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Prep Notebook JOHANNES TESSELAAR : Lotka Wonders If Lotsa Work Was Worth It

January 11, 1985

Gary Lotka is wondering.

Wondering where he'll be next year.

Wondering if he'll play sports.

Wondering if all the hard work was worth it.

Lotka had high hopes entering his senior year at Burbank High School. The 18-year-old planned to play well enough as a quarterback on the football team to earn a college scholarship.

There were days last summer when Lotka would practice basketball in the morning, lift weights or participate in a football passing league in the afternoon, then play in basketball games at Hoover High at night.

He didn't mind the long days. No pain, no gains on the football field, he figured.

Lotka then went out and led the Bulldogs to their first playoff appearance in seven years. He finished the season completing 141 passes in 245 attempts for 2,073 yards and 18 touchdowns.

He and Hart's Mike Ford were named the Foothill League's co-players of the year. Lotka was also named his team's most valuable player--and earned spots on the Southern Section's Division II and The Times' All-Valley second teams.

"He performed way beyond what I anticipated he would," Burbank football Coach Dave Carson said. "He directed our offense. He took what was taught to him and added his own abilities. If a play came in from the sideline, he had the ability to change it to make it better. He was like a coach on the field."

Carson, an assistant at Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Northridge before coming to Burbank, does not doubt Lotka could play Division I football if he were in the right situation.

Gary Lotka has no doubts he could play in Division I.

But Division I teams (and Division II, for that matter) have their doubts.

For while Lotka's football stats measured up (he was fourth in the Southern Section in regular season passing), one of his personal stats did not.

Seems there isn't much room in college football for a 5-10 1/2, 170-pound quarterback unless his name is Doug Flutie. Lotka has received no offers from major schools. The only interest expressed in him came from junior colleges.

The situation is the same in basketball for Lotka, a guard on Coach Russ Keith's team. No offers, only disappointment for Lotka.

"It definitely frustrates me," Lotka said about the lack of recognition. "It really bothers me. But there is absolutely nothing I can do. A couple of junior colleges have called me, but I had higher goals."

Valley College in Van Nuys has talked to Lotka, but he said that attending a junior college would be his "last option."

"I'm hoping someone will still contact me," Lotka added. "I may try to walk on at Northridge or San Diego State."

All Lotka wants is a chance. If he fails, it will not be because of a lack of confidence.

"He's always had a cockiness about him that he can do the job," Carson said. "He's a winner."

Said Keith: "He's a very tenacious kid. He's a cocky type who doesn't like to get beat. If someone scores on him, he takes it more personally than others."

Lotka relishes the leadership role. "Way back in grade school I always wanted to be the guy who hit the winning home run, or scored the winning touchdown," he said. "I like to be in the spotlight. I love pressure.

"In basketball I look at a guy and say, 'You're not better, I'm gonna win.' In football it was my offense against their defense. And I'd think, 'Your defense isn't going to beat my offense.' "

Few beat Lotka during the football season. Burbank finished second in its league with a 4-1 record (7-4 overall). In the final regular season game against cross-town rival Burroughs, Lotka completed 17 of 22 passes for 309 yards and four scores. The Bulldogs won, 28-0, and went to the playoffs for the first time since 1977.

Despite a 40-15 loss to Channel Islands in the first round, Lotka's season was a major improvement over his junior season, when he passed for 740 yards.

"I thought I was terrible as a junior," Lotka said. "I really had the feeling I just survived. That's all I did. Show up for the games and survive."

Lotka felt he had something to prove as a senior. "Everybody brought up the size thing. So I took the attitude that this game will be won or lost by me."

That philosophy carries over to the basketball court. Lotka finished football on a Friday night and was practicing basketball the following Monday. "I owed it to my teammates to come out," he said.

In the season opener, Lotka scored 23 points. Last week, he was named the most valuable player of the Santiago Tournament. The Bulldogs won the championship with a 50-49 win over Valencia, with Lotka scoring 20 points.

Lotka averaged 14 points a game and earned second-team all-league honors last season. This season he leads Burbank in scoring at 16.7 points a game. He has made 81 of 164 field-goal attempts.

"One of his main attributes is his shooting," Keith said. "I've coached five years and he ranks up there with any guy in shooting."

Lotka said he will wait about a month after the basketball season to make a decision on next year.

"I felt I came really far in sports this year," he said. "It's beginning to seem like it's all for naught. I had some great times, don't get me wrong, but I wanted a scholarship.

"I'll just have to grit my teeth and keep going on."

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