Some observations following Week 5, the halfway point of the prep football season:
Surprise team--Palos Verdes. Picked to finish sixth out of eight teams in a preseason poll by the Bay League coaches, the Sea Kings can now be considered a legitimate playoff contender after their stunning 36-24 victory Friday over Santa Monica, ranked No. 1 in the CIF Division II poll. Palos Verdes parlayed the efforts of quarterback Dave Walsh and a blitzing defense into a dominating performance that was more one-sided than the score indicates. The Sea Kings (4-1 overall, 1-1 in league) led 29-8 until Santa Monica (2-2, 1-1) scored two touchdowns in the final 2:21. Walsh, the 6-4, 215-pound left-hander, completed 13 of 17 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns in his best performance.
Down on rankings--Santa Monica Coach Tebb Kusserow. When asked if his team might have been overrated, he called the Vikings’ No. 1 ranking “absurd.”
Team most guilty of looking ahead--Bishop Montgomery. With next Friday’s Angelus League opener against Servite looming as its game of the year, the Knights’ potent offense suddenly ceased to function in a 13-0 loss to Serra. Bishop Montgomery (4-1) averaged 33.7 points in its first four games. Give Serra credit, though. The Cavaliers (2-3) have an excellent defense.
Suffering from production reduction--Hawthorne quarterback Curtis Conway. Although still one of the South Bay’s most dangerous players, Conway isn’t finding the end zone as often as he did last season when he accounted for 39 of the Cougars’ 42 touchdowns (21 rushing, 18 passing). In five games, he has run for five TDs and passed for only two.
Team in need of an exorcism--Gardena. “It’s like somebody has a curse on us,” said Coach Dale Hirayama after the Mohicans (1-4) suffered their fourth straight loss Friday night to Crenshaw, 29-21. The team has been hit hard by injury and illness, and this week it lost starting linebacker Maurice Hunter because his family moved. Two weeks ago, two starting offensive linemen were involved in a car accident. One has not played since. But the topper came in the Crenshaw game. After the Mohicans scored their first touchdown to take a 6-0 lead, the lights went out at Gardena.
Most misunderstood rule--Allowing teams to film opponents’ games. This was illegal before this year, and apparently some schools have not yet found out that the rule has changed. Mary Star, for example, confiscated the film from an El Segundo cameraman last week because it believed he was doing something underhanded by filming the Stars’ game with Cant well.
South Bay’s best small school (less than 1,000 enrollment)--El Segundo. The Eagles (5-0, 2-0) remained undefeated with a strong defensive effort in their 14-0 Santa Fe League win over Mary Star (2-3, 1-1). Linebacker Robbie White spearheaded the defense that intercepted four passes by Mary Star quarterback Shawn McEachern, who entered the game as the South Bay’s leading passer with 614 yards. The final frustration for the Stars came in the last minute when White deflected a McEachern pass at the El Segundo goal line and defensive back Erik Evans intercepted in the end zone. “Mary Star probably is the best all-around football team we’ve played,” said El Segundo Coach Steve Newell. “Our defense didn’t let them show how good a team they are.”
Easiest touchdown drive--El Segundo. In Friday night’s win, the Eagles moved the ball from the Mary Star 41-yard line to the 6 without running a play. Mary Star was penalized for a personal foul and twice for unsportsmanlike conduct, setting up El Segundo’s second and last touchdown, a 1-yard sneak by QB Matt Wise in the second quarter.
Comeback teams--West Torrance and Morningside. Both teams lost their first two games, but now they are on winning streaks. West (3-2, 2-0) won for the third straight week with a 10-6 Ocean League victory over Centennial, while Morningside (2-2, 2-0) kept pace for the league lead by winning its second consecutive game with a convincing 26-10 triumph over Redondo. One of the streaks will end Friday when Morningside plays West at Sentinel Field.
Comeback player--Carson running back Errol Sapp. Regarded as one of the premiere backs in the L.A. City Section, Sapp had gained only 103 yards on 21 carries in four games before he exploded for 209 yards and three touchdowns Friday night in the Colts’ 54-8 romp over Washington. He was only 58 yards away from the Carson single-game rushing record set by Ladaria Johnson in 1979, but Coach Gene Vollnogle rested the senior most of the second half.
Most surprising margin of victory--Banning’s 28-0 win over Narbonne. What was expected to be a massacre almost turned into a practical joke as Banning fumbled and stumbled its way to a 7-0 half-time lead over lowly Narbonne. The Pilots played better in the second half, but it still was a far cry from the 100-0 score some people predicted. Narbonne (0-4) was coming off a 72-0 loss to Dorsey and has now been outscored 169-6.
Most competitive league--Bay League. In coming weeks, the Bay race figures to be one of the most interesting in the South Bay. Here’s a list of the top games: Friday--Leuzinger (5-0, 2-0) at Beverly Hills (5-0, 2-0), Hawthorne (4-1, 2-0) at Santa Monica; Oct. 21--Santa Monica at Beverly Hills; Palos Verdes at Leuzinger; Oct. 28--Beverly Hills at Hawthorne; Nov. 4--Palos Verdes at Beverly Hills; Hawthorne at Leuzinger; Nov. 11--Santa Monica at Leuzinger.
Last of the South Bay unbeatens--Leuzinger (5-0), El Segundo (5-0) and Coast Christian (5-0), which now owns a 17-game winning streak after beating Buckley 30-13 in an eight-man game Friday.
Last of the South Bay winless--Inglewood (0-4), Mira Costa (0-5) and Narbonne (0-4).