When Locke High School's football team took the field to begin practicing for its City 3-A Division semifinal game against Garfield this week, the Saints did not have to worry about being over-coached.
There has only been one coach, E.C. Robinson, on the field when the Saints started their weekday practices at 2 p.m. this season.
The lack of coaching help is not anything new to Robinson, whose only assistant coach, Wesley Green, joins practices at 3:30 p.m. after teaching at Harbor Christian School in Harbor City.
Robinson says that Locke's location, in Watts, hurts its list of applicants seeking coaching positions.
"It is hard to get guys to coach at an inner-city school," said Robinson, who is in his ninth year of coaching at Locke. "It's tough to find someone who is dedicated to help the kids."
With a team of 41 players, Robinson has done an outstanding job this season. The Saints are a victory away from reaching the City 3-A Division final after upsetting previously undefeated Venice last Friday night, 32-28.
The Saints were led by senior quarterback Dewayne Bryant, who rushed for 138 yards in 22 carries, and running back James Fuller, who gained 128 yards in 18 carries.
In ending Venice's fairy-tale season, Locke was able slow the Gondoliers' standout quarterback Louis Jones.
"Our game plan was to control the ball and keep him off the field," Robinson said. "We knew that we couldn't stop him but we hoped that we would be able to contain him."
With the win, Locke will get a rematch with Garfield, which defeated the Saints during the regular season, 27-20. The Bulldogs came from behind to defeat San Pedro in overtime last Friday at East Los Angeles College, 11-10.
Locke, which started the season 0-2-1, will be much improved from its first meeting with Garfield. The Saints had injury problems early. Fuller, a 1,000-yard rusher, missed four games with an ankle injury, and Bryant was slowed with bruised ribs.
For the Saints to avenge their earlier loss to Garfield, they must stop the Bulldogs' junior tailback, Hilario Espinosa, who rushed for 200 yards in their first meeting.
"We just played lousy defense against (Espinosa) before," Robinson said. "We should do better this time. It should be a good game. . . . I'm glad that we are getting another chance. It is just amazing how the kids have come together as a team this season."
While Locke was defeating the only undefeated team in the 3-A Division, Woodland Hills El Camino Real was doing the same to Granada Hills, the only unbeaten team in the 4-A Division.
The Conquistadors, who ended their own 24-game winless streak only a year ago, shocked the Highlanders, 16-9, with running back Jamal Anderson rushing for 157 yards.
El Camino Real (6-5) began the playoffs under .500. The Conquistadors got a forfeit win over Fairfax in the opening round, getting a second shot at Granada Hills, which defeated them in the regular season, 21-0.
Granada Hills' loss stunned Carson Coach Gene Vollnogle.
"I am very surprised that they lost so early," said Vollnogle, whose top-seeded Colts beat Kennedy of Granada Hills, 31-0, in their quarterfinal game.
Vollnogle added, however, that despite Granada Hills' undefeated record, he had not expected the Highlanders to reach the City finals.
"I saw them play against Chatsworth (Nov. 17) and they were not impressive," Vollnogle said. "I felt that they would lose to Dorsey . . . anyway."
Matchups for the Southern Section Division finals this weekend: Fontana (13-0) vs. San Gorgonio of San Bernardino (10-3) in an all-Citrus Belt League Division I final at Anaheim Stadium Friday; Pasadena Muir (11-1-1) vs. Santa Barbara (12-1) in Division II at Santa Barbara City College Saturday; defending champion Paramount (12-1) vs. El Toro (12-1) in Division III at Cerritos College Saturday; Riverside Ramona (9-3-1) vs. Glendora (12-1) in Division IV at Citrus College Saturday; Canyon Springs of Moreno Valley (12-1) vs. Corona (9-4) in an all-Mountain View League Division V final at Corona Friday; Newport Beach Corona del Mar (10-3) vs. La Quinta (9-4) in Division VI at Orange Coast College Friday; Lompoc (13-0) vs. Gardena Serra (13-0) in Division VII at El Camino College Saturday; Orange (10-2-1) vs. defending champion Mission Viejo Trabuco Hills (12-1) in an all-Pacific Coast League Division VIII final at a site to be determined Friday; Tehachapi (12-1) vs. Carpinteria (12-1) in Division IX at Carpinteria Junior HS, Saturday.
After an appeal by Mission Viejo accusing an El Toro assistant coach and several players of viewing Mission Viejo game films illegally before their game last Friday, El Toro suspended Bob Bosanko from coaching football for a year after receiving the Southern Section's recommendation. . . . Muir will go into its game with Santa Barbara without seven players who were declared academically ineligible this week according to athletic director Fred Bernthal. Suspicions by Thousand Oaks officials that Muir used ineligible players in their game last Friday are unfounded, according to Southern Section and Pasadena Unified School District officials. . . . Unbeaten Bryan Dameworth of Agoura is one of the top contenders in the 11th annual Kinney cross-country meet in San Diego Saturday. Dameworth, coming off a 20-second win in the Western Regionals last Saturday, will face competition from Martin Keino of Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, the 17-year old son of Kenyan runner Kip Keino. . . . In the girls' competition, defending champion Melody Fairchild of Boulder, Colo., and Sarah Schwald of Spokane, Wash., are co-favored, with Deena Drossin of Agoura the local choice.