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Simi Valley Opens With Bull’s-Eye

During the past four football seasons, Simi Valley High has blazed a particularly unimpressive trail.

Entering this season, the Pioneers had lost 12 consecutive games and 29 of their past 30. They have been the Marmonte League’s answer to aspirin: Take a game with the Pioneers and feel fine in the morning.

The Pioneers finally circled their wagons Friday, upsetting Ventura, 23-20. Ventura, the defending Channel League champion, was ranked fifth in the Southern Section Division II poll and the Cougars are expected to again contend for the Channel title.

“We knew we’d be a lot better, but we didn’t know where we stood,” Simi Valley Coach Stan Quina said. “Everybody was surprised but us.”

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Quina, 35, has worked overtime since taking over the program last season, and the Pioneers have followed in kind.

Quina installed a run-and-shoot offense, and it has improved dramatically since last season. Junior quarterback Eric Bennett was 23 of 37 for 271 yards in just his third start.

“Bennett’s first two games last year were a chance for him to shake some cobwebs, and that’s why we brought him up as a sophomore,” Quina said. “I think a year of maturity has been very important.”

Simi Valley’s defense forced the run-oriented Cougars to implement a passing attack that accounted for just seven completions and 99 yards.

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Is this a trail the Pioneers will blaze more often?

“Hey, it’s still going to be a fight for us every week,” Quina said. “It’s a big win for us, but this one is over.”

City Less Than Slick

If not for want of a videotape, the football team at Granada Hills might have found itself standing all alone at the 50-yard line this Friday waiting for an opponent that had no intention of showing up.

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Granada Hills co-Coach Darryl Stroh said he called Palisades on Monday to offer to exchange videotapes of game action, whereupon he was told that the Dolphins were playing Hollywood this week, not the Highlanders.

Stroh’s reaction: “Another typical City Section mistake.”

“It’s on the City’s schedule and everything,” said Stroh, with no small measure of contempt.

Granada Hills-Palisades is, indeed, on the official City schedule. Furthermore, Stroh said he spoke to Palisades representatives over the summer about scheduling the game, and nothing about Hollywood was mentioned.

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Stroh called City Section Commissioner Hal Harkness, who scanned the master schedule and found that Washington had an open date this week. The Generals have replaced Palisades on the Highlander schedule and will play at Granada Hills on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

There was another option. Dorsey also had an open date Friday, but Stroh wants no part of the Dons, especially because in Week 3, Granada Hills faces Carson, the defending City 4-A champion.

“We’re down this year,” he said. “I don’t want to play Dorsey and Carson.”

Calming Influence

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Canyon defensive end Chuck Osborne entered the Hart game tabbed as a player who can tip the outcome of the game. Certainly, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound preseason All-State player could be a wrench in Hart’s passing game, observers figured.

“I heard so much about him, I was kind of intimidated,” Hart quarterback Ryan Connors said.

But Sean McCarthy calmed his quarterback’s fears. The senior tackle, who himself stands 6-foot-3, 250, did an outstanding job of containing Osborne. Hart also deliberately ran plays away from Osborne, and the Cowboy standout did not register a sack.

Smith Shines

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Newbury Park quarterback Zach Sutton, who set a junior-class school record with 1,310 passing yards last season, has struggled because of an injury to his throwing hand and might be replaced this week by sophomore Keith Smith.

Last Friday, Sutton was replaced by Smith in the second quarter of Newbury Park’s 28-21 loss to Chaminade. Smith completed 13 of 25 passes for 266 yards and a touchdown.

Sutton, who broke a bone in his hand during the summer, might be moved to wide receiver.

“We’re trying to get the best 11 kids on the football field, so maybe we’re better off with (Smith) throwing the ball to Zach,” Coach George Hurley said. "(Sutton) was a great wide receiver as a freshman and sophomore.”

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Hurley said Smith probably would start in Friday’s game at Ventura.

Matter of Perspective

The opening-game numbers are in. How they are interpreted depends on personal bias.

