Sizing up the Area Teams; Poly and Paramount Are at the Top : Coaches Size Up the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Varsity Squads

Here is a preview of Southeast/Long Beach-area high school football teams. The predicted order of finish is based on information supplied by coaches and compiled by Mike Coil and Mike Ramos of The Times.

Moore League--sub with reverse hed

Poly is a solid favorite, as usual, with Millikan, Jordan and Wilson hoping to contend.

1. POLY--The Jackrabbits, who were 8-1-1 overall and 4-0-1 in league and co-champions with Jordan, graduated 30 players, including all-CIF quarterback Michael Carter. Co-Head Coach Thomas Whiting says success will depend on the offensive line and the maturing of a quarterback. Without a solid quarterback early in the season, the offense will look to returning running back Andre Green. A strong defense will be led by three-year starting linebacker Willie McGinest, two-year starting back Roderick Mathews and Jason Jones, considered one of the best defensive backs in the country.

2. MILLIKAN--"There is a big difference between potential and production," Coach Dave Radford said when asked about his team. Radford hopes that his 22 returning lettermen, 12 of whom are returning starters, can turn their potential into production. The Rams' backfield is set with returners Lincoln Starks and Andre Borden, who led the team in rushing last year. Also returning is all-league tight end Byron Culp, who led the team in receiving.

3. JORDAN--The Panthers will be very young--only seven lettermen are returning to the team that went 4-0-1 in league and was co-champion with Poly. Coach Mike Ono said the defense is solid. It will be anchored by the only returning linebacker, Eugene McCown called by Ono "the brains of the outfit." McCown will have help from 6-foot-3, 230-pound newcomers Rex Simpson and Dan Becker. The offense will be led by returning quarterback Ted Ramirez.

4. WILSON--Despite a disappointing 1-4 league and 5-4 overall record last season, Coach John Brennan is confident that his Bruins will be strong. "The offensive and defensive lines are our big pluses," Brennan said. Returning starter Buster Layton, a 6-2, 230-pound senior will anchor the lines as center and defensive tackle. He will be assisted by tackle Demario Vaughn, a 6-foot-6, 275-pound transfer from Lynwood. Denez Blackshire and Mike Steward will try to replace Patrick Scott, the leading rusher in school history. "Our biggest questions will be at quarterback and tight end," Brennan said. Seniors Paul Pichon and Sheldon Grisby will battle for the quarterback job.

5. LAKEWOOD--New Coach Mark Rose inherits a team that has had three head coaches in the past three years. The Lancers, who were 2-7 last year, return their defensive backfield and linebackers. Backs Theo Wright and Jamul Johnson and linebacker Tom Graham will lead the defense. On offense, the only returning starting lineman is tackle Chris Trimble. A top newcomer on that line is 6-6, 240-pound Brian Sorenson. Rose believes that his team can do well, if it can win some preseason games.

6. COMPTON--Because their field is being renovated, the Tarbabes will have no home games. "We're at a terrible disadvantage," Coach Ray Denham said. The Tarbabes have 14 starters back from a team that was 1-7 and 1-5. Leading the offense will be quarterback Celophes Collins, running back Tim Adams and wide receiver Herman Vallejo. Top defensive players are back Danta Abron, end Gary Johnson and linebacker Keith Griffin.

San Gabriel Valley League--sub with reverse hed

Paramount is a slight favorite but everyone else seems to have a chance for the title.

1. PARAMOUNT--Ken Sutch's Pirates, who were 12-1 overall and won the Division III Southern Section championship, have 18 returning lettermen, including 10 starters. Quarterback Jack Manu is the only all-CIF player of the year to return to any team. Also in the backfield are Leon Neal and Dan Godfrey. The linemen are Toafa Afamenta, Kevin Murphy, Mike de la Cruz and Tony Gomez. On defense, Godfrey will start as linebacker and Murphy will start on the line.

2. DOMINGUEZ--"Unless something freaky happens we should win it again," said Coach Willie Donerson, whose Dons tied Paramount for the league title with a 5-1 record and beat the Pirates during the regular season. The Dons have 11 starters returning. The defense will be led by linebacker Bruce Walker, who has received national recognition, and cornerback Isaac Walker. The offense will be led by quarterback Tommy Lyons, a transfer from Pius X. Joining him will be wide receiver Deon Johnson, who last year had more than 800 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. The running backs will be Bruce and Isaac Walker, who are not related.

