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It’s Another Good Year for Prep Football, and Amat Looks Best

Times Staff Writer

So it’s expected to be a good year for prep football teams in the San Gabriel Valley. So what’s new?

In a typical year, one or two teams from the valley will win CIF Southern Section championships.

Last year was a little better than average. Muir won the CIF Coastal Conference title, Claremont took the Eastern Conference and Charter Oak captured the Southeastern Conference.

When you also consider that Damien finished second in the Eastern Conference and Diamond Bar was second in the Southeastern, it is easy to understand why the valley is a hotbed of football.

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With top contenders in several conferences, 1986 has the makings of another above-average year for valley teams.

That makes the pre-season choice for No. 1 difficult, but traditional powerhouse Bishop Amat gets the nod.

The Lancers were the choice last fall and won their first 11 games before they were upset by Marina of Huntington Beach in the Big 5 Conference quarterfinals.

Traditional powers Muir, Los Altos, Damien and Pasadena are waiting in the wings this fall should the Lancers stumble.

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And Rowland, South Hills, Temple City, Claremont, Diamond Bar, Arroyo and Ganesha are expected to battle for CIF championships.

The top teams:

The Top 10 1--Bishop Amat (Angelus League; Big 5 Conference)--For first-year Coach Mark Paredes, coaching the Lancers is the chance of a lifetime.

“It’s quite a thrill,” admitted Paredes, an assistant coach at Amat for the last six years. “To be able to coach at an institution like Bishop Amat, with its tradition, is really a dream come true.”

Bishop Amat has a history of producing major-college prospects, and this year is no exception.

No other team in the valley can put a running back such as Eric Bieniemy (5-10, 190) and a offensive tackle such as Richard Garrick (6-4, 260) on the field at the same time.

Bieniemy, one of the top backs in the state, rushed for 1,824 yards in 304 carries and 28 touchdowns and Garrick was one of his top blockers as the Lancers posted an 11-1 record and were ranked No. 1 in the CIF for much of last season.

But wait, there’s more.

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Bishop Amat has two other big offensive linemen in center Ken Szalonek (6-0, 255) and tackle Troy Auzenne (6-4, 215). That should give Paredes the muscle for his run-oriented Power I offense.

“We’re not not going to get pounded on, I guarantee you,” Paredes said.

The Lancers will have speedsters Tom Faranda (5-9, 165) and Mazio Royster (6-1, 180) at running back and a solid wide receiver in Carlos Hernandez (6-1, 185). The quarterback will be Robert Montanez, a senior, or junior J. R. Phillips.

The defense is strong, led by hard-hitting linebacker Charles Fraley (6-2, 210), back Sean Canova (5-11, 170) and end John Hess (6-0, 185).

The Lancers figure to have depth because the freshman, sophomore and junior varsity teams combined lost only one game last fall.

2--Muir (Pacific League; Coastal Conference)--They finished 13-1 and won the Coastal Conference title last year.

They have a 33-4 record over the last three seasons.

They have running back Ricky Ervins, who could be the best in the state.

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Sounds like good enough reasons for the Mustangs to be ranked No. 1 in the Coastal Conference again.

So why does Coach Jim Brownfield call the Mustangs “the most overrated team in the CIF”?

“We have seven kids that are dyed-in-the-wool, three-way players (offense, defense and special teams), and I think because of that we’re highly overrated. We’re just not that good. There’s no way.”

But Brownfield will have a difficult time finding believers, at least until his teams stop winning 10 or more games a year. And not until he stops producing college prospects such as Ervins (5-9, 185), who rushed for 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior and runs the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.4 seconds. “He’s playing better now than he did last year,” Brownfield said.

Muir may not have as much depth as last season, but there is an abundance of front-line talent.

The Mustangs have an outstanding passer in senior quarterback Vince Phillips (6-1, 185), who is also one of the premier baseball players in the valley. Muir also has a speedster at safety and wide receiver in senior Marcus Robertson (6-2, 170).

