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Valencia Gets Big Kick Out of Odd Shrine Duty

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Late Friday night, Gil Valencia received a phone call from his son, Gil No. 2, who tried to soften the bad news from Azusa, where the South team was practicing in preparation for Saturday night’s Shrine all-star football game.

Not that anything especially horrific had happened. The younger Valencia was just concerned that the caravan of 47 fans coming to watch him play might suffer a letdown when he wasn’t on stage as the curtain was raised.

“He called to say that he wasn’t going to start,” said the elder Valencia. “He said ‘Don’t be disappointed, but my goal right now is to just catch one pass.’ ”

Valencia’s dad was hardly disappointed when he walked into the Rose Bowl while warm-ups for the game were going on. There, at one end of the field, was his son, the wide receiver-- kicking field goals.

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“I was flabbergasted,” his father said. “I had no idea what was going on.”

A few minutes later, Valencia started the game, all right--kicking off for the South in a 22-21 North victory in front of an announced crowd of 29,640.

Valencia, who graduated in June from Camarillo High, was the kicker by default. Servite’s Pat Blottiaux, an all-state selection, injured his kicking leg during workouts last week. Locke’s Darian Hagen, who volunteered to take Blottiaux’s place, injured his left knee trying to catch a pass during the pregame warm-ups, and was unable to play.

Which caused the South coaching staff to say: Anybody with good feet, raise your hand.

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Valencia, an All-Marmonte League selection last season who played wide receiver and defensive back, answered the call, even though it had been four years since he last kicked.

“I haven’t kicked a PAT since I was a freshman,” he said. “And I never kicked off in my life.”

And he may never again. Valencia, a 6-foot, 1-inch, 170-pounder, says that he will not play football in the fall. He will attend Oxnard College and concentrate on baseball. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies last month.

“Baseball is what he wants to do,” his father said. “He’ll probably play a year and see if he gets a better offer after the next draft.”

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The South scored quickly to take a 6-0 lead, but opted to go for a two-point conversion. Valencia made his only point-after attempt with 10:58 left in the first half.

The conversion brought a spirited response from the area where Valencia’s parents and friends--all 47 of them--were sitting with fingers crossed.

Valencia said the fact that it came in his last game made the moment even more special.

“Not playing in college might be something I regret later on down the line,” he said as he surveyed the crowd and soaked in the atmosphere. “But I’ll manage somehow.”

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