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MIDWEEK REPORT / High School Football Update : Redell Plays It Again and Again

You won’t find the ol’ fumblerooski listed in Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. But it’s spelled out in black and white in Bill Redell’s playbook at St. Francis High.

And once again, the Golden Knights executed the deception play to the letter.

“It’s a stupid play,” Redell said. “But sometimes you need to resort to trickery to win.”

Gimmickry resulted in a touchdown Friday night in a 22-15 Mission League victory over St. Bernard.

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The fumblerooski works this way: Quarterback John Carnevali takes the snap, places the ball on the ground between the center’s legs. Right guard Kip Portz picks up the ball and runs around end.

If things go well, the defense does not discover it has been had until Portz is in the open field. That’s what happened Friday when Portz ran 29 yards for a touchdown to give St. Francis a 15-7 lead.

“I just looked back and nobody had a clue,” Portz said. “I was in the end zone living it up.”

St. Francis ran the fumblerooski for touchdowns last season against Notre Dame and Chaminade. This season, Portz ran for a long gain against Bishop Montgomery, but the play was nullified by a penalty.

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Said Portz: “Now I can graduate and say I scored a touchdown.”

Scout’s Honor

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Rick Merrill (6-1, 190) holds his own in the trenches as a senior linebacker for Chaminade. He’s also a good guy to have around in a foxhole.

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Merrill was awarded the silver medal--the second-highest honor bestowed by the Boy Scouts of America--after he administered first-aid to a bleeding hiker in Angeles National Forest last February.

As the senior member of his Boy Scout troop, Merrill summoned paramedics via ham radio, then tended to the victim’s injuries, which included a broken collarbone and a separated shoulder.

As a Life Scout, the second-highest rank in scouting, Merrill is, well, prepared. And he is poised to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout next spring--an impressive achievement, considering he joined the Boy Scouts only two years ago.

“It’s a basis to live your life by,” said Merrill, a second-team all-league selection as a junior. “It’s a good, moral foundation based on religious principles.”

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During his ascent through the scouting ranks, Merrill has become proficient not only in first-aid but wilderness survival, wood carving, leather craft and rifle shooting.

Has he helped any little old ladies across the street?

“No,” he said. “Not just yet.”

A Starr Is Born

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A pancake breakfast held for the Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park football teams last week held little appeal for Lancer tackle R.J. Starr. He gets his fill of pancakes every Friday night by laying out defensive players with vicious blocks.

The pancake is a prize statistic for an offensive lineman, indicating the number of times an opponent has been knocked on his back. Starr leads Thousand Oaks with 35.

Most of his pancakes come on the team’s bread-and-butter play: the counter gap. Starr pulls, then heads full speed through the hole, tailback in tow.

“I love it,” Starr said. “Sometimes I hit a linebacker or sometimes it’s a secondary guy. I don’t know what they are thinking.”

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Getting blocked by Starr could make any defender see stars. At 6 feet 3 and a well-toned 265 pounds, the senior two-year starter is among the best linemen in the region.

He also is one bright Starr, carrying a 3.6 grade-point average and a Scholastic Assessment Test score of 1,220. A Lancer captain, he is counted on for leadership.

“R.J. is a wonderful example for our juniors,” Coach Mike Kelly said. “His work ethic, his academics. He is just a top-quality kid.”

Starr most likely will play at a top-quality college. He said he gets recruiting calls from Cal, UCLA, Arizona and Washington, among others.

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Remaining on the West Coast is Starr’s preference, although he would be happy anywhere he can find pancakes.

Safety Valves

Sometimes the best way to play defense is to employ a little offense.

Hart and Notre Dame did so on Friday and both teams secured league championships.

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Quarterbacks Steve McKeon of Hart and Ryan Bowne of Notre Dame were inserted at safety and both made key interceptions in the end zone.

Bowne’s preserved a 19-15 victory over Chaminade with 29 seconds left.

“Wow,” Bowne said. “I didn’t expect to play defense. But I ended up making the play.”

Bowne, who has guided the Knights to a 23-1 record as starting quarterback, entered the game as a fifth defensive back late in the game because of an injury to Adam Boyd.

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McKeon, who has passed for 2,387 yards and 24 touchdowns, played almost the entire game. He also broke up a pass in the end zone in the first half of Hart’s 47-7 blowout of Saugus.

“I love defense, no doubt about it,” McKeon said.

Dean Herrington, Hart’s offensive coordinator, said McKeon seems to play better at quarterback when he also plays defense.

“I like it because it calms him down,” Herrington said. “He’s not as hyper. He’s smart and he’s a good tackler.”

