Sizing up Area Prep Teams: Poly----as Usual----Is at the Top : A preview of the Southeast/Long Beach area high school football teams: : WHITMONT LEAGUE

Bell Gardens didn’t win the league last season, which was a surpise. El Rancho went undefeated and dumped the Lancers, 35-16. This season? If Bell Gardens doesn’t win, it will be a surprise.

BELL GARDENS--"We’ll be pretty good,” said Coach Dave Newell. “We’ll be great in two years.” Sixteen of the Lancer starters are juniors. Top players are Ben Trujillo, an all-league offensive tackle; tight end-linebacker Rick Lomeli; 6-1, 220-pound linebacker Frank Murillo, whom Newell calls a great major-college prospect; running back David Mangueros, and defensive back Santos Barrientos. The quarterback will be Albert Cabral, a promising sophomore.

2. LA SERNA--Junior tailback Robbie Watkins, who scored 15 touchdowns last year, is back to lead the Lancers. The team’s success may depend on how well inexperienced linemen develop. Coach Ron Moncrief will use both Mike Westmoreland and Todd Johan at quarterback. Hugh Herrera and John Sung are senior receivers.

3. EL RANCHO--The Dons, who won the league title last season, will depend on quickness and the deception of their wing-T offense in an effort to repeat. “It will be a lot tougher this year,” said Coach Don Peterson. “We’re very young.” Best of the returning starters are quarterback Mike Perea, lineman Sal Prieto and running back-defensive back Joey Parra.


4. WHITTIER--"We will be an aerial circus,” said Coach Gene Zeller, who has an outstanding quarterback in 6-foot-5 Andy Emch. Emch, with a big offensive line protecting him, will throw to wide receiver Danny Garcia and tight end James Riccio. Zeller is also excited about his defense, which is led by tackle Brian Chesnut. This is a young team--more than 30 of the 54 players are juniors.

5. MONTEBELLO--The Oilers are a young team without much varsity experience. Coach Doug Rihn says he has a lot of good players but no outstanding ones. Senior quarterback Al Rubio will run the pro-set offense and the defense will be led by tackle Eric Carlin.

6. PIONEER--Coach Tony Gonzalez says the Titans have experience along the line but lack it at the skill positions. The team leader is Lorenzo Rios, a 225-pound senior lineman who plays offense and defense. The quarterback, senior Eric Jordan, is untested. Good speed could lead this team to a second straight fourth-place finish.

7. SANTA FE--The Chiefs, 0-10 and undisciplined last year, are a young, inexperienced team with a new coach, Mike Thomas, an assistant last season at Whittier High and a former head coach at St. John Bosco, St. Anthony and Bishop Montgomery. Thomas is impressed by his players’ attitude. “They’ve worked hard, and that’s something people thought couldn’t happen here,” he said. Top players are tackle Don Udell, tight end Mark Sanchez and Mike Saenz, an experienced wide receiver.


8. CALIFORNIA--The head coach is Jay Roundy, who coached the Condors from 1957 to 1967 and is returning until a permanent coach can be found. He says the Condors (1-9 last year) are a bit thin, with only 15 boys on the team “who can play.” Among them are fullback Sam Tonikian and quarterback Ray Alcantar. “I’m just hoping we can hang in there and get the program started back up,” Roundy said.