3. LYNWOOD--After an uncharacteristic 4-5 and 2-3 season, Joe Hembrick's Knights are looking to come back, mainly because of Charles Levy, who plays quarterback, running back and wide receiver. Last season Levy gained 2,469 all-purpose yards; he is called "the man" by Donerson, the Dominguez coach. All of Hembrick's linemen graduated, except Jermaine Williams, a two-year starter. Robert Moss, who transferred from Pius X, will start at tight end. The defense will be led by Moss and third-year starting linebacker Kali Williams.

4. CERRITOS--With Wayne Manzo now coaching at La Serna, Harold Eggers, who was an assistant last year, moves into the head job. The Dons were 7-3-1 and 4-2 last year. A top newcomer is Leslie Davis, a 5-9, 175-pound track star who ran the 200 meters in 20.6 seconds. "Davis is built like a pit bull," Eggers said. The defense will be lead by returning all-league senior nose tackle Dashawn Marks. Quarterback Charles Spencer is returning, as is all-league running back Sal Mejico, who also plays defensive back. Ricky Cradle starts at wide receiver and cornerback.

5. WARREN--The Bears finished 1988 with a 6-4-1 overall and 3-2 league record. Coach John Hennigan, who predicts a tight battle for third place between Warren, Cerritos and Lynwood, is depending on senior Marcus Carter for a strong inside running game. Carter ran for 750 yards last season. Returning is all-CIF lineman Chris Andresen and linebacker Mario Rottino. "We've got to make some big improvements," Hennigan said.

6. DOWNEY--"This is a rebuilding year for us," said Coach Phil Dunaway, former assistant at Warren and Cerritos College. Only six players are returning to the Vikings. Top players are two-year starter Tony Encarnacion at fullback and linebacker and two-way end Omar Khattab. Senior David Cerda and junior Mike Rhee will battle for the quarterback job. Up from the JV team is Demetrios Maxie, a 6-foot, 243-pound nose guard and offensive tackle.

7. GAHR--Second-year Coach Steve Silberman, despite a 2-8, 0-6 record last year, is optimistic because most of his starters are back. The leading Gladiators are fullback Al Maguire and free safety Donn Cunnigan. Newcomers expected to start are receivers Darius Cunnigan, who is Donn's brother, and Craig Allen.

Suburban League--sub with reverse hed

La Mirada and Artesia are the best. The rest should battle for third place.

1. LA MIRADA--John Mele's Matadores, who finished 7-4 overall and won the league championship with a 5-0 record, lost three all-CIF players, defensive tackle Mickey Jackson, defensive back Scott Hart and offensive tackle Mark Koenlog. On offense, Mele will look for leadership from two three-year starters, quarterback Chad Drown and two-way fullback/linebacker Joe Fernandez. Joining them will be running back Kendall Alexander and wide receiver Eric de la Cruz. The defense is led by Rob Hayes, a 6-3, 195-pound end, and Fernandez.

2. ARTESIA--Coach Norm Flowers is on his own as head coach after sharing the job last season. The Pioneers return two starters from a team that was 8-2-1 and 4-1. They are quarterback Robert Matos, called by Flowers the "best athlete in the league," and running back Mike Peters. A promising newcomer is Louie Major, a sophomore running back. On defense, Matos and Peters will start at defensive backs and will be joined by linebacker Joe Grijalva.

3. BELLFLOWER--Who's the coach? That question has finally been answered, sort of. Last year's Coach Mike Herrington, whose team was 8-3 overall and 3-2 in the league, resigned during the summer to coach at Hart High. In late August, the Buccaneers hired Jim Wright, a coach from Arizona, but three days later he resigned because of personal reasons. The three assistants that remained--Jim Pendleton, Glenn Wetzel and Brodie Dunn--have been asked to coach the team. The players, in the meantime, have practiced on their own. Leading the offense will be all-CIF quarterback Mike Simmons, who last year broke the school record for total offense with 3,477 yards. Simmons will be protected by lineman Tony Volkman, a 6-4, 230-pound returning starter. The receivers are Danny Schneider, J. R. Ruggiero and Stacey Nolan.

4. GLENN--The Eagles were 5-5 overall and 2-3 in the league last season. Coach Willie Norman sees better things with the return of several key starters. Paseka Teo, a junior fullback and defensive end, received all-league honorable mention. Senior Hector Valdez, a running back and defensive back last year, will start at quarterback. The offensive line will be anchored by center Ruben Rodriguez. Frank Ruiz is expected to be a standout at linebacker and offensive guard. "We're always one or two people from doing real good," Norman said. "We play good because we're a scrappy bunch of guys."

