COACH: Ray Todd, fourth season
LAST SEASON: 7-13; third in league at 6-9
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Todd touts the Cavaliers as "the best hitting lineup I've ever had." Last season, Cleveland managed only five home runs--three by Mike Bergren, who led the team with 18 runs batted in. Bergren graduated, leaving behind junior center fielder Pat Bryant, an all-league wide receiver on the football team who batted .346 with a team-high seven doubles and 15 steals. Senior Sean Burwell (.326) moves from center field to left. Senior shortstop Mario Valencia (.250) also returns and "can throw strikes when we need him to," Todd said. Senior Tony Holiday (.400), who underwent off-season arthroscopic arm surgery, is a newcomer to the mound. Senior Herman Rodriguez, who totaled just three innings last season, is the most experienced member of a pitching staff composed entirely of right-handers. Also expected to pitch are juniors Alonso Yeverino and Bob Macias and Bobby McRae. Senior catcher Bill Wickert missed last season because of arm trouble. Sophomore first baseman Tony Rangel (6-2, 200) could be an offensive surprise. Todd also expects senior Mike Morley, a reserve catcher, and junior outfielder Jason Thorne, a transfer from North Carolina, to make an impact on offense. OUTLOOK: Cleveland cries out for a power hitter. But if young hitters come through, the Cavaliers may have the last laugh. "Depth, pitching-wise, may present a problem," Todd said. "But I think we're going to surprise a few people."
COACH: Darryl Stroh, 19th season
LAST SEASON: 15-5; third in league at 11-4
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Last year's team was one of the most disappointing in Stroh's career. The Highlanders had pitching, hitting and seniors at key positions, but something never clicked. "We had all the talent, physically, but we never came together," Stroh said. "This year's team is completely the opposite." While the Highlanders do not have the experience or talent of their predecessors, the team boasts a strong work ethic, Stroh said. "They aren't the best players, but they work hard." Only catcher Nile Bloom and part-time designated-hitter Glenn Hoppe (.323) return. Hoppe will start at third base. Right-hander Eric Clark and left-hander Mike Komsky are the projected starting pitchers. Clark, however, has had a long battle with elbow problems this winter and will be sidelined indefinitely. He will play first base when he is not pitching. Billy Biers will start at second and Gabe Miller at short. Miller also will pitch if needed. The outfield is considerably less stable. "We're not really set at all out there," Stroh said. "We really need to strengthen it."
OUTLOOK: "It's a young group and it's not super-talented," Stroh said. "But it's as good a group of kids as I've been around in a long time." It may be a season of few runs. "It's one of the best bunting teams here in years," Stroh said. "And it's not going to be a team that scores a lot of runs--we'll have to work for them."
COACH: Manny Alvarado, first season
LAST SEASON: 19-10; first in league at 12-3
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior shortstop Gino Tagliaferri, a two-time Times' All-Valley selection, batted .375 last season with five home runs, five triples and 32 RBIs. Tagliaferri and senior second baseman Pat DeBoer (.313, 17 RBIs), both three-year starters, anchor the infield. "We're really tough up the middle," Alvarado said. Junior catcher Lazaro Campos, who played sparingly last year, "will surprise some people," Alvarado said. Senior center fielder Shawn Madden (.403), another three-year player, had five home runs with three triples and 21 RBIs. Four pitchers from last season have graduated, leaving senior right-hander Mitch Cizek the probable No. 1 starter. Junior left-hander Denny Sharp (3-2, 2.78 with the junior varsity), who has a good curve ball, should earn a starting role. Sophomore right-hander Cody Beaumaster is a likely reliever. Senior Travis Bourne (.333) will play first base. Third baseman Mike Murray, another senior, batted .259 with 20 RBIs. Danny Gugler (.270) returns in right field. Senior Jason Campbell, who batted a team-high .390 for the junior varsity, is fighting for an outfield position.
OUTLOOK: No doubt the Golden Cougars can hit. "We have quite an offensive attack," said Alvarado, a former assistant at San Fernando. "We've been beating the hell out of people, offensively." The same fate may be in store for Kennedy if no proven pitchers emerge.
