COACH: Chick Epstein, 11th season
LAST SEASON: 5-3-1; 3rd in league, 3-3-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Opposing coaches are picking the Braves as the team to beat in the Mid-Valley League, and Darrell Moore (6-foot, 170 pounds), a senior running back and defensive back, is a primary reason. Moore averaged 6.2 yards a carry and 8.8 a catch last season and likely will make up for the loss of quarterback Danny Larson, who accounted for 18 touchdowns and sported a 7.3-yard rushing average last season, to graduation. Senior Noah Kirshbaum (6-4, 210), who played B ball his first two seasons, is Epstein’s top candidate to replace Larson. “He is a prototype quarterback; he drops back and throws the ball hard. But he doesn’t have the speed that Danny has,” Epstein said. Of the 11 returning starters, wide receiver-defensive back Mike Moguel (6-0, 170), center Jason Manfield (6-3, 200), linebacker-fullback Jon Zuccaro (6-0, 210), offensive tackle Donnell Grey (6-3, 250) and safety Eric Williams ((5-9, 165) top the list. Manfield and Grey, both three-year starters, helped lead an offense that averaged 280.9 yards a game, second highest behind Granada Hills among area City Section schools.
OUTLOOK: “We have big shoes to fill in Danny Larson, but we like to feel like we are the team to beat,” Epstein said. “This is a competitive league, but there are no powerhouses. Our goal is to get to the playoffs, and it should be a dogfight.”
COACH: David Lertzman, 2nd season
LAST SEASON: 1-7-1; 4th in league, 1-5-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: After Monroe was outscored, 229-84, in his first season with the Vikings, Lertzman’s goal is to keep games closer. Key players in that effort will include seniors Jason St. John (6-1, 210), whom Lertzman is moving from defensive tackle to inside linebacker and fullback, and Gene Hodge (5-8, 140), the primary wide receiver and a defensive back. According to Lertzman, Hodge “may be small but he’s mighty.” Sabu Terry (6-0, 185), a senior cornerback, will add experience to the secondary. Quickness should be the strength of the defense. Hodge, Terry and Sean Bell, an outside linebacker, all have run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds. Senior Andy Cavanaugh (5-10, 165) and junior Paul Pedroza (6-4, 285) should provide strength on the offensive line. Monroe generated the least offense among the area’s City schools last season--134.7 yards a game--but Lertzman is hoping that the speedy seniors will help cover more ground this season. Approximately 80% of the players weigh less than 200 pounds.
OUTLOOK: “We want to have a chance to win every game,” Lertzman said. “We want to try to improve, but improvement doesn’t have to mean wins. It can mean that scores are closer. You want to be able to get down to the end of a game with a chance to win. We want to be able to say, ‘Gee, we could have won that game.’ ” Of the team’s lack of size, Lertzman said, “In high school you can get away with small, quick kids.”
COACH: Rudy Lugo, 5th season
LAST SEASON: 1-8; 4th in West Valley League, 1-6
PLAYERS TO WATCH: With star quarterback Dave Erhardt having moved to Cleveland High in the spring because of disciplinary reasons, Lugo is looking for a new leader for the Hunters. Seniors Robert Adams (6-0, 190) and Alex Porter (5-11, 185) appear to be the top prospects to replace Erhardt, but junior Adam Ferris (5-9, 145) has more game experience than either after two years as starting quarterback for the B team. Lugo is hoping that Elvis Palacios (5-10, 180), who suffered a leg injury in the third game last season, will stay healthy and contribute at fullback and defensive end. Junior Kevin Blount (6-2, 210) is a promising prospect at tight end. John Call (5-11, 175) was a part-time starter last season, but the senior will start at guard and linebacker. According to Lugo, senior offensive lineman Brian Bolognia (6-0, 185) will make it possible for the Hunters to move the ball and junior Andy Lerman (6-1, 180) will start at guard and outside linebacker. Lugo said sturdy senior Phoumano Luang (5-11, 175) can play just about anywhere and probably will. Luang will be seen in the secondary and at fullback, tailback and tight end.
