The Ventura County football season was a story of a premier quarterback, a herd of prolific running backs and spirited races in three of the four leagues. It also was the story of a dismal playoff showing by 10 of the 12 county teams that qualified.
Westlake High’s Todd Preston, the Ventura County back of the year, set passing records by the bushel, but his exploits were overwhelmed in sheer volume by the nine running backs who rushed for more than 1,000 yards.
Oxnard’s Kenyon Lewis led county rushers with 1,368 yards, but he was chased closely by Thousand Oaks’ Cory Bowen (1,257), Westlake’s Reuben Allen (1,230) and Ventura’s Jack Hammond (1,217).
For the first time in school history, Ventura had two 1,000-yard rushers--sophomore Derek Swafford complemented Hammond by racking up 1,069 yards.
For the first time in Southern Section history, a freshman rushed for 1,000 yards. Buena’s George Keiaho, a Fiji native who turned 15 years old after the season’s first game, had 1,134 yards.
Swafford and Keiaho, the All-County second-team running backs, should keep Ventura-area fans entertained for several years.
Fillmore’s Tory Cabral (1,037) had his second 1,000-yard season in a row despite late-season injuries, Moorpark’s Toussaint Powdrill rushed for 1,018 yards and Santa Clara sophomore Lloyd Mix finished with 1,010.
The most productive ground-gaining team, however, did not have a 1,000-yard rusher. Camarillo’s wishbone attack rolled up 3,247 yards behind five backs with more than 400 yards.
Camarillo also had the most impressive playoff showing, posting a 33-8 upset victory over previously unbeaten Pacific League champion Glendale in the first round of the Division II playoffs. Camarillo qualified for the playoffs as an at-large team after finishing fourth in the Marmonte League.
Under first-year Coach Dick Billingsley, Oak Park was the only other county team to win a playoff game. The Eagles, who wrestled the Tri-Valley League championship from Carpinteria, defeated Salesian, 42-20, in the first round.
Westlake was the county’s best team early in the season, winning its first eight games. Thousand Oaks continued its domination of the Marmonte League, however, winning its fifth title in the past six years with a 41-10 win over Agoura on the final week of the regular season. Lancer two-way starter Bryce Elliott was named Ventura County lineman of the year.
Royal’s 37-0 pasting of Westlake the same night enabled Thousand Oaks to come away with the championship despite having tied both Royal and Westlake. Royal’s second-place finish was its best in school history and Coach Gene Uebelhardt was named Ventura County coach of the year.
Ventura rolled to the Channel League title, falling only to Rio Mesa the final week of league play. Buena, despite starting the season 1-4, rallied to finish second in the Channel League and make the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
Rio Mesa’s victory over Ventura persuaded principals of Channel League schools that the Spartans deserved the league’s third playoff berth over two teams with the same 4-3 record.
Fillmore appeared invincible in zipping to an 8-0 start, but losses to Calabasas and Santa Paula cost the Flashes the Frontier League title. Santa Paula, by contrast, dropped two nonleague games but came on strong to post a 4-0 Frontier League record and win the championship.
1990 ALL-VENTURA COUNTY FOOTBALL TEAM: PLAYER SKETCHES
BACK OF THE YEAR
The Ventura County back of the year is Todd Preston, the Westlake quarterback who rewrote the Warrior record book. Preston, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior, threw for 2,427 yards this season, easily eclipsing his year-old school record of 2,014, and a school-record 5,608 yards in his three-year career. He completed 166 of 285 passes (58.2%) for a school-record 21 touchdowns--the most in the county this season--in leading Westlake to a record of 8-2-1. Preston, who is being recruited by many NCAA Division I colleges, passed for 46 touchdowns in his career, another Westlake record.
