Forget Names, Numbers; It’s Crespi or Loyola
When Fontana High School completed a 14-0 season with a 21-0 win over Fountain Valley last season, it won a spot in the record books as the last team to win the Southern Section Big Five Conference title.
This season, the Southern Section has adapted Roman numerals to designate divisions, eliminating the old conference names. The Big Five Conference is now Division I.
However, as the 1988 Southern Section high school football season opens this weekend, more people are concerned with which is the Southern Section’s top team, Loyola or Crespi, rather than what are the new names of the divisions.
It is a matchup between Crespi’s All-American running back, Russell White, and Loyola’s team of stars. Opinions vary on which team is superior. In the CIF Southern Section prep sports writers poll, Crespi is ranked No. 1 with Loyola second, but Loyola is given the nod in Cal Hi Sports’ preseason rankings.
Last season, Loyola defeated Crespi, 15-8, to win the Del Rey League title, but lost to Long Beach Wilson in the Big Five quarterfinals to finish 11-1. This year, Coach Steve Grady’s team is looking for even bigger success.
The Cubs allowed fewer than seven points a game last season, and this year they should be even better. The Cubs return All-Southern Section selections Jimmy Klein at safety and Matt Butkus at tackle and linebacker. If their names sound familiar, it is because they are the sons of former NFL stars. Butkus, who had 10 sacks last year, is the son of Hall of Fame Chicago Bear linebacker Dick Butkus, and Klein, who had eight interceptions last season, is the son of former Ram tight end Bob Klein.
Loyola earned its defensive reputation the last two years in its matchups against White. In 1986, the Cubs held White to 96 yards and last year held him to a career low of 28 yards in 14 carries.
On offense, Loyola returns running backs Johann Fuller and Mike Buckley, but its strongest weapon may be punter Paul Stonehouse. Stonehouse, considered one of the nation’s top prep punters, is a two-time All-Southern Section pick who has averaged more than 42 yards per punt the last two seasons.
Loyola’s schedule is favorable for the most part (it is playing four teams that had losing records last year), but its true test will come in its last two games of the season, when it plays host to Servite and Crespi.
Crespi can only wish it had a schedule like Loyola’s. The Celts play five teams that are ranked in Cal Hi’s top 20 preseason poll--Palmdale, San Fernando, Servite, Mater Dei and Loyola.
White is close to several all-time state records. He has rushed for 4,609 yards, 788 yards short of Valencia’s Ray Pallares’ 3-year record of 5,397 yards. He also has scored 69 touchdowns, 10 shy of the 78 Tyreese Knox scored for Jefferson of Daly City.
As a sophomore, White led Crespi to a 13-1 record and the Big Five title in 1986, but last season his talents could not do it alone, as Crespi was eliminated in the semifinals by Fontana, 12-7.
Crespi Coach Bill Redell hopes that this season will be different with the Celts returning 13 starters from last year’s 10-2-1 team.
“We are a better team this year because of the experience we gained last season,” said Redell, “My only worry has to be in our depth and schedule.”
Redell will not have to look far for a player to take some of the pressure off White. His son, Ron Redell, who made all-league last year, will start at quarterback for the Celts.
In addition, Crespi returns linemen Mike Parkes and Dan Hunt and the Fauria brothers, fullback Quinn and tight end Chris, on offense.
The Celts will rely on linebackers Chris Romero, Quinn Fauria and Brett Borgken to shut down opponents. Redell and White also will spend some time in the secondary.
Moore League powerhouse Long Beach Poly may have finished just 7-4 last season, but it has several dominant players returning for co-coaches Jerry Jaso and Thomas Whiting.
The Jackrabbits return 13 starters, led by All-Southern Section defensive tackle Marcellous Elder and league MVP Michael Carter at quarterback.
Elder is an All-American candidate who dominated opposing lines last season, while Carter is a three-year starter.
Tailback Andre Green, who ran a 10.62 in the 100 meters last spring as a sophomore, will handle most of the running, and wide receiver Troy Jones will be Carter’s top receiver.
In addition to Elder, Poly has other linemen considered major college prospects in Earl Oliver, Michael Loyola and Aries Gotay.
The Jackrabbits’ schedule has non-league tests against Banning of Wilmington, Bishop Amat and Fountain Valley.
Other top teams include defending champion Fontana, which will look to repeat for Coach Dick Bruich with the return of linebacker/running back Jody Panatoni and lineman Chad Barron. With new coach Jerry Person, Servite will also threaten for the Division I championship behind running back Derick Brown and linebacker Garrett Greedy. Brown rushed for over 1,500 yards last season for his second consecutive 1,000-yard season, and Greedy is a two time All-Angelus League selection. A team to watch is Hawthorne. Led by quarterback Curtis Conway, last year’s Southern Section 100- and 200-meter champion, the Cougars could dominate along with Keith Pouncey and Dean Dunbar. Last season, Conway amassed more than 2,700 yards in total offense and 39 of the 42 touchdowns that the Cougars scored.
In the off-season, a rule change was made by the National Federation Football Committee that benefits offensive linemen. It is now legal for linemen to block with their arms fully extended and use open hands. This rule revision allows high school linemen to use pass-blocking techniques practiced on the college and professional levels.
The new Division breakdown looks like this: Big Five Conference-Division I; Coastal-Division II; the Southern-Division III, the Eastern-Division IV; the Southeastern-Division V; the Central-Division VI; the Northwestern-Division VII; the Desert-Mountain-Division VIII; and the Inland-Division IX. The Eight-Man divisions remain unchanged.
Times’ Prep Poll
SOUTHERN SECTION PRESEASON POLL
No. School, League, Record 1. Loyola, Del Rey, 11-1-0 2. Crespi, Del Rey, 10-2-1 3. Long Beach Poly, Moore, 7-4-0 4. Fontana, Citrus Belt, 14-0-0 5. Servite, Angelus, 8-3-1 6. Mater Dei, Angelus, 7-4-0 7. Hawthorne, Bay, 9-2-1 8. Fountain Valley, Sunset, 9-5-0 9. Canyon Country Canyon, Golden, 10-3-0 10. Santa Monica, Bay, 9-2-0 11. Santa Ana, Century, 11-2-0 12. Palmdale, Golden, 9-3-0 13. Rubidoux, Citrus Belt, 5-6-0 14. Channel Islands, Marmonte, 11-3-0 15. Mission Viejo, South Coast, 11-2-0