A quick glance around practice for the Califlorida Bowl last week left several California wide receivers wondering not just who would play left out, but who might be left out.
With nine receivers on the roster, all of whom neared or passed the 1,000-yard receiving mark during the regular season, opportunities figured to be scarce to catch passes during the all-star game between California and Florida high school players.
Turns out it wasn’t a factor Saturday, when all nine wide receivers were among the 12 California players who caught passes in a 26-15 victory over Florida at Mt. San Antonio College that ended a two-game California losing streak and evened the series at 2-2.
All three California touchdowns came through the air in an offense designed to utilize the depth at receiver.
Quarterback Richard Irvin of Pasadena Muir completed 12 of 17 passes for 134 yards and was named California MVP. Sam Keller of Danville San Ramon Valley, the other California quarterback, completed nine of 14 passes for 108 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown pass to Brian Shields of North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake on his first attempt. Neither quarterback threw an interception.
“We were loaded at receiver,” said Irvin. “All of those guys have unbelievable hands and run great routs. Every time I looked up, somebody was open.”
Wide receiver has been touted as the deepest position in California this season and the performance and balance Saturday left little doubt -- especially considering that Whitney Lewis of Ventura St. Bonaventure and Steve Smith of Woodland Hills Taft, considered the top California players at the position, were not on the team.
Even with all the top-notch receivers, running back Maurice Drew of Concord De La Salle led the team with five catches for 60 yards, mostly on shovel passes. B.J. Vickers of Venice had four catches for 21 yards and a touchdown.
Sonny Shackelford of Beverly Hills and Shields were the only others to catch more than one pass. Each caught two.
“It was weird because you’re used to getting the ball all the time,” said Shackelford. “But you just gotta do what you can.”
Desmond Reed of Temple City, Drew Pearson of Muir and Clifton Smith of Fresno Edison each had interceptions for California, which held Florida to 178 yards before switching to a prevent defense after California took a 26-7 lead with 4 minutes 33 seconds to play. Jeff Ferrier of Mission Viejo kicked field goals of 40 and 47 yards.