Other players who will probably play offense and defense are lineman Durrell Hightower (6-2, 210), offensive lineman and linebacker Chad Brown (6-3, 180), lineman Anthony Jackson (6-0, 230), offensive and defensive tackle Derrick Watson (6-0, 180), wide receiver and safety Tony Johnson (5-11, 160), fullback and safety Charles Crowther (5-11, 160), defensive back and wide receiver Eric Williams (5-7, 155) and offensive and defensive guard Wes McGarity (6-0, 205).

Said Brownfield: “We will not have a very good football team if we don’t find some depth.”

Now if he could only find someone who believes him.

3--Los Altos (Sierra League; Eastern Conference)--Dwayne DeSpain, longtime coach of the Conquerors, says there is an aura of excitement surrounding this year’s team.

That has to be unsettling for the rest of the conference.

DeSpain, whose team played in the stronger Southern Conference last year, has won five CIF titles in the last 14 years, including the 3-A Division in 1972, the 4-A in 1973 and 1976, the Big 5 Conference in 1977 and the Southern in 1982.

With 12 starters returning from a 7-3-1 team, an Eastern Conference title may not be far off.

“We’re really excited about this team,” DeSpain said. “We like our seniors, and the juniors behind them are looking very good.”

DeSpain said the difference between last year and this year may be experience. “We were very young last year. This year I think we’ve grown up. The experience is there.”

So is the talent.

The Los Altos passing attack, a key to past success, should be strong with quarterback Darren DeSpain (5-9, 150)--the coach’s son--and receivers Steve Peters (6-5, 215), Blake Hayward (6-0, 175) and Jimmy Snyder (5-11, 160).

Peters, a senior, caught 36 passes for 543 yards and five touchdowns last season. “We think he has gotten bigger and faster,” the coach said.

The offense is stocked at running back, led by Larry Verdugo (5-7, 130) and Marlon Jurovich (5-8, 160), and has big, experienced blockers in tackles Paul Rio (6-3, 240) and Robert Coleman (6-3, 210) and guard Randy Harvey (6-0, 210).

Los Altos also has a dependable place-kicker, Victor Rosilez (5-8, 180).

Defense is not a problem, not with veteran linebacker Kenny Lopez (6-2, 180), the team’s leading tackler last year; linemen Garo Sirinian (6-3, 210) and Mike Zorn (6-3, 212) and cornerback Tommy Tinajero (5-10, 160).

4--Damien (Baseline League; Eastern Conference)--The season has taken on ominous overtones even before it starts.

It is easy to feel that way when two starters suffer serious injuries in auto accidents during the summer.

Two-year starting fullback Chris Johnson suffered a broken leg and safety and place-kicker Scott Kelly suffered a crushed pelvis and collapsed lung. Neither is expected to play this season.

Fortunately for Coach Dick Larson, the loss is cushioned by eight starters and 32 lettermen from a team that finished 9-5 and reached the Eastern Conference finals. “The guys who have come in for them have worked very hard to replace them,” Larson said.

Even with the injuries, the Spartans have the talent of a powerful offense.

The key player is heavily recruited senior tailback Eric Henley (5-10, 165), one of the premier offensive players in Southern California. Henley, who rushed for 1,333 yards and 18 touchdowns and caught 24 passes for 293 yards as a junior, also returns kicks and punts and can play flanker and defensive back.

“He’s fun to coach and he’s surrounded by a lot of good people,” Larson said.

The coach was referring to wide receiver Junior Pro (5-8, 155), who caught 20 passes for 275 yards last year; tight end Tim Winn (6-4, 210), quarterback Jimmy Irwin (5-10, 180), tackles Paul Walski (6-2, 250) and Hans Almarez (6-2, 240), guards Dan Ruiz (6-2, 245) and Bubba Bryan (6-3, 260) and center Steve Steinhour (6-2, 215).

The defense is not nearly as experienced. Linebacker Charles Lough (6-4, 215) and nose guard Kevin Winters (5-9, 185) are the only starters returning. Other defensive leaders are cornerbacks Billy Garcia (6-2, 170) and Derek Bryan (5-10, 165), safeties Chris Richards (6-3, 175) and Calvin Daigre (6-2, 190) and tackle Danny Sanchez (6-0, 220).