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Said McKeon: “When I come off the field, I’m more settled down and I’m more focused. And I get the full aspect of the game and how intense it is. Making the big hit and breaking up those passes and having everybody know you did the job, it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

Making the Grades

The release of midterm grade reports this week might have made some coaches cringe at the thought of losing top players to academic ineligibility.

Not Chaminade Coach Rich Lawson. In fact, the notion of losing a Chaminade athlete to poor grades is enough to make Lawson laugh out loud.

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“Are you kidding?” Lawson said.

Let’s just say that academics at Chaminade, a private school in West Hills, are not taken lightly.

“We have 10 guys on our defense who have scored 1,000 or better on the SAT,” Lawson said. “We’ve got four guys in [advanced placement] calculus. We’ll whip anybody’s [butt] in the computer room.”

Playing Catchup

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It didn’t make the box score, but among the most-memorable plays in Notre Dame’s 19-15 victory over Chaminade was the touchdown-saving tackle Chaminade’s Jason Zdenek made on wide receiver Troy Garner midway through the second quarter.

Garner, among the region’s top college prospects, caught a pass over the middle and streaked down the field, apparently headed for a 65-yard score. There seemed to be no catching of Garner, but Zdenek pulled the speedy receiver down by the seat of his pants.

“That play will earn him a scholarship,” Lawson said.

Zdenek, also Chaminade’s quarterback, nearly drove the Eagles to victory in the final two minutes before his pass with 29 seconds to play was intercepted in the end zone by Ryan Bowne.

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“I wish it didn’t have to come down to this,” Zdenek said after the game. “But I’m not going to feel bad about it. We played a great game.”

Cross That Line

Buena running back Josh Cross is not particularly big or fast, but he owns a special knack for breaking the plane of that all-important bottom line--the goal line.

“He knows how to get the ball into the end zone,” Coach Rick Scott said. “When the ball is inside the 20, something comes over him. He does what it takes.”

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Cross, a 5-10, 170-pound senior, has 20 touchdowns in eight games. He was injured early in Buena’s opener against Westlake and did not fully recover until the Bulldogs began Channel League play.

“When I see the end zone, I get like a rush in my head, and I have to get there,” Cross said.

Although he was the team’s second-leading rusher last season, Cross lost his job in preseason to Brady Phelps. The injury set Cross back further, but when Phelps quit after two games, the job again was his.

He has responded with 946 yards in 175 carries. Cross also is Buena’s second-leading receiver with 18 catches for 220 yards.

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Super Scout

St. Bonaventure, which plays a Southern Section Division IX first round game at Cantwell-Sacred Heart tomorrow, got an early jump on scouting thanks to long-time Seraphs’ assistant Scott Spargo.

Spargo was so confident his team would face Cantwell that he scouted the Cardinals’ final regular-season game.

In all, Spargo correctly identified 14 of 16 pairings in the division.

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AROUND THE LEAGUES

CITY SECTION

EAST VALLEY

Reseda was upset in the first round of the City Section 3-A playoffs last season, but the Regents say the past is the past.

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“I told the players that whatever was going on last year, we’re going to eliminate it,” Coach Joel Schaeffer said. Reseda, seeded second, plays host to Roosevelt. . . . Sylmar, the No. 1-seeded team in 4-A, handily defeated Monroe, 54-12, in a regular-season finale. It could have been worse: Three touchdown runs by Gerrod Taylor were called back because of penalties.

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MID-VALLEY

North Hollywood plays host to Belmont in a first-round game. “People have been telling me this is the first time in 17 years North Hollywood has hosted a playoff game,” said Coach Gary Gray, whose Huskies are the fourth-seeded team in the 3-A division. . . . Monroe won its first seven games and lost its last three. The Vikings, seeded sixth, play host to Venice. “I think we should have received a higher seed and had a couple home games,” Coach Fred Cuccia said. . . . Leaford Hackett of Poly, a receiver and running back, scored 15 of his team’s 20 touchdowns.

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NORTH VALLEY

Taft’s game against Narbonne on Friday at Torrance High will be televised in the South Bay area. . . El Camino Real (4-5-1, 4-3), seeded seventh in the 3-A playoffs, would have preferred a 4-A berth, which is what the Conquistadores requested at the seeding meeting. “If [the committee] gives us a choice, we are going to strive for the highest possibility,” Coach Bob Ganssle said. “They put us in the 3-A, so we’ll take it.” . . . Kennedy Coach Bob Francola is pleased with the progress of junior linebacker Tommy Gales, a transfer from Bell-Jeff who has been impressive since replacing injured Joe Dunster seven weeks ago. Gales was Bell-Jeff’s leading scorer in basketball last season, but Francola thinks his future is in football. . . San Fernando won its last six games by a combined score of 188-65. But the Tigers were forced to forfeit four of the victories and missed the playoffs.

