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Erikson Lets His Play at Linebacker Do All the Talking for Dana Hills : Division II: Dolphins rely on his solid defense as they prepare to meet Dominguez tonight in a semifinal playoff game.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For the first time in memory, traditional South Coast League powers Capistrano Valley and El Toro missed the Southern Section football playoffs, mighty Mission Viejo lost in the first round, and Dana Hills and Irvine are still playing football in December.

Talk about reversals of fortune. But David Erikson, Dana Hills’ middle linebacker, sounds as if he would rather not talk about it. In a league where trash talking has often been raised to an art form, Erikson is out of his league.

So, does it give you extra satisfaction to have done so well when the South Coast League bullies did so poorly?

“A little bit,” Erikson said. “It’s kind of satisfying to know that we ended up fairly high up in the league this year. It’s a good way to go out your senior year.”

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Not exactly rubbing it in. But if Erikson’s assertions are on the mild side, his manners don’t carry over onto the football field. At 6 feet 3 and 225 pounds, Erikson is the solid center of the Dolphins’ defense, which has allowed an average of 11 points this season.

In the playoffs--where Dana Hills had never won a game before this season--the Dolphins have given up only one touchdown in each of their two victories. Tonight at 7:30, they will try to shut down Dominguez in a Southern Section Division II semifinal game in Compton.

When Erikson, who was the team’s most valuable defensive lineman as a junior last season, moved to linebacker before this season started, the only concern of the coaching staff was that he hadn’t defended against the pass before.

The concern quickly passed.

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“It was better than our wildest dreams because he just blossomed,” Dana Hills Coach Don Douglass said. “He learned to play pass. You see that’s that competitive nature. You give a competitor a job to do and he’ll get it done, and that’s what he did. He’s really having a year, just outstanding.”

Erikson’s size and speed (he says he runs 4.8 seconds for 40 yards) have attracted the requisite college recruiters. He says Stanford, UCLA, California and the military academies seem interested. It doesn’t hurt his chances that he has a grade-point average of over 4.0, scored 1,340 on his Scholastic Aptitude Test and was a National Merit Scholar semifinalist.

The intelligence indicated by Erikson’s academic success helps him on the field. Erikson receives the signals from defensive coordinator Greg Lee and relays them in the huddle.

“He’s the quarterback of the defense,” Douglass said. “He’s probably one of the first guys that Coach Lee has allowed to make some of his own calls and adjustments.

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“I think in football, it’s never just pure intelligence because we’ve had some guys who were 4.0 students and weren’t 4.0 players. I think it’s a combination of intelligence and football sense.”

Add to that a healthy appreciation for hitting running backs.

Erikson, the Dolphins’ second-leading tackler behind 6-1, 290-pound tackle Bennie Smith, probably made the hit of the game in Dana Hills’ 28-7 victory over Glendale last Friday.

On the third play of the third quarter with the score tied, 7-7, Glendale tailback Pathon Rucker took a handoff and then Erikson knocked him flying.

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“A big hole split open right through the middle,” Erikson said. “No one blocked me. I drove him, that was good, that was fun . . . knocked him back on his butt.”

But Erikson isn’t the taunting type. After the tackle, he merely walked back to the huddle. He’s not about to lose his head to aggressive passion.

“I think winning the game’s the most satisfying thing,” he said. “The hits are fun, but the wins are what it’s all about.”


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