It's all about timing at Chaminade High.
With new Coach Ed Croson glancing at his watch as often as he blinks, it's a safe bet that every minute--every second--of an Eagles' football practice is accounted for.
With a keen attention to detail, Croson, who is calling the shots after eight years as an assistant, has the Eagles on schedule to compete in the first-year San Fernando League.
Eighteen starters graduated from last season's 3-7 team, leaving a lot of apparent holes. But there are four seniors who play like veterans.
Right tackle Justin Brown is 6 feet 7 and 285 pounds, and linebacker/running back John Perry (6-1, 230) squats 450 pounds. Tight end Steve Racius (6-4, 225) has good hands, and receiver/free safety Chris Canoles (6-3, 190) is smart--1,390 on the SAT--and strong.
Whether they come together in a timely fashion remains to be seen.
Geographically, the name of the new league doesn't make much sense, with half its teams as close to Disneyland as to the San Fernando Valley. But sorting out the pecking order of the Mission League spinoff is a little easier.
Gardena Serra High appears to be the favorite, with Chaminade having a slight edge over Harvard-Westlake for second. Torrance Bishop Montgomery can only improve after an 0-10 season.
Serra was second in the state track and field championships last season and has speed to burn.
Safety Dashaun McCullough finished second in the 100 meters at the USA Track and Field Junior championships with a wind-aided 10.22. Cornerback Warren Rodgers placed fifth in the state 200 in 21.43.
This is the fastest Serra team "by far," Coach Charles Nash said. "There's no comparison. We're not quite as big, but we're fast."
Actually, Serra has good size, led by senior two-way linemen Lee Davis (6-5, 285) and Kevin Jackson (6-4, 280).
Last season, Serra defeated Chaminade, 19-3, and Harvard-Westlake, 32-12.
Harvard-Westlake tight end/middle linebacker Alex Holmes is 6-3 and 300 pounds, but agile enough to play shooting guard for the Wolverines' summer basketball team.
Holmes is recovered from a sternum injury suffered this summer and will be all over the field for the Wolverines.
Defensive tackle Tom Larkin (6-5, 255) will plug the middle for Harvard-Westlake, in addition to playing offensive tackle.
The Wolverines picked up an intriguing off-season addition in defensive back Kelechi Ogbunamiri, a transfer from Pilgrim High.
Ogbunamiri, who played quarterback at the eight-man level last season, might need a few weeks to adapt to the 11-man game but he should contribute as the season progresses.
With only 32 players, Harvard-Westlake, like other teams in the league, is coping with a lack of depth.
"Numbers have always been a concern for us," Harvard-Westlake Coach Dave Bennett said. "How healthy we stay is how good we'll be."
Bishop Montgomery was outscored, 361-88, last season, but talented players could tilt the balance of power in the Knights' favor.
Stanley Wilson Jr., son of former Cincinnati Bengals running back and Banning High standout Stanley Wilson, will be a threat at flanker and running back when he returns from off-season knee surgery. The 6-1, 185-pound junior is expected to play in the third week.
"We have some guys that can get out in the open," Knight Coach Jimmie Sims said. Line play, however, could be the team's undoing.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
AT A GLANCE
* THE PROVEN: Harvard-Westlake High junior TE Alex Holmes caught 38 passes for 695 yards and five touchdowns last season. Chaminade senior OT Justin Brown blocks out the opposition and the sun with his 6-foot-7, 285-pound frame. Serra wingback Kevin Boyer, a 5-8, 160-pound senior, can scoot, as evidenced by a 62-yard touchdown run against St. Francis last season.
* THE PROMISING: Bishop Montgomery TE Eric Torres, a 6-foot-8, 295-pound senior, has great hands and was a standout in passing leagues. Matt Felder of Harvard-Westlake completed 37 of 73 passes for 563 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions last season as a part-time player. Chris Canoles led Chaminade in receiving last season as a junior with 21 catches for 221 yards and three touchdowns.
* FAST FACT: Serra outscored the other three teams in the league, 87-15, last season.
* 1997 RECORDS: Serra 6-5 overall, 4-1 in Mission League; Chaminade 3-7, 2-3 in Mission; Harvard-Westlake 3-7, 1-4 in Mission; Bishop Montgomery 0-10, 0-5 in Mission.
San Fernando League schedules
Games start at 7:30 p.m. unless noted. Dates and sites subject to change. *-League games.
Sept. 18--El Camino Real
Sept. 25--at Lynwood
Oct. 2--vs. Valencia at Canyon High, 7
Oct. 9--Temple City
Oct. 16--*at St. Francis
Oct. 23--St. John Bosco
Nov. 6--*at Bishop Montgomery
Home Site: Chaminade High
Sept. 12--Channel Islands, 1:30
Sept. 19--North Hollywood, 1:30
Sept. 25--at San Marino
Oct. 3--Nordhoff, 1:30
Oct. 8--St. Bonaventure at Ventura High, 7
Oct. 16--at Notre Dame
Oct. 24--Alemany, 2
Oct. 31--*Bishop Montgomery, 2
Nov. 6--*at Serra
Nov. 13--*at Chaminade
Home Site: Harvard-Westlake High