5--Pasadena (Pacific League; Coastal Conference)--After a surprising year in which the Bulldogs finished 9-4 and reached the conference semifinals, Coach Gary Griffiths is anxious to get this season started.

“I was thrilled with what we did last year,” Griffiths said. “We went as far as we could with what we had. This year, on paper, we might be stronger. It’s just a question of how long it takes them to click.”

The Bulldogs have the personnel, led by explosive running backs W. C. Morrison (6-0, 166), who rushed for 540 yards last season, and Anthony Wallace (6-0, 172).

Griffiths thinks Morrison is among his most improved players. “I think most kids mature a lot in one year,” he said. “He’s a fearless blocker and became a much better rusher when we went to the wishbone (last year).”

Pasadena also has a leader at quarterback in junior David Griffiths (5-10, 160), the coach’s son. “He’s a heady kid,” the elder Griffiths said. “He reads defenses well and has a nice (passing) touch.”

Blocking looks solid with Ralph Sanders (6-1, 216) at tight end, Brian Wright (6-1, 212) at guard and touted sophomore Terry McDaniels (6-3, 232) at tackle.

The defense, one of the best in the valley last year, should be solid again. The leaders are linebacker Anthony Washington (5-8, 184) and middle guard Lamar Watkins (6-1, 250). Cornerbacks Lamont Milam (5-11, 152) and Kenny Phillips (5-11, 150) and safety Chris Sunada (5-10, 170) head an outstanding secondary.

6--Rowland (Sierra League; Eastern Conference)--In four years as coach of the Raiders, Harry Robinson has led his team to four playoffs.

But Rowland has lost in the first round of the Southern Conference each time.

With the Sierra League moving to the Eastern Conference, Robinson is hoping to last a little longer this season.

“In the other conference we were up against it, but in this conference I think we are one of the strongest leagues,” he said.

It helps to have 12 starters from a team that was 7-3-1.

Rowland’s ground-oriented offense should flourish with all-league running backs Tom Choi (6-0, 212) and Russ Goo (5-6, 155). The quarterback will be Jim Atchison (5-10, 195). “He looks like a guard and runs like one,” Robinson joked about Atchison. “He has a good arm though.”

Other starters on offense are center Mike Gallaway (6-0, 185), tackle Gio Amador (6-0, 220), tight end Phil Braum (6-3, 185) and flanker Corey Blake (5-9, 160).

The defense, which could be the team’s strength, includes linebackers Mike Rutherford (5-8, 180), Ron Berdin (5-8, 160), Choi and Gallaway, Braum at monsterback, Blake at cornerback and Kirk Larson (6-2, 220) at tackle.

“We think we’re going to have a pretty good team,” Robinson said. “But a couple of our kids are two-way players and we can’t afford to lose them (with injuries).”

7--South Hills (Valle Vista League; Eastern Conference)--The streak is seven years--and counting.

The Huskies have won the Valle Vista League title every year since its formation, and with 15 starters from an 8-2-1 team they are expected to make it eight in a row.

“It’s our most experience since 1979,” Coach Jack Nemzek said. “It’s kind of nice. Usually you’re not blessed with that many people coming back.”

Not only is it one of the most experienced teams ever at South Hills, it’s also one of the biggest. “We have pretty good size on the line,” Nemzek said. “It’s the tallest we’ve had in a while.”

The offensive line has tackles Chris Bobo (6-3, 210) and Greg Hammons (6-0, 205), center Mike Roland (6-3, 215), guard Rick Lutz (6-3, 235) and tight end Eric Bagshaw (6-0, 180). That should provide blocking for the veer-option offense that will feature senior quarterback Matt Kranz (5-9, 175) and running back Jim Mire (5-9, 160).

The Huskies figure to pass more than their usual five or six times a game. Kranz threw for a school-record 15 touchdowns as a junior.

The Huskies are strong on defense, especially at linebacker with Rene Mendoza (6-3, 210), David Vasquez (5-11, 180) and Tim Hurney (5-9, 160). Other top players are defensive backs Joel Rushing (6-1, 185) and Anthony Marquez (5-8, 150) and linemen Jerry Perez (6-3, 225) and Tom Fite (6-0, 210).

