Merrill Has Been Newbury Park’s Playoff Passport


When Chris Lombardo went down for the season, many predicted he would take Newbury Park High with him.

Lombardo, a senior quarterback who has committed to Oregon, suffered a season-ending broken leg in the Panthers’ second game, prompting an important question.

Who would direct the Panthers’ pass oriented offense?

The answer came from Cameron Merrill, a big reason the Panthers are still alive in the Southern Section Division IV playoffs. They host top-seeded San Luis Obispo in a semifinal tonight.


Merrill began the season at receiver, but the switch to quarterback after Lombardo’s injury was an easy transition.

Merrill, who was a quarterback in junior high, was slated to start at quarterback but was moved to receiver when Lombardo transferred from St. Bonaventure.

“He has been the quarterback for this age group for a long time,” said Coach George Hurley of Newbury Park. “Lombardo was kind of the new kid on the block. He was good, but Cameron has been these kids’ quarterback since he was in the sixth grade.”

Merrill’s numbers are impressive, considering his arm was not at full strength early in the season because of a separated shoulder he suffered during summer passing league.

Merrill has passed for 1,910 yards and 26 touchdowns with only six interceptions.

“The kids have rallied around him,” Hurley said. “It’s taken some time to catch on. It took us four or five weeks to get where we are now. But we’re playing catch a lot better.”


Flintridge Prep was 1-5 and had just lost to longtime rival Pasadena Poly. The season was more than halfway over and appeared to be on the road to nowhere.


But a season-turning team meeting was held. Ideas were exchanged. Players were prodded by coaches. Victories began to pile up.

Since the meeting, Flintridge Prep has gone 4-1 and gets a rematch tonight against Pasadena Poly in a Division XIII semifinal at South Pasadena.

“We all did a little introspection and decided we were a better team than we had been playing,” Coach Glen Beattie said. “Every week, we’d sit around and hold our heads. After the Poly game, we said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to stop feeling sorry for ourselves.’ ”

Now the opponents are feeling sorry.

Flintridge Prep (5-6) outscored two playoff opponents, 55-0.

The defense, led by Chase Atkinson, a 6-foot, 230-pound linebacker, has been steady throughout the season, but the offense has finally started to execute the wing-T to precision.

Flintridge Prep junked its pro-set offense before the season because of the graduation of record-setting quarterback J.P. Blecksmith, who plays at Navy.

Devin Brown, a junior running back, has come alive with five consecutive 100-yard rushing games.


“I’d like to take credit for it but the kids are the ones doing it,” Beattie said.


The brother of St. Bonaventure offensive coordinator Tim Gutierrez died Monday night of heart failure.

Rich Gutierrez, 30, was close to members of the St. Bonaventure football team, Coach Jon Mack said.

“He was always here, working out in the weight room,” said Mack, whose Seraphs play Riverside Banning in a Division XI semifinal Saturday.

“We’ve lost a very good friend.”