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Bulk Quantity : 4 Enormous Antelope Valley College Linemen Pride Themselves on Their Agility--and Appetite

TIMES STAFF WRITER

See Brian Lasagna. He is a 6-foot-2, 225-pound football player.

See Brian Lasagna take his position. He is the center on the Antelope Valley College team.

See Brian Lasagna disappear. He emerges from the huddle, trots over to the line of scrimmage, bends over to cup the ball and . . . he is gone.

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Lasagna is, on film anyway, the closest thing to an invisible man. And for that he can blame his four cohorts on what is possibly the most gigantic offensive front in junior college football.

To Lasagna’s left, at guard for the Marauders, is 6-4, 285-pound Randy Clemons. To Clemons’ left is 6-8, 335-pound William Knight. So much for the lighter side.

On Lasagna’s right is 6-7, 340-pound George Murdoch and 6-7, 315-pound Sean Evans.

Together, the five could flatten the tires of a three-quarter-ton pickup.

Lasagna, a Lilliputian among Gullivers, is dwarfed by their size.

Providing an even greater contrast is Lamart Cooper, the team’s mighty-mite flanker who runs the 40 in 4.3. A trainer could tape the 5-4, 145-pound Cooper to the inseam of Murdoch’s pants.

Taking great pride in the huge line is Mike Martinez, who is in his third season as offensive line coach at Antelope Valley after leaving East Los Angeles College where, he said, “a guy 6-3 was a tall guy for us.”

A former lineman himself, he despises the stereotypical image that all 300-pounders must be bumbling tubs of blubber.

“When I was in high school they’d take the big guys and say, ‘OK, you guys who run (40 yards in) 5.2 and under, you’re over here on defense. You slower guys, you’re on offense,’ ” Martinez recalled. “I thought that was ridiculous.

“Why take a guy who runs 6-flat, match him against a guy who runs 4.8 and expect him to make the block? There’s no way.”

The experience inspired Martinez to adopt what has become a familiar phrase in the weight room and at practice: “Be an athlete.”

“People who watch us practice would think we were running backs,” Murdoch said. “The rope drills, the footwork . . . and we run all the hills and stuff. We’re treated like athletes.”

The work has paid dividends. At Quartz Hill High, Murdoch rarely made it off the sidelines.

“It was embarrassing,” he said. “Being the biggest guy in school, then people would go and watch the games and I wouldn’t play.”

What might have been the highlight of his high school career is instead among his most disturbing memories.

In 1990, when Quartz Hill played Loyola for the Southern Section Division I championship, Murdoch participated in only two plays--the point-after attempts.

Looking at the bright side, he became acquainted with Ram linebacker Kevin Greene.

“He was standing there on the sidelines with his girlfriend,” Murdoch recalled. “He kept looking over at me, probably because I was as tall as he was, and he kept asking me, ‘When are you going in?’

“I’d say, ‘Oh, any time now.’ ”

His time finally came last season. Murdoch took over as a full-time starter three games into the season. He finished his freshman campaign as a member of the All-Foothill Conference team.

Clemons, who was in the graduating class after Murdoch at Quartz Hill, is the only Marauder lineman who was highly regarded in high school. He played in the Shrine all-star game last summer.

Knight started one season at Antelope Valley High and Evans played only on defense at Palmdale. Indeed, it is a wonder Evans can play at all.

When he was 12, Evans flipped over while doing wheelies on his bicycle and broke his left elbow. He had surgery twice but still can only slightly bend his arm. As a result, Evans is unable to participate in many of the weight exercises that Martinez considers a regular part of training.

Among the Marauders’ quartet of giants, Knight is strongest, topping out in the bench press at a relatively modest 355 pounds. Rather than competing to see who can lift the most, the linemen concern themselves with repetition. Knight can press 225 pounds 24 times. Clemons does 18 and Murdoch 17.

More spirited is their competition during wind sprints. “Our goal is to move like we’re 250,” Knight said.

They also, on occasion, compete at dinner.

Murdoch claims last year to have set a record for eating beef ribs at a local restaurant. “I went with (Knight),” Murdoch said. “I had 28. He had 26.”

However, Knight contends he doesn’t even like ribs.

“I go for the shrimp,” he said. “I challenge my friends. I’ll eat six or seven plates.”

One can only assume he meant six or seven platefuls.


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