Teams appear in order of finish predicted by Times staff writers. Hart
COACH: Rick Scott, third year
LAST SEASON: 9-4-1; first in league, 5-0
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Hart, which may have been victimized by too much preseason buildup last season, didn’t win until its fifth game. The juniors who were so highly regarded last season, however, are now experienced seniors. All seven of the Indians’ all-league players return. Quarterback Jim Bonds, a 5-11, 180-pound senior, passed for 2,425 yards last season; tailback Chris Hite (5-9, 160) rushed for 574 yards and was the leading receiver in the Valley with 41 receptions during the regular season and 61 for the year; guard Jack McKeon (6-0, 200) also will play linebacker this season. Other all-leaguers are center David Long (5-11,200); guard Jeff Moore (6-2, 180); defensive tackle Jim VanDerToorn (5-11, 210), and tight end David Lee (6-3,210) who had 18 receptions last season. Lee will miss the first six to eight weeks of the season because he broke an arm Sept. 1. The offensive line also will include a pair of junior tackles in Bryan Jacobs (6-5, 240) and Tim Gorman (6-4, 225). Last season, Hart filled its fullback slot with transfer Brian Baie. This season, Andy Lacenda--who was second-team all-league last season at Burroughs--will line up behind Bonds. The Hart receiving corp includes returning starters Bryan Milner, a senior who had 17 receptions for 316 yards last season and senior Mark Didion, senior Ralph Eliott and junior Joe DeShriver.
OUTLOOK: “After those early losses last season. I really felt it was just a matter of time before we would hit out stride.” Scott said. “This is an experienced team. We probably won’t experience the same kind of start as last year. But if we do, we’ll know how to handle it.”
COACH: Ken Davis, 15th year
LAST SEASON: 10-2; second in league, 4-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Davis calls his team “a bunch of greenhorns” because of its inexperience. That’s nothing new, however, as Davis has never met a Schurr team he liked before the team’s first game. Davis moans and groans every year about the Spartans’ lack of size and speed, but Schurr makes the playoffs nearly every year. Davis needed a quarterback last year and found Eric Rubalcava, who passed for 2,871 yards and 28 touchdowns--15 going to flanker Hubert Turner. Rubalcava and Turner have graduated, so Davis is hoping that Joe Cupert can work similar magic with a group of small and quick receivers. Cupert, a 5-9, 140 pound senior has a strong arm, even though Davis said Cupert’s wrist “is as big as his arm.” Senior flanker Charles Solares (5-8, 145) and junior split end Tim Woodfield (5-8, 155) will team up to replace Turner. Junior Joe Valles(5-9, 170) and senior Mando Hernandez (5-9, 170) will be the running backs. Schurr has always had good defensive units composed of small players who swarm the ball. This year will probably be no exception. All-league linebacker David Chavez (5-9, 165) anchors a unit that also features senior linebacker Travis Nease (5-9, 170) and senior defensive back Manny Gutierrez (5-10, 165).
OUTLOOK: “We’d be OK it we could get some 220-pound transfers, " Davis said, “We’re going to have to rely on a lot of kids from our sophomore team last season. I’m not real sure about the kids who are going to be seniors.”
COACH: Bob Dunivant, first year
LAST SEASON: 2-8; sixth in league, 0-5
PLAYERS TO WATCH: One of the keys for Burroughs will be the play of quarterback Jeff Barrett, a 6-foot, 185-pound junior, who passed for 1,085 yards last season. Barrett will once again be teaming up with senior wide receiver Pat Lynch (6-0, 170), who caught 28 passes for 386 yards (13.8 yard avg.). Senior flanker Brian Kaloustian (5-8, 155) is a big-play threat for the Indians, as is senior tailback Dan Cusumano (5-8, 155), who averaged 5.3 yards per carry and rushed for 342 yards. Andy Lacenda, who played fullback last season, has transfered to Hart, but Burroughs has a transfer of its won in junior Wes Bender (5-10, 205) from Burbank. He will team with junior Jason Applegate (6-0, 180) at fullback. The Indian defense, which allowed 214 yards a game last season (11th in the Valley), figures to be the team’s strength this season. The line is led by senior all-league end Bob Niers (5-8, 175) and also includes senior nose guard Jason Rinne (6-1,240).