LINEMAN OF THE YEAR
The Ventura County lineman of the year is Bryce Elliott of Thousand Oaks, a two-way starter and vocal team leader who helped the Lancers to the Marmonte League championship and a record of 7-2-2. Elliott, a 6-3, 210-pound senior, played tackle on offense and alternated between end and tackle on defense. On offense, Elliott laid devastating blocks to help the Lancers gain 3,889 yards in offense. On defense, he made 93 tackles and recorded seven sacks. And when the team needed to be motivated, Elliott, the son of longtime Thousand Oaks line coach Rob Elliott, was quick to provide inspiring words to his teammates.
COACH OF THE YEAR
The Ventura County coach of the year is Gene Uebelhardt, who turned Royal from a perennial loser into the county’s best defensive team. Royal was 8-2-1, posting the most wins in school history and finishing second in the Marmonte League after tying Thousand Oaks, 26-26, and crushing highly regarded Westlake, 37-0. The Highlanders notched five shutouts and allowed an average of only 8.2 points a game. Before taking the Royal position in 1988, Uebelhardt served as an assistant for nine years at Cal Lutheran, his alma mater. As a college sophomore, he played fullback on Cal Lutheran’s NAIA championship team in 1971.
Preston was not the only record-setter at Westlake this season. Tailback Reuben Allen rushed for a school-record 1,230 yards in 175 carries. Allen, a 5-8, 170-pound senior, complemented Preston’s passing and kept opposing defenses from defending solely against the pass. He rushed for a county-leading 16 touchdowns and averaged 7.0 yards a carry for a Westlake team that averaged 31 points a game.
The only junior on the All-County offensive team is Cory Bowen, a Thousand Oaks tailback who rushed for 1,257 yards in 162 carries. Bowen (5-7, 170), whose running style is marked by exceptional balance and dogged second effort, rushed for 11 touchdowns. His longest run was 84 yards. Although Bowen ran primarily between the tackles, his average of 7.8 yards a carry led the county among rushers with more than 65 carries.
Jack Hammond, the fullback in Ventura’s veer option, was equally impressive as a ballcarrier and a blocker. Hammond, a 5-10, 170-pound senior, rushed for 1,217 yards in 158 carries for a 7.7-yard average. “Most of his yards were tough yards inside,” Coach Harvey Kochel said. “Sometimes it was even more fun watching him block, though. He really laid some people out.” Hammond’s blocks helped tailback Derek Swafford rush for 1,069 yards.
The county’s most prolific receiver by far was Westlake’s Seamus Gibbons, who made 67 receptions for 1,082 yards and nine touchdowns. Gibbons, a 5-11, 170-pound wide receiver, set school records for catches in a season and career and receiving yardage in a season and career. “Seamus was a tremendous threat who could run a variety of patterns,” Coach Jim Benkert said.
Another deep threat was Royal wide receiver Jeff Creed, who teamed with quarterback Ryan Fien and wide receiver Tony Liming to form a potent passing game. Rangy and strong, the 6-2, 180-pound Creed made 38 catches for 634 yards and 10 touchdowns. His longest reception was for 77 yards and he averaged 16.7 yards a catch. Creed also played defensive back in passing situations and notched an interception.
Another member of Westlake’s talented group of skill-position players was tight end Dave Monheim, who made 37 receptions for 514 yards (13.9 average) and one touchdown. Monheim, 6-3, 210, began playing football only two years ago, but he quickly became the most feared receiving threat from the tight-end position in the county. Monheim also started at outside linebacker.
For the first time in school history, Ventura had two 1,000-yard rushers. Doing the bulk of the blocking for Jack Hammond and Derek Swafford were guards Samsun Okinaga and Brandon Evans. Crucial to the Cougars’ veer offense, this pair of exceptional guards rarely allowed defensive penetration.
As well as being excellent players, the Ventura guards are excellent students. Okinaga, a 6-0, 220-pound senior, holds a 4.2 grade-point average, never having gotten a grade lower than an A in high school. Evans, a 6-5, 255-pound senior, holds a 3.3 GPA and is being recruited by several NCAA Division I schools.
