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LEAGUE PREVIEWS : VALLEY 4-A

Teams appear in order of finish predicted by Times staff writers. Kennedy

COACH: Bob Francola, first year

LAST SEASON: 4-4; third in league, 2-2.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: “We have a lot of returning starters, a lot of speed and a lot of size,” Francola said. Senior quarterback Jeff Newman (6-0, 180), who runs the option smoothly and passes well, and junior fullback Ronald Hardy (6-1, 180), who has strength, speed and balance, have attracted the attention of Division I recruiters. Tailback Edwin Jones (5-10, 180), a senior who was a reserve last season, is much improved, according to Francola. “Edwin is a slashing type of runner,” Francola said. Senior Jerome Hill and junior Phillip Reynolds also will see action at tailback. Dion Lambert (6-3, 175), a three-year starter, is an excellent wide receiver and cornerback. Stacy Ramsey, who was injured last year, will play wide receiver and free safety, and Doug Rodriquez, a converted tailback, also will see action at receiver. The Kennedy offensive line and defense are strong as well. Seniors Ron Simmons (6-4, 245) and Akili Calhoun (6-4, 245) shape up as Division I recruits. Simmons is a center and defensive tackle and Calhoun plays offensive tackle and inside linebacker. Eric Miles (6-3, 215) will play next to Calhoun at inside linebacker. Senior outside linebacker George Davison is another bright spot. “He’s a leader, an enthusiastic player, the type of kid every coach hopes his defense has,” Francola said. Sophomores Larry Lester (6-1, 185), a guard and linebacker, and Kenneth Carr (5-11, 150) a defensive back and wide receiver, also are talented. “We’ve got so many good kids it will be tough to please everybody,” Francola said.

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OUTLOOK: “Kennedy has always been a running team but that might change,” Francola said. “I like a lot of motion and a short passing game. . . . We have so much talent that I’ve been able to choose starters on the basis of leadership and attitude. I’m excited and the kids are excited. We can all see the great potential of this team.”

San Fernando

COACH: Tom Hernandez, fifth year

LAST SEASON: 7-2; first in league, 4-0

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PLAYERS TO WATCH: Usually a team with great speed and skill in the backfield, San Fernando is strongest on the line this season. “We’re real big up front, 230 to 240 pounds all the way down the offensive and defensive lines,” Hernandez said “We will be able to match up with anyone.” Donny Oberlander (6-2, 240), a center and defensive tackle, is perhaps the most skilled. Alex Casas (6-2, 245), a guard and defensive tackle, is the leader of the group. Louie Maldonado (6-2, 235), a two-way tackle, Raul Pulido, an offensive guard, and Donny Hall, a defensive tackle, also should be stalwarts. “As strong as we are on the line, we are that inexperienced at skill positions,” Hernandez said. Sophomore halfback DeShante Wilson is “gonna be a real good one,” according to Hernandez. Running behind an experienced line should accelerate Wilson’s development. Luis Jones and Gratis Woolen will also get a shot at halfback. Junior Tommy Howard has looked good at safety and wide receiver. Junior Eric Lee (6-1, 205) will play fullback and defensive end. There is a battle at quarterback between junior Joe Mauldin and senior George Webb. “Webb throws well and Mauldin runs the option well,” Hernandez said. “We’ll have to make a decision on what we want to do.” San Fernando has won three of the last four Valley 4-A League titles, but this year winning may be more difficult. “We started out slowly in practice because of new kids,” Hernandez said. “But we are getting better every day.”

OUTLOOK: “The league looks a lot more balanced than the previous few years,” Hernandez said. “Last year we kind of ran away with it. . . . We’re a different style of team than we’ve been in the past. Our big line may compensate for the inexperience of the backfield. That’s what I’m hoping for, anyway.”

Granada Hills

COACH: Darryl Stroh, second year

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LAST SEASON: 7-2; second in league, 3-1

PLAYERS TO WATCH: “We will have good people at the skill positions,” Stroh said. “At Granada Hills, the line is always a question mark. We don’t get too many big kids.” Senior running backs Mike Davis (5-11, 170) and Khalid Ali (6-0, 185) are returning starters who combined for more than 1,000 yards last season. “They both know both running back positions and switch around,” assistant coach Tom Harp said. “We are expecting a lot from them.” Jamaal Farmer, a junior transfer from San Fernando, will see action at fullback and play middle linebacker. Junior Jeremy Leach (6-2, 180), a transfer from L.A. Baptist, will play quarterback. “He’s gonna be a good one,” Stroh said. “He’s a great athlete.” Junior Sean Brown (6-2, 190) has moved from wide receiver to tight end, and also will play inside linebacker or defensive back. “He might be the best all-around athlete in the Valley,” Harp said. Junior Kyle Jan and senior Tony Graves, last year’s B-team quarterback, will play wide receiver and cornerback. Senior center Aaron Hess is the only returning offensive lineman. “The linemen have a good attitude,” Harp said, “but we’ll have the smallest lines in the league. No doubt about that.” On defense, senior outside linebacker Duane Williams (5-11, 175) may be the leader. “We’re expecting a lot from him,” Harp said. Dean Yoshitani (5-10, 165) “pound for pound, the hardest hitter we have,” according to Harp, will play free safety. Junior Paul Maldini (6-0, 230) could emerge as a top defensive tackle.

