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Klein’s Flip-Flop From Carson to Palisades to Carson Fuels Anger

Times Staff Writer

Palisades High football Coach Jack Epstein said it was difficult Tuesday for his players to welcome back quarterback Perry Klein, who had transferred to Carson High last April.

It was even tougher Wednesday when Epstein informed his team that Klein had returned to Carson after what amounted to a one-day visit.

“I just feel used,” Epstein said. “The team is really depressed because I made a fool out of myself. I would quit coaching before I would ever let a Klein on my field again. They stabbed me in the back twice. I’ll never allow that again.”

Klein said Epstein and Palisades’ players misinterpreted his actions.

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“I hadn’t made my final decision,” he said. “I apologized to the team, and they thought I was going to come back. I got rushed into making decisions too quickly and giving impressions too quickly. I made a mistake. I want to be at Carson High School.”

Klein, who passed for a state-record 3,899 yards for Palisades last year, played all summer with Carson but phoned Epstein on Saturday morning to ask if he could return to Palisades, Epstein said.

“He told me he was extremely unhappy at Carson,” Epstein said. “He said there were players out to make him look bad and out to get him.”

After meeting with Klein and his father, Danny, on Saturday, Epstein said he received a phone call from Danny Klein late Monday night telling him that Perry was going to enroll at Palisades on Tuesday.

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When Klein showed up with his parents, he apologized and shook hands with all the Palisades players, some of whom did not want him back. Klein said he did not enroll at Palisades.

“I gathered my team and went through a long oration about how they should forgive and forget and how Perry would like to rejoin the team if they would let him,” Epstein said. “The reaction was a little mixed because they felt he had let them down when the going got rough.”

Palisades returns only one starter from last year’s team that reached the L.A. City 3-A title game, while Carson is ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Today.

Epstein said Palisades’ plans to have Klein back at quarterback were dashed Wednesday morning when Danny Klein called the coach to say that the family had made a mistake and that Perry would remain at Carson.

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Epstein, who was critical of the Kleins when they secured an apartment in Carson so Perry could transfer last spring, berated the family again.

“I think they are the most despicable bunch of people I’ve ever met,” he said. “They were never honest with me. I told them not to bother me anymore.”

Carson will open the season with Klein and Fred Gatlin alternating each series at quarterback. Coach Gene Vollnogle said Gatlin will start Friday night’s opener at Sweetwater High of National City.

“As far as I’m concerned, we never lost him,” Vollnogle said. “He was confused and mixed up. That’s what happens sometimes when kids are 17 years old. It’s just too bad the whole thing got blown up.”

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