Madlangbayan Hopes to Prove Recruiters Blew It

TIMES STAFF WRITER

There are fullbacks, and there are tailbacks, but last year in the Avocado League, Brian Madlangbayan was the other back.

You know, the one who wasn't Terry Vaughn.

Vaughn, the Oceanside tailback, led the county in rushing with 1,496 yards (8.3 yards per carry), scored 13 touchdowns and earned a scholarship to Arizona. He was the notable one . . . the league's offensive player of the year.

Madlangbayan, meanwhile, was the unheralded commodity on the other side of I-5, at El Camino High School.

But at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Mira Mesa High School, Vaughn and Madlangbayan will be part of the same backfield as the best just-graduated seniors from San Diego County play those from the city of Los Angeles in the fourth Southern California College Prep All-Star game.

San Diego is undefeated in the series.

Though Vaughn got the attention last year, Madlangbayan ultimately got the grand prize. He led his team to a 13-1 record and the 2-A San Diego Section championship, rushing 144 times for 1,109 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Despite those numbers, he was recruited by only four colleges--Occidental, St. Mary's, Columbia and Hawaii--and there wasn't a scholarship available from any of them. Hawaii, the only school of the four which even offers athletic scholarships, wanted him to walk on. Ivy League Columbia offered culture shock and the stigma of playing for the school that had the longest losing streak in NCAA history. St. Mary's felt uncomfortable. Madlangbayan chose Occidental, a Division III school that has won or tied for the Southern California Intercollegiate Conference title five of the past six years.

El Camino Coach Herb Meyer says recruiters overlooked Madlangbayan partly because of the team's slow start.

"Early in the season, we didn't score a lot; we had a brand new offensive line, and we were known as a predominantly defensive team," Meyer said. "At the same time, (Vaughn) had two or three big games for Oceanside.

"Then we started putting everything together. Everybody thought we were winning because we had a great defensive team, but we broke most of our offensive records, and Brian had a great year."

El Camino had the county's third-ranked defense and ninth-ranked offense. Madlangbayan averaged 110.9 yards per game, 7.7 per carry and was the county's fourth-leading scorer. But he didn't even have the best statistics in his hometown.

Madlangbayan said he will be playing with a purpose on Saturday. "I'm just trying to show those guys they made a mistake in not picking me up."

One reason it might have been easy to overlook the kid with the funny last name was that Madlangbayan stood only 5-feet-5 1/2 and weighed 168 pounds, though football programs listed him as 5-7, 175.

Meyer said Madlangbayan's size--and low center of gravity--made him difficult to tackle.

"He bounces off a lot of tackles," Meyer said. "If he doesn't really get wrapped up, he spins out of pileups and bounces off a lot of tacklers. Plus, he's got tremendous leg strength, and he keeps his legs moving, he's well built, and he's got very good balance."

Madlangbayan: "I try not to bowl anybody over, I just try to go with the impact (of the collision). People tell me that I look like a pinball machine because I'm bouncing off everything."

He says his size works both ways.

"I can get through the line easier because the linemen can't see me, but if they get ahold of me, they can throw me around a little bit," he said. "The key is to make sure they don't get ahold of me."

San Diego's offensive coach is Ramona's Mel Galli, who plenty of Madlangbayan. The Wildcats beat Galli's Bulldogs, 27-0 during the regular season and 49-0 in the section semifinals.

"I think his heart and his attitude mean more than his size in his particular position," Galli said. "In the last week and a half of being with him at practices, he's been a very positive, can-do type of guy. He really believes in himself and that he can get the job done, and he's not arrogant about it by any means. In fact, he's probably one of the friendliest guys on the team, but he doesn't take a back seat to anybody."

Galli added that it was because of Madlangbayan's timing--in addition to his sheer talent--that he was invited to join the team.

"It's not the number of touchdowns that he scored, but it was the critical plays that he made against us," Galli said. "They would give him the ball on fourth down, and he would go 30 or 40 yards."

Madlangbayan will get a chance to work for Galli instead of against him, and he's looking forward to competing against Los Angeles and sticking up for San Diego.

"I think we're highly underrated in San Diego," Madlangbayan said. "I'm not taking anything away from L.A, but I don't think San Diego gets as much credit as it deserves. In the Shrine Game, we had only two players representing San Diego. . . . As a team, we're just trying to show that we're as good or better than the talent in L.A."

So the player who was overlooked--playing for the city that is overlooked--has something to prove.

Don't expect him to be just another back on Saturday.

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