Taft Acts Tough With Cleveland

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Let the real games begin.

Unbeaten Taft High ended its two-game cakewalk through the easiest part of its Northwest Valley Conference football schedule with a 51-16 wipeout of Cleveland on Friday.

Before the first quarter had been completed, Cleveland (1-4, 0-2) trailed, 24-0. There were two lost fumbles, an interception, a blocked punt and a one-yard punt.

"This is boring," Taft linebacker Tyler Brennan complained as he stood on the sideline in the second half waiting for the game to mercifully end.

Taft (4-0, 2-0) opened its season against two competitive teams--Banning and Dorsey. Then came mismatches against Granada Hills and Cleveland. Now comes the serious part of its schedule, starting with a game next Friday against rival San Fernando.

The good news is that Taft junior quarterback Steve Alvarado continues to improve. On Friday, he passed for a career-high 210 yards and three touchdowns, completing nine of 17 attempts.

"He's got some big games coming up and he's got to come through," Taft Coach Troy Starr said.

Starr should be thankful Alvarado even stuck around this season. During the summer, Starr did everything but order Alvarado to transfer. He had settled on K.C. Bounds as his starting quarterback and told Alvarado to forget about playing the position. Then, during fall practice, Alvarado made Starr change his mind.

"Today's like the first time all year I actually got the ball where I wanted it to go," Alvarado said. "I was in sync with the receivers."

Twice Alvarado fired short passes that were turned into long gainers against the Cavaliers. Sedric Hurns had a 67-yard reception and Bounds caught a 69-yard touchdown pass on a flanker screen. Airabin Justin contributed a terrific block that cleared the way for Bounds to reach the end zone.

Nothing made Alvarado happier than to team up with his best friend and former quarterback competitor.

"That's my boy," he said of Bounds. "He broke loose."

Taft held a 44-8 halftime lead and played mostly substitutes in the second half. Dionte Hall blocked a punt in the first quarter that led to Carlos Rodriguez racing 43 yards for a touchdown.

Cleveland's Terrence Young rushed for 80 yards in 12 carries.

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