When undefeated Garfield High falls behind in a football game this season, the Bulldogs have opponents right where they want them.
After easily defeating Marshall, 33-0, in the season opener, Garfield needed last-minute touchdowns the next three weeks to defeat Bell, Fremont and Locke. The Bulldogs rallied from first-half deficits the last two weeks against Jefferson and Huntington Park and improved to 6-0.
Garfield comebacks can be traced to last season, when the Bulldogs came from behind to defeat San Pedro and Locke in the City 3-A Division playoffs before losing to Franklin in the final. Garfield has rallied for victories in seven of its last nine games.
"They just believe that they are going to win every game," Garfield Coach Steve Robinson said. "The attitude of the kids is just terrific. They never feel that they are out of any game."
Garfield, one of three undefeated teams in the City, will attempt to stretch its winning streak to seven Friday night when it plays Roosevelt in the annual East Los Angeles Classic at East L.A. College beginning at 8.
A capacity crowd of 25,000 is expected for the 55th meeting between the schools, with Roosevelt leading the series, 28-20-6. Last year, Garfield won, 28-27, when Roosevelt failed on a two-point conversion attempt on the final play.
Even though Roosevelt has not won in six games this season, Robinson says he is concerned about the matchup.
"I know we are the big favorite to win, but everyone is talking upset," said Robinson, whose Bulldogs lead the Eastern League with a 5-0 record. "It's a scary week. The key for us is dealing with all of the distractions. If we don't get too excited, we'll be OK."
Garfield has emerged as a City power the last two seasons, compiling a 15-2-1 record. Last season, the Bulldogs were led by running back Hilario Espinosa, who rushed for 2,100 yards. With Espinosa graduated, they are winning with balance.
On offense, Garfield features quarterback David Castillo, who has passed for 1,185 yards and nine touchdowns.
"Castillo is definitely the leader of our team," Robinson said. "He has a strong arm and his passing gives us good balance.
Leading the Bulldogs' ground attack is Oscar Gonzales, a 5-foot-4 running back who has rushed for 658 yards and five touchdowns.
"(Gonzales) is so little that he just gets behind blockers and you can't find him," Robinson said.
On defense, Garfield is giving up 16 points a game this season. The leaders are inside linebackers Tony Torres and Eloy Nunez, the Bulldogs' top two tacklers, and defensive backs Manuel Vanuelos and Eddie Ramos.
Since Wilson lost to Lincoln Friday, Garfield is regarded as the team to beat in the 3-A Division.
Running back David Dotson was the difference in Moreno Valley Valley View's 26-20 victory over Riverside La Sierra Saturday, rushing for 339 yards in 43 carries and scoring all four of the Eagles' touchdowns.
Dotson, a 5-11 junior, is the leading rusher in the Southern Section with 2,009 yards in 298 carries. He already has three 300-plus games this season and has scored 26 touchdowns.
"He carries the money for us all of the time," Valley View Coach Leo Brouhard said of Dotson, who is averaging 37 carries a game. "He's a great one who will do anything for the team."
Is Brouhard surprised with Dotson's success this season?
"No, I'm not because we expected a pretty good year from him this season after rushing for 1,200 yards last season."
Carlton Hyder, suspended by the Southern Section for his involvement in the brawl with officials after a basketball game between Victor Valley and La Verne Damien last winter, was reinstated by the Southern Section last week. Hyder, who was Victor Valley's leading scorer, will be eligible to play beginning Dec. 6, one year after the fight.
"I am glad that Carlton was reinstated," said Carlton's father, Jerry Hyder, who was an All-Southern Section basketball player at Victor Valley in 1967. "However, I felt that he never should have been suspended in the first place. I'm also not 100% certain that he'll return to play at Victor Valley now that he is eligible to play again. I wanted him to mainly play there because of Ollie Butler, who is no longer coaching there."
Butler was forced to resign after the Southern Section threatened to punish Victor Valley's athletic programs last spring.
In response to his actions after Santa Ana Mater Dei's 3-0 victory over Los Angeles Loyola two weekends ago, running back Derek Sparks issued a letter of apology to fans before Mater Dei's homecoming loss to Paramount last Thursday night. In the letter, Sparks said that his celebration dance was misinterpreted as an insult to Loyola.
Ron Randle has been named girls' basketball coach at Inglewood Morningside, replacing Frank Scott, who resigned to become an assistant for the USC women's team. Randle was co-coach of the Morningside boys' team last season. Morningside is two-time defending girls' state Division I champion. . . . The Palos Verdes Peninsula School District is considering a plan to eliminate spring sports at Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills and Miraleste high schools to cut costs. The school board votes on the proposal next Monday.
L.A. Verbum Dei's 36-6 football victory over Downey Pius X extended Pius X's losing streak to 27. . . . Undefeated Sylmar has won its last three games by a combined score of 123-0. . . . Quarterback Dameron Ricketts rushed for 221 yards and scored four touchdowns in Culver City's 33-22 upset of Santa Monica.
TIMES' TOP TEAMS
Southern Section No. School, League / Division: Record 1. Fontana, Citrus Belt / Div. I: 8-0-0 2. El Toro, South Coast / Div. II: 8-0-0 3. Bishop Amat, Angelus / Div. I: 6-1-0 4. Eisenhower, Citrus Belt / Div. I: 8-0-0 5. Paramount, San Gab. Valley / Div. II: 8-0-0 6. Westlake, Marmonte / Div. II: 8-0-0 7. Canyon Springs, Ivy / Div. IV: 8-0-0 8. Loyola, Angelus / Div. I: 7-1-0 9. CC Canyon, Golden / Div. I: 7-1-0 10. Tustin, Sea View / Div. VI: 8-0-0 11. Hawthorne, Bay / Div. III: 7-1-0 12. Mission Viejo, South Coast / Div. II: 7-1-0 13. Edison, Sunset / Div. I: 7-1-0 14. Esperanza, Empire / Div. III: 8-0-0 15. Serra, Camino Real / Div. VII: 6-0-0
City No. School, League / Division: Record 1. Carson, Pacific / 4-A: 6-1-0 2. Banning, Pacific / 4-A: 4-3-0 3. Dorsey, Pacific / 4-A: 6-1-0 4. Granada Hills, West Valley / 4-A: 6-1-0 5. Garfield, Eastern / 3-A: 6-0-0 6. Fairfax, Metro / 3-A: 6-0-0 7. Sylmar, Valley East / 3-A: 6-0-0 8. Locke, Central / 3-A: 6-1-0 9. El Camino Real, West Valley / 4-A: 5-1-0 10. Lincoln, Northwestern / 3-A: 5-1-1