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Fargas Runs to the Front Once Again

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Even on the sleepy, tree-lined grounds of the Rancho Capistrano Conference Center and surrounded by some of the best high school football talent in the country, Justin Fargas continues to open eyes.

Participating in two-a-day practices this week with the California team in preparation for today’s 47th annual Shrine All-Star game, Fargas caught California Coach Ed Burke off-guard Wednesday by exploding through the starting defense.

“We were running [offensive] scout team plays for our defense and we did a couple Justin was familiar with and boom!” Burke said, laughing and shaking his head. “He has that burst that most people don’t have. Being a high school coach I don’t get to see that kind of speed very often.”

Fargas, a recent Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High graduate and The Times’ Valley player of the year the last two seasons, will put that speed on display today against a Texas all-star team.

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While most of his California teammates made relatively short trips to report to Shrine training camp, Fargas had to return from the University of Michigan. For two weeks he participated in academic orientation exercises and worked out with Wolverine players.

“When I was out there I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to come back for the game,” Fargas said. “I wanted to stay in shape and be around the guys and pick things up even more. But I had to play this last game and try to represent California well. Plus, it’s for charity and it’s a chance to be around some great players.”

Three of California’s brightest stars are at running back, where Fargas is grouped with DeShaun Foster of Tustin and Sultan McCullough of Muir.

Fargas will start and also return kickoffs in tandem with McCullough.

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Shrine practices provided Fargas, who rushed for 6,293 yards and 76 touchdowns in his high school career, with a taste of what he’ll face in college.

“Sometimes when I was in the backfield during a [Notre Dame] game or practice, I could look at a linebacker and say, ‘Yeah, I can run him over,’ ” Fargas said. “There was always a weakness. Now, I look around and there’s no weak side to run to. Everybody’s good and it’s very competitive out here.”

Never known for a lack of confidence, his recent workouts with the Wolverines left Fargas slightly concerned about keeping up.

“The intensity of the workouts and the running was at a whole different level,” Fargas said. “I felt I did pretty good in seven-on-seven [scrimmages]. I’m picking up on a lot of the offense and I felt I fit in good football-wise but in strength and conditioning I have to step it up another level.”

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