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New Season, New Coaches: Now It’s Time to Play Some Football

Times Staff Writer

It’s another year of change and maybe better football as the Glendale area’s 11 City and CIF teams open the high school football season. The seven CIF schools kick off play this weekend and the four City schools open next week.

Half the fun of Glendale-area football is finding out who will be coaching. Once again the area has been a hotbed of activity, with five of the 11 schools naming new coaches. Since 1984 there have been 13 coaching changes.

The biggest losses are at Hoover, where Dennis Hughes takes over for Fred Cuccia, who left to coach at South Pasadena, and La Canada, where Steve Gillette replaces Steve Silberman, the 1985 Glendale-area coach of the year, now at Sonora. Other new coaches are Armando Gonzales at Franklin, Glenn Beatty at Flintridge Prep and Tim Butler and Don Shoemaker, co-coaches at Glendale.

Last year Glendale-area teams finished with a 42-59-2 record. Three failed to win a league game and three others won only one.

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La Canada was the only team to make the playoffs and was knocked out in the opening round of the CIF battle.

Hoover, which finished with the best area record at 8-2, was denied a CIF playoff berth when the Tornadoes were forced to forfeit all victories for using an ineligible player.

But relief may be on the way. Five area schools have at least 12 starters returning, including St. Francis with 29 lettermen.

Here’s a look at the Glendale-area CIF and City teams.

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Crescenta Valley (Pacific League, Coastal Conference)--Second-year coach Jim Beckenhauer tries to keep the Falcons competitive in the tough Pacific League. Crescenta Valley, 3-6-1 in 1985, has 14 lettermen and 10 starters from last year’s squad, which finished 1-4 in league play.

“We feel that we’re a much better football team,” Beckenhauer said. “We have more size and quickness than in the past. That’s what it takes to win in our league. If we can stay healthy, we’re bound to improve.”

Much like last year, most of the best athletes will play offense and defense. All-Glendale senior kicker Mike Muhlethaler (6-2, 180), who also plays tight end/safety, heads the returning starters, including second-team All-Pacific League tailback/cornerback Mauro LaPorte (6-0, 175), who caught 23 passes for 300 yards as a junior.

Other senior returners are linebacker Jerry Harris (6-2, 220), who switches from center to fullback on offense; offensive guard/linebacker Eric Crowder (6-2, 205) and defensive tackles Eric Borup (5-9, 225) and Bill Contaldi (6-1, 217). Junior Steve Lightbourne (6-2, 180) will start at quarterback.

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Crescenta Valley opens at La Canada on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Eagle Rock (Northern League, City 2-A)--Coach Dennis Shaw doesn’t need to be reminded what kind of job he has ahead of him after last year’s 1-8 Eagle season. And things don’t look much better this fall. Eagle Rock has 10 lettermen and five starters from last year’s squad, which was 0-5 in league.

“Things have to get better; they sure can’t get much worse,” said Shaw, in his third year at the Eagle helm. “We may be smaller than most of the teams, but sometimes the smaller team that works hard can go a long way.”

If Eagle Rock has a strong point, it’s in the backfield where running back Mike Nelson (6-2, 200) and fullback/linebacker Jay Duncan (5-7, 160) return. Senior quarterback Maurice Ramirez (5-11, 170), who threw for about 500 yards in three starts last season, is being pressed by junior Chuck Engle (5-9, 170), a transfer from Cathedral.

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All-Glendale senior offensive tackle/defensive lineman Jose Nunez (5-10, 220) heads the list of returning senior starters, including split end Eddie Ruiz (5-7, 150), who had 17 receptions in 1985, and All-Northern League defensive back Nelson Jatico (5-6, 145), who returned three punts for touchdowns as a junior. Other key players are senior punter/tight end Norman Tobias (6-1, 170), center Eric Cervantes (5-10, 200), senior wide receiver/running back Johnny Rodriguez (5-8, 160) and junior offensive guard Russ Shiraishi (5-9, 220).

Eagle Rock plays at Glendale on Sept. 18.

Flintridge Prep (Prep League, Eight-Man Conference)--If there is one thing Beatty, who takes over for Brady Lock, who left to take an assistant coaching position at St. Margaret’s in San Juan Capistrano, much watch, it will be his own mouth. Last year Beatty, a defensive coordinator, was telling everyone that Flintridge Prep would win at least six games, only to have the Rebels finish 3-5, and 1-3 in league.

Beatty says he has learned his lesson.