5. MAYFAIR--The Monsoons, 3-7 and 0-5 a year ago, have a sound defense, according to Coach Leon Ward. There are seven returning defensive starters, including three all-league selections, linebackers Marvin Morton and Craig Gonzalez and cornerback/wide receiver Kariem Goldsby. Senior David Partin, who Ward says is the team's strongest player, is the quarterback. "Our key to winning is how well our offensive line comes along," Ward said. "We're expecting some leadership from Steve Melendez on the offensive line."

6. NORWALK--Former defensive coordinator Ken Mardis is the new coach. The Lancers, 1-4 in league last year and 2-8 overall, will return seven starters on defense. End Alex Orantes had 57 tackles and eight sacks last season. Junior linebacker Aaron Parral had 55 tackles and 20 assists. Senior running backs Kayne Pedrick and Henry Rodriquez averaged more than five yards per carry. Mardis is considering a two-quarterback offense with Chuck Stafford and Jose Perez.

Whitmont League--sub with reverse hed

Bell Gardens is favored again. Montebello will challenge and El Rancho can never be counted out.

1. BELL GARDENS--The defending champion Lancers, who were 11-1 overall and 7-0 in the league, return 20 lettermen, including 10 starters. Leading the offense will be all-CIF running back Rudy Ramirez, who gained 1,100 yards and scored 24 touchdowns. "Ramirez is the key to our success," Coach Dave Newell said. Also returning will be all-league wide receiver Hector Ortega. Ivan Vargas will be the quarterback. The line will be led by returning guard Memo Watkins, who made The Times' All-Southeast team, and newcomers David Ramos (6-4, 230) and Raul Sanchez (6-1, 220). On defense, first-year linebacker Henry Jaurqui will join all-league end Ralph Hernandez.

2. MONTEBELLO--The Oilers finished third in the league last year with a 5-2 record. Coach Doug Rihn has three all-league players returning--quarterback Ray Maldonado, who completed 108 of 213 passes for 1,570 yards and 13 touchdowns; George Ramirez, a 6-foot, 220-pound offensive guard, and Miguel Cortez, a wide receiver who averaged 17.5 yards a catch. Cortez is also a defensive back. "The key is our offensive line," Rihn said. "On defense, we've got good linebackers and good defensive backs." The weak spot will be an untested defensive line.

3. EL RANCHO--Dons Coach Dick Shelko said he is very worried. His team, which was 11-3 overall and finished second in the league (6-1), has only four returning starters, all on defense. The defense will be led by Frank Ozuna and Robert Gonzalez, both second-team all-league linebackers last year. This year they will also be asked to lead the offense--Ozuna will start at fullback and Gonzalez at guard. Joining them will be six other players who also start on defense. With eight players going both ways, the Dons need to avoid injuries.

4. WHITTIER--Mike Fitch may have his first winning season after three years. His first year, Fitch started eight sophomores and went 2-8. Last year the Cards went 4-6 overall and 3-4 in league. Now that the sophomores have become seniors, the team looks solid. Eighteen starters are returning, including an offensive line that averages 6-2 and 240 pounds. The line is led by guard Puna Peko, a 6-2, 265-pound three-year starter, along with guard Aaron Rodts and tackle Victor Figueroa, both of whom weigh 255 pounds. The top runner is Chris Carr a third-year back. The Cards will have nine starters returning on defense and will be led by lineman Tony Ruzika. The key, Fitch said, is "finding a way to beat Bell Gardens, Montebello and El Rancho."

5. CALIFORNIA--The Condors are undergoing a youth movement. Tom Tereschuk, a Cal assistant for three years, moves into the head coaching job and will try to turn the team around from a 1-9 overall and 1-6 league record. He will have an all-sophomore backfield--quarterback Larry Haney, fullback Jim Fuentes and halfbacks Dave Trujillo and Paul Martinez. "The pressure will be on the linemen; they have the most experience," Tereschuk said. "The defense will be strong and aggressive." Senior Kyle Chang is an experienced two-way lineman.

