HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW : Harvard-Westlake Plans Run at Title
The name has been changed from Harvard to Harvard-Westlake, and the former all-boys school in North Hollywood is now a co-ed institution.
But do not expect different results from the school’s football team.
There will be a new emblem on the team’s helmets signifying the change in nicknames from the Saracens (a pair of crossed swords) to the Wolverines (a paw print), but the school colors of red and black will remain intact as will the team’s propensity to run the football. And run it well.
For the fifth time in the past six years, Coach Gary Thran has a standout back around whom to build his team’s rushing game.
Jeremiah Aguolu split time with Kent Dahn at tailback the past two seasons, but the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Aguolu will go solo this year.
Aguolu rushed for 850 yards last season--when Dahn gained 1,055--but with Dahn having graduated, Aguolu’s numbers should increase substantially as Harvard-Westlake attempts to defend its San Fernando League title.
“We’ve just been lucky enough to have one or more good kids come through in the last few years that we could center the I formation around,” said Thran, who is beginning his 18th season as Harvard coach.
“We’ve had a lot of good backs recently, but things weren’t always like that.
“The ‘70s were a little thin. We got a good one every once in a while but not every year.”
Since 1985, Harvard has been well-stocked with good backs.
After rushing for 890 yards as a junior in 1985, Andy Bell gained 1,858 yards and scored 21 touchdowns in 1986, the same year that fullback Alex Huh gained 811 yards and scored nine touchdowns.
Harvard won the Santa Fe League title that season, the football team’s most recent league championship until last season.
Marty Holly had combined totals of 2,082 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns in 1987 and ’88.
Aguolu and Dahn gained 544 and 421 yards, respectively, in ’89 before more than doubling their combined total last year.
How productive Aguolu will be this season will depend in part on Harvard-Westlake’s offensive line.
Although junior tackles Ryan Dahlman (6-3, 230) and Josh Minuto (6-1, 215) are anchors at each end of the Wolverines’ line, the starters in the middle have yet to establish themselves.
“It may take a while to see who is going to step forward,” Thran said. “That might be a season-long process.”
Harvard-Westlake, despite its inexperienced line, and St. Francis are co-favorites for the league title, but first-year St. Francis Coach Andy Boynton warns: “El Segundo could also be tough. They’ve got a good running back (Chris Feeney) too.”
St. Francis’ defense--which gave up an average of only 181.3 yards a game last season--is expected to again be the team’s strength, but the chink in the Golden Knights’ armor is a lack of team speed, a commodity that Aguolu has plenty of.
As a junior, Aguolu placed fifth in the 100 meters and fourth in the 200 in the Southern Section 1-A Division track and field championships.
He has personal bests of 10.8 seconds in the 100 and 22.25 in the 200.
“Teams with a lot of speed are going to give us trouble,” Boynton said. “They’ll definitely present us with some problems.”
Although Aguolu is expected to be the league’s premier back from the start, he won’t be the only talented one.
Like Aguolu, Feeney and Mike Mirolla of St. Genevieve were named to the all-league team as juniors.
Feeney (6-0, 185) rushed for 358 yards and scored six touchdowns last year after becoming a starter at midseason.
Mirolla (5-11, 180) gained 627 yards and scored five touchdowns.
Mirolla’s rushing total was the highest by a Valiant player since Ruben Aguirre gained 735 yards in 1987, the last time St. Genevieve had a winning season.
And unlike Aguolu, Feeney and Mirolla will be running behind relatively experienced lines.
Junior Hauss Hancock (6-3, 215) and senior Sam Ward (6-2, 235) are the leaders of El Segundo’s line. Hancock, who also plays linebacker, is an NCAA Division I prospect at that position, according to El Segundo Coach Steve Newell.
Senior Noel Villanueva (6-2, 270) and junior Alex Espinoza (6-3, 235) anchor a St. Genevieve front that averages 6-2, 225.
“The offensive line will play a big part in how well we do this season,” first-year St. Genevieve Coach Richard Fong said. “We’ve got some good size, but we have to stay healthy.”
SAN FERNANDO LEAGUE
FINAL 1990 STANDINGS PROJ. FINISH Harvard 9-2, 4-0 Harvard St. Francis 7-4, 3-1 St. Francis El Segundo 5-5-1, 2-2 El Segundo Bell-Jeff 1-9, 1-3 St. Genevieve St. Genevieve 2-7, 0-4 Bell-Jeff
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Player School Pos. Ht Wt Yr Jeremiah Aguolu Harvard-Westlake RB 5-10 180 Sr. Tim Caraher St. Francis LB 5-10 185 Sr. Ryan Dahlman Harvard-Westlake OL 6-3 230 Jr. Chris Feeney El Segundo RB 6-0 185 Sr. Hauss Hancock El Segundo OL/LB 6-3 215 Jr. Chris Hemela St. Francis TE/LB 6-3 225 Sr. Garrett Mauro St. Francis DL 6-2 240 Sr. Mike Mirolla St. Genevieve RB 5-11 180 Sr. Max Sank Harvard-Westlake WR/DB 5-9 175 Sr. Noel Villanueva St. Genevieve OL/DL 6-2 270 Sr.
AREA FOOTBALL TOP 10
Preseason Poll Selected by sportswriters of The Times
Rk Team League 1990 Record 1 Quartz Hill Golden 11-3 2 Thousand Oaks Marmonte 7-2-2 3 Hart Foothill 9-4 4 Ventura Channel 7-3-1 5 Alemany Mission 4-5 6 Glendale Pacific 10-1 7 Canyon Golden 11-2 8 Kennedy West Valley 7-5 9 Royal Marmonte 8-2-1 10 Crespi Mission 8-3