OUTLOOK: “We’ll be in the hunt,” Stroh said. “San Fernando and Kennedy have big people. We don’t. The kids worked hard all summer in passing league games. I think if we can score points consistently, we’ll do all right.”

Cleveland

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COACH: Steve Landress, second year

LAST SEASON: 1-7; fifth in league, 0-4

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Albert Fann, a preseason All-American choice, has Landress spewing accolades. A 6-2, 205-pound senior running back, Fann broke an ankle last season and played in only two games. But he is healthy and should be a force in the 4-A. “Albert will be a dominant factor,” Landress said. “He’s an all-around type of back. He catches the ball and is a team leader. We’ll use him like a Marcus Allen, but he has the style of a Keith Byars.” Cleveland won’t be a one-man team, either. Seniors Jay Rich (5-11, 170), Mike Arunzullo (5-9, 165) and Elliot Franks, a three-year starter, form a dangerous corps of wide receivers. Tight end Randy West (6-3, 195) is a large target and a tough blocker. Chris Rheinstein, a converted fullback, will play guard. “He’s quick enough to cut down linebackers,” Landress said. Tackles Tom Watson (5-10, 235) and Jason Silverstein (6-3, 250), and guard Mike Rouch (6-1, 215) could mold into a strong unit under the direction of assistant coach Jeff Engilman. Junior Jeremy Long (5-10, 185) and sophomore Terrell Woodard (6-1, 185) will battle at fullback. Juniors Jamie Grossman (6-0, 170) and Mario Hull (6-3, 185) may split time early in the season at quarterback. The entire defensive backfield returns, led by Brian Taylor, a 6-1, 195-pound strong safety. Free safety Andre Griggs is back as are cornerbacks Ralph Reece and Clifton Parrish. West, Robert Smith, Mike Carl and Tashone Smith will be at linebacker. Senior Don Anderson (6-2 1/2, 250), a three-year starter at offensive tackle and nose guard, “could be one of the best in the City,” according to Landress.

OUTLOOK: “We are the most-improved team in the league,” Landress said. “But that doesn’t mean we will win the league. We had a long way to go. Lots of these guys played together and got their butts kicked last year. They don’t want it to happen again. It will feel so good to win, we will have to keep an emotional even keel.”

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El Camino Real

COACH: Skip Giancanelli, 18th year

LAST SEASON: 1-9; fourth in league, 1-3

PLAYERS TO WATCH: It could be another long season at El Camino Real, where a winless record last year was salvaged by an upset win over Cleveland. Junior quarterback Carl McFadden, a returning starter, has ability but will spend much of his time running for his life. “He got his brains beat in last year,” Conquistadores assistant coach Ralph Stam said. McFadden is one of six juniors who started last season. Scott Reisbord returns at guard and inside linebacker, Jack Swan returns at center, Paul Hasson returns at inside linebacker and Bryce Welch returns at tight end. All are juniors. “Bryce grew over the summer,” Stam said. “He’s up to 6-1, 195.” Welch and John Colarossi, a senior wide receiver, should be McFadden’s favorite target. Senior Kevin Koontz will see a lot of action at tailback. El Camino Real’s defense will be shored up by Leon Layton, a 6-2, 260-pound senior lineman who transferred from Manual Arts. Also, Ray Sabado, an all-league baseball player, is out for the team after not playing last season. Giancanelli said that Sabado will play defensive back and possibly running back. The defensive line could be a strong point with seniors Curtis Thompson (6-0, 175), a returning starter at nose guard, Kevin Ridley (6-0, 250), who will play both offensive and defensive tackle, and Chris Connell (6-1, 190), a defensive end, joining Layton. “We’re gonna have to go both ways with so many kids,” Stam said. “I hope we stay healthy.”

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OUTLOOK: Kennedy and Cleveland are much improved, and San Fernando and Granada Hills are traditionally strong. Meanwhile, El Camino Real, the last Valley team to reach the City final, is sinking. “I’d call our chances iffy,” Giancanelli said. “Our best athletes are juniors. We are lacking offensive linemen and have questionable team speed.”


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