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WEST VALLEY

When Birmingham tailback Emmanuel Evans left Friday’s game against Taft with a foot injury after gaining 95 yards in nine attempts in the first half, it was the third time this season Evans has exited early due to injury. He should be ready to play Friday against Bell. . .Turnabout is fair play: Cleveland quarterback Junior Brignac is a converted receiver. His backup at quarterback, Jared Mills, caught two passes against El Camino Real.

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NORTHWESTERN

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Verdugo Hills Coach Don Scott is disappointed that the Dons, seeded ninth, are on the road for the first round of the 3-A playoffs against Hamilton. Four teams with losing conference records are seeded higher than Verdugo Hills (6-4, 5-2). “I don’t think the kids are worried,” Scott said. “They’re just happy to be in the playoffs.” Verdugo Hills had not made the playoffs since 1992.

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SOUTHERN SECTION

FOOTHILL

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Saugus was riding a four-game winning streak--during which it allowed only 5.7 points a game--before getting walloped by Hart, 47-7. Saugus’ fate in the title game against Hart might have been sealed on Wednesday, when its best defensive player, end Derek Lyons, broke his thumb during practice. . . . Canyon enters the playoffs without Ahjeron Palmer, who is academically ineligible. Palmer, who played quarterback, running back and receiver, was the focus of the Cowboy offense. But could his loss be a blessing in disguise? Rick Thomas, Palmer’s replacement at quarterback, has actually been more productive with 270 yards passing and three touchdowns. Coach Larry Mohr said Canyon’s first practice without Palmer was its best of the season. . . . Burroughs tight end Steve Docherty was held out of Thursday’s showdown against Burbank because Coach Robert dos Remedios wasn’t satisfied with his commitment to the team. Docherty played for Burbank earlier in the season before transferring to Burroughs. “I questioned his loyalty,” dos Remedios said. “I said I need to feel like you’re in our corner. And he wavered a little bit. And he said after the game it was probably the best thing. He’s really, really close with a lot of Burbank players.”

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GOLDEN

Antelope Valley, the region’s premier big-play team, is smarting this week from the loss of fullback Justin Reinier, who is academically ineligible. Reserve backs Ken Nelson and Charles Pierce will get more playing time. Nelson has rushed for 448 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 10.8 yards a carry. Pierce averages five yards a carry and 11 yards a reception. He also has two interceptions for 97 yards, including a 64-yard return against Quartz Hill last week. . . . Senior defensive tackle Tony Politano will get his first start for Quartz Hill in Friday night’s playoff game against Dominguez. It has been a long road for Politano, who replaces Art Turner, who is academically ineligible. Coach John Albee doesn’t know what to expect from Politano, who didn’t play football before the 1994 season, which he missed because of a knee injury. But he bench-presses 350 pounds and has been timed at 4.6 in the 40-yard dash.

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CHANNEL

Buena broke out a new weapon against Oxnard: Mario Zaragoza, who rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown. Zaragoza, a senior, transferred from St. Bonaventure a year ago and was not eligible until last week. “He has practiced hard all year, taking punishment running on the scout team, knowing he’d only get one game in,” Coach Rick Scott said. Now, Zaragoza will play in another--Buena’s first-round playoff game at Notre Dame. . . . After four consecutive victories, Ventura lacked punch in a 21-0 loss to league-champion Santa Barbara. Leading receiver Donell Wickett and leading rusher Abundio Marin missed the game because of injuries. . . . Hueneme quarterback George Jones has given Nevada Las Vegas an oral commitment, provided he satisfies NCAA academic requirements. . . . Bruce Samuel of Rio Mesa rushed for 232 yards and two touchdowns in 28 carries against Hueneme, an accomplishment made even more impressive by the fact Samuel also played the entire game on defense, chasing Viking Ronney Jenkins all over the field. Jenkins rushed for a national record 619 yards, a total made official by Hueneme Coach Larry Miller after watching the game film.

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MARMONTE

Newbury Park continues to master the passing game--on the defensive side of the ball. The Panthers had five interceptions against Thousand Oaks, giving them 19 this season. Eleven different players have picked off passes. Free safety Eddie Patterson leads with four and strong safety Justin Vint has three. . . . Barrett Grindle of Thousand Oaks, a 6-foot-3 junior, has emerged as a top receiver, making 17 catches for 288 yards in the past three games. Tailback Brandon Jackson probably will not play against Serra, Lancer Coach Mike Kelly said. Jackson, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in only seven games, had only two carries against Newbury Park on Friday before re-injuring his shoulder. Fullback/linebacker Jud Southwell is questionable after injuring his back against Newbury Park. . . . Camarillo kicker Shawn Nakamura finished the season with 10 field goals in 16 attempts--including a longest of 50 yards--and made 21 of 22 PATs for 51 points. . . . Jason Gordon, an Agoura junior, rushed for 192 yards in an upset of Westlake, nearly matching his previous season total of 200 yards. The Chargers shaved the head of Coach Charlie Wegher after the game. Wegher is a Westlake alumnus.

