Crespi Awaits Date With Rival Loyola
The conservative party line at Crespi is that its game with rival Loyola in the Del Rey League finale Nov. 12 is too far off to emphasize as a major goal. It is, coaches insist, not being viewed as a must-win game or one that rates more importance than any of the preceding nine.
At least not at the moment.
Or, more accurately, not by the majority. Some players, however, carry not-so-subtle reminders of last year’s 15-8 loss to the Cubs, a bitter defeat that cost Crespi a league championship--in front of 11,000 at Birmingham High.
Tailback Russell White, for instance, remembers every yard he gained. All 28 of them.
“Twenty-eight yards. That’s pretty bad,” said White, who averaged 189 yards a game last year.
White is playing it close to the vest in his own way. Or rather, close to the chest. He has been seen cruising Crespi with a custom Loyola T-shirt that features a caricature of himself being swept by a broom into a dumpster. Last year, Loyola also defeated the Celts’ junior varsity and freshman teams.
“They beat us at all three levels,” Crespi assistant Joel Wilker said. “I guess Russell wants us to keep that in mind.”
Also bear in mind that Crespi has not won a league title in Coach Bill Redell’s 4-year tenure.
“I’m not going to lie to anybody and say that’s not something we’re thinking about,” Redell said. “It’s one of our three goals: Win league, make the playoffs and win the Division I championship.”
Of course, Loyola could have a hand in deciding whether Crespi cleans up or gets swept under the carpet like just another fur ball.
Both teams are highly regarded, and in preseason polls and ratings, a consensus favorite does not emerge. Loyola, for instance, is ranked No. 1 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 2 in Southern Section Division I (formerly the Big Five Conference). Crespi is ranked No. 1 by the Southern Section and No. 2 by Cal-Hi. To add national perspective, Loyola is ranked No. 3 and Crespi No. 18 by USA Today.
Crespi (10-2-1 in 1987) has 13 returning full- or part-time starters, led by White (6-0, 185), a consensus All-American who has rushed for 4,609 yards and 69 touchdowns in two seasons. White, the nephew of Rams tailback Charles White, is considered the top high school prospect in the nation by several scouting services. Senior quarterback Ron Redell (6-3, 191), who started the second half of last season, is tabbed as one of the state’s top 50 prospects by Cal-Hi Sports.
Linebackers Quinn Fauria, Brett Borkgren and Chris Romero return, as do four players who started in the defensive secondary in ’87. Dan Hunt, Mike Parkes and Romero return on the offensive line.
Crespi, however, is not deep. Playing behind Ron Redell at quarterback, for instance, is sophomore Bill Canalez (5-10, 155). Canalez was a receiver and defensive back at the freshman level last year. Fauria, who starts at fullback, is a converted tight end.
“We’re going to be subbing faster than the Detroit Pistons,” Bill Redell quipped. “Five or six guys may have to go both ways.”
Loyola, again, will be anchored by a miserly defense that allowed only 75 points last season and features two players considered by many scouting services to be among the best in the nation. Bloodlines, as in White’s case, play a part.
Matt Butkus (6-3, 230), son of National Football League Hall of Famer Dick Butkus, moves from the defensive line to linebacker. Jim Klein (6-4, 200), son of ex-Ram tight end Bob Klein, anchors the secondary. Last season, Klein intercepted nine passes--including two thrown by Crespi quarterback Ron Redell. Both Butkus and Klein were All-Big Five Conference selections.
Though Loyola rarely blew out the opposition en route to an 11-1 record in 1987, the potential for a lopsided score exists. Running backs Johann Fuller (5-9, 175) and Mike Buckley (6-1, 190) return and will be protected by an offensive line that includes Sean Doyle (6-4, 220) and Mike Solum (6-5, 225).
In all, the Cubs have 10 starters back supplemented by a group of juniors who posted a 9-0 junior varsity record last season. The only question mark is untested junior quarterback Brian Dennis (6-0 1/2, 191). Dennis accounted for 1,856 total yards last season in leading the sophomore team, which outscored its opponents by an average score of 35-6, to its second consecutive undefeated season. Dennis passed for 15 touchdowns and ran for 19, which makes him well-suited for Loyola’s ball-control offensive style.
Things are not as optimistic at St. John Bosco, which finished 5-4-1 in 1987 after winning the Del Rey title in 1986. Only three starters return on offense and one on defense. Not only is the team green, the players are hardly giants.
“We are midgets,” Athletic Director Ed Riley said.
Cases in point: Martin Meza and Anthony Bull are both 5-9 receivers--and they are two of the returning starters. Sophomore Ricky Ellis (5-7, 140) and Robert Gomez (5-7, 165) will start in the backfield. Dean Grosfield (6-3, 180), last year’s backup, starts at quarterback.
Alemany’s fortunes will largely depend on junior quarterback Joey Rosselli, who passed for 1,226 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore. Rosselli is the lone returning skill-position starter for the Indians, who finished 0-4-1 in league play. First-year Coach Pat Blackburn brought tailback Tyler Robuck with him from Montclair Prep. Robuck rushed for 464 yards last year.
Alemany (3-6-1 in ’87) has only 13 seniors, however, and as many as six players will go both ways.
Like Loyola, defense could also be the strong suit at St. Francis, where seven defensive players return, including all four linebackers.
A key to the Golden Knights’ season, however, will be the production of running backs Peter Morales (6-0, 195) and Francisco Diaz (5-8, 180). Both were starters last season but were felled by injuries. Quarterback Erik Hagge (6-3, 175) is untested, but Coach Terry Terrazone surveys a roster that includes 13 returning starters and expresses confidence.
“If everything holds together this time, I think it’s realistic to be thinking playoffs,” he said. “We have to figure Loyola and Crespi will probably finish 1-2, but we should be able to take the third spot.”
Not that 1-2 is guaranteed. Neither team is taking an easy path to the November showdown. Including Loyola, Crespi is playing five teams ranked in the state’s preseason top 20 by Cal-Hi: Palmdale (No. 20), San Fernando (No. 18), Servite (No. 4) and Mater Dei (No. 12).
Loyola plays Division I contenders St. Paul and Eisenhower, Antelope Valley (No. 9 in Division II) and Servite on Nov. 5.
“I know lots of people are thinking about playing Loyola in the back of their minds,” Wilker said. “Heck, I just hope both teams are in the same position then as we are now, so that when we play it still means something.”
DEL REY LEAGUE Predicted Finish
1. Crespi (8-2)
2. Loyola (8-2)
3. St. Francis (6-4)
4. Alemany (3-7)
5. St. John Bosco (2-8)
Predicted records in parentheses.