There is a place where David Walsh knows he can be alone with his responsibilities, and he goes there often.
Every Friday, a few hours before kickoff, the Palos Verdes High School quarterback retreats to a rarely used shower stall in the Sea King locker room, plops down with his back to the wall and thinks about what he expects to accomplish a few hours later.
“I have to go in there,” Walsh said last week. “I have never not gone in there before a game.”
More often than not, Walsh accomplishes his goals. He has established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the South Bay.
Sometimes, however, thoughts of blitzing linebackers cloud Walsh’s pregame visions. And sometimes--last week at Leuzinger, for instance--a blitz and a swift secondary literally block Walsh’s vision and force an interception.
In a 26-22 loss Walsh brought Palos Verdes to within six points of Leuzinger with a 36-yard fourth-quarter aerial to Christian Capper that set up his own 2-yard scoring run. And in the waning minutes he converted a fourth down on what might have been PV’s game-winning drive.
But a few plays later, the left-hander threw his eighth interception of the season and Palos Verdes dropped to 5-2, 2-2 in the Bay League.
Sea King Coach Bill Judy accepted blame for the turnover, explaining that he should have called for a shorter pass. But the real problem, said Palos Verdes offensive line coach John Vredenburgh, was that Leuzinger’s linebackers were the quickest the Sea Kings have faced all season.
“We had trouble with Serra’s linebackers coming up the middle, and Leuzinger’s guys were just too quick,” Vredenburgh said. “They got through and beat us.”
The loss didn’t diminish Walsh’s accomplishments. In 7 games he has completed 68 of 144 passes for 901 yards and 7 touchdowns.
The Leuzinger defense often forced Walsh to throw sooner than normal, and he says his biggest fear is losing his composure and turning the ball over. But at 6 feet, 4 inches and 215 pounds, he isn’t scared of taking a hit after waiting long enough for a receiver to free himself.
“He is not afraid of the pressure,” said Judy. “He can really stand tall, wait and look for the open man.”
His patience, which allows him to complete passes he probably shouldn’t, could be a product of his aggressiveness. Offensive tackle Greg Kaltenbach said Walsh is one of the hardest hitters on the team. Yeah, he plays defensive end, too, and he’s recorded 17 tackles. And Kaltenbach, whose unit calls itself the “Pigs,” said Walsh is an honorary hog.
Adds Judy: “Some people think it is crazy for my quarterback to play defense, but if I don’t let him, he has too much energy. Once he gets contact, that mellows him out somewhat. But on offense, he never says he can’t do it. He thinks he can complete any pass he can throw.”
Ward Walsh, Walsh’s father, saw some time at fullback with the Houston Oilers and Green Bay Packers in the early 1970s. He believes David developed his dynamic approach and love for football while growing up in Texas.
“In Texas,” Ward said, “even your mother makes you play football, so David had it in his blood. He was weaned on it. He has a mother who used to think all jocks were stupid. Then she met me and I confirmed it, but she turned into a football fanatic.”
David wasn’t far behind. His father, fearing burnout, didn’t want him to play football until junior high school. But Walsh, capitalizing on being bigger than most of his teammates, homed in on the quarterback spot as early as fourth grade. Now he says: “I don’t really do much besides football.”
Ward Walsh, who hopes David gets a chance to employ his physical style quarterbacking a Division I team, attends all of his son’s games and many of his practices. He sees a difference in David’s play this year after Walsh helped Palos Verdes to a co-Bay league championship last season without delivering more than six passes in most games.
“He doesn’t seem to rattle when he is in the pocket,” Ward said. “Last year he did and he was a little uneven. But this year, he has faced tremendous pressure, didn’t force anything and it happened on big plays. He didn’t shake.”
Much of that pressure was applied by Serra and its ferocious outside linebacker, Erik Simien. In a 13-0 Palos Verdes win, Walsh threw for one touchdown and ran for another, but Simien’s relentless rush upset Walsh, who thought the Serra senior hit him unusually late a few times.
The punishment wasn’t nearly as cruel and unusual against Santa Monica. Except, perhaps, for the visiting Vikings. Walsh completed 13 of 17 passes for a career-high 212 yards as the Sea Kings upset previously No. 1-ranked Santa Monica, 36-24.
After losses to Hawthorne and Leuzinger, Palos Verdes is tied for fourth place in the Bay League and likely will have to win its next three games to make the playoffs. The Sea Kings play host to Inglewood (0-6, 0-4) Friday at 2:45 p.m.
The Santa Monica victory had pushed the Sea Kings into second place, but it will probably be remembered more for Walsh’s 40-yard scoring toss to Capper on the final play of the first half that gave Palos Verdes a 15-0 advantage.
“I wasn’t thinking I could hit that pass,” Walsh remembered, “but that was the blow. We came in the locker room really pumped up.”
Walsh threw for three touchdowns that day, including a 54-yarder to Lance Haworth on the second play of the second half, but Santa Monica Coach Tebb Kusserow found Walsh’s efficiency more damaging than the deep throws.
“He has a tremendous touch on the football,” Kusserow said. “Many of his passes were difficult to throw but he completed them. . .. He can spot the receiver in the open field and find a way to get it there.”
The pass-catching prowess of receivers Capper and Haworth, running backs Blake Anderson and Donny Curry and tight end Spuds Powell provide Walsh with many destinations for his bullet or arching throws.
Said Haworth: “Some patterns we run better than others, and David knows that. He’ll go to the guy who runs the better pattern on a certain play.” Capper leads the bomb squad with 13 catches for 306 yards, an eye-popping 23.5 average. “What Dave needs,” Capper said, “is a lot of confidence and support from his teammates. If you do that, he gets better.”
Last year Walsh had little chance to test his strong arm. Behind a huge offensive line, the Sea Kings ran a punishing veer. This season, with the same offense, they’ve totaled 1,094 yards on the ground. Walsh has 73 carries for 232 yards and 7 touchdowns. But a smaller offensive line and more mature quarterback have Palos Verdes passing as much as running.
Walsh has additional time to throw this year, Vredenburgh said, because a CIF rule change allows offensive linemen to fully extend their arms while pass blocking. Before, linemen’s arms had to remain bent at 90 degrees.
“We really like the change,” said Vredenburgh, who spent 18 years at Rolling Hills as an assistant coach. “Now linemen can maintain some distance between themselves and the pass rushers.”
Walsh makes his job easier by watching an endless stream of videotape, in school and at home. To counter the quirks an opposing defense shows him on film, he learns and relearns audibles.
A typical David Walsh day includes at least 5 hours of thinking about, practicing and watching football. Eventually, he gets to his homework, but he hasn’t fallen behind. “I’m doing pretty well in school,” Walsh says, “and the teachers are lot nicer this year.”