Teams appear in order of finish predicted by Times staff writers. Crespi
COACH: Bill Redell, second year
LAST SEASON: 6-4; fourth in league, 2-3
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Most teams would feel lucky to have two good running backs. The Celts have four. Jon Budge, a returning All-Del Rey League selection, and Jeff Kellogg return from last year’s team. They will share time with sophomore Russell White, nephew of former Heisman Trophy winner Charles White, and junior J.J. Lasley, who has been called up from the sophomore team. Rob O’Byrne, an all-league selection as a receiver last season, will move to quarterback, taking the place of Randy Redell, who was voted the league’s most valuable back last season. All-Del Rey League linebacker Sean Howard is among the top college prospects in the Valley. Redell will also use Howard at offensive tackle. “He’s such a good athlete,” Redell said, “that you’ve got to have him on the field as much as possible.” Troy Thomas, a defensive back who was also named to the all-league team, returns for his senior year. All-league guard Steve Puryear also returns, as do linebacker/tight end John Carpenter and lineman Robert Teutonico. Other key players will include sophomore defensive end Quin Fauria and junior nose guard Kyle Cummings.
OUTLOOK: “We will have improved everywhere on defense this season,” Redell said. “If we stay healthy, I think we can play with anybody. And I mean anybody .” He will find out soon if he’s right. Redell ranks the Celts’ schedule as their second-toughest in school history.
COACH: Terry Terrazone, fourth year
LAST SEASON: 2-8; sixth in league, 1-4
PLAYERS TO WATCH: During the past few months, Terrazone says he has spent a lot of sleepless nights thinking about last season’s disastrous performance by the Golden Knights. This season, however, he has some players that may cause nightmarish Friday nights for St. Francis opponents. Returning all-league defensive tackle Geoff Arrobio (6-0, 220) and defensive end Kevin Egan will lead a veteran defensive unit. Add to them returning defensive back Jeff Ojeda and transfer Ted Dawson Jr. at outside linebacker, and the Knights stack up as well as anyone in the league on defense. Dawson, an all-state selection as a junior last year in Wyoming, is the son of KABC sportscaster Ted Dawson. Richard Hallstrom (6-2, 250), an all-league pick at offensive tackle, returns and Billy Schnieders (6-2, 210) may turn out to be the best quarterback in the league. He started five games last season before he was moved to split end in an effort to get him the ball in the open field. Schnieders is perhaps the Golden Knights’ best college prospect. The running back position is less clear cut. Right now, Terrazone says it will be “backfield by committee.” Seniors Robert Hickey and Derick Ortiz and junior Bill Stravropolous will be the chairmen of the committee.
OUTLOOK: “Our problem is depth,” Terrazone said. “If we get one or two key injuries, we could be in a real jam. If we don’t, we could be tough all year.” Bet on the Golden Knights to contend for the title. Last year’s dismal finish marked the first time St. Francis had not qualified for the playoffs since 1967.
St. John Bosco
COACH: Bill Friedrich, fifth year
LAST SEASON: 5-6; second in league, 3-2
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Braves will probably compete for a playoff spot again this season. They have 13 returning lettermen from a team that tied for second place last year. Included in that group is senior Jim Sterner, the only returning starting quarterback in the Del Rey League. St. John Bosco has one of the most experienced offenses in the league. Sterner is joined by eight other returning starters on offensive. Friedrich has switched three defensive backs, Kelvin Means, John Prukop and Cary Windes, to wide receiver in a move to put together a better passing attack. The top running back will again be Oscar Mesa, who gained more than 1,000 yards and scored 14 touchdowns last season. He could be the best ball carrier in the league. The defense is not quite as seasoned. The Braves have only four returning starters, led by 6-2, 200-pound linebacker Tom Furey. Also returning is senior safety Don Steichen (6-1, 170). Friedrich will need some younger players to step up and fill in if St. John Bosco is to keep from self-destructing when it doesn’t have the ball.
OUTLOOK: “We are very experienced on offense,” Friedrich said. “But I wouldn’t call us a favorite for the championship. That would have to go to Crespi.” The Braves will have to depend on some surprise performances by some of their new faces on defense, however, if they are to contend.