With the addition of former Sierra League schools West Covina and Walnut to the Valle Vista League, Nemzek expects his quest for another title to be difficult.

“Those teams will definitely strengthen this league,” he said. “But we’re planning on having a good year.”

8--Temple City (Rio Hondo League; Northwestern Conference)--Coach Don Swanson was taken aback to learn that the Rams were ranked No. 2 in the Northwestern Conference in a pre-season poll.

“I don’t know how they come up with those things,” Swanson said. “I just couldn’t believe that.”

But with 14 starters from last year’s 7-4 team, it is not that difficult to believe.

“It’s probably the most experienced team I’ve had and it’s also probably the most talented,” Swanson said. “It’s a group of players that have been together for a long time and they’re very together as a unit.”

The Rams return six starters on offense, including quarterback Tim Vance (6-0, 170) who directs the run-oriented option attack. The backfield also has fullbacks Mike Mooney (6-2, 200) and Kevin Moore (6-0, 200) and flanker Mike Napolitana (6-2, 200).

Temple City is strong on the line with guards Jerry Henderson (6-0, 185) and Daryl Dittibrand (6-1, 175) and tight end Scott Rowland (6-0, 200).

The Rams may be even stronger on defense. “Once again I think it will be (our strength),” Swanson said. “We played with a lot of juniors last year and I think they’ve grown up a bit.”

Temple City’s top defensive players may be linebacker Bob Rees (6-3, 225) and defensive back Tom Ball (5-10, 170). Others are tackles Steve Hofstad (6-1, 185) and Scott Nordman (6-0, 180), ends Bob Fisher (5-10, 170) and Mark Ferguson (5-10, 165), defensive back Brian Edwards (5-11, 170) and roverback Rich Niccum (5-11, 170).

9--Claremont (Baseline League; Eastern Conference)--Quarterback Dan McGwire and wide receiver Travis Watkins--the terrific one-two passing combination--are gone.

And so are most of the other players who led Claremont to two straight Eastern Conference championships.

But it would be foolhardy to underestimate the Wolfpack, which has made the conference playoffs for seven consecutive years and has posted a 66-19-3 record.

“I think that says something about the program,” Coach Bob Baiz said. “It didn’t start or stop with Dan McGwire and Travis Watkins.”

Claremont has nine starters from last season’s 13-1 squad and several standouts from a solid junior varsity.

The Wolfpack should have a strong rush led by senior backs David Swartz (5-10, 195) and speedster Lamont Nash (5-10, 160), who combined for about 700 yards rushing and five touchdowns last season.

Other leaders on offense figure to be linemen John Ginrich (6-0, 190) and Brad Holstrom (6-3, 240), wide receivers Jason Thomas (6-3, 180) and James Flournoy (6-2, 180) and tight end Mark Huttinga (6-1, 190). The quarterback will be senior Fulton Parks or junior Baraka Harper.

The defense is headed by linemen Denail Sparks (6-3, 215) and Kyle Shebesta (5-11, 185), linebacker Erik Garcia (6-0, 200) and defensive backs Bob Baiz Jr. (5-11, 170) and Thomas.

10--Diamond Bar (Sierra League; Eastern Conference)--After success in the Southeastern Conference the last four years, the Brahmas are stepping up to the powerful Sierra League of the stronger Eastern Conference, and Coach Terry Roche hopes they are ready.

“The kids have worked hard during the summer and have a positive attitude, but it’s a new ballgame,” Roche said. “We don’t know if we can compete in this league.”

That may be exaggeration. Diamond Bar reached the CIF finals for three straight years in the Hacienda League and has 12 starters, size and speed returning from last year’s 13-1 team.

The Brahmas have one of their biggest offensive lines ever, which includes promising junior tackle Bascom Mellon (6-3, 240), senior tackle Kelly Schlegel (6-6, 225), senior center Greg Galbreath (6-3, 210) and senior guard Elliott Boston (6-3, 195).