COACH: Steve Marden, 11th season
LAST SEASON: 14-7; second in league at 11-4
PLAYERS TO WATCH: After three consecutive 11-4 league finishes, San Fernando again fields a strong contender for a championship. But after advancing to the City final last season, a league title is insufficient. "Last year our goal was to make it to Dodger Stadium," Marden said. "We did that. Now winning at Dodger Stadium is the goal." The Tigers have the tools to make a return trip. Senior right-hander Frank Serna (3-1, 2.78 ERA in league play) returns along with junior left-hander Hector De La Cruz (4-0, 1.66 ERA in league play) and three-year letterman Rudy Sanchez (three doubles, 11 RBIs), an all-league catcher. "If I'm starting a team, I know I'd like to have an ace righty, your best lefty and an all-league catcher back," Marden said. "And we got that." Five position players also return, led by all-league second baseman Richard Ortiz (.454, 11 RBIs) and late-season standout Bobby Corrales (.371, 13 RBIs), who helped beat Chatsworth in the City semifinals with a home run. Corrales will move from third to short. "He has as good a hands as any shortstop we've had in a long time," Marden said. Outfielder Jesse Romero (.294) is also back and will start in center. Junior John Najar, who played as a reserve as a sophomore, is possibly San Fernando's best power hitter. Richard Avalos, an all-league player for the junior varsity, will start at third.
OUTLOOK: Take a team to the City final and its appetite is whetted. Marden said the Tigers are hungry for another trip to Dodger Stadium. "We are very well motivated this season," he said. "To come so close, and to have so many returning players, we want another shot. We don't think the better team won last year." If Serna and De La Cruz come through as they did last season, another chance is very possible.
WEST VALLEY LEAGUE
COACH: Jim Smith, first season
LAST SEASON: 13-8; second in league at 10-5
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Only two years after capturing the City Section 4-A Division championship, the Hunters appear far from winning it this season. Only two players return from last year's team that reached the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Monroe. Senior right-hander Jason Mitchell, who pitched only 1 2/3 innings last year, is the probable No. 1 starter. Mitchell also will play third base in place of Del Marine, who transferred to El Camino Real. Senior right-hander Mike Moses, who played sparingly last year, is the No. 2 starter. The remaining players are all new to the varsity. Junior Michael Bruce, who was ineligible last year, has a good arm and will play atcatcher. Senior left-hander Mark Ferris, who is recovering from a groin injury suffered during soccer season, will pitch and play first base. Senior Mike Tanis and junior Doug Kreider are battling for the second base job. Junior Freddy Gellogos is the shortstop. Other newcomers include senior Brad Hodge, an infielder, and outfielders Terry Smith, a senior, and Mike Lewis, a junior.
OUTLOOK: New coach, new players. "We haven't got too much varsity experience," Smith said. "If our pitching comes around, we'll be competitive." Canoga Park lost a leader in Marine, as well as four home runs and 16 RBIs. Could be a long season in a tough league.
COACH: Bob Lofrano, 10th season
LAST SEASON: 25-2; first in league at 15-0
PLAYERS TO WATCH: So what if the Chancellors lost eight starters to graduation? Chatsworth's junior varsity last year posted its eighth consecutive league title and five key players return from the powerhouse varsity. Senior relief-pitcher-turned-starter Derek Wallace (7-0, eight saves, 1.33 ERA), who has made a verbal commitment to attend Pepperdine, might be the best pitcher in the City. Junior right-hander Reed McMackin (2-0, 1.49) gives the Chancellors a solid rotation. Senior switch-hitter Jason Evans, a transfer from Loyola, will double as the shortstop and top reliever. With several strong arms graduating from the junior varsity, "We can throw six kids," Lofrano said. Senior switch-hitting catcher Eric Johnson (6-3, 190) transferred from Michigan. Senior second baseman Vince Simili (.380, four doubles) quarterbacks a tight infield. "He does a lot of things right," Lofrano said. Senior third baseman Rich Aude (6-5, 185) batted just .272 last year but is much improved, Lofrano said. Senior Kevin Chong (.324) is the only returning outfielder. Seniors Ron Niemi, Chris Husted and Nick Schultz, and juniors Mike Mancuso and Rodney Bloom--all up from the junior varsity--will compete for outfield positions.
OUTLOOK: "I think we're going to be very strong offensively," Lofrano said. "Last year, we would win games, 5-2, 5-1. This year, we've pretty much been hitting the heck out of the ball." The pitching is solid. The hitting is, too. Don't expect many Chatsworth losing streaks.
