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1991 PREP FOOTBALL ALL-STARS / San Fernando Valley

Valley Back of the Year

At 175 pounds, he is hardly the most imposing player among The Times’ All-Valley all-stars, but Hart High’s Ryan Connors stands tall in California history. In 13 games as quarterback of the Indians’ blitzkrieg-like run-and-shoot offense, Connors zoomed to the top of the Southern Section record lists. Connors, a senior who also ran for three touchdowns and intercepted a pass as a defensive back, became the first player in Southern Section history and only the third in the state to pass for more than 4,000 yards in a season. While setting every significant single-season record in school history, he completed 290 of 471 passes (61.6%) for 4,144 yards. He also threw for 39 touchdowns. The numbers became numbing after a while. Hart had two receivers with more than 1,000 receiving yards (Deriek Charles, 1,090; Doug Distaso, 1,071) and six players with 25 or more receptions. The result was a 9-4 record for the Indians, a Foothill League title and a berth in the Division III semifinals.

Valley Coach of the Year

Saugus High Coach Jack Bowman swallowed hard when he previewed the 1991 Centurion schedule after he was hired last spring. Not only had he inherited a team that had won only 11 of its past 50 games, he inherited one of the toughest schedules among area teams. Along with five games in the Division I Golden League, the Centurions faced Hart (the eventual Foothill League champion), Royal ('91 Marmonte League champion) and Thousand Oaks ('91 Marmonte runner-up). “I saw that schedule and worried about going 0-10,” Bowman, 44, said. It would not have been the first winless season at Saugus, but there might not be any more now that Bowman is running the team. He led Saugus to a 6-4 record in 1991. Although the Centurions narrowly missed a playoff berth, they whipped Hart, 40-21, and nearly upset Canyon, Saugus’ Santa Clarita Valley rivals whose days of picking on the Centurions might be over. A missed field goal on the last play allowed Canyon to escape with a 16-14 victory.

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Valley Lineman of the Year

To determine the area’s top defensive player in 1991, just look at the helmets. More than the usual assortment of nicks and paint stains decorate the golden helmet worn by Kennedy High linebacker Alex Sawatzke, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior. In 1991, the three-year starter sported 11 “Bad Cat” decals, the highest total in school history. Each decal represents a particularly destructive hit. Kennedy specialized in big hits this season. The area’s top defense among City Section teams allowed an average of 128 yards a game and carried the Golden Cougars to an 11-2 record and a berth in the City 4-A semifinals. This year’s defensive unit rivaled the 1986 squad that allowed a school-record 80.8 yards per game. Until Kennedy’s 40-13 loss to Banning in the semifinals, the Golden Cougars had not allowed a 100-yard performance by any runner. Sawatzke, tabbed the Tyrannosaurus of wrecks on the Kennedy defense, figures to take his game to Brigham Young next season.


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