Among Diamond Bar’s top players in the skill positions are quarterback Jim Edmonds (5-11, 185), running backs Jeff Andrews (5-10, 185) and Paul Liano (6-0, 205), tight end Tim Lucero (5-11, 190), wide receiver Frank Galindo (6-0, 185) and placekicker Corey Kapano (6-1, 185).

Galindo is also one of the leaders of the defense, having intercepted nine passes as a junior. Other standouts include Mellon and Jeff Bosse (6-0, 200) at tackle, Troy Glass (6-0, 252) at middle guard, Liano and George Spada (5-10, 185) at linebacker and Kapano at safety.

“We’ve got good size but we’ve got a few too many kids going both ways,” Roche said. “We hope we can put a few new kids in those positions as we get going.”

Best of the Rest

Arroyo (Mission Valley League; Southeastern Conference)--Who is happiest to see Diamond Bar and Charter Oak leave the Southeastern Conference?

It could be Arroyo Coach Don MacKinnon, whose team lost to Diamond Bar in the conference semifinals in 1984 and to Charter Oak in the semifinals last year.

Considering that both teams have moved up to the Eastern Conference and the Knights have 14 starters from an 11-2 squad, it’s no wonder MacKinnon is smiling.

“In past years, we went to the semis and I felt we played to our potential,” MacKinnon said. “We went as far as we could go. This year I feel if we play to our potential we can take it all.”

The Knights should have a strong rushing game with junior running backs Jason MacLelland (5-9, 155), who rushed for 784 yards and nine touchdowns last year, and Fernando Zabala (5-8, 160) and junior quarterback Mark Chavarria (5-8, 140).

The experienced offensive line has Rick Fuller (6-8, 265) and Loren Fairchild (6-3, 185) at tackle and Frank Imperial (5-10, 195) and O. J. Castillo (5-11, 195) at guard.

Arroyo is not as experienced on defense, where the top players should be third-year starter Armando Davila (6-2, 190) at linebacker and Rick Perrales (5-9, 150) at cornerback.

Ganesha (Hacienda League; Southeastern Conference)--Call them anything you like but don’t call the Giants slow.

Not with running backs Terrell Thompson (5-9, 220), who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds, and Louis Butler (5-6, 160), who does 4.6. Thompson rushed for 800 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior.

Ganesha, which returns nine starters from a 6-5 year, also has a 4.5-second speedster at quarterback in Raul Rodarte (5-8, 165). “It’s a matter of getting the ball to them and letting them go,” Coach David Huey said.

“With the speed, if we can throw the ball at all they’re (opponents) going to get tired chasing us.”

The rest of the offense looks strong with seniors Tyrone Haynes (6-2, 175), another speedburner, and Chris Gooden (5-10, 160) at wide receiver and an experienced line with tackles Jody Crawford (6-4, 240) and Kenny Delullo (6-4, 225), center Sean Reed (6-1, 230) and guards Dion McGuire (6-2, 230) and Peter Radovic (6-2, 195).

But star defensive tackle Antonio Johnson (6-5, 265), will miss at least six games because of academic problems. “He has got every major college in the nation looking at him,” Huey said. “He has a lot to lose if he doesn’t get his grades up. He will dominate any line.”

Even without Johnson, the defense appears tough. The leaders are Crawford and Reed at tackle, Keith Scott (6-3, 185) and Sal Sanchez (5-8, 165) at end, Leon Milstead (6-2, 205) at linebacker and defensive back Dana Hall (6-3, 180).

Nogales (Sierra League; Eastern Conference)--The Nobles may have caught a few teams by surprise last season when they won their first Sierra League title and finished 8-3.

Coach Laing Stevens does not expect that to happen this time.

“When you win a championship, everybody gets up for you,” he said. “You can’t sneak up on anybody anymore.”

Nogales has lost most of its starters from last year but it will not be a surprise to see another successful season.

