La Verne Lutheran
COACH: John Rode, 11th year
LAST SEASON: 2-7 overall. Sixth in Alpha League, 2-5
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: It is payback time at La Verne Lutheran. The Trojans started six sophomores last season and chalked up the year to a learning experience. This season, 14 starters return, and Rode could get a measure of revenge. "We paid for our youth last year," Rode said. "I hope that pays some dividends for us this year." The Trojans may be more experienced, but they are still small. Junior nose tackle Pat Greun (6-0, 215 pounds) is the only starter who weighs more than 200. Three other juniors will start on defense. Ken Hernandez (5-10, 165) and Doug Schuelke (5-10, 155) will be the inside linebackers, and Scott Garbell (6-0, 155) will be the free safety and backup quarterback. Weakside linebacker Dennis Roney (5-10, 160) and cornerback Greg Miller (5-10, 155), a three-year starter, return for their senior seasons. Eight starters return on offense, including quarterback Rex Rhorer, tailback Fernando Valle, tackles Bernard Harris and Matt Jessup and wide receivers Mel Summers and John Albertson, all seniors. Two juniors, center Jason Crawford and guard Les Parks, also return to starting positions.
OUTLOOK: There are only 26 players on the varsity, but Rode isn't concerned about depth. "Physically, we're the smallest team in the league, but we've got a pretty good crew," he said. "Our first defense is our second offense, and they can do it. If we get a little banged up, we could be all right. But if we get banged up a lot, we could be in trouble."
COACH: Rick Hayes, 2nd year
LAST SEASON: 2-8 overall, sixth in the Alpha League, 1-6
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Hayes thinks that weight training will help the Knights improve this season. "Nine players on the varsity can bench over 300 pounds," Hayes said. "Last year, we had only two kids who could go 250." The Knights will also be bolstered by the addition of several players from last season's 8-1-1 junior varsity. Jeremy Leach, who threw for 1,000 yards on the JV, will play quarterback. Leach, a sophomore, will be one of the Valley's top quarterbacks in the coming years, Hayes said. Junior Mike MacDonald, who gained 1,000 yards on the ground for the JV, will start at running back along with Chris Bollier (5-11, 170). Bollier was a second-team all-league performer at safety last season. "I'm looking for big things from him," Hayes said. The Knights have seven starters back, including cornerback Mark MacArthur (5-11, 175), tight end/linebacker John Goeders (6-1, 185), linebacker/offensive tackle Mark Carlson (6-1, 185), offensive tackle Chris Loucks (6-2, 260), center Paul Hodgson (5-10, 215), safety Scott Dayley (5-10, 170) and Bollier.
OUTLOOK: "The team is much more together," Hayes said. "We're trying to do everything first class." The Knights will have new uniforms and play night games this year. Hayes is hoping the changes lead to a playoff spot.
COACH: Stan Dobler, 1st year
LAST SEASON: 8-3-1 overall, second in the Alpha League, 6-1
THE PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Lions, who reached the quarterfinals of the Inland Conference last season, will rebuild this season. They lost 12 starters to graduation. The top returners will be Scott Yurek and Brian Gannon. Yurek, a 6-2, 205-pound senior, made The Times' All-Valley second team last season on defense. A linebacker, Yurek may not play in the season opener because of the lingering effects of mononucleosis. Gannon (6-1, 200), will play linebacker until Yurek returns. Rob Webb, a defensive end, will have to fill in at center while Yurek is out. Offensive lineman Barry Walter (6-1, 185) played last season as a sophomore. Greg Rozsa is back to play nose guard and fullback for the Lions. The quarterback position is up for grabs between senior Bernard LaRue and Jeff Young, the starter on last season's junior varsity. "Bernard has a good arm, but his talent is raw," Dobler said. The coach is counting on the returning players to hold the team together while the younger players develop. "We'll probably be in the middle of the league," Dobler said. "We'll give it a good shot every game. "
OUTLOOK: Dobler, who recently moved to the Valley from Illinois, doesn't know much about the other Alpha League teams. But from what he has read about Montclair Prep, he said: "We're not going to be able to match up with them."
COACH: Lou Underwood, 2nd year
LAST SEASON: 4-6 overall; tied for third in the Alpha League, 4-3