OUTLOOK: Canoga Park moved into the Mid-Valley League this year, but Lugo thinks the competition will be just as tough for the Hunters, who were outscored, 227-107, last season. “Our running game seems pretty thin this year, but if our quarterbacks come around we should be up there,” Lugo said. “We lost a lot of speed.”
COACH: Kenji Mochizuki, 4th season
LAST SEASON: 5-5; 1st in league, 5-2
PLAYERS TO WATCH: A year ago Mochizuki had 18 returning starters, which made the Wolves a preseason pick to win the Mid-Valley League. But Van Nuys will have just five returning starters this season. Mochizuki again will rely heavily on a ground-oriented game, and carrying the ball frequently will be senior running back Aaron Gadasy (5-5, 145), who rushed for more than 600 yards in 1989. Mochizuki said he is “expecting quite a bit” from junior running back Harold Boudreaux (6-1, 180), who missed three games last season because of injuries. The Wolves are hoping that sophomore quarterback Bill Calhoun (5-11, 170) will develop quickly as their primary leader. Calhoun will be throwing to wide receivers Robert Franklin (6-1, 190) and Jeremy Ward (5-8, 150). Senior David Martinez (5-8, 185) returns at linebacker, as does Guy Patterson (5-6, 140) at free safety. Senior Jose Martinez (5-10, 220) is the only returning defensive lineman, but Mochizuki is impressed with the progress that Luis Garcia (6-0, 195) has made as a defensive and offensive lineman. Garcia will look for help from sophomore Johnny Frausto (6-1, 250), who “will help a lot” offensively.
OUTLOOK: According to Mochizuki, the Wolves “want to prove that we can win two straight years, and that last year wasn’t a fluke.” Mochizuki concedes that this year’s team is young--it has only eight seniors--but insists that if the rest mature quickly enough they again will contend for the championship.
EAST VALLEY LEAGUE
COACH: Bill Foster, 6th season
LAST SEASON: 9-2; 1st in league, 6-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Grant repeating as league champion “is the furthest thing from my mind,” Foster said. He has lost some good skill-position players (including running back Shawn Booker and quarterback Marlowe Lewis) to graduation, but he cannot complain about the experienced, bulky group of linemen who remain. Look for players such as Chris Reed (6-foot-4, 250 pounds), Miguel Gonzales (6-2, 215), Justin Garfield (6-0, 225), Cesar Perez (6-3, 225), Steve Farrington (6-3, 240) and Rudy Delatorre (6-3, 250) to dominate most of the smaller lines in the East Valley League. Linebacker Eric Taylor (6-0, 180), free safety Colin McHarg (6-1, 180), and strong safety-fullback Adam Rose also will start. Gerald Redmond (5-10, 165), who started at wide receiver last year, will take over at quarterback for the Lancers for his final season. “He’s not as shifty as Lewis, but he has a better throwing arm,” Foster said. Redmond will be looking for wide receiver Sargon Isaac (5-7, 145). Tony Johnson (5-8, 175), who played fullback and outside linebacker last year, will start at tailback. “Hopefully, we won’t need to use him on defense,” Foster said of Johnson.
OUTLOOK: Grant dominated its competition last year, outscoring opponents, 254-137, and the trend likely will continue. “We are not as explosive as we were last year, but we have a stronger team overall,” Foster said.