Not with an outstanding defense that features linebacker Chris Varela (6-0, 185), defensive back Paul Green (6-0, 165), tackle Doi Johnson (5-8, 245) and ends Cornel Kimble (6-3, 235) and Steve Matuczewiez (6-3, 195). Other standouts at linebacker are Pete Rodriguez (6-2, 220), Broderick Spencer (6-0, 205) and Sheridan Faamafoe (6-1, 210).

The Nobles, who lost a college prospect when wide receiver Ron Lattimore transferred, figure to be led on offense by Green at quarterback and Kimble at tight end.

Several other top players are linemen George Tyree (6-1, 220) and Ruben Reveles (6-1, 215), wide receiver Richard Witherspoon (6-1, 190) and running backs Stan Blount (6-1, 165) and Darryl Green (5-9, 165).

“This is a tough league but the kids are working hard,” Stevens said. “They’re determined not to be doormats.”

Others to Watch Arcadia (Pacific League; Coastal Conference)--There could be a fine line between success and failure for the Apaches.

If Arcadia’s inexperienced offensive and defensive lines develop, the Apaches could be much better than last year’s 5-6 team that reached the playoffs.

Arcadia is strong in the skill positions, led by quarterback Brad Scott (5-11, 165), who passed for 995 yards and six touchdowns last year, and running back Chris McCarn (5-9, 165), who rushed for 721 yards and six touchdowns. Another top player is wide receiver Steve Mazone (5-11, 175).

The Apaches are loaded at linebacker and in the secondary. The top linebackers are Scott Groves (5-10, 195), Randy Wilson (6-1, 180) and Eric Belcher (5-10, 175), and the defensive backfield has Steve Provenzano (5-11, 165), Richard Lang (6-0, 155) and Tom Greep (5-11, 170).

The major concern for Coach Dick Salter is the interior line, which returns only tackle Mark Shively (6-0, 205). But the line has size with Jason Carroll (6-1, 215) and Andy Moran (6-1, 235) on defense and Jeff Wickline (6-2, 225) and John Chu (5-10, 212) on offense.

Baldwin Park (Montview League; Southeastern Conference)--There is no hiding Coach Trifone Pagone’s offensive strategy: The Braves will pass.

“We’re going to throw it whether it works or not,” said Pagone, whose team had a rare losing season last year with a 4-6 mark. “We’re not going to change drastically because we don’t have the size or the people to slug it out with teams.”

Fortunately for Pagone, he does have a passing quarterback, Rico Salcido (5-11, 178), who struggled with injuries and inexperience as a junior but has improved.

What should help Salcido are three returning starters on the offensive line: tackle Gerardo Navarro (6-0, 220), guard Joe Garcia (5-10, 190) and center Nany Salcido (5-11, 175), Rico’s younger brother. Another top player is fullback Amador Sanchez (5-10, 185).

The defensive line has Navarro, Richard Castillo (6-2, 230) and Peter Rodriguez (5-11, 210). Other starters are Eric Galindo (5-11, 180) and Sanchez at linebacker and Bert Martinez (5-11, 160) at safety.

“Both lines should be the key,” Pagone said. “If they pan out we should be OK. If not, we’re in trouble.”

Charter Oak (Sierra League; Eastern Conference)--With only one starter returning, the Chargers bear little resemblance to the team that was 13-0 and waltzed to the Southeastern Conference championship.

Making matters worse, they have stepped up in class to the Sierra League.

“It’s bad timing to be entering the league when all of our players have graduated and everybody else has a lot of players returning,” Coach Lou Farrar said.

On the bright side, the only starter returning from last season is pretty good. Junior quarterback John Strycula (5-10, 180) passed for 1,700 yards and rushed for 500 last season, and Farrar thinks he is one of the best in the valley.

He is certainly one of the most versatile. Strycula is also the punter, place-kicker and free safety. “He’s going to do a lot for us,” Farrar said. “He’s a throwback to the old school when you stepped on the field at the start of the game and stepped off at the end.”

Strycula may have to play a lot because the Chargers figure to start mostly juniors and sophomores. “We’re short, we’re inexperienced and we have a lot to learn about the game,” Farrar said.