San Fernando tailback LaKarlos Townsend rushed for 154 yards in 14 carries and scored three touchdowns to lead the Tigers to a 40-7 rout of Fremont last week. The way his coach figures things, Townsend (5-10, 185) stands heads and shoulders above the competition.

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And yes, we’re naming names.

“He looked in top form,” San Fernando Coach Tom Hernandez said. “He’s the premier back in the Valley.”

What about Montclair Prep’s Eliel Swinton, who rushed for 164 yards in 22 carries in a 41-0 rout of St. Monica? Without prompting, Hernandez brought Swinton into the picture for comparative purposes.

“He got his 150 yards against a P. E. class,” Hernandez said.

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Bluntly Stated

Leon Blunt earned the starting nod at quarterback for San Fernando last week and earned rave reviews from Hernandez.

Neutral sources concur.

Kennedy Coach Bob Francola scouted San Fernando last week and says Blunt is not merely the product of hype.

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“He is for real,” Francola said. “I left shaking my head. I thought we might catch them without a quarterback this year, but I guess not.

“He’s going to be a stud. Shoot, he already is a stud.”

Blunt, a 5-9 sophomore, rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another while running the Tigers’ wishbone scheme.

Easy as ABC

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Chaminade Coach Rich Lawson has a word of advice for the wretches with pad and pen: Learn to spell the name of junior tailback Justin Giovannettone.

Giovannettone rushed for 140 yards in 22 carries and scored three touchdowns to lead Chaminade over Newbury Park.

Just as important, Giovannettone came through when the Eagles needed him most. On fourth-and-inches at the Newbury Park 44, Giovannettone took a pitch and scooted in for the winning touchdown with 3 minutes 16 seconds to play.

Lawson did not hesitate to call the pitch play in that situation, despite the fact that the ballcarrier gains possession of the ball about five yards behind the line of scrimmage.

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“It’s our base play. If we can’t get a foot on that call then we don’t deserve to win,” Lawson said.

Giovannettone, a junior, played youth football with Crespi tailback Torie Lee, another junior. After one week, Lee leads Giovannettone in the battle for rushing-yardage bragging rights, 175-140.

Lend a Helping Foot

When El Camino Real kicker-receiver Joe LaFirenza was sidelined because of a rib injury, the collective groan from the Conquistadore sideline was substantial.

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LaFirenza is a three-year starter and was expected to emerge as one of the area’s most consistent kickers this season.

Yet his substitute was hardly substandard. Up stepped Tim Abernathy, who made all four of his point-after attempts and nailed a 22-yard field goal to help El Camino Real defeat North Hollywood, 31-0.

All in the Family

Facing a rebuilding year, Notre Dame Coach Kevin Rooney knew he had a good quarterback in Darren Firestone, but finding a running back proved considerably more troublesome.

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As it turns out, all Rooney had to do was keep giving the ball to Malieitulua, albeit a different one.

Sophomore Lei Malieitulua is the younger brother of Setefano Malieitulua, who last season rushed for 1,098 yards and 12 touchdowns. Lei (pronounced Lay) is built like a bulldog at 5-10, 195 pounds.

“He’s solid,” said Rooney in what might rank as the understatement of the young season. “He’s probably quick enough to play tailback if we needed him to.”

Malieitulua gained 65 yards in 12 carries in his debut as Notre Dame fell to Lynwood, 24-22.

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Record Numbers

If Coach Lin Parker has anything to do with it, Highland’s 70-13 victory over Rancho Verde last week will enjoy a long life in the school’s record books.

The win in Highland’s first-ever varsity game brought not just pleasure but embarrassment to Parker. The game also marked Rancho Verde’s varsity debut.

“We don’t ever intend to break it,” Parker said of the record-setting 70-point game. “I’m not one of those coaches who likes to run up the score. I’m sure that record will last a long time.”

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All 58 Highland players were in the game before the end of the first half, and seven players scored touchdowns. That’s the way Parker likes it.

“If we get down near the goal line and Billy already has a touchdown, we’ll give Bobby the ball. We always talk about those things on the headset. When my tailback gets 100 yards, I’ll sit him down unless we’re in a tight game.”