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“I popped off a year ago and got spanked. So this year I’m a little more cautious,” said Beatty, who has 13 lettermen and 10 starters returning. “Now our goal is just to win one more game than last year.”

That shouldn’t be hard with seven of the eight starters returning on offense for the Rebels. Gerrick Aschenbrenner (5-10, 155), who passed for 640 yards for second-team All-Prep League honors as a sophomore, is expected to be much improved along with first-team running back Jung Cho (5-3, 195), who amassed 900 yards and 12 touchdowns on 147 carries as a junior workhorse. Joining the small but mighty ranks is 5-6, 160-pound senior running back Tim Takeuchi, who missed half of last season with a broken right leg but gained 300 yards and scored five touchdowns in four games.

The Rebels are equally stacked with talent on the offensive line where second-team all-league senior offensive guards Colin Campbell (6-2, 200) and Bill Eliot (5-11, 175) return. Senior center Dan Schaff (6-2, 185) and junior splint end Frank Balle, who led the team with 22 receptions, are back.

The defense is secured by first-team all-league senior cornerback John Eliot (5-11, 175), Bill’s twin, and juniors Gil Fareau, a 5-10, 170-pound linebacker, and defensive end Bruce Frazier (5-10, 170).

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Flintridge Prep will have its first test Saturday at 2 p.m. at Country Day/La Jolla.

Franklin (Freeway League, City 3-A)--Coach Rick Gamboa, who left to become linebacker coach at Cal State Northridge, left plenty of talent for Gonzales, who finally gets his chance at the helm after 11 years as an assistant. Franklin returns 19 lettermen, including six starters on both offense and defense from a 5-3 squad that just missed the City playoffs.

“We have some key people coming back,” said Gonzales, who claims this is the biggest Panther squad in 10 years. “I think we finally have the size and speed to give Locke and San Pedro a run at the title.”

Heading the offensive starters is senior tailback Torace Ragland (5-8, 155), a second-team All-Glendale selection with 130 carries for 650 yards rushing and 18 receptions for 317 yards and 7 touchdowns. The Panthers also are counting heavily on senior quarterback Ricky Lopez (6-1, 175), who passed for 1,278 yards and 10 touchdowns as a second-team All-Freeway League selection, and 5-10, 170-pound senior wide receiver/defensive back Eric York, who led the team with 30 catches for 534 yards.

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Franklin can also turn to second-team All-Glendale kicker Armando Toscano (5-6, 145), who was a perfect 5 for 5 in field goals as a junior. Senior offensive guards Anthony Navarro (6-3, 250), a second-team all-league selection, and Ralph Hernandez (6-1, 220) return on offense.

Panther talent carries over into the defense where second-team All-City senior linebacker Sergio Lopez (6-0, 205) has started since he was a sophomore. Other senior defensive returners are lineman Steve Woodring (5-11, 170), a first-team all-league selection; nose tackle David Espinosa (5-10, 210), strong safety/fullback George Vasquez (5-9, 170) and Raul Romo (5-10, 150), who switches from free safety to cornerback.

Franklin opens against Marshall on Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. at Wilson High.

Glendale (Pacific League, Coastal Conference)--Butler and Shoemaker, who together have been Glendale assistant coaches for about 20 years, take the Dynamiter reins from John Brennan, now an assistant at Long Beach Wilson. The Dynamiters have 13 starters and 15 lettermen from last year’s 3-6-1 team.

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The first item on the long list of needed improvements is to revamp the dormant Glendale passing game. Last year Glendale, which finished last in the Pacific League at 0-5, averaged just 10 passes a game while relying heavily on the run. That will change, the coaches say.

“We’re going to need more balance,” said Shoemaker. “Ther were some games where we passed just eight or nine times. You can’t do that and expect to win. You must have a more balanced attack.”

Glendale hopes to achieve that with senior Joey O’Neil (6-0, 165), who switches to quarterback after starting at free safety last year. Senior John Yang (5-10, 180), a second-team All-Pacific League running back with 700 yards rushing, will join senior tailback/cornerback Alan Valdez (5-9, 170) in the backfield. Senior guards Mike Farrar (5-11, 175) and Dan Mihal (6-0, 195) anchor the offensive line.

The defense will feature five returning starters, including second-team all-league defensive back Peter Escalante (5-9, 180). Other senior returners are 5-10, 165-pound cornerback Jimmy Godoy, strong safety Robert Gurney (6-0, 160), linebacker Randy Brogdan (6-0, 180) and defensive lineman Alan Akobian (5-10, 185).