Three talented senior starters are fullback Ross Kanemoto (5-10, 175), speedy flanker Charles Gee (6-1, 175) and defensive back and tailback Joe Salvaggio (5-9, 170).

Other starters are offensive lineman and linebacker Shawn Kelly (6-1, 195), wide receiver and defensive back Scott McClean (5-10, 175), nose guard Curtis Mendoza (6-1, 215), wide receiver Sterling Dortch (6-0, 170) and sophomore tight end Dominic Farrar (6-2, 185), the coach’s son.

Duarte (Mission Valley League; Southeastern Conference)--The painful memory of 1985 is just beginning to fade for the Falcons.

They won their five league games only to forfeit two because of ineligible players. That left the Falcons with a 4-6 record, no league championship and no playoff berth.

“It had a negative effect on the program,” Coach Paul Cummins said. “We would have been the two-year Mission Valley League champs. Now we have to start all over.”

With 15 starters returning, Cummins and the Falcons have the manpower to help them forget last year.

The offense has outstanding speed with Tony Salter (5-10, 175) at quarterback, Ray McGee (5-8, 170) at tailback and Anthony Porter (5-10, 165) at fullback. They have a big, experienced line to run behind. The best are tackle Jose Delao (6-0, 200), guard Garrett Gruber (6-0, 200) and tight end Josh Baber (6-1, 235).

Duarte is even more experienced on defense with all-leaguers Porter at linebacker and Eric Helm (6-1, 235) at defensive tackle. Other standouts are Salter, Eric Dorsey (6-2, 180) and Randy Moore (5-9, 185) in the secondary, Delao, Baber and Tim Judge (5-9, 170) on the front line and David Olson (5-9, 160) at linebacker.

“I think if we can make the playoffs we can do well in the conference,” Cummins said. “We have the talent. It’s just a question of attitude. They have to decide that they want to play well.”

Monrovia (Rio Hondo League; Northwestern Conference)--Never mind that the Wildcats have gone 5-15 in their first two years under Coach Al Clegg.

Disregard the backbreaking non-league schedule, which includes Muir, Los Altos and Pasadena.

Clegg is optimistic.

“This will be a great turnaround year for us,” Clegg said. “We play a great schedule. We play Muir, Los Altos and Pasadena and all those teams are ranked high in their divisions. But I think we can rise to the challenge.”

Monrovia will mix size with speed in its talented wishbone backfield of fullback Jamal Jones (6-2, 240), halfback Ervie Barnes (5-10, 160) and quarterback Anthony Craft (5-11, 165), a good runner who also led the Wildcats to an 11-0 mark in passing league games during the summer.

The Wildcats also have size on the offensive line, starting with mammoth junior tackle Craig Hewitt (6-1, 350), the most imposing lineman in the valley. Toss in guard Mike Wilkins (5-10, 240) and tackle Troy Stevens (6-2, 235) and Monrovia has a huge line.

“We have speed and size this year,” Clegg said.

Wilkins and Stevens are also keys in the defense, which includes linebackers Fred Scott (6-2, 220), Aaron Flucker (5-10, 175) and Jones and defensive backs Larry Bourne (6-1, 195), Marvin Diaz (5-8, 165) and Barnes, one of the top defensive backs in the valley.

Rosemead (Mission Valley League; Southeastern Conference)--There’s a new coach at Rosemead but he is not a stranger to the football program.

Jim Hall was the offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator for the last five years under John Dunaway. So don’t expect a lot of changes in the Panthers.

“I’m still running the same offense and defense,” Hall said. “I feel fortunate that he left me with a good group of kids.”

Hall inherited nine starters and six other top players from a 4-6 squad.

Rosemead should be strong on offense with veterans Sean Moore (6-3, 165) at quarterback, halfbacks Jesus Sepulveda (5-9, 170), Robert Cantrell (5-10, 165) and Wallace Gonzalez (6-2, 210) and wide receivers Frank Espinoza (5-11, 185) and Wolfe Payne (5-11, 170), a swift transfer from Kentucky.

The Panthers have experience on the line with guard Robert Garcia (5-10, 210) and tackles Tim King (5-10, 205) and Mario Autran (6-0, 190).

