Canoga Park Draws the Line on Cleveland

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Cleveland High Coach Steve Landress knows that members of his team were rocked by the earthquake that rolled across the Southland on Thursday. He can sympathize with those athletes who were on their way to school when the ground began shaking.

But Landress’ sympathy doesn’t extend to the playing field and he doesn’t mind shaking up his team, especially after Cleveland was rocked by Canoga Park, 33-0, in a nonleague game Friday at Canoga Park.

“We didn’t do anything,” Landress said. “We’ll be opening up the competition for positions next week. We’re going to be revamping everything.”


Canoga Park played so well that some Hunters called for a revamping of the City Section.

“If Cleveland is the third-best team in the 4-A Division, where does that put us in the 3-A Division?,” Canoga Park running back Mike Conover asked.

A more significant question is, where does this put the Cavaliers? If Landress moves his team around as much as he was threatening, Cleveland High may soon be located in Ohio.

Cleveland’s biggest problem was its offensive line, previously heralded as one of the top aggregations in the area. The Cavalier unit was baffled by the Hunters’ smaller, quicker defensive front.

“We broke down, we panicked and we were confused,” said Jason Silverstein, a Cleveland offensive tackle. “I don’t think we were really ready for what they gave us.”

Canoga Park (2-0), which beat a 4-A team for the second week in a row, gave the Cavaliers a variety of defensive fronts and stunting linemen.

The Hunters usually had more than one rusher in the face of Cavalier quarterbacks Mario Hull and Jamie Grossman as they attempted to pass.


“We tried to confuse them,” Hunter Coach Rudy Lugo said. “You can’t be in the same front all the time. You have to try to make somebody not as effective a pass blocker.”

“They thought they had a good line, but they were slow,” said Jim Dustman, a Canoga Park linebacker-defensive lineman who had three sacks. “They stood straight up. I was free all the time.”

Cleveland (1-1), which edged Chatsworth, 13-6, last week, turned the ball over on four of its first five possessions and trailed, 26-0, by the end of the first half.

On the third play of the game, Grossman fumbled and Canoga Park’s Jack Ochoa recovered. Eight plays later, Conover kicked a 41-yard field goal.

The versatile Conover, who scored all of Canoga Park’s points in a 10-6 victory over El Camino Real last week, tallied 15 more with a touchdown, two field goals and three conversion kicks.

During the Cavaliers’ third possession, Hull replaced Grossman, who was shaken up while being sacked.


On third-and-17, Hull, about to be tackled in the end zone by Ochoa, threw in desperation into the middle of the field. Canoga Park’s Brian Hoffman intercepted at the nine-yard line and ran it in to put the Hunters ahead, 10-0.

Conover scored a touchdown 47 seconds before the end of the first quarter when the snap on a field-goal attempt from the 12 sailed over the holder’s head. Conover scooped up the loose ball and scampered in, somersaulting over a defender at the goal line.

The Hunters’ Peter Marine added two touchdowns, the second on a 31-yard reverse that finished the scoring early in the third quarter.

Despite a 20-yard gain by tailback Mark Mooney on the first play of the game, Cleveland finished the first half with only 83 yards in total offense. The Cavaliers also had five turnovers and could have had a sixth had linebacker Tak Odama not dropped a possible interception.

And things didn’t get any better for the Cavaliers after intermission.

Despite playing against some of Canoga Park’s second-string players, Cleveland added only 101 yards, 67 during a fourth-quarter drive when the Cavaliers moved to Canoga Park’s three-yard line.

“The defense was hungry,” Lugo said. “Wait a minute, hungry’s not a good word, I can speak better than that. We were aggressive .”

The Hunters made 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and yielded just 13 first downs.

“We hadn’t beaten them in three years and this is how we wanted to beat them,” Dustman said.


And, boy, did it shake up the Cavaliers.