El Camino Real
COACH: Mike Maio, sixth season
LAST SEASON: 9-11; third in league at 6-9
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Junior Ryan McGuire, Cal-Hi Sports' sophomore Player of the Year last season, might emerge as the top offensive threat in the conference. McGuire, a left-handed batter who moves from third base to first, batted .397 with eight extra-base hits and 14 RBIs. "The main thing about him is his hustle," Maio said. Senior Del Marine, a transfer from Canoga Park who batted .370, probably will play catcher. Marine hit four home runs while playing home games at Lanark Park, a field with no outfield fence. That number should increase in El Camino Real's cozy confines. Junior right-hander Patrick Treend (3-1, 5.76), who had a team-high 30 strikeouts, is the No. 1 starter. Senior Steve Smith (.300, two home runs) will pitch and play outfield. Senior Donny Chelius, a reserve outfielder last year, will start. Senior Paul Geller (.240) and sophomore Greg Sharen will play second base and shortstop. Marine might play third base, a position he held at Canoga Park, leaving junior Bobby Kim (.305, 12 RBIs) to return at catcher. Kim can also play outfield. Junior Jason Cohen (.233) will be the designated-hitter.
OUTLOOK: The Conquistadores, as the saying goes, were a better team than their record indicated last year. "If that's true," Maio said, "I have to do a better job coaching." Lack of a proven relief pitcher is El Camino Real's only apparent weakness. But if McGuire and Marine hit consistently, the Conquistadores won't need to nail down many late-inning leads.
COACH: Rich McKeon, second season
LAST SEASON: 9-15; fifth in league at 5-10
PLAYERS TO WATCH: McKeon supervised a predominantly junior team last season, hoping a squad of seasoned seniors would emerge. Presto! Eight players and a pitcher return, seven of them seniors. Their collective batting average, however, was only .298 and four batted less than .230. "But we're going to have a good lineup," McKeon said. Pitching, however, is a question mark. Senior right-handers Chris Brown (3-4, 4.31), a returning starter, and Scott Tiano, who was 0-5 in 27 1/3 innings, will form the starting rotation. Junior shortstop Benji Belfield, the team's best player according to McKeon, will bat third and be used as a reliever. Outfielder Glenn Nahmias batted .406 with 21 RBIs and seven doubles, all team highs. Senior first baseman Doug Kougher missed last season because of shoulder surgery. Adam Zutler (6-2, 225, .386), who moves from first base to catcher, has excellent power. Jason Shapiro, a three-year starter, batted .359 with a team-high four home runs. Seniors Mike Kimelman (.344), Richie Shapiro (.179) and Rich Cosentino (.228) will compete for the remaining infield positions. Junior Brett Reisner, another returning player, and seniors Greg Peck and Geoff Ruch will compete for an outfield position.
OUTLOOK: With more good fielders than positions to fill, "a little bit of competition is going to be good for us," McKeon said. Though long on fielders, Taft is short on pitching. Anyone know how to throw a curve? "Pitching depth is a weakness," McKeon said. "We can't have any injuries or we're going to be in trouble. But we expect to have a great year. We really do."
EAST VALLEY LEAGUE
COACH: Tom Lucero, 13th season
LAST SEASON: 12-11; tied for third in league at 10-8
PLAYERS TO WATCH: For all-around talent, senior right-hander Javier Delahoya might be the best in the area. He certainly seems to be a player to watch. "We scrimmaged Westchester a couple of weeks ago and there were 15 scouts out to see him," Lucero said. If they were not impressed with his arm--he had 101 strikeouts in 69 innings en route to a 13-9 mark and 2.54 ERA last season--they are sure to like his bat. Delahoya, who will start at third base when he is not pitching, will bat third. Last year he hit .403 with six home runs, three triples and 27 RBIs. Grant has veterans at other positions as well. Among the returning starters are Jim Tumbeiro at shortstop, fourth-place hitter Manual Toledo at catcher, Jeff Boado in left field and Sean Goldman, who returns in center and will bat second. All are seniors. "We're very set at our first five or six positions," Lucero said. Delahoya will have support on the mound. Senior left-hander Jason Parker, who started last year and was 3-6, is one likely starter. But Lucero said he will not hesitate to use relievers Hugo Valenzuela and Cody Williams, a pair of capable right-handers. "They may be calling me Captain Hook," Lucero said. "If the starter doesn't have it, he'll be out of there."