COACH: Fred Grimes, 5th season
LAST SEASON: 2-8; 3rd in league, 2-5
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The bright star in North Hollywood’s otherwise dismal 1989 season was tailback Leon Gable. Luckily for the Huskies, the 5-7, 145-pound senior is back. He missed the first four games of last season but managed to rush for 1,081 yards and score a team-high 10 touchdowns. “We’ll be counting on him,” Grimes said. “How he goes will determine how our offense goes.” Experience will be a strength this season. Of the 30 returning lettermen, 23 are seniors. Several players will start both ways, including Mike Lewis, Jeff Leedom, John Gawronski, Gil Collins, and Hamilton Chon. “There’s a nucleus of about 14 kids doing our playing for us,” Grimes said. “But if we lose one kid, we lose two (positions).” Lewis (5-11, 185) will start at defensive back and wide receiver. Leedom (6-3, 190) will play linebacker and tackle. Gawronski (6-3, 205), an all-league tackle last year, will start at tight end and linebacker. Collins (6-1, 245) is back at tackle, and Chon (6-2, 195) returns at guard and tackle. Grimes said that quarterback Chris Carrillo (5-10, 165) will have plenty of opportunity to throw.
OUTLOOK: “I look forward to fighting it out with Sylmar for the championship,” said Grimes, whose team was outscored, 231-120, last season. “I’m optimistic about the year, but if we get hurt and don’t stay healthy it will be a crapshoot.”
COACH: Fred Cuccia, 2nd season
LAST SEASON: 1-8-1; 4th in league, 0-6-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Poly has 27 returning players, including 18 starters. But Cuccia, who inherited a downtrodden team in late August, 1989, and the Parrots still have their work cut out. Poly has won just three of its past 20 games. Senior running back Jonathon Campbell (5-11, 192), who grew an inch and gained nearly 20 pounds since last season, will carry most of the load once again for Poly. Campbell, who was the City’s third-best rusher, carried the ball 200 times for 1,159 yards (5.8-yard average) and scored 12 touchdowns. Junior Lance Garcia (5-9, 160) returns at quarterback and, according to Cuccia, “will run the option a lot.” Marlon McKinney will start at wide receiver. Senior Eddie Moreno (6-3, 260) will anchor the offensive line. Cuccia is looking for big things from senior transfer Allen Clemens (6-2, 225), who probably will start at inside linebacker. Also at linebacker is David Vargas (5-9, 190), who is up from last year’s B team, and Jack Lovridge (6-3, 240) will line up at defensive tackle. Senior Raul Torres (6-1, 165), who has never played football for Poly, has caught Cuccia’s eye at safety after turning in what the coach described as an “outstanding summer.”
OUTLOOK: “We are overly optimistic of the abilities of this football team to perform. We set very high standards and we have met them,” Cuccia said.
COACH: Jeff Engilman, 4th season
LAST SEASON: 7-3, 2nd in league, 5-2
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The loss of Jerome Casey, who scored 26 touchdowns last season and rushed for 1,447 yards as a senior, might take its toll on Sylmar, but don’t count the Spartans out just yet. Engilman has strong, experienced offensive linemen in seniors Chris Schultz (6-0, 210), Kenny Green (6-2, 235), and Ezel Henry (6-1, 255). “Jerome would drool for this kind of experience,” Engilman said. Green and Henry were all-league selections last season. Engilman thinks Danny Terry (5-10, 175), who threw for 663 yards and six touchdowns, will be the best quarterback in the league. “He will basically take over for Casey by passing the ball more,” said Engilman. The coach also will rely heavily on junior running back Toby Brookens (6-0, 170), who according to Engilman is “as fast as Jerome.” Girmar Johnson (6-2, 185), a two-way starter at wide receiver or running back and strong safety, will try to impress college scouts in his senior year. “He has 40 schools looking at him already,” Engilman said. Quick junior Brian Roberson (5-8, 135), the B team quarterback last season, will round out the field of receivers. “He’s a flash,” Engilman said. “What’s great about him is that he catches the ball across the middle--he’s just real gutsy.” Manny Vasquez (6-1, 260) and Danny Kelly (6-2, 230) will lend strength and size to the defensive line, and Danny Moreno (5-11, 210) and Ryan Walker (6-1, 185) will be at linebacker.
OUTLOOK: “I’m gonna go out on a wire: We will be league champs,” Engilman said. “Last year these players were still wet behind the ears, but they’ve taken their licks and now they are ready.”