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TONIGHT’S FEATURED GAMES : Westminster vs. Valencia

1985 records--Westminster (8-5), Valencia (9-3)

The site--Valencia High School

Westminster update--The Lions, ranked No. 1 in the Big Five Conference and Orange County Sportswriters Assn. preseason polls, return 14 starters from a team that advanced to the semifinals in 1985 before losing to eventual co-champion Edison, 7-3. Westminster’s trademark last year was defense, and the Lions appear even stronger there this year, behind linebackers Ray Smith, Mark Smith and Todd Weaver, defensive linemen Jim Rubalcava, Mike Engen and Mike Cover, and defensive back Dean Eddy. Mike Austin, who started at defensive back last year, moves to quarterback and will work behind a huge offensive line, anchored by tackle Gary Lewellen (6-4, 265).

Valencia update--The Tigers’ strengths appear to be their defense, which returns seven starters from a unit that allowed a county-low 69 points and recorded seven shutouts last year, and their running game, which features speedy backs Tony Goulet and Dorian Estes. Goulet, working in the backfield with record-breaking fullback Ray Pallares, rushed for 863 yards and 11 touchdowns last year and is bigger and stronger this year. Estes, a defensive back, ran for 170 yards in three games. Brett Gregory, Mike Edwards and Estes give the Tigers a strong defensive secondary, and Shawn Racobs (6-1, 215), Eric Peterson (6-2, 215) and Jason Cruz (5-9, 175) will lead the defensive line. Chris DeRisio makes his debut at quarterback.

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Key to the game--Both defenses are talented and experienced, so the burden should fall on the offenses. Westminster, predominantly a passing team in 1985, struggled offensively last year and will have to get its running game (with tailback Cory Dickson) going to be successful. The Tigers have two good running backs, but they lost most of their offensive line. Coach Mike Marrujo feels Valencia will have a strong passing game this season. DeRisio will certainly be tested tonight.

Consensus--The teams met in the season opener last year, with Westminster upsetting then second-ranked Valencia, 7-6. Both teams are improved, but Westminster’s defense gives the Lions the edge tonight.

Foothill vs. Capistrano Valley

The ’85 records--Foothill (9-3), Capistrano Valley (9-2-1)

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The site--Capistrano Valley High School

Foothill update--The Knights haven’t forgotten their 26-7 season-opening loss to Capistrano Valley last year in which Cougar quarterback Scott Stark passed for 337 yards and 4 touchdowns. “We were totally unprepared and he caught us by surprise,” said Ted Mullen, Foothill coach. Mullen said his defensive backs are bigger, quicker and stronger and doesn’t expect another aerial barrage or a lopsided game. Offensively, the Knights figure to be better with quarterback Chris Fergus bigger and stronger at 200 pounds and two-year starting linebacker Brian Healy moving to fullback to block for tailback John Fischbeck.

Capistrano Valley update--Another transfer, Todd Marinovich from Mater Dei, assumes the job as Cougar quarterback. Marinovich passed for 4,358 yards and 34 touchdowns in two seasons at Mater Dei before transferring last spring. “Todd’s arm is so much stronger than it’s ever been,” said Dick Enright, Capistrano Valley coach. “He lived here until junior high and knows all the kids, so the adjustment was no problem.” Marinovich’s favorite target figures to be Brent Parker, who caught 46 passes for 522 yards as a junior. Joe Wood, another transfer from Mater Dei, has kicked a 58-yard field goal in practice, and Enright said he wouldn’t hesitate to use him anywhere inside an opponent’s 50-yard line. Defensively, the Cougars utilize an eight-man front.

Key to the game--Foothill must do a better job containing Capistrano Valley’s passing game than it did last season and establish a ball-control running game. Marinovich & Co. will need ample protection from an offensive line that is inexperienced.

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Consensus--Despite what Mullen says, Foothill will be out for revenge. Look for Foothill’s defense to contain Marinovich and redeem itself.

Santa Ana vs. Newport Harbor

The 1985 records--Santa Ana (10-4), Newport Harbor (10-3)

The site--Santa Ana Stadium

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Santa Ana update--The Saints are coming off the Southern Conference championship and this game should prove to be a good measure of whether they will be able to pick up where they left off. Running back Robert Lee will probably generate as much attention as Valencia’s Ray Pallares did last season, should Lee get the blocking. Santa Ana returns a big and experienced line in center Sergio Rocho, guard Jose Avalos, tackle Basillo Sanchez and tight end Albert Ruiz. Wide receiver Royal Wilbon gives the Saints a deep threat and the defense should be the typically aggressive bunch that Coach Dick Hill always seems to come up with.

Newport Harbor update--Questions abound for the Sailors as Jeff Brinkley takes over the helm as head coach from the retired Mike Giddings. “We’ve had good practices,” Brinkley said. “We should be pretty balanced on offense and while our defense doesn’t have great size, we pursue well.” Under Giddings, the Sailors were known for their passing attack and have the Sea View League’s best returning receiver in Mark Craig, who caught 75 passes last season. Running backs Randy Farr and Aaron Guptill should help give the Sailors the balance that Brinkley is looking for on offense. The Sailors’ young defense is still a question mark.

Key to the game--Whether Newport Harbor’s defense is mobile enough to neutralize the Santa Ana running game. The Sailors, who gave up an average of 19 points per game last season, must find a way to slow down Lee or it could be a long night. Santa Ana’s Dick Hill has said that he has other offensive weapons in case defenses key on Lee, but Lee is such a strong runner that it may not matter.

Consensus--The Saints go marching into the 1986 season with a hard earned but comfortable victory. Look for a close game for a half before the Saints pull away by a touchdown or more.

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