Cuppari Is Man of Thrills for Southern Section, 24-21
Joey Cuppari apparently couldn’t find a phone booth Saturday, so he settled for a locker room.
Westlake High’s multisport standout hurried from Dodger Stadium, where he starred in a Southern Section championship baseball game, quickly changed into his football pads and put on an acrobatic show during the Valley Classic All-Star football game at Cal State Northridge’s North Campus Stadium.
He caught three passes for 74 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown, to help lead the Southern Section to a 24-21 victory over the City.
Then, in a flash, Cuppari sped off to Ventura, where he accepted an award as Ventura County’s athlete of the year.
Cuppari arrived at Northridge at the end of the first quarter and entered the game late in the second quarter. By the third quarter, he was dazzling the crowd of about 3,000 by twice out-jumping defenders for spectacular catches and setting up what proved to be the winning touchdown, a two-yard run by Crescenta Valley’s Kenny Pritchett for a 24-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Only a couple of hours earlier, Cuppari stood in center field at Dodger Stadium, watching helplessly as Westlake squandered a one-run lead in the final inning and lost to South Hills, 9-3, for the Division III title.
“I’m glad I came out and played [the football game], but that baseball game is still just eating away at me,” Cuppari said.
Cuppari, who has committed to play football at Colorado State, was three for four with a triple, a double and a stolen base at Dodger Stadium.
Several weeks ago, he appeared in a basketball all-star game, and he is scheduled to appear in at least one baseball all-star game next week.
“The guy is just a hell of an athlete,” said Washington State-bound quarterback Kjell Nesen, who connected with Cuppari for a 13-yard scoring play late in the third quarter to give the Southern Section a 17-7 lead.
Nesen and Cuppari were teammates at Westlake until last summer, when Nesen transferred to St. Francis.
“It was a great experience to be teammates again,” Nesen said.
Cuppari was a standout at a position loaded with talent for the Southern Section.
Newbury Park receiver Jake Farrel caught two passes for 107 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown from Hart’s David Neill on the Southern Section’s second offensive play.
Tim Feirfeil of L.A. Baptist caught four passes for 90 yards, and twice hooked up with L.A. Baptist teammate Peter Dirksen on 39-yard pass plays. Dirksen finished four for 10 for 102 yards.
Feirfeil, Farrel and Cuppari were the region’s top three receivers last season, combining for 224 receptions, 4,198 yards and 48 touchdowns.
“It was so nice,” said the Nevada-bound Neill, who completed four of seven passes for 156 yards. “You throw the ball almost anywhere and you know they can go and get it.”
Glenn Adriatico, who caught 131 passes for 2,057 yards the past two seasons at Burroughs, didn’t catch a pass against the City.
“The hard part was that there was only one ball, but I guess that was a good problem to have,” Southern Section co-Coach Mark Bates said.
The Southern Section passed for 276 yards and had 388 total yards.
Pritchett, who will play at UCLA, rushed for 94 yards in 12 carries.
Leon Pimky of Granada Hills scored the City’s touchdowns on receptions of one, 51 and three yards from Franklin quarterback Erik Garcia.
“That’s all nice,” said Pimky, who caught five passes for 85 yards. “But I didn’t come here for myself. I came here to win.”
Garcia completed 12 of 16 attempts for 194 yards, but was sacked by seven different defenders and threw one interception, by Westlake linebacker Matt Goldstein.
It was the third year the all-star game was played in such a format, and the third time the Southern Section won by a narrow margin. The City fell, 7-6, in 1996 and lost, 18-15, last year.