PREPS / ROB FERNAS : Carson Quarterback Guru Clarkson Ousted
Under normal circumstances, Steve Clarkson would have been able to coach football at Carson High this season.
But these are not normal times for Coach Gene Vollnogle and his powerful program.
That became evident Tuesday when Vollnogle, at the request of Dick Mattingly, the school’s assistant principal in charge of athletics, asked Clarkson to leave the Carson campus.
Mattingly did not believe that it was appropriate for Clarkson to work at the school as an assistant coach because of Clarkson’s alleged involvement in the transfer of quarterback John Walsh from West Torrance to Carson in June. West has raised the issue of undue influence and recruitment with the CIF-Southern Section because Clarkson is Walsh’s personal coach and has ties to Carson.
Nevertheless, Vollnogle had intended to have Clarkson on his staff, until Mattingly stepped in.
“In no way is he on our coaching staff, absolutely not,” Mattingly said. “I don’t care what any other coach wants. The principal runs this operation, not the coaches.
“We do not participate in the recruitment of athletes from other schools. We want to keep our integrity, and we will maintain it.”
Vollnogle called the matter a misunderstanding. Last week, the veteran coach said Clarkson would serve as the Colts’ quarterback coach. Clarkson was an assistant at Carson in 1988 but did not coach at the school last season.
It was during that time, after the 1988 season, that Walsh began receiving private coaching from Clarkson. A former college and pro quarterback, Clarkson works with several of Southern California’s top quarterbacks, including Todd Marinovich of USC.
West Co-Coaches Mark Knox and John Black have said Clarkson used his influence to persuade Walsh to transfer. West has since brought the matter to the attention of the Southern Section.
“We’d like to see them put the reins on Clarkson’s ability to go around and pick what quarterback he wants to play at Carson,” Knox said.
Clarkson has denied the allegations.
Dean Crowley, Southern Section associate commissioner, said his office was awaiting additional documentation from West regarding the alleged recruitment of Walsh. So far, though, he said West did not appear to have a strong case.
Walsh, whose parents reportedly have filed for divorce, has moved into the Carson district with his father.
"(The transfer) was done by the rules, although it looked to many like Clarkson was involved,” Crowley said. “It’s almost impossible to prove a recruiting case. These things can end up in court, where you have to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he recruited this kid.
“It’s very difficult to do that.”
Carson isn’t the only team in the South Bay with a transfer quarterback.
Not to be outdone, rival Banning could start Anthony Nicholson, a senior who played for Centennial last season.
“He’s looking pretty good right now,” Banning Coach Joe Dominguez said, adding that Nicholson is competing for the starting job with Marty Garcia, a senior who also plays wide receiver.
“Both have their good points,” Dominguez said. “Nicholson is a little quicker. If we decide to run more option, he’s our starter.”
Brandon Himelwright, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior, was the only Palos Verdes football player to earn “Ironman” status with a combined lift of 1,450 pounds in the dead lift, squat, bench press and power clean.
“Each year we have one Ironman, possibly two, but it’s kind of rare,” Coach Bill Judy said. “It compares to what players are doing at Division I schools. He’d be in the above-average category, even for them.”
Himelwright, a returning starter, will play offensive guard and inside linebacker for the Sea Kings, who open the season at 3 p.m. Friday against Inglewood at Palos Verdes.
Can Serra duplicate last year’s 14-0 record? Impossible, says Coach Leo Hand.
“We can only play 13 games,” he said. “We have a bye.”
Seriously, though, Serra is being mentioned as a contender for a second consecutive CIF-Southern Section Division VII title. One of the reasons is the return of lightning-quick halfback Jerald Henry.
Hand said Henry is the fastest player he has ever coached. That includes former Servite standout Derek Brown, now at Nebraska.
Said Hand: “Jerald’s the only guy I know who can turn out the light and get into bed before it’s dark.”
Hand said 80 students turned out for Serra’s first football meeting last spring, when enthusiasm was high after the team’s CIF championship.
Since then, the varsity squad has dropped to 27. That is six less players than Serra carried last season.
“When they realized so much hard work and dedication was involved, many guys dropped out,” Hand said. “It’s a sign of the times. Less people are coming out for football. There are so many other things to do in Southern California. It takes a lot of mental toughness to stick with it.”
The numbers are also down at Leuzinger, where the varsity football roster has gone from 83 players in 1988 to 42 this season.
Coach Steve Carnes says part of the reason for the low turnout might be the racial unrest that gripped Leuzinger and neighboring Hawthorne High last spring.
The schools have reported lower enrollment figures than last fall, and some have blamed it on white flight in the Centinela Valley district.
“There have been a lot of problems at this school, and I think it’s affected a lot of the athletic programs,” said Carnes, who also serves as Leuzinger’s athletic director. “I’ve never had less than 50 kids before.”