Banning football Coach Joe Dominguez made two difficult decisions this week that could have affected his team’s Conference Two opener Friday night against Gardena.
First, he performed the unpleasant task of kicking senior fullback Chris Griffieth off the team for disciplinary reasons. Griffieth was the Pilots’ leading rusher last season.
Then, on game day, Dominguez decided to play it safe and bench quarterback John Ma’ae, who had been given a doctor’s clearance to play after suffering a concussion last week in a 41-21 win over Muir.
The loss of two-thirds of their starting backfield didn’t hurt the Pilots, however.
Buoyed by the running of tailback Keith Mims and sophomore fullback Derek Sparks and the leadership of backup quarterback Robert Kapu, Banning rolled to a 41-18 victory at Gardena.
Mims, a 5-7, 165-pound senior, has been one of the pleasant surprises for the Pilots (3-1). The South Bay’s leading rusher gained 185 yards and scored four touchdowns, giving him 541 yards and nine TDs in four games.
“I always thought he was a pretty good little back,” Dominguez said. “But he’s surprising the heck out of us. He gets everything out of his 5-7 frame.
“He played a little bit last year behind Chris Griffieth. Now he’s been given an opportunity and he’s taking advantage of it. I think last year was a disappointment for him. He’s making every carry count.”
Dominguez also has been pleased with the progress of Sparks, who rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns Friday night. The 5-10, 190-pounder is the team’s fastest player, despite being only 15 years old.
“He doesn’t carry himself as a 10th-grader,” Dominguez said. “Sometimes kids that age are a bit intimidated, but he’s stepped right in. He runs with power and speed.”
With Mims, Sparks and the talented Ma’ae operating behind a big offensive line anchored by 6-7, 275-pound tackle Bob Whitfield, it’s little wonder why Dominguez has confidence in his offense. His main concern is a lack of depth at running back, now that Griffieth is gone.
“We basically have two backs,” he said. “An injury would hurt us.”
Dominguez said strong safety Eric Williams will back up Sparks at fullback and the Pilots will employ “a committee” of tailbacks to play behind Mims.
As for Griffieth, this marks the second straight year he will not finish the season with Banning. Last year, he was declared academically ineligible before the start of the L.A. City playoffs.
“He had a few problems following team rules,” Dominguez said. “He wanted to do things his way. There’s no chance he’ll be back.”
Dominguez and his staff scouted the Narbonne-Dorsey game Friday afternoon, leaving at halftime with Dorsey leading, 41-0. The Dons went on to win, 72-0.
With that in mind, Banning figures to have a walk-over Friday when it faces Narbonne at 2:30 p.m. at Harbor College. The Gauchos (0-3) have been outscored 141-6 and have lost 15 straight games dating back to the 1986 season.
Dominguez says he knows what Narbonne must be going through.
“We experienced that a little bit last year at Harbor College,” he said. “It’s tough to get a team of 40 kids to come out and practice when things are going bad. I’ve got to compliment the kids and the coaching staff for that.”
Prediction: The only suspense in this match-up will be whether Banning can break 100 points.
The name of the league has changed, but the contenders remain the same.
Hawthorne, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, the three teams that tied for the Ocean League title last year, and Leuzinger, last year’s Pioneer League champion, established themselves as the early front-runners in the Bay League football race with convincing wins Friday.
At Hawthorne, quarterback Curtis Conway put on a versatile performance to lead the Cougars (3-1) over previously unbeaten Palos Verdes, 30-15.
How did Conway help his team? Let us count the ways:
--He rushed for 87 yards on 11 carries and scored on a 19-yard scramble.
--He returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown with 25 seconds left in the first half to give Hawthorne a 27-0 lead.
--He intercepted a pass at his own 3-yard line in the third quarter to turn back a scoring threat by Palos Verdes, which had already rallied for two TDs in the period.
By utilizing the elusive Conway as a kick returner, the Hawthorne coaches have added another dimension to the team’s scoring capabilities.
“If teams want to kick the ball to Curtis,” Coach Goy Casillas said, “they can go ahead and kick it.”
Beverly Hills unleashed wide receiver Michael Moore against host Rolling Hills, and the 6-4, 185-pound senior showed why he is considered one of the best players in the Bay League.
Moore, the nephew of ex-NFL receiver Ahmad Rashad (the former Bobby Moore), caught six passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns, including a school-record, 99-yard reception from quarterback John Johnson with 5:02 left that secured a 29-12 win for the unbeaten Normans at Rolling Hills.
In four games, Moore has 13 catches for 6 touchdowns and 397 yards, an astounding average of 30.5 yards per reception.
Said Rolling Hills Coach Gary Kimbrell: “I didn’t anticipate us getting beat so easy so often. (Moore) is definitely one of the best I’ve seen.”
In the other Bay openers, Leuzinger (4-0) remained unbeaten with an easy 32-3 victory over winless Inglewood, and Santa Monica (2-1) routed Torrance, 40-0. Santa Monica running back Mark Harper, brother of former North Torrance standout James Harper, rushed for 168 yards and three TDs.
The suspicions of the Ocean League coaches were correct. Morningside is for real.
The Monarchs, who played Hawthorne and Leuzinger tough in losing their two non-league games, broke into the win column in a big way Friday night with a convincing 27-6 victory over visiting North Torrance in an Ocean opener.
Fullback Deshon Mosley rushed for three touchdowns for Morningside, which plays critical league games in the next two weeks. The Monarchs visit Redondo on Friday night and play host to West Torrance the following week.
West (2-2) won its second straight game with a 35-12 pounding of Mira Costa and Redondo (1-3) snapped a losing streak by rallying for a 20-19 victory over South Torrance.