THE HIGH SCHOOLS : Defensive Stance Suits Hart Fine

Don't get defensive when discussing the Hart High football team.

So what if it's not blowing teams out? So what if it's not scoring 45 points a game, throwing six touchdowns through the air as it marches through the Southern Section Division III playoffs? Do you have a problem with that, pal?

Now, now. No need to get defensive. That's Hart's job.

After all, it has been--gulp-- defense that has carried Hart through the first two rounds of the playoffs and into Friday's semifinal game against unbeaten Esperanza of Anaheim.

Hart High? Defense?

Yes, the school that has produced offensive weaponry such as Jimmy Bonds, Darren Renfro and Brian Allen has changed its game face in the 1990 playoffs--the school that led all area schools above Division X with a regular-season scoring average of 32.7 points a game.

The Indians have been settling for low-scoring, hard-hitting affairs. Vince Lombardi would be proud. Bill Walsh might not be.

Hart beat Los Alamitos in overtime, 13-10, in the first round and knocked off El Modena, 14-7, Friday.

El Modena gained just two rushing yards in the second half. The quarterback was sacked four times. But the ultimate proof of Hart's defensive prowess came in the fourth quarter after El Modena had penetrated to the Hart 28-yard line and faced a fourth-and-one situation. But Hart standout defensive end George Kase--all 6-foot-3, 225-pounds of him--would allow little more.

On an attempted run play, Kase closed. Case closed. El Modena's runner was stopped for a three-yard loss and Hart had its victory.

"We've had two of those types of games in a row," Hart Coach Mike Herrington said. "Those were just two great defensive performances."

Don't take offense, Hart fans. But what a defense.

Lassoed: Even the sturdiest of Canyon fans must admit to a case of the nerves when Bishop Amat's Steve Molina lined up to attempt a potential game-winning kick with 58 seconds left in Canyon's 21-20 thriller of a win Friday night.

Molina had easily made field goals of 27 and 41 yards. This attempt of 33 yards seemed almost a foregone conclusion.

But Canyon wide receiver-defensive back Rob Landtiser and teammates Billy Sivley and Rick Johnstad just weren't ready to concede the field goal.

They had a plan.

"They pulled them down and left me a wide-open hole," said a grinning, sweaty, muddy Landtiser after the game.

In Canyon's field-goal defense, Sivley, Johnstad and Landtiser have assigned roles with designs on blocking kicks. It has worked all year, and it worked again.

Sivley lined up over the tight end and crashed hard inside, forcing the tight end to collapse with him. Johnstad lined up directly across from the wing back and crashed directly at the kick holder. The wing man blocked down on Johnstad.

Landtiser lined up outside Johnstad and also made a beeline for the holder. With the wing back and tight end tied up with his teammates, Landtiser took four steps and made a giant leap for Canyon.

"If he takes five steps, he's just a tenth or two-tenths of a second too late. But we saw Landtiser on the film of the last kick. He took just four perfect steps," Welch said.

Canyon has reached the Southern Section semifinals eight years in a row, which might be a record. Southern Section spokesman Scott Cathcart said Saturday it is unlikely that any team has matched that feat since the Southern Section began playoffs in 1915.

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