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EMPIRE LEAGUE FOOTBALL PREVIEW : Quarterback Gains Appetite for Victory : Los Alamitos: After a skinny Tim Carey arrived on campus, the Griffins won their first football title in school history.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

They heard the young quarterback had a gun for an arm, a head for the game and some real size to complete the package.

What they saw walk through their office door two years ago was:

“A pair of pliers,” said Barry Sher, Los Alamitos High assistant coach.

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“It was the funniest thing,” added Coach John Barnes. “He was so skinny he couldn’t fill out his pants. He had toothpicks for legs.”

Tim Carey is still skinny as a whip, but he could be the finest high school quarterback in Orange County this season. And if the mail stacking up on Barnes’ desk is any indication, college recruiters feel there’s nothing wrong with Carey’s bare-bones frame.

For the record, he stands 6 feet 4 and weighs 180 pounds.

But enough about Carey’s weight. It’s better to focus on his arm and the winning results of his passing.

Playing in an offense he was learning on a daily basis last season, Carey completed 183 of 347 passes for 2,501 yards with 21 touchdowns with 13 interceptions.

New to the Griffins’ single-back offensive formation, Carey struggled early in the season. But by year’s end, no one was arguing with the results. Los Alamitos finished with a 12-2 record and walked off with the Southern Section Division III championship, the first football title in school history.

Carey’s 35-yard scoring pass to Don Ruberio accounted for the only touchdown in Los Alamitos’ 8-0 victory over league rival Esperanza in the final.

It was the high point of a career that began innocently on the flag football fields of St. Hedwig junior high school in Los Alamitos.

“I think you have to call it an upset because they beat us so bad before and they had the (27-game) winning streak,” Carey said of the victory over the Aztecs. “I don’t think anyone on our team was shocked that we won. I know I wasn’t.”

That’s Carey in a nutshell. He’s a fighter, not prone to giving up when the odds seem too great to overcome.

Barnes and Sher recalled a game against Villa Park last season when the blocking broke down for what seemed like the millionth time. On one play a tackler blind-sided Carey with a hit that made the Los Alamitos coaches grimace.

“He looked like one of those Gumby dolls,” Barnes said. “He just got crushed for a half a season while we were trying to find people to block for him.”

Carey kept coming back for more, though. Against Villa Park he rebounded to lead Los Alamitos to a 13-7 victory.

In the end, Carey began to master the new offense and everything meshed in the season’s final weeks. After all, the Griffins’ four-receiver, one-running back, zero-tight end offense was a lot like playing flag football.

“That (flag football) is probably the best thing for young players,” Barnes said “Everybody gets to run around and throw it and catch it.”

When he enrolled at Mater Dei for his freshman year, Carey had never played tackle football.

“Until the first game it was pretty much the same because you don’t really hit the quarterback in practice,” Carey said. “Flag football is still pretty physical, though.”

He played his freshman season on the lesser of Mater Dei’s two freshman teams, then sat on the bench as a sophomore. By then he wanted to join his friends Robert Griggs and George Sagen, his favorite targets from St. Hedwig, at Los Alamitos.

“I had no regrets at all; I’m glad I transferred here,” Carey said.

Barnes’ newly installed variation of the run-and-shoot offense quickly became Carey’s dominion.

“I guess they did that over the summer,” Carey said. “I was excited. It sounded good to me.

“It spreads everything out and gives you more time and more choices. It’s a lot more explosive, attacking offense. We’re not as slow as a team that runs the ball constantly and only gets four yards at a time.”

Carey beat out Ruberio for the starting spot last summer and Ruberio moved into one of the four starting wide receiver positions, where he joined Griggs, Sagen and Eric Anderson.

At first sight, the uniform may have looked a little baggy, but there was no doubt in the Los Alamitos coaches’ minds that Carey could do the job.

This season, Carey appears poised to move to the head of a long line of superb Los Alamitos quarterbacks that includes Todd Gragnano, now at Louisville, and J.T. Snow, now playing for the New York Yankees’ triple-A affiliate at Columbus, Ohio.

“He knows what he’s doing,” Barnes said. “We’ve had to coach the other kids a lot harder. He always knows what’s happening against him defensively. He’s a real level-headed kid who doesn’t get real emotional.”

Indeed, all he seems to do is win.


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