OUTLOOK: “I think we may surprise some people, " Dunivant said, “We’re just trying to turn things around here. We have enough good kids to do it. They just need to regain their self-confidence and poise.”
COACH: Dave Carson, fourth year
LAST SEASON: 4-7; third in league, 2-3
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Burbank lost Frank Valdivia, a running back who was the heart and soul of the team the past two seasons, but there seems to be enough talent left to help the Bulldogs get back in to the playoffs. Many players will start on both offense and defense, including Abo Velasco, a 5-9, 170-pound running back/defensive back/kicker. Senior Ray de Vally (6-0, 195) will line up at tight end and defensive end. Junior Wade Wells (5-11, 215) will play both center and defensive tackle. Junior Chad Keiser (6-1,225) will start at both offensive and defensive tackle. Senior Eric Vargas (5-9, 170) replaces the graduated Sal Velasco at quarterback. Vargas will have a pair of receivers sure to confuse at least a few defensive backs, if not Vargas himself. Carson said senior Brett Howard (5-8, 140) and junior Brett Howard (5-9, 150) are the two fastest wide receivers he has coached at Burbank. The Howards are not related.
OUTLOOK: “We have a lot of seniors on this team, but many of them are inexperienced,” Carson said, “I’m optimistic, but also realistic, The biggest thing going against us is out lack of snaps under fire. Once we get some games in, we should be OK.”
COACH: David Lawson, third year
LAST SEASON: 5-5; third in league, 2-3
PLAYERS TO WATCH: No one expects Alhambra to contend for the league championship this season, but no one expected the Moors to finish third last season either. Nineteen players, including five starters, return to the Moors. They include all-league senior safety Jason Perales (5-9, 160) and senior safety back/linebacker Scott Morze (5-11, 185). Senior Ron Ramirez (6-2,190), who was the backup quarterback last season, will move into the starting position and direct the Moor offense. “Ron has a good arm and he also has very good field vision,” Lawson said. “He’s shown us the ability to find the open receiver and hopefully he’ll gain confidence as the season goes on.” Among others, Ramirez will be throwing to wide receivers Adam Strickland (5-11, 175), Bill Black (5-10, 160), Rolando Rocha (5-9,155) and tight end Mike Aston (6-2,190).
OUTLOOK: “We should be all right if we can keep all of out people healthy,” Lawson said. “If we lose a couple of guys, we’re in trouble. This may not be the most talented team I’ve seen at Alhambra, but it certainly is the best in terms of attitude and work habits.”
COACH: Terry Cox, second year
LAST SEASON: 4-6; third in league, 2-3
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Like Alhambra, the Matadors surprised a lot of people with their third-place finish last season. Most coaches are pretty conservative in preseason predictions, but Cox said the Matadors--with 17 returning players, including six starters--are guaranteed to make the playoffs. The player being counted on to lead then there, however, is Danny Bachman, a 5-9, 150-pound sophomore who will start at quarterback in the Matadors’ power-l offense. “We didn’t think the kid who quarterbacked our sophomore team last season was going to be what we needed this season,” Cox said. “Bachman, we feel, will fit right in. He’s very bright, he has a good arm and he is a good runner.” The offensive line features returing starters Chris Madrid (5-10, 180), Miguel Goodpasture (5-10,185) and Craig Proffett (6-3, 299), all of whom are seniors.
OUTLOOK: “We seem to be executing our offense pretty well, which is important for us because we have to control the ball,” Cox said. “A lot of our success is going to depend on the development of Bachman. My concern is our defense.”