The big question is on defense where the top players are linemen Juan Burriola (5-9, 200), Paul Lacas (5-11, 205) and Joe Totsis (5-10, 175), linebacker Jason Kerr (6-3, 190) and safety Frank Salgado (5-11, 150). “I’m more concerned about our defense--not because of the personnel but because of our experience,” Hall said.

San Dimas (Montview League; Southeastern Conference)--It has not taken long for Richard Shelbourne to find success as coach of the Saints.

In his first season, Shelbourne directed San Dimas to a 10-2 record and the conference semifinals.

San Dimas has only two starters from that team, but the talent is still there.

“I don’t know if I would call us the favorite for the league title,” Shelbourne said. “But I would be very disappointed if we didn’t at least have a shot at it.”

The Saints, who use the seldom-seen Delaware Wing T, are expected to be led by speedster Aaron Watson (5-11, 180) at quarterback, Ron Paoletto (5-7, 155) and Felix Badiganga (5-10, 170) at running back, tight end Kenny Funkhouser (6-3, 195) and Mike Morgan (5-10, 220) at center.

The defense will be anchored by all-leaguer George Perez (5-10, 195) at nose guard, Morgan and David Lehr (6-2, 185) at linebacker and John Gabor (6-0, 185) at safety.

“We’re going to use a lot fewer players both ways,” Shelbourne said. “We’ve got a lot more depth and we have more size, but we’re inexperienced at the skill positions.”

Walnut (Valle Vista League; Eastern Conference)--The Mustangs may be the team that benefits most from releaguing.

Walnut, 3-6-1 last year, did not win a game in the rugged Sierra League. But with a new league and 11 starters returning, do not be surprised if the Mustangs are vastly improved.

“I think they understand what it takes to be a success a lot more than they did last year,” said Coach Jim Patricio, in his second year at Walnut after a successful stint at powerful Bishop Amat.

After an intense off-season weight program and 28 practice sessions in 12 days of fall workouts, conditioning is not a problem.

Neither is talent. Walnut has one of the top receivers in the valley in senior Brian Crockett (6-2, 175), who caught 38 passes for 707 yards and four touchdowns last year. He also returns kicks and punts and plays defensive back.

Other standouts on offense are quarterback Mike Monson (5-11, 175) and linemen Sam Tseng (6-1, 220), the team’s only lineman heavier than 200 pounds, and Jerry Knox (6-1, 180). “This is not the biggest team you’ve ever seen,” Patricio said.

The defense, which may be the team’s strength, is led by roverback Brett Sidell (6-2, 160) and linebacker Rolando Nichols (5-9, 160), one of the leading tacklers last year. Several others on defense are defensive backs Erik Thompson (5-8, 165) and Benny Haraway (5-10, 160) and nose guard Adam Stines (5-11, 170).

West Covina (Valle Vista League; Eastern Conference)--There is no question that this is not the biggest team ever for the Spartans, who were 7-3 last year.

Among probable starters on offense are a 150-pound guard and a 140-pound wide receiver. “We’re very small,” Coach Tim Brancheau said. “This is probably our smallest team since 1981.”

Not everybody is pint-size, though.

Most noteworthy is 6-4, 230-pound senior Tom Lassalette, one of the premier defensive ends in the nation and also a star tight end. “He’s an outstanding player,” Brancheau said, “and he’s going to have to do a lot for us.”

Others on the offensive front are John Gomez (5-11, 170) at center and John Chung (5-6, 150) at guard. The backfield has tailback Mike Fernandez (5-6, 160), fullback Mike Orapaza (5-9, 185) and quarterback Joe Eishen (6-1, 165). The top receivers are Glen Norris (5-6, 140) and Robert Sinehue (6-0, 160).

West Covina, a longtime member of the Sierra League and now in the Valle Vista League, has a little more size on defense with Lassalette and Eric Tomlinson (5-10, 190) at end, Glen Herbert (6-3, 195) and Gomez at tackle and Billy Flynn (5-11, 190) and Orapaza at linebacker. Norris and Sinehue will head the defensive backfield.


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