Parker used four tailbacks in the game and his fourth-stringer, sophomore Derrick Smith, scored twice and had the most carries (seven).

Parker worries that the Bulldogs might be overwhelmed if they try to rest on their laurels.

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“I feel a little bit like (University of) Houston, who scored 73 points in their first game, and then Miami showed up,” Parker said. “So I’ve cut out all of those Houston-Miami headlines and stuck them up all around in the gym.”

Imagine That

The goal posts at Highland’s practice field have not yet been installed, and the win over Rancho Verde should do nothing to expedite the installation.

After Russell Gordon successfully kicked 10 of 10 extra-point conversions, things will be kept the way they are. Gordon has not practiced his kicks with goal posts this season. Instead, he has been told to use his imagination.

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Said Parker to Gordon during practice: “I want you to see these two goal posts 20 (feet) apart, and I want you to see (the ball) sail right in between them.”

So far, it has worked perfectly.

“I told (Gordon) we’re not going to let him kick with goal posts from now on, and I told the principal we don’t need them to put those goal posts on the practice field,” Parker said.

Hollow Feeling

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Oak Park’s 20-13 victory over Murphy might have seemed routine, but Eagle Coach Dick Billingsley knew better.

The win came two days after several players had attended a funeral for Craig Hastings, who had died Saturday after being stabbed by a neighbor in an altercation a week earlier.

Hastings, 16, was an offensive and defensive lineman on Oak Park’s junior varsity last year, although he did not come out for the team this season.

“He was a real good kid, a real tough kid,” Billingsley said. “Because of the memorial service and funeral, we didn’t get a lot of practice time in last week, and the kids had a lot of things on their minds other than football, so I was happy with how they played.”

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Giant Steps

Remember that diminutive running back who rushed for nearly 1,800 yards in nine games for North Hollywood last season? Leon Gable, who stood just 5-5 and weighed 140 pounds, sneaked past defenders before they spotted him.

Well make way for the 1991 version. Hubert Rush (5-5, 155 pounds) rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns in nine carries to lead Camp Kilpatrick to a 42-0 victory over La Verne Lutheran. He also returned a kickoff 78 yards for a touchdown.

Waiting in the Wings

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Glendale will play at La Canada on Friday without tailback Pathon Rucker (bruised shoulder), and fullback Hairo Torossian also could miss the game because of a similar injury.

Torossian (5-11, 230), a second-team All-Pacific League offensive tackle last season, did not play in last week’s 30-28 loss to Alhambra after injuring his shoulder during practice.

"(Hairo) is very questionable,” Coach Don Shoemaker said.

If Torossian is unable to play, Gill Friedman will take his place. Shawn Cole will fill in for Rucker.

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Friedman gained 36 yards in nine carries against Alhambra. Cole had an 86-yard touchdown return on a kickoff but only one carry for no gain after suffering leg cramps on the runback.

Busting the Wedge

Santa Paula senior Erasmo Jacinto had earned the quarterback job for the Cardinals’ opener against Royal last week, but he never took a snap. The Cardinals kicked off to start the game and Jacinto suffered a slight separation of his right (throwing) shoulder as he tried to break up Royal’s wedge. Junior Brian Whittaker replaced Jacinto and threw for 75 yards, completing nine of 20 passes. He also threw three interceptions in the 34-3 loss.

Jacinto is expected to miss Thursday’s game against St. Bonaventure.

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Staff writers Steve Elling, Jeff Riley, Paige A. Leech, John Ortega and Brian Murphy contributed to this notebook.

Regional Football Top 10

Selected by sportswriters of The Times

Last Rk Wk Team League Record 1 1 Quartz Hill Golden 1-0 2 2 Thousand Oaks Marmonte 1-0 3 3 Hart Foothill 1-0 4 7 Canyon Golden 0-1 5 8 Kennedy West Valley 1-0 6 10 Crespi Mission 1-0 7 9 Royal Marmonte 1-0 8 NR Westlake Marmonte 1-0 9 NR Camarillo Marmonte 1-0 10 NR San Fernando West Valley 1-0

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NR--Not ranked.


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