6. LA SERNA--Wayne Manzo, who was coach at Cerritos, takes over the Lancers and inherits a team that was 1-9 overall and 1-6 in league. The Lancers will be led by quarterback Brian Dunigan, a junior who is a two-year starter. Also helping the offense will be senior newcomers Eric Martins and Mike Ortiz, both of whom will play wide receiver and defensive back. Chris Schager, a 6-4, 265-pound junior transfer, will add stability to the offensive line. Manzo hopes he can "change the attitude" of a program that has not done well the past few years.

7. SANTA FE--The Chiefs were 7-3 overall and 4-3 in league last year but graduated 29 players. This year they will be led by returning quarterback David Pierson, who threw for 951 yards and 10 touchdowns. Protecting Pierson will be returning two-way lineman Paul Perez. A top defensive newcomer is Chris Sandoval, a linebacker who led the JV in tackles last year. Though the team will be young, Coach Mike Thomas said, "the program is strong."

8. PIONEER--"The kids are not used to winning here," Coach Tom Cruickshank said. The Titans, 1-9 and 1-6 last year, return 10 starters. The offense will be led by third-year running back Sam Hauk and third-year quarterback Stephen Garza. Joining them will be tight end Martin Hernandez and newcomer Anthony Ruiz, a junior transfer from Eagle Rock High who will start at fullback. "Our kids have a lot of heart," Cruickshank said. "We can sneak up on some guys this year."

Camino Real League--sub with reverse hed

Verbum Dei, Serra and St. Bernard appear to be the top contenders.

ST. ANTHONY--Ralph Godfrey, who was at Salesian High in Los Angeles, replaces Mike Reisbig as coach. The Saints were 3-7 last year and 1-3 in league. Godfrey's team will be heavy with underclassmen and defense oriented. Sophomore Garnett Overby is likely to be the starting quarterback. Junior Lincoln Sii will play fullback. Other top players are: wide receiver Dave Carillo; 6-4, 225-pound tight end/linebacker Dan Mais, and junior linebacker Romeo Tajanlangit.

PIUS X--First-year Coach Mike Gallegos takes over a team that was 0-10 last year. The Warriors have returning several strong linemen, led by returning two-way starters Pedro Garcia and Adrian Padilla. Joining them on both lines will be newcomer Eleazar Padilla. Two important starters have transferred--tight end Robert Moss to Lynwood and quarterback Thomas Lyons to Dominguez.

Olympic League--sub with reverse hed

Whittier Christian and Valley Christian will again sit atop the seven-team Olympic League.

WHITTIER CHRISTIAN--The Heralds were 9-3 overall and 4-1 in the league, second to Valley Christian. Coach Phil Bravo has 19 returning lettermen, including 12 starters. The top player is senior Ron Papazian, a 6-2, 220-pound all-CIF linebacker who also rushed for 1,306 yards and scored 23 touchdowns as a fullback. Papazian will be joined by tailback Scott Jordan and defensive end Derek Franco, who were both all-league. "The league is as good as it's ever been," Bravo said. "It will be a tough battle. The kids need to learn early to play together."

VALLEY CHRISTIAN--The defending champion Crusaders (10-2 and 5-0) are led by all-CIF running back Mark Kortenhoeven, a 5-9, 175-pound senior who rushed for more than 1,300 yards last season. Senior Chris Miller returns as quarterback and cornerback, and Dan Leffer returns as strong safety and running back. Leffer kicked nine extra points in the first round of the playoffs. "Patience is our key this year," said Coach Mike Wunderley, who lost his offensive line. The player whose absence will hurt the most will be all-CIF lineman Steve Van Diest. "The team is not as big as before, but it's as quick, if not quicker," Wunderley said.

BRETHREN--The Warriors finished last season with a 2-8 overall record and were 0-5 in league. "We're short on numbers this year," Coach Ed Cashman said. "Only 21 players have come out so far, so we have lots of players going both ways." Seniors Steve Kogler and Troy Judd will both start as wide receivers and cornerbacks. Ryan Cantrell will start at center and middle linebacker. Junior Frank Brady returns as running back and junior Brandon Stott, who threw for 1,300 yards on the JV team, will play quarterback.

OTHER TEAMS ST. PAUL--Last year, Miguel Olmeda's Swordsmen were 6-5 overall and 2-2 in league, good enough for third place and a playoff berth. Olmeda said his young team's playoff chances are just as good, despite the loss of quarterback Greg Willig, the league's offensive player of the year, who is now at Rice University. Senior Mike Guerrero, the new quarterback, will throw to returning receivers Steve Corpus and Bruno Serrano and junior tight end Ryan Granillo. With the exception of veteran Chris Garcia, the offensive line is new and untested. Senior end Sam Balero and senior linebacker Javier Sanchez will lead the defense.

