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League’s First Favorite? St. Augustine

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fret not, little Harbor League. The sun is shining in your small corner of the world.

So many things are happening so quickly for you. Just think, you are about to celebrate your first birthday, you are playing football for the very first time, and dear but departed Tony Clark is an entire time zone away.

Due to circumstances beyond its control, the Harbor League was so closely linked to Clark last year--he is now splitting his time playing basketball at Arizona and baseball in the Detroit Tiger organization--that it suffered a bit of an identity crisis. With Clark leading Christian High to second in the state in Division IV basketball and becoming the second player taken in the baseball draft, the Harbor was little more than a showcase for his talents.

But he never played a down of football, and the line of opportunity forms here as schools attempt to make a name other than “Clark” for themselves.

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St. Augustine would like to be the first to do so, and barring an extraordinary turn of events, the Saints will hang the Harbor’s first football championship banner in its gym. There are few measuring sticks on which to base this prediction other than an overwhelming thumbs-up endorsement by the leagues’ five coaches.

“They are the front-runner, no doubt,” said Bud Mayfield, second-year coach at Coronado.

Said Dale Peterson, in his first year at Christian: “You would think Saints is the favorite. Marty placed a lot of kids in college last year.”

St. Augustine finished the 1989 season tied for third in a strong Central League, won by Crawford--which it defeated in regular season--and Lincoln. And in the San Diego Section 2-A playoffs, the Saints defeated Kearny in the quarterfinals before losing to San Pasqual.

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“People are judging us on our ability to beat Kearny and Crawford,” said Marty Martin, St. Augustine coach of three years. “That’s why they’re picking us. Based on that, it’s justifiable.”

Martin is known for having a keen football mind and finding a way to win. He has 17 returning players, six of them starters, and his team has as many victories (seven) last year as the rest of the league’s teams combined.

“If we can stay healthy, we should be there,” Martin said. “We want to set realistic goals, but this is the year we should be able to win a league championship.”

After St. Augustine, the pecking order is a tossup. There are lots of question marks and speculation.

“Saints is the one to beat,” Marian Coach John Pappas said. “I don’t know how it lines up after that. Since the league is newly formed, it’s hard to speak about the rest of the teams. No one really knows much about anyone else.”

Mainly because they come from a variety of compass points.

Christian and St. Augustine are the only schools to play in the same league (City Central) last year. Coronado, after shuffling between the Metro and South Bay leagues for several years, was independent for the 1988 and 1989 seasons. Marian, also forced to play in the Metro and South Bay leagues, was a guppy in a pool of sharks before bailing out for two years and joining the Desert Coastal League, in which it won the 1-A title in 1988. After years of success in the City Western League, falling enrollment made Clairemont a misfit, and the Chieftains went 13-35 from 1985-89 before changing alliances.

Martin said that some may look down their noses at the competition level of the Harbor League but that it’s not a good idea.

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“Some look down on the league, but we’ve been respectable,” he said. “We can be as competitive as anyone else.”

What the new league does, he said, is open the door for competitive schools that otherwise would be floundering in leagues with larger enrollments.

“The league has created the situation that the best teams should be able to win a championship,” Martin said. “We’d still be in the hunt in the City (Central).”

While it’s a start, there is still disparity. Marian’s enrollment last year was 325, Clairemont’s 1,063.

“We’re not happy to be in the 2-A,” said Pappas, who has only 40 players out for both varsity and junior varsity teams. “A restricted 2-A yes, but not this. We’re not comparable to the other schools.”

HARBOR LEAGUE FOOTBALL Defending champion: None. The league is dipping its big toe into football for the first time.

Who should win: St. Augustine (7-5 in 1989, 3-2 in City Central League).

Who could win: Christian (3-7, 1-4 in City Central), Coronado (1-7 as an independent).

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Who should look toward 1991: Clairemont (1-8, 0-5 in City Western League), Marian (2-8, 2-3 in Desert Coastal League).

The Game: St. Augustine vs. Christian, Oct. 26. This may be the only game that could blemish an otherwise perfect league record for St. Augustine.

Impact players: Antione Henry, Clairemont running back, 5-11, 190; his week-by-week performance is synonymous with Clairemont’s success. Justin Williams, St. Augustine defensive back/wide receiver, 5-11, 190; a double threat who intercepts footballs as well as he catching them. Chad Tomosaski, St. Augustine cornerback/wide receiver, 5-11, 165; was a big reason Saints allowed 9.8 points a game and upset the team that allowed just 5.3--Crawford; Tony Acosta, Marian defensive back, 5-11, 165; 1-A defensive player of the year last year.

New faces: Adam Smith, Coronado quarterback, 6-2, 205; broken collarbone in first game last season made Coronado’s bad situation--very little experience--worse. Chad De Grenier, Christian quarterback, 6-2, 190; led Scottsdale (Ariz.) Christian to Division I state title last year. Jack De Grenier, Christian offensive coordinator; Chad’s father is former NFL (New Orleans) and USFL (Chicago) player.

Last word: These teams desperately need each other. Their combined record last year, often against schools with twice or three times their enrollments, was 14-35, and St. Augustine accounted for half of those victories.


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