COACH: Enrique Lopez, third year
LAST SEASON: 8-3; second in league, 3-2
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Start with Roy Talavera (6-1, 175). He started last season as a sophomore and might be the best defensive back in the Valley. Talavera will also play wide receiver. He will, however, have to do as much as possible to make up for the loss of 19 starters from last season’s second-place team. Nick Napolitan has the leadership qualities of a premier quarterback. “He reads coverages well, has a quick release, moves better than most and the players respond to his leadership,” Lopez said. “We really need to keep him healthy.” The Indians will go with junior Ray Campuzano (6-1, 185) at tailback. He will complement returning fullback Jeff Portugal. Portugal won the starting spot midway through last season and gained more than 300 yards in the Indians’ final five games. He will do the bulk of the rushing. Wide receiver Ray Morris has good hands and has impressed the coaching staff during summer practice, but he’s untested. Kirk Stewart (5-11, 200) started at outside linebacker this season, but has been moved to guard. Pat Aragon took over the starting cornerback job with two games remaining in the 1985 season. This season, he and Talavera will form a strong last line of defense. Jason Wagner will return to start at inside linebacker and center.
OUTLOOK: “It’s definitely a rebuilding year,” Lopez said. “We’ve got quite a few juniors starting this season. We want them to get the best experience possible. But, just because we’re young, it doesn’t mean I’m giving up on this season. I look for nothing but success from our team this year.” The Indians may struggle through league play this season, but look for them near the top of the standings in 1987.
COACH: Steve Grady, 11th year
LAST SEASON: 8-3; first in league, 4-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Loyola has been hurt worse by graduation than any of its league rivals. Only four starters return from the Cubs’ 8-3 league championship team of 1985. Gone are All-Southern Section tackle Tom Kelley, all-league quarterback Dan O’Neil and all-league running back Mark Estwick. With them go almost 2,000 yards in offense and 29 touchdowns. Senior fullback John Winnek will be looked upon to ease the loss. Winnek, an all-league selection last season, rushed for 402 yards as a blocking back for Estwick. Winnek, however, is the only returning offensive starter. George Paton will move from from cornerback to quarterback to replace O’Neil. While Loyola may be young and inexperienced, it starts only one sophomore, offensive tackle Matt Butkus. The son of Dick Butkus, the former Chicago Bears Hall of Fame linebacker, he may be a year or two away from dominating defensive linemen. At 6-3 and 215 pounds, however, he is still a big obstacle. If the Cubs are to win their seventh league championship in 10 years, they may have to do it with defense, where senior returners Anthony Holly (nose guard), David Matter (defensive tackle) and Chris Rising (linebacker) will add experience to a young unit.
OUTLOOK: “We are going to be a very inexperienced team,” Grady said. “I’d be lying to you if I said we were awful, but we are definitely going to have to scramble to make the playoffs this year.” Loyola has failed to qualify for the playoffs only once since 1973.
COACH: Kevin Rooney, seventh year
LAST SEASON: 3-7; fourth in league, 2-3
PLAYERS TO WATCH: One week before the season, Rooney had not yet decided on a starting quarterback. The leading candidate is senior Brendan Cowles, an all-league performer at defensive back last season. Cowles’ will have to come up with a big year if the Knights are to battle for a playoff spot. If he can’t produce, junior Morgan Shepherd or sophomore Bobby Hughes will step in. Whoever ultimately calls the signals will have a corps of tall and quick receivers. Paul Oester (6-3), Steve Hamilton (6-2) and Matt McElreath (6-1), along with tight end Brian Greenfield, could be the league’s best receiving unit. By next season, Hamilton could be one of the best in the Valley at his position. “He’s very promising,” Rooney said. “He has very good hands and, like our other receivers, he’s fast.” Hamilton will also see time at defensive back. At running back, Notre Dame is inexperienced. Senior Chris Carcia will start, but played little last season. Craig Eggly (6-1, 215 pounds) returns to play offensive and defensive tackle and Kevin Houston (6-1, 190) will play at guard and linebacker.
OUTLOOK: “We’re going to be thin in the seniors department,” Rooney said. “It may take us a while to get going this year.” If the Knights are to be successful early, it may be because of their air attack. “Our receivers are all tall and fast,” Rooney said. “In the past, we have run a little and then passed. This year, it’s turned around a bit. We’re going to throw it, then run a little.”