ST. JOHN BOSCO--Gabe Soumakian left his offensive coordinator job at Loyola High to take over the Braves, who were 1-9 last year and 0-4 in the Del Rey League. Soumakian plans to "restructure the whole system," putting in a new offense and new defense. The offensive coordinator will be Andy Szabatura, who last year was head coach at Bishop Montgomery, and the defensive coordinator will be Jerry Person , who was head coach at Servite last year. The team is two-thirds juniors and will be led by returning defensive lineman Mike Munoz, who will also play tight end, and free safety Jason Haye. Young quarterbacks Jeff Arboit and Gary Manley are battling for the job. Starting at running back will be newcomer Martin Meza.

PIONEER BAPTIST--The Patriots, who have moved into the Express League, return all but one player from last year's team that was 2-6 overall and 0-2 in the Metro League. On offense, running back Jack Dunagan is returning after leading the team in rushing last year. Two-way linemen Kevin Ballinger and Bobby Bernal also are returning. The defense will be led by linebacker Daren Coulsen. "This year we are in an easier league, and we should do well," Coach Manuel Cortez said.

SCHURR--"We need a miracle," said Coach Ken Davis, starting his 18th year with the Montebello school. Last year the Spartans were 9-3 overall and 4-1 in the Foothill League, but only six starters are returning. On offense, quarterback Jay Macias is returning. He threw for 1,103 yards and 14 touchdowns. Wide receiver David Hernandez, who had 21 receptions and four touchdowns, also is returning. Davis has been impressed with new running back Jun Akikic. With the graduation of Times' All-Southeast linebacker Cesar Burgueno, the quality of the defense is unknown.

CENTENNIAL--The Apaches, coached by Houston Haynes, were 3-7 overall and 2-6 in the Ocean League last year. They have an offensive line that averages 240 pounds, the mainstay of which is 6-9, 290-pound returning starter Reginal Pace, the area's biggest player. The quarterback will be Anthony Nicholson. On defense, lineman David Swift and linebacker Shannon Henry were all-league last year. Joining them is linebacker Damu Hervey.

LEFFINGWELL CHRISTIAN--The new coach is John Shepperd, who coached the baseball team for two years. The Lions, defending Arrowhead League champions, were 4-0 in the league and 4-7 overall. Returning is junior tailback Allen Lecour, the league's leading rusher. Senior Jason Carpenter will return as starting quarterback and linebacker. The team's strength is the offensive line, led by center James Goodnight.

CANTWELL--The Cardinals finished with a Santa Fe League record of 3-4 and were 3-7 overall last year. Coach Mike Noonan has 20 starters returning, but "we're starting seven linemen who are underclassmen." Jesus Reza, a 6-1, 230-pound offensive tackle and linebacker, will be the key player on defense. Noonan hopes junior tailback Carlos Zarate will be able to gain 1,000 yards.

SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE Three area teams compete in this City Section league, along with Locke, Fremont, L.A. Jordan, Roosevelt, Garfield and Jefferson. South Gate and Locke should battle for first place.

SOUTH GATE--The Rams set a 14-0 record last year and won the city championship but must rebuild a defense that lost eight players. Returning is Ivan Wilson, the city player of the year who rushed for 1,979 yards and 23 touchdowns. Marco Diaz returns to show off his all-conference form at center. Gilbert Gonzales moves up from an undefeated JV team to play quarterback. "We'll be pretty good," Coach Gary Corday said of his young team.

BELL--The Eagles, 6-3 overall last year, will not have any two-way starters. Three-year Coach Ray Galarze will coach the offense and Ray Rodriguez will coach the defense. Returning to the offense will be all-league tight end Robert Purcell and junior running back Armand Lara. The defense will have four returning lettermen, including all-league linebacker Jerry Pacheco. Of his defense, Rodriguez said, "We swarm on people."

HUNTINGTON PARK--Coach Dwight Muskrath thinks the Spartans will be much improved over their 3-7 record last year. On offense, leading wide receiver Lazaro Castillo is returning along with lineman Santiago Martinez. The defense will be led by last year's leading tackler, Manuel Carvajal, and linebacker Rolando Morales.

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