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Dana Hills Finds New Attitude Works Wonders

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It’s only two victories, but it’s two victories in two games. For Dana Hills, which won only 10 games in the previous five years, that’s not enough. They want more.

The resurgence of the Dolphins in football, both in the polls--they actually got votes in the county’s top 10 this week--and on campus can be attributed to one thing:

A new attitude.

“It was a graveyard when I got here,” said Scott Orloff, Dana Hills’ second-year coach. “Not only the team, but the student body itself.”

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It changed largely because Orloff challenged his team last year and the students at a pep rally this year. Both responded.

Instead of cracking jokes in class about their Dolphins, more than 100 students joined “the loud crowd” cheer section. Two buses of rooters went to the team’s last game in Lake Elsinore.

Instead of taking a half-hearted approach to practice and the off-season workout program, key players bought into Orloff’s positive approach.

“Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had players quit,” Orloff said. “They didn’t like the work ethic we demanded. They didn’t want to be here in summer practice or lift weights, but we told them this is the pathway to success. Nothing comes easy.”

Seniors Julio Peraza, Matt Johnson, Aaron Shook and Wei-Shine Chien believed Orloff. They’ve been crucial in the changed attitude in the locker room and the results on the field.

“There was no respect for the football program,” Shook said. “It was a joke. There was more excitement about the surf team.”

That’s changing. Dana Hills (3-7 last year, 0-5 in the South Coast League) beat defending Division VIII champion Aliso Niguel, 46-7, before a large home crowd, and then the second-ranked team in Division VII, Lake Elsinore Temescal Canyon, 19-7.

Dana Hills steps up in competition when it hosts La Puente Bishop Amat tonight. A good showing against the perennial Division I power could go further in developing this program than any previous victory.

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“The only reason we scheduled this game is we wanted to know where we stood in the third week compared to the elite teams in the section,” Orloff said. “What do we need to work on? We know the league championship runs through Mater Dei, and we’re playing a Mater Dei clone.”

Dana Hills was 23-46-1 the last seven years, 7-27-1 in league, with the only winning season coming in 1991 (9-2-3, 3-1-1).

Peraza, who epitomizes the attitude change, must play an instrumental role if Dana Hills is to continue its winning ways.

Like many of his teammates before Orloff arrived, Peraza, a running back, didn’t work hard. Sometimes, he didn’t work at all.

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“He was spoiled,” Orloff said. “For the previous coach [Trace Deneke], he didn’t have to practice and he still played. He was immature. This off-season, he totally changed. He’s tougher, more mature, a leader.”

During “hell week” two-a-days this summer, Peraza ran sprints between practices--on his own. That never happened in the past.

“I’ve never seen him this focused,” Orloff said. “That’s why he’s averaging 9.5 yards per carry.”

Peraza, worked hard in the weight room, on the field and in the classroom. His grades improved.

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“It’s like Coach Orloff says, ‘Football is like life,’ ” Peraza said.

Responsibility matters.

According to Orloff, Peraza will attend a community college and anywhere he wants after that.

“When you have 4.5 speed, weigh 200 pounds, bench 360 pounds, squat 500, power-clean 295--those are huge numbers,” Orloff said.

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Peraza rushed 160 times for 833 yards (5.2 per carry) last season, and 125 times for 764 yards (6.1) as a sophomore. In two games this season, he has rushed 33 times for 315 yards, and his three rushing touchdowns are half what he had last year.

He credits his offensive line: Johnson (senior tight end), Justin Harman (senior left tackle), Mike Mortensen (junior left guard), Chien (senior center), Chris Geiger (senior right guard), Kevin Wayland (junior right tackle) and Shook (senior tight end).

“Two years ago,” Peraza said, “I probably would have taken the credit myself.”

Though he runs too stiff for Orloff’s liking, Peraza no longer falls with the first tackler. “Now, he’s making people miss,” Orloff said.

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Peraza is just the tip of the iceberg, however. Chien, a 5-10, 272-pound center, couldn’t finish the running demands at practice last year. This year, he has finished every time. He benches 405 pounds, squats 540 and power-cleans 290. He is in such good shape, he’s even getting spot duty at defensive tackle. With a 4.2 grade-point average, he wants to attend Harvard.

Johnson (6-2, 215) and Shook (6-0, 220) start at tight end and linebacker.

“Those two kids are so hungry for team success, they’ll do anything,” Orloff said.

That is this graduating class’ legacy, said Shook, a three-year starter at linebacker. He said he’s proud to be on the football team. That wasn’t always the case.

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“Football sets the tone for the entire school year, and I’ve never seen it like this at our school before,” Shook said. “It’s the way you want your senior year to be.

“But it’s not done. It’s nowhere close to being finished.”

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Featured Game

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LA PUENTE BISHOP AMAT VS. DANA HILLS

When: 7:30 tonight.

Where: Dana Hills High.

Records: Bishop Amat 2-0, Dana Hills 2-0.

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Rankings: Bishop Amat is No. 4 in Southern Section Division I poll; Dana Hills is unranked.

Noteworthy: Dana Hills has victories over Aliso Niguel and Lake Elsinore Temescal Canyon, which Coach Scott Orloff insists are “good programs.” However, they’re not Bishop Amat. The Dolphins are likely to discover areas where they must improve in order to be a contender for the South Coast League title. A competitive showing would give the Dolphins some credibility after years of struggle.


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