OUTLOOK: Lucero said the Lancers have the best talent since they won the City title three years ago. "We've certainly got our best pitching since 1986," he said. "We've got a stopper in Delahoya and several others who can do the job behind him--it looks pretty good." If Lucero can fill a few holes, Grant is a legitimate challenger for the league title.
COACH: Brian York, fifth season
LAST SEASON: 10-13; tied for third in league at 10-8
PLAYERS TO WATCH: York confidently predicts that the Huskies will finish last. He says it with an air of certainty. And because six of his starters are academically ineligible, it's hard to argue with him. "We're decimated," says York, who called up seven sophomores to round out the roster. "We lost a lot." Included among the missing are all-league selections Duane Braxton (.388) and Bennie Valdez (6-4, 3.11 ERA), who at best are ineligible until after the spring break--by which time the team will have played eight conference games. The Huskies' three top pitchers are gone, so it will mean some ad-libbing for York on the bench. "It'll be like Little League," York said. "An inning from the second baseman, one from the shortstop, that type of thing." York's best eligible players are Russell Greene, a three-year letterman and All-City linebacker who will play at first base and right field. Greene batted .367 last year. Erik Martinez (.323), who started at short last year as a sophomore, also returns. Craig White and Matt Farmer, a pair of inexperienced sophomore right-handers, will probably be the starting pitchers. The news isn't all bad: Mike Lewis, another sophomore, will play at third. "One day he'll be among the finest players in the Valley," said York, a one-time scout for the White Sox, A's and Phillies. "He's a terrific athlete. And even better, he's eligible." OUTLOOK: As if losing several players wasn't bad enough, the Huskies will soon lose their coach, who will have surgery on an ankle he injured in November. "We're hurting. We're a crippled program with a crippled coach," York cracked. And releaguing did not help the Huskies' chances any. "They took away Hollywood and Verdugo Hills and that usually meant three wins apiece right there," he said. "It will be a long year."
COACH: Jerry Cord, 14th season
LAST SEASON: 19-3; first in league at 17-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: For two seasons, Cord's pitching rotation was set with Greg Nealon and Nick Lymberopoulos. But they're gone now so this season, not surprisingly, the Parrots' main question mark centers on pitching. Last year's No. 3 pitcher, right-hander Mario Gomez, returns after posting a 3-0 mark in a league championship season. But Gomez, who was effective during summer American Legion play, must improve on last season's 6.10 ERA. Right-hander David Giatti, the junior varsity MVP, will be the No. 2 starter and right-hander Eddie Chavez and left-hander Eddie Castellanos are the bullpen options. "Our pitching is unproven," Cord said. "We'll have to see how fast they adapt out there." Three-fifths of the infield is back. Harold Whiteside, a three-year letterman who played in the outfield last year and batted .348, will catch after serving as a back-up catcher on Poly's 1987 City finalist and playing in the outfield last year. Adulfo Hernandez (seven steals) returns at second and Gabe Chavez moves from third to short. Chavez (.327, 16 RBIs), who also had a fine American Legion season, and Shad Martinez return in the outfield.
OUTLOOK: After winning the league title two years running, Poly is again a favorite to make the playoffs. Duplicating last season's success might be hard, however. "We'll be very adequate defensively and we're capable of hitting the ball," Cord said. "If we can get the pitching to be consistent, we'll be in good shape." If not, the Parrots, who appear to lack the long ball, will have to scratch and claw to score runs.
