Looking for a good running back? Anyone attending a Servite High School football game the past month has seen the Who’s Who of High School Tailbacks in Southern California.
Johnny Atlas of Colton, Kelvin Byrd of Taft and Russell White of Crespi all have tested Servite’s defense. Atlas was the only back the Friars failed to contain; he gained 195 yards in the season opener.
The next test for Servite is at 7:30 tonight when the Friars play host to Johnny Robinson and Long Beach Jordan. Robinson has rushed for 465 yards in 68 carries for a 6.8 average.
“It seems like everybody’s got a great back this year,” said Jerry Person, Servite’s first-year coach.
Of course, Servite has a tailback who has overshadowed the best of the backs. Derek Brown has gained 887 yards and scored 9 touchdowns in 93 carries for a 9.5-yard average.
Brown won a highly publicized battle against White last week, outgaining him, 312-81, in rushing yardage in Servite’s 35-20 victory.
Brown routinely lined up 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage and picked his way through Crespi’s defense for the fifth highest rushing total in Orange County history. He also had a 57-yard touchdown run nullified in the fourth quarter, but almost duplicated the run in his next carry, gaining 31 yards.
“Before the play, I was thinking, ‘What if we go the opposite way with the same play and Derek goes all the way?’ ” Person said. “I’ll be darned, but he almost did it.”
Brown established a school mark for most carries (37) in a game, but was 26 yards short of his single-game rushing record (338 yards) set in 1986 against Mater Dei. Brown has two of the top five single-game rushing marks in the county.
Person said there are two reasons Brown has been instructed to line up so far behind his offensive line.
“First, he’s quick enough to get to the holes no matter how far back he lines up,” Person said. “And by lining up 10 yards behind the line, it allows that much more time for the play to develop.”
Person said the line, lead by senior right tackle Kevin Smith, has been the biggest surprise so far this season.
Servite has demonstrated a physical brand of football reminiscent of the Friars’ Big-Five championship teams in 1982 and 1983, despite suiting up only 43 players. Person said one of his goals since being named coach was establishing the “Servite mystique.”
“Servite used to walk on the field, and the players knew they were going to outhit any opponent,” Person said. “That was worth seven points before the game even started. I know because I played against them when I was at Pius X.”
In other featured games (all 7:30 p.m.):
Los Amigos (1-3, 1-0) vs. Pacifica (2-1-1, 1-0) at Bolsa Grande High--Chris Shockley, Pacifica’s junior tailback, has played football for 14 years, but he had never carried 32 times in a game until last week when he rushed for 125 yards in a 20-14 victory over Santiago. Los Amigos intercepted 3 passes and tailback Jeff Rojek rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown in a 46-0 victory over Garden Grove in its league opener.
Lakewood (1-2) vs. Los Alamitos (3-0-1) at Gahr High--Very quietly, Los Alamitos has posted 3 consecutive shutouts while scoring 84 points after a 28-28 tie with Kennedy in its opener. Two weeks ago, the Griffins piled up 396 yards in total offense in one half against Culver City. Last week, quarterback Todd Gragnano passed for 217 yards and 3 touchdowns against Marina.
Orange (1-3) vs. Estancia (4-0) at Newport Harbor High--Scott McMahon, Orange quarterback, established a school record for total offense with 268 yards (216 passing, 52 rushing) last week against Villa Park. Estancia is off to its best start since 1981 and has doubled its victory output over the previous two seasons under Coach John Leibengood.
Other games include Buena Park (2-1-1) vs. Anaheim (1-3) in Glover Stadium; Canyon (0-4) vs. Woodbridge (4-0) at Irvine High, and Western (1-3) vs. Fullerton (1-3) in Fullerton District Stadium.
SINGLE-GAME RUSHING Top one-game rushing totals in county history
Player Yds 1. Jim Gleed (Dana Hills), 1979 418 2. Mike Miscione (Esperanza), 1986 348 3. Derek Brown (Servite), 1986 338 4. Rick Curry (La Quinta), 1971 326 5. Derek Brown (Servite), 1988 312 6. Mike Charles (Cypress), 1975 305