Like any intelligent running back, De'Andre Scott is quick to thank the people in front of him.
Not many ballcarriers in the region hit the hole faster than Scott, a sophomore at Alemany High who can only hope there are holes to hit this season.
"I can't do anything without my line," said Scott, a 5-foot-10, 185-pounder who rushed for 249 yards and seven touchdowns in 46 carries last season. "If the line blocks, I should get at least 2,000 yards. They're good and getting better."
Improvement is the goal for a team that was 2-8 last season.
With a potent mix of speed and skill, and an influx of talented transfers, the Indians might not be the best team in the Mission League, but they're certainly the most entertaining.
Largely because of its firepower, Alemany won two passing league titles this summer.
Casey Clausen, a 6-4, 210-pound junior, throws tight, hard spirals to a deep corps of receivers and slotbacks in the team's four-receiver scheme.
Add three transfers who are making an impact--receivers Bryson Atkins and Reggie Kinlaw from San Fernando and running back Derek Goodman from Muir--and it's easy to foresee the Indians piling up points. Deon Scott, De'Andre's older brother, is a deep threat at receiver.
Alemany's potential isn't lost on second-year Coach Jim Bonds, who said the Indians have "some of the best skill a high school coach can ask for."
But Bonds considers the offensive line a question mark.
"We've just got to protect the quarterback," he said.
The Indians surrendered 215 rushing yards per game last season, a statistic that will be remembered in the run-oriented Mission League.
Alemany might be the league's most engaging team, but St. Paul, with skill and size, figures to be the team to beat.
Defensive back-receiver Marcel Almond is the league's best player. A 6-2, 190-pound senior being heavily recruited, Almond had 36 catches for 746 yards and seven touchdowns last season for the Swordsmen.
St. Paul's bookend tackles are 6-4, 245-pound junior Rich Estrella and 6-1, 260-pound senior Jason Cash.
Crespi's success will be measured by, of all things, bleachers.
The Celts' stadium seats about 2,500, but if the victories and fans increase as the season progresses, auxiliary bleachers will be added.
Crespi lacks depth with only 30 players--"The Dirty 30," Coach Tim Lins calls them--but solid line play will keep the Celts in contention for their first league title since winning the Mission League in 1991.
Fullback Blake Tibbetts, a 5-11, 180-pound senior, can run over or around tacklers.
Quarterback Robert Muller threw only seven passes, complet-
ing three, last season as a backup, but Lins expects the senior to "fulfill expectations."
The Celts, who defeated St. Paul last season, 27-7, might do the same.
St. Francis, a competitive Mission League team for several years, must contend with three former Southern Section Division I programs.
"I think they're used to playing tougher competition and that's got to be an advantage for them," St. Francis Coach Bill Redell said of Alemany, St. Paul and Crespi, former Del Rey League members.
St. Francis features 6-3, 293-pound tackle Ariel Bellofiore, who is drawing the attention of college recruiters, and physical fullback Crayton Milton (6-1, 245).
The Golden Knights also have a demanding schedule, with only four home games and trips to Bishop Amat, Crescenta Valley, Norwalk, Pasadena, Alemany and Crespi.
Of course, there's always the fumblerooski, which St. Francis has used numerous times in the last two seasons.
Redell said to look for a new wrinkle--a reverse off the fumblerooski.
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AT A GLANCE
* THE PROVEN: WR Marcel Almond of St. Paul averaged 20.7 yards per catch last season and is an all-state selection at DB by Cal-Hi Sports. FB Blake Tibbetts of Crespi rushed for 1,057 yards and two touchdowns in 162 carries last season while being selected All-Del Rey League. Junior Casey Clausen of Alemany, who completed 122 of 235 passes for 1,663 yards and 13 touchdowns with eight interceptions, expertly slings the ball around the field in the Indians' four-receiver offense. OT Ariel Bellofiore of St. Francis is the cornerstone for the offense.
* THE PROMISING: Sophomore RB De'Andre Scott of Alemany ran for seven touchdowns in limited action at tailback last season. Sophomore QB John Sciarra of St. Francis has the poise of a senior. Junior DE Gregg Guenther of Crespi has the height (6-7) to swat down passes and the size (240 pounds) to stuff the run.
* FAST FACT: Ten of St. Francis Coach Bill Redell's former assistants have gone on to become high school head coaches, including Crespi's Tim Lins and Alemany's Jim Bonds.
* 1997 RECORDS: St. Francis 7-4 overall, 4-1 Mission League; Crespi 6-4, 2-3 Del Rey League; St. Paul 6-4, 1-4 Del Rey; Alemany 2-8, 0-5 Del Rey.
Mission League schedules
Games start at 7:30 p.m. unless noted. Dates and sites subject to change. *League games
Sept. 11--at Hueneme
Sept. 17--Burbank at Burroughs High
Oct. 2--Notre Dame
Oct. 9--at Canyon, 7
Oct. 24--*at Harvard-Westlake, 2
Oct. 30--*at St. Paul
Nov. 13--*St. Francis
Home Site: Alemany High
Sept. 11--at Chaminade
Sept. 18--Quartz Hill
Sept. 25--at Lancaster
Oct. 1--Burbank at Burroughs High
Oct. 9--St. Bernard
Oct. 16--at Serra
Oct. 23--*Notre Dame
Oct. 30--*St. Francis
Nov. 6--*at Alemany
Nov. 13--*St. Paul
Home Site: Crespi High
Sept. 18--Crescenta Valley at Glendale High
Sept. 25--Norwalk at Excelsior High, 7
Oct. 2--at Pasadena
Oct. 23--at Bishop Amat
Oct. 30--*at Crespi
Nov. 7--*St. Paul
Nov. 13--*at Alemany
Home Site: St. Francis High