COACH: Gary Donatella, first season
LAST SEASON: 12-10; second in league at 11-7
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Donatella returns to his alma mater after several successful seasons at Marshall. Donatella coached the Sylmar junior varsity in 1978 and 1979, so he knows the area and he knows the competition. Fortunately for him, so do several of his players. The Spartans have five returning starters and one of the area's best pitchers in senior right-hander Nino Romo (8-5, 2.77 ERA). Romo is one of the wiliest pitchers in the City, and he baffles hitters with an assortment of pitches in the strike zone--as exhibited by a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2-1. Tom Ball, a left-hander who saw limited action last year, is expected to be the No. 2 starter. "He had a heckuva winter," Donatella said. "He's really progressed." Either Romo or Ball will play first base when the other is pitching. Catcher Bruce Gomez (.319, 16 RBIs) is back to handle the pitchers. Jose Gallegos (.342) moves from second to short and will bat cleanup, and Joe Contreraz (.261, 10 steals) moves from first to third. Brad McGahan (.377, seven doubles, nine steals, nine RBIs) returns to anchor the outfield in center and bat third. "Brad has good range, a good arm, a good bat and decent speed," Donatella said. The verdict? "He's a very good ballplayer." Sylmar looks thin in relief pitching, with junior Danny Garcia and sophomore James Encinas backing up Romo and Ball. Youth may be served in other ways, however. Sophomores Dereck Ornelas and Robert Garcia are both battling for starting slots.
OUTLOOK: Donatella insists that defense will be the key of his team's success, something former Coach John Klitsner (now at Mission College) told him was spotty last year. "John said they had a tendency to throw the ball away at times," Donatella. "We have taken care of that. I really emphasize defense, and we have really improved." If Romo and Ball hold up, Sylmar has the senior leadership to challenge for a playoff berth, if not a league title. "If we get any kind of pitching, I think we'll be right there," Donatella said.
COACH: Wayne Sink, 12th season
LAST SEASON: 6-12; tied for fourth in league, 5-10
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Braves have only four seniors and two--catcher Diego Arcos (6-0, 175) and first baseman Ernesto Alvarez (6-1, 170)--are exchange students from Ecuador. "They're super kids and good workers," Sink said. Right-hander David Grisar (2-5, 4.09 earned-run average), who throws an assortment of pitches, is the only returning pitcher. Left fielder Brian Barry is the fourth senior. Junior center fielder Danny Larson (.342, two doubles), a three-sport athlete, has improved power, Sink said, and sophomore catcher Seth Rosenzweig batted a team-high .414 for the junior varsity. Second baseman Justin Bass, a returning starter, and shortstop Ruben Flores, are both 5-foot-7 juniors. "They're kind of the Billy Barty boys up the middle," Sink said. Junior Matt Mowry (third base) and sophomore Mike Belasco (first base) leave the Braves inexperienced at the corners. Junior Josh Brown will either start or be the top reliever while another pitcher, sophomore left-hander Jason Mansfield, will rely on a split-finger fastball. Junior Bob Bookatz, up from the junior varsity, will start in right field.
OUTLOOK: Sink must contend with a roster that numbers only 14, but he is ecstatic about the prospect of leaving the Mid-Valley League. "I'm tickled to death at getting away from Granada Hills, Kennedy and San Fernando," he said. "We're sitting here looking pretty even." Sink concedes, however, that the Braves are "an average ballclub" as the season begins.
COACH: Kevin Campbell, fourth season
LAST SEASON: 13-16; fourth in league at 5-10
PLAYERS TO WATCH: For Sean Henson and Tim Costic, 1988 was the kind of season every player dreams of having as a senior. Henson, a left-hander, pitched a five-hitter in Monroe's 3-2 win over San Fernando in the City Section 4-A championship game, striking out 10. Costic finished with a .426 batting average, 11 doubles, six triples, five home runs, 37 runs batted in and Times' Valley Player of the Year honors. Yet neither was a senior. Costic was a junior and Henson a sophomore, and now both must try to duplicate--or improve upon--last year's improbable feats. Early signs are not positive. In winter-league play, both Costic (back) and Henson (elbow) suffered injuries, although both will be ready for the regular season, Campbell said. Henson and Costic will lead the team offensively and defensively--one will play at first base when the other is on the mound. Henson (4-4, 4.02 ERA), Costic (3-2, 2.75 ERA) and senior right-hander Henry Valdez (3-2, 4.57 ERA) form the core of the mound corps. "Our strength is going to be pitching," Campbell said. "We'll build around that until the offense gets there." Senior catcher Adam Clark (19 RBIs), infielder Mike Enriquez (.260), outfielder Ernesto Echeveste (.368 in 19 at-bats) and junior shortstop John Langley--all returning starters--likely will play pivotal roles if the offense takes off.
OUTLOOK: Campbell admits that Monroe will be hard-pressed to mirror last year's success. "We're not going to blow many people away offensively," Campbell said. And if that means playing little ball, so be it, he says. "We'll put the ball on the ground and make people react to that." Yet if Monroe makes it through the league season, and if the offense finally jells. . . . As 1988 showed, anything is possible in a single-elimination playoff format.
