Antelope Valley Affair Marked by Twists, Turns

As convoluted as it seemed in print, it was even more twisted in actuality.

For Antelope Valley and Burroughs Ridgecrest highs, last week was equal parts deflating and exhilarating.

The lunacy began when Antelope Valley informed Golden League officials that an academically ineligible player had participated in three league games. Antelope Valley forfeited the victories and was removed from the Southern Section Division I playoffs.

Burroughs was inserted in Antelope Valley's place, marking the first time since 1979 that the Burros advanced to postseason play.

Thereafter, things developed at a dizzying pace. So fast, in fact, that nobody could keep pace.

Selected highlights:

* Last Wednesday night, a group of Antelope Valley parents and boosters turned up unannounced at a board meeting of the Antelope Valley Union High School District to protest the ruling, which they believed was too severe.

The error, Antelope Valley officials admitted, was administrative.

As the protest was winding down, John Parks stepped forward and identified himself as the ineligible player. Parks, a seldom-used defensive back who had participated in a whopping 11 plays all season, made a plea for clemency.

"I will say this," said Steve Landaker, president of the school board. "It took a lot of guts for him to step up like that. I'd have hated to be in his shoes."

The board--which meets once a month, as fate would have it--asked league principals to reconsider the decision.

* Thursday, the six league principals met at a Lancaster-area hotel around noon to discuss their options. The meeting lasted almost six hours, which left everyone involved on pins and needles.

With Antelope Valley Principal John Hutak attending the meeting, Athletic Director Pat Iaccino was left to field phone calls at school. Iaccino admitted he was dying by degrees as the clocked ticked away. "I've taken a lot of long walks," Iaccino said at the time. "It's my error, I'm the A.D. It's something you hope never happens."

Iaccino stayed by the school switchboard until approximately 8 p.m., when Hutak finally arrived with the verdict. Unfortunately, Hutak couldn't tell anyone what the principals decided--they agreed not to release the vote tally until they first contacted the Southern Section office.

Delaying matters further, nobody could seem to locate Bill Clark, the section administrator in charge of football.

* Meanwhile, Antelope Valley held a practice Thursday on the outside chance that the team would be reinstated. At the very least, players and coaches felt they had been given a stay of execution.

"There was a lot of enthusiasm today," Coach Brent Newcomb said Thursday. "People would coach the rest of their lives if a team responded like our kids did. They had that much pepper in their butts."

Newcomb was left to sit and stew, though, as he awaited the results of the league vote. At around 8 p.m., the coach ventured into the school library to join a group of approximately 50 boosters, who had gathered to celebrate/bemoan the verdict. Hutak sent the group home when he arrived on campus.

"All he said was that we're still in the running," Newcomb said. "I feel a little better. . . . It was nice to see the parents and community rally behind us. I haven't seen that in a long while."

Said Hutak: "(Newcomb) sounded tired."

* Up the road a piece, Burroughs Coach Bob Roseth's emotions ran to polar extremes. His players handed in their gear on Tuesday, thinking their season was over. He got word later that day that the Burros were replacing Antelope Valley.

"Everyone went crazy," Roseth said.

Not for long. Thursday at 6 p.m., Roseth received word that league principals had convened hours earlier to reconsider their decision. "I must have been the last to know," Roseth said.

Roseth called Fontana Coach Dick Bruich, whose team was scheduled to play Antelope Valley, then was switched to Burroughs. Bruich had not received confirmation regarding Fontana's opponent, either.

Roseth said Bruich was livid, and why not? According to one published report, Bruich was told by a section administrator there was an outside chance the game would be played Monday if Antelope Valley was reinstated.

Later that night, everyone else involved in the wild scenario learned that after consulting with Clark, principals had agreed not to announce their verdict until Friday morning, after section officials had a chance to review the decision.

However, the Burroughs coach figured his principal, James Roulsten, might give him a straight answer. Trouble was, Roulsten couldn't be located.

At 9:30 p.m., crazy as it sounds, Roseth jumped in his car and cruised the chilly streets of Ridgecrest in search of his principal.

By the time the coach arrived back home, Roulsten had left the bad news with Roseth's wife: Antelope Valley had been reinstated by a vote of 5-1. Not surprisingly, Roulsten cast the dissenting vote, Roseth said.

"It's an awful situation," Roseth said. "It's the five AV schools against us. We didn't really have a chance."

Burroughs is the only league member that isn't a member of the Antelope Valley school district.

Ultimately, Antelope Valley was reinstated by the section Friday morning, despite a last-minute appeal from Burroughs administrators, who first met on campus at 6:30 a.m.

"It's been a fascinating week," Roseth said Thursday at 10:30 p.m.

* Postscript: Antelope Valley defeated Fontana, 24-0, Saturday night.

