienced defense will feature Van Erwin. The Olympians have depth at most positions.
El Segundo Coach Steve Newell plans to come at people in waves of running backs. “We’ll play a lot of different kids at running back,” he said. “We’ve got six or seven, no one standout, all about even, but they’re all good.” The Eagles have size on the line in Gary Stewart (6-5, 235). David Ihde is another good one at 5-10, 175.
Three-year starter Scott Talanoa, who spent the summer playing baseball, is a question mark and will not be in the lineup Friday. At 6-5, 265 and a three-sport star with speed, Talanoa is a recruiter’s dream but apparently is undecided over whether to play football. If he doesn’t, El Segundo has only eight seniors. A youngster to watch is 185-pound sophomore linebacker Robbie White. Chad Stevens is a hitter at safety.
Centennial of Compton rounds out the league.
Camino Real League--Verbum Dei is again the team to beat, with standout Dubois McMillan back at linebacker and Doug Lewis at running back. Pius X, which shifts from the Angelus League, and Serra are seen as the other top contenders for playoff spots, with Mary Star of the Sea a dark horse.
Serra has only 10 seniors but has talent at the skill positions, including Darryl Jackson at quarterback. Lawrence Stevenson is the top lineman. Coach Dale Washburn said the team has speed and reasonable depth at all positions. “We could do well if the kids improve through the season,” he said.
Mary Star has its biggest squad in years--32 players--and should be competitive under first-year Coach Gerry Duffy, who was an assistant at Servite. Duffy’s grind-it-out approach should be well-served by returning tailbacks Danny Pereira and Mike Bugarin and 230-pound fullback Raul Rodriguez and four returning offelsive linemen--Geordy Hershman (6-2, 220), Sam Alvarado (5-10, 200), Vic Spinosa (6-2, 225) and Dave Ramirez (6-3, 225). However, with Art Lopez returning at quarterback, Duffy said he may open up the offense a bit. Though his flankers and center are sophomores, wide receiver Sean Young is a letterman and the fastest player on the team.
On defense, Spinosa, the team’s best lineman, is joined by 5-6, 160-pound nose guard Mitch Orlando, termed by Duffy exceptionally strong and quick. Defensive ends Sal Perri and Sam Polaris are also good. There are more returning starters in Dewey Dominguez at cornerback and Matt Felando and Vince Comparsi at linebacker.
Angelus League--St. Bernard moves up in league and has one of its smallest teams in memory. The huge linemen of recent years are missing, with the exception of junior David Banuelos (6-2, 251), Luis Benitez (5-10, 276), Shawn Pogue (6-1, 231) and Ruben Castenada (6-0, 232), none with much experience. The top lineman is junior center Lauro Prieto (6-1, 221).
Running back/defensive back Kevin Bayonne has made several pre-season All-American lists but had arthroscopic knee surgery two weeks ago and probably won’t be at full strength for several games. Coach Duke Dulgarian also likes running back Brett Hayes and receivers Eric Nelson and Jason Lucky. Junior tight end Marlon McBride (6-1, 197) is one of the few returning all-leaguers.
Bishop Montgomery is another junior-dominated team that could surprise if a young offensive line can protect junior quarterback Niu Sale. The converted safety may be the team’s best athlete and will run the option. He’ll have help from returning tailback Kurt Bohney and wide receivers David Blakes, Joe Yates and George Cullen. Coach Andy Szabatura calls Blakes, who led the team in receptions last year, “a great one.” The line is young but has great size, with four players at 220 pounds or more.
The defensive line has two starters back: 220-pound Pat Bernard and 230-pound Laurn Jordan. Opponents may think they’re seeing double against the Knights; there are three sets of twins, including starting defensive backs Dan and David Cordoba.
Eight-Man--Chadwick is highly regarded with good reason: Four All-CIF players return and there is experienced talent at nearly every position. The leader is quarterback Jeff Kaufman, who passed for 1,500 yards and was an All-CIF punter as well. Greg Burrelli and Ben Rosen are all-star linemen and junior Charlton Jackson caught 61 passes and 14 touchdowns last year. Keith Moore will complement him. Coach Jim Drennen says 6-4 linebacker Fred Clark is a dominating player.
Drennen said the Dolphins should contend with Pasadena Poly and Rio Hondo for the Prep League title.
Coast Christian, with Coach Dan Pride coming in from Los Feliz Hills and bringing several players with him (that school dropped football), should have a solid team in the Heritage League.