COACH: Mike Stone, 10th season
LAST SEASON: 7-12; sixth in league at 4-11
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Reseda lost several key players from last year's team, which finished last in the highly competitive West Valley League. Outfielder Kevin Ogle (.421, seven home runs, 25 RBIs) is now playing at Cal State Northridge, right-hander Steve Brody (6-5, 3.79 ERA) is playing at Arizona State and Damon Lantz (10 RBIs) and Mike Shwartzer (.370) are playing at Pierce. But the Regents have their entire infield back. Twins Ron and Rod Stricklin, seniors and three-year lettermen, will start at first and short, respectively. Rod hit .272 with six steals and Ron hit .306 with six doubles and six steals last year. Eric Perry, "our best hitter for average," Stone says, will play at second after batting .400 with six steals last season. Joey Arnold will be the designated-hitter and chief utility man. Darin McGrath and Mark McLain, a pair of junior right-handers, will be the starting pitchers. McLain is a transfer from Pomona and McGrath pitched for the junior varsity last year. McGrath will start in center when McLain is pitching. Sophomore Louis Vanacore, brother of 1987 graduate Mike, will play in the outfield. Junior Joey Tushnet, the league player of the year for the B football team, will play somewhere. "He's an excellent hitter," Stone said. "I'll find a place to play him."
OUTLOOK: As usual, the Regents will have few problems scoring. But also, as usual, pitching will be the focal point. "It's our main problem," Stone said. "If we can get a couple of guys to do the job, we'll be competitive. Other than that, I'm not going out any further on a limb. We'll show up 17 times, I can guarantee that."
COACH: Kenji Mochizuki, fourth season
LAST SEASON: 5-19; sixth in league at 1-14
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Two key offensive players return, both needing to deliver improved performances if the Wolves are to improve upon last year. Senior pitcher-center fielder Melvin Baltrez batted .288--third highest on the team--with three doubles. Baltrez will bat second or third and serve as the No. 1 starter on the mound. Senior catcher Keith Quigley had a team-high five RBIs last year. "He'll supply us with offense," Mochizuki said. Shortstop Mike Engler, who batted just .200 last year, will bat third. Senior first baseman Richard Hanna also returns. All of the above are three-year varsity players. Senior Elton Teng will return as a starting pitcher and junior right-hander Lorenzo Morales as the top reliever. Senior John House returns in right field. Senior outfielder Kevin Gilbert, who batted a team-high .325 last year, is the best of several junior varsity players joining the varsity. Senior outfielder Carlos Bejines is another newcomer.
OUTLOOK: This year marks an anniversary of sorts: Van Nuys has not won a City championship since 1959. The 30-year drought is likely to continue unless several players perform well beyond their capabilities. "I think we should do a little better in this new league," Mochizuki said.
COACH: Curt Yarrington, third season
LAST SEASON: 6-15; sixth in league at 6-12
PLAYERS TO WATCH: For Masaaki Yamashita, playing at Verdugo Hills has become a have-visa-will-travel prospect. Yamashita, an exchange student from Japan, first attended Verdugo Hills as a sophomore. "Then he came back last year," Yarrington said. "And then he showed up again this year." It seems Yamashita was told that if he wants to attend college in Japan, he must now graduate from Verdugo Hills. Under any circumstance, Yarrington is glad to have him. Yamashita will be in the pitching rotation and play third base. Luis Rodriguez, a senior right-hander who started at third last year, is another probable starter. Verdugo Hills, which plays in the Northeast Conference, also has the services of Ryan Paskwietz and Jamie Valentine, both returning infield starters. Paskwietz will play second or shortstop, and Valentine will share time at shortstop and pitch in relief. Bob Yerby (.275), who also returns, will start in center field and bat third.
OUTLOOK: If Verdugo Hills is to make the playoffs, the key lies in beating opponents from the other side of the conference--Hollywood, Marshall, Belmont and Lincoln. "We've got to basically sweep the other side," Yarrington said. "We're probably the third-best team in our league." The Dons need to improve in many areas but primarily on defense. "We've got a long way to go defensively," he said. "That may determine a large part of how well we do."