Ever since the coaches walked into his classroom two years ago and told him he was going to play varsity football at Troy High, Larry Montgomery has been a star in the making.
Now a senior, the Warriors’ coaching staff fully expects Montgomery, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound running back, to be a standout even if Montgomery has to do it under less-than-optimum conditions.
This season appears to be a rebuilding one for Troy. Only three offensive starters, including Montgomery, return. He has a practically new offensive line in front of him. Plus, Montgomery plays in the Freeway League; last year three teams tied for the championship, and this year the field could be just as crowded.
Added to the degree of difficulty is that Montgomery--who rushed for 1,626 yards (seventh best in the county) and a school-record 18 touchdowns--figures to get as much attention from opponents as he has from college scouts.
The mail from UCLA, USC, Florida State (where he would like to go), Notre Dame, Colorado and defending national champion Nebraska comes regularly. The big games might not.
“You always have to be prepared for that,” Montgomery said. “But once our [new] quarterback gets used to the flow of Friday night games, he’ll be able to open up the game with his passing. Then they’ll have to pay more attention to the team as a whole instead of just me.”
Troy Coach John Turek is concerned about defenses ganging up on Montgomery. The Warriors operate the wing-T, a run-dominated formation where deception is as important as blocking. Montgomery could even be used as a decoy early, enabling other Troy backs to blossom.
But the offensive line, which does not have much varsity experience, will need time to jell.
“I do think the line will be capable,” Turek said. “Other teams are aware of Larry, but we don’t run a single-back offense. The nature of our offense will help in that regard, so if they want to key off Larry, we’ll send [halfback] Frank Pacheo and [wingback] Kyion Grayes other places with the ball.”
Still, Montgomery must carry the load for Troy.
“I think I have to prepare myself mentally and physically for that,” Montgomery said. “Until teams know if we can throw the ball, they are going to stack guys in the middle to stop our running. I have my mind set that I’m not going to get frustrated; that’s when things start going downhill. That’s what happened last year. Our team started getting frustrated when we were losing.”
His youth--Montgomery turns 17 Oct. 31--easy smile and quiet nature mask a fierce competitiveness, along with a blessed combination of speed and power.
“I’ve always liked his toughness,” Turek said. “He runs hard, and has as much or more big-play capability as any back I’ve coached. He can break it anywhere on the field--and has.
“I think this year he would love to equal last season’s performance, but he’d be more interested in making the playoffs.”
Montgomery agrees. Troy’s up-and-down 1994 season--losing four of their last five games, including a key league loss to Buena Park--kept them out of the Division VII playoffs for only the second time in the past 12 years. Although the Warriors had injuries, Montgomery does not believe they caused the team’s inconsistency.
“Everybody took it hard; we knew we should have been in,” Montgomery said. “But we started to get lazy toward the end. We thought we had made the playoffs before we got in.”
Although Sonora and Fullerton begin the season as league favorites, Montgomery believes all six teams have an equal shot--just like last year.
“Anyone can win it,” he said.
And Montgomery plans to make sure Troy makes a real run at it.
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1994 In Review
League Overall School W L T W L T Fullerton 3 2 0 6 5 0 Sunny Hills 3 2 0 5 6 0 Buena Park 3 2 0 4 7 0 Sonora 3 2 0 5 5 0 Troy 2 3 0 6 4 0 La Habra 1 4 0 3 7 0
This league was more tangled than a Danielle Steele novel. Four teams--Buena Park, Fullerton, Sonora and Sunny Hills--wound up tied for the regular season championship. Sonora, which could have won the title outright by beating Sunny Hills (instead of losing 17-7) was odd-man out after losing the coin flip. The Raiders did not receive an at-large berth. The other three had little postseason impact; Buena Park and Fullerton were defeated in the first round, and Sunny Hills lost in the second. Fullerton’s bundle of muscle Chris Young was the league’s player of the year, rushing for 1,139 yards, scoring 15 touchdowns and helping the Indians reach the playoffs for the first time in seven years. Troy’s Larry Montgomery was also difficult to stop--1,626 yards and a school-record 18 touchdowns. Others having big years included La Habra quarterback Sonje Berg (1,130 yards, 12 touchdowns); Sunny Hills quarterback Greg Garand (1,776 yards, 11 touchdowns); La Habra receiver Will McIntosh (49 catches, 1,026 yards, 13 touchdowns); Sunny Hills receiver Jeff Renaud (55 catches, 811 yards), and Sonora quarterback Kevin Rodriguez (1,551 yards, 12 touchdowns).