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“Our defense will be our strong point,” said Shoemaker. “We may not be big, but we have pretty good speed. We’re in an extremely tough league, but if the ball bounces our way, you never know.”

The Dynamiters open at Alhambra on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Hoover (Pacific League, Coastal Conference)--Hughes has his hands full trying to rebuild the Tornadoes after last year’s eligibility infraction, which cost Hoover its third straight playoff bid under Cuccia. Hoover returns five starters and 15 lettermen.

“I think a lot of them still have a bad taste in their mouth after last season, but the attitude is starting to pick up,” said Hughes. “They’re just now realizing that there’s nothing more they can do about last season. It’s over.”

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Senior quarterback Chris Rapine, a backup last season, has the tough job of replacing all-everything John Alaimo, now at Nevada Reno. Rapine (5-9, 155) will have company in the backfield with senior running back George Koutzen (5-11, 205) and junior rusher/cornerback Kyle Bell (5-10, 170).

All-Glendale senior linebacker Steve Hieber spearheads the list of returning starters, including all-league center Ednar Suarez (5-10, 225), junior offensive tackle Joe Ferguson (6-4, 225), defensive back/tight end John Gillis (6-0, 180) and second team all-league defensive tackle Mike Porras (6-2, 220).

“It’s going to take a while (for the players to adjust),” Hughes said. “We know it’s an uphill battle; we’re just going to have to make the best of it.”

Hoover opens play against Saugus on Friday.

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La Canada (Rio Hondo League, Northwestern Conference)--The 1986 season brings a number of changes to the Spartans, who lost to El Rancho, 24-14, in the opening round of the CIF playoffs last year. The most obvious difference is that Gillette replaces Silberman at the helm. The Spartans have also joined the rest of the Rio Hondo League teams in the jump from the Eastern to the Northwestern Conference.

The key for Spartans is health. Although La Canada has eight starters and 23 lettermen from last year’s 6-5 squad, the team lacks depth at most positions.

“Injuries could really hurt us, especially if one of our kids goes down for the season, because the kid that comes in might be a year away from being good enough to play, but that’s still a year away,” said Gillette. “I think we’ll be competitive if we stay healthy, but that’s a big if. “

Senior fullback and All-Glendale linebacker Jim Dansby (5-10, 190) joins junior tailback/cornerback David Palermo (5-8, 160) in the backfield, while juniors Mark Hansen (6-2 1/2, 175) and Thomas Nakane (6-3, 175), a St. Francis transfer, battle for quarterback.

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The offensive line has returning senior starters in All-Glendale guard Drew Paul (5-11, 190), center Steven Balmer (6-0, 200) and tackle Gavin Riepe (6-4, 225). Senior split end/free safety Matt Moseley (6-3, 175) rounds out the veterans on offense.

Senior tackle Arthur Martinez (6-0, 190) returns on the defensive line, while defensive back Eric Jacobsen (5-8, 160) is academically ineligible for the first four weeks of the new season.

La Canada opens against Crescenta Valley on Friday.

Marshall (Northern League, City 2-A)--The future is starting to look bright for Coach Ken Gerard in his third year. After returning just three starters last season, Gerard has 23 lettermen and 12 starters from his 5-4 squad.

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The biggest difference should be in the offensive line, one of the Barristers’ weaker areas last season. Center Zak Knutson (6-3, 235), who also plays defense, heads an all-junior line averaging 225 pounds per man, 25 heavier than last year.

Senior Bryce Britt (6-1, 170), a first-team All-Northern League and second-team All-Glendale wide receiver, heads the Barristers at the skill positions along with senior quarterback Junior Cruz (6-0, 205). Others returners are running backs Jeff Togneri (5-10, 180), a first-team All-Glendale defensive back while rushing for 610 yards, and Chars Edward (5-10, 180) and tight end/linebacker Fabian Mejias (6-2, 200).

“We have a lot of talent in the skill positions and a lot of size on the line, so we’ll see what happens,” said Gerard. “We were in an iffy situation last year and the year before that, but we think can win this year.”

The defense is led by three-year starting linebacker Noe Cordero (6-1, 210), who missed the last three games as a junior in 1985 with a broken arm, and identical twins Jorge and Luis Sosa, both 6-0, 175-pounds, at end.

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Marshall debuts against Franklin on Sept. 20.

