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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW : League Needs Dose of Preventive Medicine

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Channel League teams have been offensive crews in recent years.

Oxnard High is perhaps the worst offender. The Yellowjackets have averaged 350 yards a game the past four seasons, but each year they have been stung in their quest for a playoff berth.

Ventura was last year’s culprit. The Cougars lined up behind their Gibraltar-like tackles and trampled their way to nearly 2 1/2 miles of total offense.

They won the league title and scored 30 points in a first-round game of the Southern Section Division II playoffs. But that was 29 points shy of Capistrano Valley’s total, resulting in a 59-30 first-round loss.

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The eight Channel teams each averaged 300 yards a game last season.

But the luster of those impressive numbers dims because the teams muster little defense. In the who-has-the-ball Channel League, defense is utterly offensive.

Last season, the typical defensive unit was aggressive, undisciplined and allowed 24 points a game. That followed a 1989 season in which Oxnard scored 46 points against Santa Barbara--and lost by 15.

Once again, offenses should run amok. But the team that plays the best defense will be more likely to tackle a title.

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“Without a doubt, there are a lot of offensive teams in this league,” Buena Coach Rick Scott said. “Defense may take a back seat. Maybe the key to winning our league is who plays the best defense.”

Last season, Buena finished second, in part because of the emergence of freshman tailback George Keiaho, who rushed for 1,134 yards in nine games. But the Bulldog defense--which allowed a league-low 249 yards a game--played a larger role in the team’s success.

Scott, an openly offensive-minded coach who enters his fourth season at Buena, is abandoning the high-powered passing attack he brought from Hart. Instead, he has charted several ways in which his quarterbacks can hand the ball to Keiaho.

Left. Right. Up the middle.

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“Hey, you have to score some points in this league,” Scott said. “George will be our man, and that shouldn’t surprise anyone.”

The league’s strengths again lie with its offensive players.

Keiaho, a 5-foot-10, 190-pound sophomore from Fiji, is among a group of talented running backs who will prosper behind strong offensive lines. Coaches still have difficulty pronouncing Keiaho’s name, but they have three more seasons in which to perfect it.

“He’s stronger than he was last year, and he’s matured quite a bit too,” Scott said of Keiaho, who grew a beard as a freshman.

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It doesn’t get any less hairier after Keiaho.

Ventura junior running back Derek Swafford rushed for 1,069 yards and scored 15 touchdowns last season. Swafford (5-11, 165) and teammate Devon Passno (5-10, 190), a junior fullback, could each rush for 1,000 yards--a feat Swafford and Jack Hammond accomplished last season.

Rio Mesa senior Gordy Abellera (5-9, 165), a two-year starter who rushed for 816 yards and eight touchdowns last season, is one of the league’s most versatile athletes. He also will return kicks and start at defensive back.

A talented group of quarterbacks also will fan the offensive flames.

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“Usually, when you have experienced quarterbacks, it lends toward high-scoring years,” said John Reardon, who enters his 24th season as coach at Rio Mesa.

Ventura senior Trevor Rumsey (5-11, 175) is perhaps the finest all-around quarterback in the league. Rumsey split duties with Jeff Dietz last season and accounted for 709 total yards.

Oxnard’s Larry Bumpus, Santa Barbara’s Dustin Spencer, and Hueneme’s David Andrade all started as sophomore quarterbacks last year.

Bumpus (5-10, 170) is in the mold of former Yellowjacket quarterback Johnel Turner and has developed passing skills to complement his outstanding running ability. Last season, he passed for 598 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for 322 yards and six touchdowns.

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Andrade (6-2, 190) was the lone threat in a dismal Hueneme offense that averaged 219 yards and 10 points a game last season. He completed 134 of 278 passes (48%) for 1,509 yards but threw a region-leading 15 interceptions.

Spencer (6-0, 175), an all-league shortstop and basketball guard, might have the brightest future of the three. Last season he completed 72 of 142 passes for 973 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also rushed for 320 yards.

Rio Mesa kicker McLane Hansen (5-9, 180), a transfer from Camarillo, has one of the strongest legs in the region. Although Hansen kicked only one field goal last season, he converted 33 of 41 point-after attempts and has booted a 52-yard field goal in practice.

Buena senior defensive end Duane Hurst (6-2, 205), an All-Ventura County choice last season, leads an unheralded group of league defenders.

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In addition to defenses, the league’s performance in nonleague and playoff games is in need of shoring up.

Channel teams won only six of 27 nonleague games and the league’s three Division II playoff teams--Ventura, Buena, and Rio Mesa--were outscored, 126-49, in first-round losses.

CHANNEL LEAGUE

FINAL 1990 STANDINGS PROJECTED FINISH Ventura 7-3-1, 5-1-1 Ventura Buena 5-6, 5-2 Buena Rio Mesa 6-5, 4-3 Oxnard San Marcos 4-6, 4-3 Santa Barbara Oxnard 4-6, 4-3 Rio Mesa Santa Barbara 5-4-1, 3-3-1 San Marcos Dos Pueblos 1-9, 1-6 Dos Pueblos Hueneme 1-9, 1-6 Hueneme

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PLAYERS TO WATCH

Player School Pos. Ht Wt Class Gordy Abellera Rio Mesa RB/DB 5-9 165 Sr. David Andrade Hueneme QB 6-2 190 Jr. Larry Bumpus Oxnard QB/DB 5-10 170 Jr. McLane Hansen Rio Mesa K 5-9 180 Sr. Duane Hurst Buena DL 6-2 205 Sr. George Keiaho Buena RB 5-10 190 So. Devon Passno Ventura RB 5-10 190 Jr. Trevor Rumsey Ventura QB 5-11 175 Sr. Dustin Spencer Santa Barbara QB 6-0 175 Jr. Derek Swafford Ventura RB 5-11 165 Jr.


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