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FRONTIER

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Making his first start at quarterback in his last high school game, Andy Super of Santa Clara completed 11 of 25 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Super, filling in for injured sophomore Adrian Maciel, also rushed for a touchdown. . . . After missing five games due to a stomach ailment, Moorpark safety Dan LaFleur (three sacks) was a formidable presence last Thursday as the Musketeers defeated Calabasas in the league championship game. David Burns also had a big game, catching eight passes for 78 yards. Moorpark plays host to Paso Robles on Friday night in a Division IX first-round game, then could face Montclair Prep and defending champion Atascadero in successive rounds. “Our easiest game might be the championship if we make it that far,” Musketeer Coach Rob Dearborn said. . . . Nordhoff, which lost to Atascadero in last year’s Division IX title game, travels to play the Greyhounds Friday in the first round. The Rangers completed their first touchdown pass of the season last week when Jim Musick hit Greg Coleman. . . . Calabasas has played in the league title game in three of the past four years. The Coyotes last won in 1986.

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TRI-VALLEY

Teohua Sanchez of St. Bonaventure has completed 154 of 254 passes for 1,626 yards and 13 touchdowns with five interceptions. . . . Fillmore suited up 22 players for its final game. Among the missing were the Flashes’ starting quarterback, tailback and several linemen. “Playing big, physical teams like Moorpark, Bishop Diego and St. Bonaventure was partly why we had so many kids hurt,” Fillmore Coach John Wilber said. “We had 140-pounders going against 240-pounders who could move.” Wilber singled out two-way tackle Tim Pina and center Eddie Gonzalez as two of the team’s most valuable players. . . . Oak Park (3-7) began its off-season conditioning program Monday in a new weight room. “The fact that we were not as strong as other teams was probably the biggest reason why we were unsuccessful this year,” Coach Dick Billingsley said. After kicking 41 extra points and two field goals in 1994, Josh Nicassio kicked only 14 extra points and one field goal this season, an indication of the team’s weak attack. Billingsley said Oak Park’s renovated and expanded stadium should be completed in May.

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ALPHA

Mike Santiago, who has missed four games with a broken finger, will return for Village Christian in the Crusaders’ first-round playoff game against Big Bear. Santiago is the Crusaders’ second-leading receiver. Chris Coleman threw his first interception of the season in a 21-14 loss to L.A. Baptist last Saturday. . . . L.A. Baptist mixed up its offense in order to win the “Bible Bowl,” handing off to leading rusher Chris Ross just 16 times. Two handoffs to Brian Anderson going in motion out of the slot went for 18 yards. A halfback pass by John Wilson was intercepted. Quarterback Peter Dirksen rushed 10 times. Wilson has passed only twice this season--one a touchdown, the other an interception. . . . Kilpatrick had a season-low two penalties in its 28-13 victory over Marshall last week.

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HIGH DESERT

Does a 5-5 team belong in the playoffs? Paraclete does. The Spirits, who received an at-large berth in the Division X playoffs, narrowly lost to three ranked teams: No. 2 and undefeated Kern Valley (28-20), No. 4 Rosamond (28-27) and No. 8 Bishop (39-36). Paraclete, ranked 10th in the division, is the only team on the list without a winning record.

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SANTA FE

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Bell-Jeff scored 28 points this season. No player scored more than one touchdown. . . . St. Genevieve did not complete a pass in its season finale against Mary Star. The Valiants ended the season losing five of six after starting 2-2. . . . Bell-Jeff, St. Genevieve and Pius X were shut out a combined 18 times in 27 games.

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EIGHT-MAN

Antelope Valley Christian, which travels to Bermuda Dunes to play Desert Christian in a semifinal playoff game Saturday night, has a pair of big-play players. Eric Mobley Jr. has 70 carries for 1,646 yards--an average of 23.5 yards a carry. He also has 33 touchdowns, which ties him with former USC and Quartz Hill star Aaron Emmanuel for the most by a Southern Section player in a season. Aaron Ligons has 40 receptions for 1,110 yards and 28 touchdowns.

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Contributing: Mike Bresnahan, Dana Haddad, Steve Henson, Vince Kowalick, Michael Lazarus, Tris Wykes, Peter Yoon.


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