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He Dares to Dream of Glory : Prep football: A school-record 255 yards rushing in a single game helps to keep Kennedy’s Vince Church pursuing his lofty goals.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Vince Church has dreams. Roll the film and let’s take a look.

“On an Indian Summer September night, Vince Church runs the football like nobody ever has before,” the narrator says.

Stirring music plays in the background as the grainy film shows the slow-motion action of No. 4 carrying the football past flailing defenders.

“Church moves through the tacklers like a bulldozer through a pile of sawdust,” the narrator says. “A record 255 yards rushing, four touchdowns, three on the ground and a resounding victory before a roaring crowd. Vince Church, the best ever.”

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His picture is frozen on the screen as the music reaches a crescendo. Fade to black.

Church dreams of playing football at Alabama, or maybe Ohio State, then for his beloved Cleveland Browns.

And in time, maybe he’ll star in an NFL Films highlight reel like the ones ESPN shows on Sunday nights.

Maybe he’ll run like Jim Brown, relentless in his pursuit of the goal line, high-stepping past tacklers and racing toward the end zone. Maybe kids will sit at home during the fall and winter and worship Church the way he worships Brown.

Reality is much different, however.

Church plays football at Kennedy High School, where the Fighting Irish have a young, inexperienced team prone to mediocre play. The crowds are small and like to bat beach balls around when the action drags, which seems to be often. The only films of Kennedy’s games are shown by the coaches to the players, and only for teaching purposes.

It’s likely that the senior will not play for the Crimson Tide or the Buckeyes or the Cleveland Browns. He knows this. He’ll be happy to extend his football career at a community college.

But every so often he has reason to believe that there’s something to his dreams.

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On Friday, Sept. 7, Church did run like no one in the history of Kennedy High. He gained 255 yards in 25 carries and scored four touchdowns. He also played every down as a defensive back and intercepted a pass that sealed a 26-14 victory over Cypress.

But there are also those nights when reality hits as hard as an opposing linebacker.

Last Thursday, the gaping holes that were there the week before, were slammed shut by Santa Ana Valley.

Church’s longest carry went for 17 yards. Five times he was stopped for losses. He gained 49 yards in 18 carries and didn’t score in a 14-9 loss.

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“After that first game our line got all big-headed,” Church said. “They didn’t think about the next game. I can’t really get mad. If they’re trying it’s all right. I only yell at them if they don’t try. They’re not big, but they’re quick.”

Church is being kind. Kennedy’s offensive line is tiny and could not keep up with Santa Ana Valley’s swarming defense.

Church is not big either, standing 5 feet 9, and weighing 175 pounds, but he is fast. He’s run the 400 meters in 50.0 seconds and long-jumped 23-0.

He also plays basketball.

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“He’ll be my sixth or seventh man,” said John Mayberry, Kennedy basketball coach. “He’s a great athlete.”

Though he’s grown up watching running backs like Brown and Gale Sayers in the old black-and-white highlight reels, Church’s future might be at defensive back.

“He had 12 tackles and an (interception) and a couple of game-saving tackles (against Cypress),” said Mitch Olson, Kennedy football coach. “His future is at cornerback. But it’s tough for him to concentrate on the position because he carries the ball so much.”

Church rests only on kickoffs.

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In many ways Church is like his coach. Olson was a good, but not spectacular running back at Los Alamitos in the late 1970s. He also played on the Griffin baseball and basketball teams.

And, playing on the same field at Western High, Olson once gained a school-record 265 yards and kicked a 35-yard game-winning field goal to beat Katella.

“He’s always telling us stories like that,” Church said, rolling his eyes. “We’ve heard them all.”

Church was aiming for Olson’s 265-yard mark against Cypress, but had no idea how many yards he’d gained.

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“I didn’t realize I had that many until (Olson) told me after the game,” Church said. “I just kept running.”


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