Pater Noster (Santa Fe League, Desert-Mountain Conference)--Coach Dave Lucker has become somewhat of an anomaly in the area by being at Pater Noster for 10 years. With 10 starters and 13 letterman from last year’s 3-6 squad, Lucker hopes to end Pater Noster’s league drought. They have not won a league game in two years.

But Lucker hopes for change with the help of senior quarterback Edgar Espinosa (5-11, 175), who threw for 545 yards last season. Pater Noster will also rely on first team All-Santa Fe League receiver Mauricio Pavon (5-7, 148), who caught 38 passes for 300 yards, and tailback Mario Ramirez (5-9, 165), who missed six games with a sprained ankle.

Other returning senior starters are tight end/linebacker Nelson Ramaya (6-1, 189), offensive tackle/linebacker Adrian Morales (6-0, 205), center/defensive end John Guzman (6-4, 230), wide receiver William Mendez (5-9, 160) and fullback/linebacker Henry Gomez (5-10, 190), who was an offensive guard last season.

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Senior offensive guards Romero Milan (5-10, 185) and Oscar Polance (5-9, 170) head the list of other notable veterans.

“I’m optimistic,” said Lucker. “We have to stay away from injuries and hope our skill positions play well, and then maybe we’ll surprise some people.”

Pater Noster begins play against Big Bear on Saturday at 4 p.m.

St. Francis (Del Rey League, Big 5 Conference)--1985 was not exactly a banner year for St. Francis football and Coach Terry Terrazone. He knew he was going to have problems but never expected a nightmare. St. Francis finished 2-8, with a 1-4 Big 5 record.

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“I just want to forget last season,” said Terrazone, in his 14th year at St. Francis and his fourth as head coach. “I guess you learn from something like that to some degree, but the only thing I learned is that I don’t want to go through that again.”

With 12 starters and 29 lettermen returning, Terrazone has a new outlook.

The Golden Knights won’t have to wait long for a progress report. St. Francis opens against San Gorgonio, Pasadena, Damien, Bishop Amat and Muir, all highly ranked.

For most coaches it would be a scheduling nightmare, but Terrazone doesn’t mind the tough competition.

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“Our schedule’s brutal, but I’m looking forward to it. Sure, we play some tough teams, but that’s OK. We think we need to have as many tough games as we can handle to find out how good we really are.”

It won’t take long to find out how senior quarterback Bill Schnieders (6-2 1/2, 210) will work out in the Golden Knight backfield, flanked by returning junior fullback Kevin Egan (6-1, 220) and senior tailback Geoff Arrobio (6-0, 220), who is also a first-team All-Del Rey League defensive lineman.

St. Francis has four returners on the offensive line with 6-2, 250-pound senior tackle Richard Hallstrom, a second-team all-league selection, senior guard Steve Polito (6-1, 210), tight end Tony Rehor (6-1, 210) and junior tackle Rich Wheeler (6-2, 225).

The defensive returners are All-Glendale defensive back Jeff Ojeda (6-1, 180), lineman Mark Konjovod (6-1, 215) and senior linebackers Robert Hickey (5-8, 175) and Rephy Timour (5-10, 185).

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The Golden Knights begin play Saturday against San Gorgonio.

sg Verdugo Hills (Northern League, City 2-A)--Coach Greg Gentry just can’t help looking ahead to next year. Who could blame him with five talented juniors and a sophomore starting at his skill positions.

But there’s one problem--Gentry still has to finish this season.

“We’re looking ahead to see that our young players are working at the positions they’ll be playing at next year,” admitted Gentry, who has five starters and 16 lettermen from last season’s 3-7 team. “It just so happens that our best athletes are juniors. We certainly think that we’re going to be better next year when our kids have a year of experience under their belts.”

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Quarterback Darrin Fitzgerald (6-1, 180) leads the list of standout juniors. Fitzgerald, a second-team All-Glendale and first-team all-league selection, passed for 1,349 yards and seven touchdowns in nine starts. The other talented juniors are tailback Matt Fryer (5-10, 185), fullback John Tinkler (5-11, 190), tight end/defensive end Clark Paskwietz (6-0, 190), wide receiver/defensive back John Bojanac (6-1, 165) and sophomore running back/flanker Gerardo Perez (5-10, 170).

Other returning starters are senior linebacker Anania Hufanga (6-0, 180), offensive tackle/defensive lineman Chris Encinas (5-10, 180) and center/defensive tackle Dwayne Johnson (6-2, 250).

“We may have a young, inexperienced squad, but we’re still going to be competitive,” promised Gentry.

Sylmar will be the first assignment on Sept. 19.

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