Southern Section coaches get more out of spring football

It’s the second year in which coaches in the Southern Section are no longer banned from associating with athletes out of their sports seasons, and football coaches are starting to become more creative with the added freedom.

Even though there are no longer any rules dictating when spring football practice can take place, most coaches are sticking with the old schedule of having 15 days of practices starting next month because practicing any earlier would interfere with spring-sport athletes.

But one trend is scheduling seven-on-seven competitions against an opposing school at the end of spring practice instead of having an intrasquad scrimmage. That’s what highly ranked Westlake Village Westlake will be doing on June 4, ending its spring schedule with a 6 p.m. passing game against West Hills Chaminade. And Sherman Oaks Notre Dame will be playing host to Ventura St. Bonaventure in a 6 p.m. game on May 28.

Other schools have decided to play seven-on-seven games in May, a month earlier than the usual starting date. Santa Margarita, under new Coach Harry Welch, will be facing Corona Santiago on May 26. Chaminade is playing host to a four-way competition that includes Encino Crespi on May 22. And Crescenta Valley has a 16-team passing tournament starting on May 21 that includes Newhall Hart and La Canada St. Francis.

“It’s a whole different ballgame,” Hart Coach Mike Herrington said. “We’ll get to evaluate kids in mid-spring.”

The rush to start preparing for the fall football season is almost certain to add to the conflicts for multiple-sport athletes.

But Corona Centennial Coach Matt Logan has no intention of starting passing tournaments in May.

“They’re crazy,” he said of other schools. “We have to take care of ourselves first.”

And Los Angeles Crenshaw, the defending City Section Division I champion, is waiting until after the state track championships in June to start spring ball because so many of its top players are competing in track.

Spring gossip

Among the intriguing spring stories:

---Mission Hills Alemany is switching to an all-out passing attack similar to what Coach Dean Herrington ran when he was offensive coordinator at Hart. It’s recognition that Alemany has a strong group of receivers to go with talented quarterback Vernon Adams.

---Rancho Santa Margarita Tesoro is preparing for a return to top-tier status behind improving quarterback Matt Adam. “It’s a little scary to think he’s a sophomore,” Coach Brian Barnes said. Tesoro is also excited about players moving up from a 10-0 freshman team. “The future is bright,” Barnes said.

---Santa Margarita is welcoming back receiver-defensive back Logan Sweet, who missed last season with a torn knee ligament. “He’s come back with a vengeance,” Welch said.

---Pac-5 champion Anaheim Servite is searching for a new quarterback, but look for junior Cody Pittman to win the job. He’s a three-sport standout.

---Why USC and UCLA still haven’t offered a scholarship to Westlake receiver Nelson Spruce remains a mystery. He caught 18 touchdown passes as a junior. Yes, he’s busy with baseball, but that’s no excuse. “He’s one of the fastest receivers I’ve had,” Coach Jim Benkert said. “If they don’t get him first, they’ll be playing against him.”

---My prediction for the player who’s going to be the talk of spring and summer is quarterback Trevor Gretzky of Westlake Village Oaks Christian. He has an outstanding group of receivers, and once he gets the chance to show off his arm and athleticism, there will be a stampede of college recruiters in Coach Bill Redell’s office.

---The City Section is going to have a couple of rising quarterback prospects ready to throw at will in sophomore Troy Williams from Harbor City Narbonne and senior Michael Bercovici from Woodland Hills Taft.

---Crenshaw is scheduled to open its season on Sept. 3 in Suwanee, Ga., against North Gwinnett High. Do you think Florida Coach Urban Meyer might show up to take a look at Crenshaw running back De’Anthony Thomas?