Also blocking in an option offense was Camarillo guard Dan Hile, a 6-3, 215-pound senior who was the best blocker on a team that rushed for 3,247 yards out of the wishbone. Like Okinaga and Evans, Hile is an honor student. “Dan is very intelligent, he picked things up very fast and was able to make adjustments quickly,” said Carl Thompson, Camarillo coach.
Sal Balsano did a little bit of everything for Rio Mesa, leading the Spartans to an upset win over Channel League champion Ventura and a Southern Section Division II playoff berth. He averaged 36 yards a punt, made 18 point-after kicks, rushed for a team-high 863 yards, had 15 receptions for 167 yards and intercepted three passes, returning them for 77 yards. Balsano, a 5-8, 160-pound senior, scored a team-high 84 points.
The county’s best defensive back was Royal’s Tim Ross, a 6-4, 215-pound senior who was the backbone of the stingy Highlander defense. Ross, who might be the county’s top NCAA Division I prospect, intercepted five passes and returned them 63 yards, including one for a touchdown. A three-year starter, he played most of the time at free safety but also saw action at linebacker and defensive end.
Newbury Park’s best player on offense and defense was Jason Smith, a 5-8, 160-pound senior. Smith, a free safety, intercepted three passes and returned them 53 yards, including one for a touchdown. A wide receiver on offense, he also set a school record with 694 receiving yards on 39 receptions. The sticky-handed Smith caught four touchdown passes and also returned kickoffs.
Anchoring the Thousand Oaks defense from free safety was David Watts, who Coach Bob Richards said was as effective as last year’s Lancer standout safety, Steve Rudisill. Watts, twin brother of Lancers standout receiver Jeff Watts, had four interceptions and was rarely caught out of position on running plays.
Camarillo defeated Royal and scored an upset victory over Glendale in the first round of the playoffs after putting quarterback Corey Tucker in the defensive backfield as well. Tucker, it turned out, was an exceptional defensive back, intercepting three passes. As quarterback of the Scorpion wishbone, Tucker rushed for 796 yards and eight touchdowns.
Kenyon Lewis, Oxnard’s best player on both sides of the ball, was a tremendous rusher in more than one respect. As an outside linebacker, Lewis (6-2, 190) registered nine sacks and led Oxnard in tackles. As a tailback, he led the county with 1,368 yards rushing and nine touchdowns in 225 carries.
Chuck Mullaney was the player in the middle of the defensive and offensive schemes for Buena, which finished second in the Channel League. Mullaney, a 5-11, 185-pound senior, was a ferocious hitter from his linebacker position. Mullaney also played fullback, opening holes for freshman tailback George Keiaho and rushing for 621 yards and 12 touchdowns himself.
The Channel League defensive player of the year was Rio Mesa’s Frank Tinoco, a 6-3, 200-pound middle linebacker. Tinoco spearheaded a Spartan defense that allowed a lot of yards--but precious few between the guards. “Frank’s strength and intensity were an inspiration to our entire defense,” Rio Mesa Coach John Reardon said.
Another middle linebacker who stuffed running plays up the middle was Camarillo’s Tag Johnson, a 6-0, 190-pound junior. Johnson led the Scorpions with 115 tackles and he also had three interceptions. He also played fullback in Camarillo’s wishbone offense and rushed for 634 yards and five touchdowns and had one game of more than 200 yards.
One of only two juniors on the All-Ventura County defense is Royal’s Jason Evans, a 6-0, 252-pound defensive lineman. Evans’ strength and quickness made him very difficult to block. He was named the Marmonte League’s co-lineman of the year along with Elliott of Thousand Oaks.
Another stalwart member of Royal’s defensive front was Matt Tomaszewski, who played on the line and at middle linebacker. Tomaszewski, a 5-11, 195-pound senior, was not only the Highlanders’ leading tackler, he was the most spirited defensive player as well.
