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It All Comes Down to One Game : Prep football: The payoff for Morningside Coach Ron Tatum’s hard work rests with how the team fares in the playoff for championship Saturday.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For the past seven years, Coach Ron Tatum has worked long hours every fall to help the Morningside High football team overcome small turnouts of players and a small athletic budget.

“It’s a big sacrifice,” Tatum said. “It’s a lot of time away from home. I spend a lot of time with the kids to get them to understand what life is all about and help them prepare for the next step.”

In a way, Morningside has become a home away from home for Tatum. His son, Ron Jr., is a senior receiver/cornerback for the Monarchs, his younger brother, Rowland, is an assistant football coach and his older brother, Rod, is the girls’ basketball coach.

“My son is with me and that’s one reason why he’s going (to Morningside),” said Tatum, who lives in Gardena. “If he had gone somewhere else, I wouldn’t have been able to monitor his athletic and academic career.”

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The payoff for Tatum’s hard work will come at 7:30 Saturday night when the Monarchs (10-2) travel to meet Temecula Valley (12-1) in the Southern Section Division VIII championship game. It is only the second appearance in a section football final for Morningside, which lost the 1966 3-A Division title game to South Pasadena, 28-13.

Tatum said he still remembers his first day as Morningside coach in the summer of 1985 and the shock he felt when he walked onto the practice field and saw only 24 varsity players.

Undaunted, Tatum and his staff guided the undermanned team to a berth in the playoffs, where they lost in the first round to eventual champion Agoura Hills.

“Those guys had to know three or four different positions in case there were any injuries, but we did make it to the playoffs,” Tatum said. “I think in recent years we’ve made inroads to make this into a football school; we’ve turned the tide a bit.

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“When I first started I remember saying, ‘Boy this is really disappointing.’ But we tried to make adjustments and do our best. One area where we try to compensate (for lack of numbers) is cardiovascular conditioning, endurance and hoping that no one gets hurt.”

Having a small roster is a drawback, but one advantage the Monarchs have is several standout players, including junior Stais Boseman, who has passed for 15 touchdowns and scored 20 playing quarterback, defensive back and returning kicks.

"(Boseman) is a really wonderful guy,” Tatum said. “He’s open, he listens, he’s not a discipline problem and he’s really good at understanding what’s going on.

“He’s really a game player. We’ll time him in the 40-yard dash in practice and he won’t be as fast as he is during a game. He rises to the level of the competition. He takes the reigns and tries to run things by himself.”

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Boseman rose to the occasion Saturday in Morningside’s 21-14 semifinal victory over top-seeded Atascadero. He scored the tying touchdown by returning a fumble 53 yards on defense and set up his game-winning one-yard scoring run by intercepting a pass.

Other standouts for Morningside include running back/defensive back Jesse Swayze, tailback Montres Gords, receiver/safety Keith Long, guard/linebacker Eric Walker and 6-foot-8, 240-pound lineman Pauliasi Taulava.

Although some of his players will likely play at the collegiate level, Tatum spends an equal amount of energy with players who may not have the potential to compete in college.

“Most of our kids know they are not going to play after high school,” Tatum said. “We motivate them to go to class and try to be responsible citizens.”

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At Tatum’s encouragement, Boseman, a definite college prospect, has enrolled in a Scholastic Aptitude Test preparation class at L.A. Southwest College.

“He feels like we’re all his kids,” Boseman said. “He takes a great deal of pride in us. There aren’t too many coaches like him out there. He gets on people for missing classes, where some coaches ignore that.”

Last year, the Monarchs’ season came to an end with a 27-9 loss to Temecula Valley in the semifinals. Morningside gave up 13 fourth-quarter points, but it didn’t detract from a strong effort by Boseman, who rushed for 126 yards and passed for 95 yards.

“We were one step away last year and we feel they took our rings away,” Boseman said of Temecula Valley. “We met them at a luncheon (Monday) and they showed us their rings. I just said to myself that I had to get one of those before I leave here.”

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Tatum downplayed what the championship would mean to him, but he is aware what it means to his squad.

“For the kids it’s a very big thing,” he said. “It’s something they can take with them the rest of their lives.”


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