GOLDEN LEAGUE / Unwelcome Visitors

Newcomb said he felt eyes piercing his back as soon as he walked on the field Saturday night at Fontana. Those in the stands seemed edgy. Several fans were allowed to walk the sideline. Officials called a very tight ballgame.

What's more, a deputy sheriff was stationed near the team, along with a police dog.

"I was glad Rin Tin Tin was there," Newcomb cracked.

In light of the circumstances--Fontana was none too pleased at the way the Antelopes and Burroughs Ridgecrest had pulled a double-switcheroo--Newcomb wasn't surprised that the Antelopes weren't welcomed with open arms.

"Maybe they were frustrated because of what happened, or because we shut them out," Newcomb said. "I just had a funny feeling on the field."

It was anticipated by law enforcement representatives. Antelope Valley's team bus was given a police escort to the freeway. That was a first in his 25-year coaching career, Newcomb said.

CHANNEL LEAGUE / Making Do

Losing a starting tailback can prompt big-time adjustments, especially when the player lost is the No. 2 all-time rusher in the state.

Buena knows this first-hand because of injuries suffered by standout George Keiaho, the second-leading rusher in state history with 6,173 yards. Keiaho has missed three games this season because of an injury to his right knee and a muscle pull in his right leg.

H-back Johnny Chang has filled in admirably, rushing for almost 700 yards and 11 touchdowns in Keiaho's absence. For the season, Chang has 934 yards (a 6.81-yard average) and 14 touchdowns.

With Keiaho roaming the sidelines in street clothes, Chang gained 192 yards and scored one touchdown in leading the Bulldogs to a 25-14 victory over Schurr during the first round of the Southern Section Division III playoffs. Scott expects Keiaho to play Friday night against West Covina in the quarterfinals.

Despite missing three games, Keiaho is still second in the area in rushing and scoring with 1,836 yards (a 7.43-yard average) and 27 touchdowns (162 points).

MISCELLANY / Power Ratings

Of 23 Southern Section teams from the region who qualified for the football playoffs, 13 advanced to the second round. Not surprisingly, a correlation exists between the strength of regular-season schedule and the teams' performance in the first round.

Particularly in the major divisions.

In Southern Section Division I, for instance, Crespi (7-4) played eight playoff-bound teams in the regular season and those teams compiled a combined regular-season record of 58-21. No other team from the region played tougher competition in terms of won-lost record. Crespi defeated Long Beach Jordan in the first round, 35-7.

Division I entry Antelope Valley played seven playoff-bound teams (combined record of 50-20). Antelope Valley defeated Fontana, 24-0, in the first round of the playoffs. Palmdale also played seven playoff-bound teams (55-15 record) but lost in the first round to Eisenhower, 48-7.

Of the four area Division II teams, Hart played the most playoff-bound teams with seven (40-18-1 record). Hart was the only area team to win, beating Pasadena, 61-25.

Of the five area Division III playoff teams, Westlake and Buena played the toughest regular-season competition. Westlake played five teams (40-10 record) bound for postseason while Buena played four (33-6-1). Both teams won in the first round.

Around the Leagues. . . .

* Thousand Oaks boys' Southern Section Division I cross-country title at Mt. San Antonio College on Saturday was the Lancers' fifth major division win since 1980. Dana Hills (1987-88) and Hart (1990-91) are the only other schools to have won more than one major division title.

* John Greene's victory in the Division II race marked the fourth time in the last five years that the Agoura boys have had a section champion. Ryan Wilson won the Division II title in 1991-92. Bryan Dameworth was the 1989 2-A Division champion.

* Javier Ramirez's victory in the boys' Division III race was the first individual section cross-country title by a Nordhoff runner.

*

Staff writers Steve Elling, Dana Haddad, John Ortega and Jason H. Reid contributed to this notebook.

A Team for All Times

The Thousand Oaks boys set a record for team time--cumulative time of the top five runners--clocking 77 minutes 56 seconds in winning its second consecutive Southern Section Division I cross-country title Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College.

The Lancers' record run shaved two seconds off the record set by Sacramento Jesuit in 1985 and lopped 31 seconds off Camarillo's Southern Section record from 1989.

Here are the Southern Section's top 10 team times over Mt. SAC's three-mile course:

Rk Time Team Year 1 77:56 Thousand Oaks 1993 2 78:27 Camarillo 1989 3 78:36 Saugus 1985 4 78:39 Barstow 1983 5 79:05 Arroyo 1987 6 79:06 Mater Dei 1982 7 79:09 El Modena 1982 8 79:11 Barstow 1982 9 79:14 Arroyo 1986 10 79:15* Thousand Oaks 1993

*--Lancers' time in Southern Section prelims on Nov. 13.

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