Largely because of the play of Evans and Tomaszewski, Royal posted five shutouts and held opponents to 1,030 rushing yards.
Senior Mike Ciandella continued the strong Thousand Oaks tradition of hard-rushing defensive linemen. Ciandella, a 5-11, 190-pound senior, registered 13 sacks, second most in school history. An intelligent and emotional player, Ciandella helped the Marmonte League champion Lancers register two shutouts and hold opposing teams to an average of 134 yards rushing.
1990 PREP FOOTBALL ALL-STARS OFFENSE
Name School Position Height Weight Year Todd Preston Westlake Quarterback 6-3 190 Senior Cory Bowen Thousand Oaks Back 5-7 170 Junior Reuben Allen Westlake Back 5-8 170 Senior Jack Hammond Ventura Back 5-10 170 Senior Seamus Gibbons Westlake Wide Receiver 5-11 170 Senior Jeff Creed Royal Wide Receiver 6-2 180 Senior Dave Monheim Westlake Tight End 6-3 210 Senior Bryce Elliott Thousand Oaks Lineman 6-3 210 Senior Samsun Okinaga Ventura Lineman 6-0 220 Senior Brandon Evans Ventura Lineman 6-5 255 Senior Dan Hile Camarillo Lineman 6-3 215 Senior Sal Balsano Rio Mesa Kicker 5-8 160 Senior
Name School Position Height Weight Year Jason Smith Newbury Park Back 5-8 160 Senior Tim Ross Royal Back 6-4 215 Senior Corey Tucker Camarillo Back 5-11 175 Senior David Watts Thousand Oaks Back 5-11 165 Senior Chuck Mullaney Buena Linebacker 5-11 185 Senior Frank Tinoco Rio Mesa Linebacker 6-3 200 Senior Tag Johnson Camarillo Linebacker 6-0 190 Junior Kenyon Lewis Oxnard Linebacker 6-2 190 Senior Jason Evans Royal Lineman 6-0 252 Junior Matt Tomaszewski Royal Lineman 5-11 190 Senior Mike Ciandella Thousand Oaks Lineman 5-11 195 Senior
ALL-VENTURA SECOND TEAM
PLAYER SCHOOL POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT YEAR Dustin Magdaleno Santa Paula R 5-9 165 Senior Jeff Watts Thousand Oaks R 5-11 160 Senior Tim Bruton Buena OL 6-1 245 Senior Eric Droll Royal OL 6-3 223 Senior Brandt Pile Newbury Park OL 6-0 220 Senior Matt Volk Westlake OL 6-3 215 Junior Paul Yerman Thousand Oaks OL 6-4 230 Junior Ryan Fien Royal QB 6-3 180 Junior Scott Peterson Thousand Oaks QB 6-0 175 Senior George Keiaho Buena RB 5-8 185 Freshman Derek Swafford Ventura RB 5-10 160 Soph. Tory Cabral Fillmore K 6-0 176 Senior
PLAYER SCHOOL POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT YEAR Tito Holguin Ventura DB 5-9 160 Senior Jamie Liddell Rio Mesa DB 5-5 150 Senior Pharoah Milner Channel Islands DB 5-8 193 Senior Brian Vellmure Camarillo DB 5-9 165 Senior Jeff Beaumont Royal LB 5-10 174 Junior Matt Buchanan Thousand Oaks LB 5-9 175 Senior Zachary Siciliano Oak Park LB 6-1 190 Senior Juan Enriquez Santa Paula DL 6-2 215 Senior Dywayne Hurst Buena DL 6-1 203 Junior Armando Salazar Oxnard DL 5-6 190 Junior Jerome Tinoco Channel Islands DL 5-10 195 Junior
* ALL-VENTURA TEAM SKETCHES: C18
* SECOND-TEAM CHART: C18
* ALL-VALLEY CHART: San Fernando Valley Edition