A year ago, Thomas Whiting and Jerry Jaso were the offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively, at Long Beach Poly. This year they are co-coaches of, perhaps, the best high school football team in Southern California--Long Beach Poly. Talk about good luck.
The Jackrabbits had reached the conference final in three of the previous four seasons. Last season, the team finished 10-2 and made the Big Five Conference semifinals before losing to eventual champion Riverside Poly.
The coaching job opened when Jim Barnett, last season's coach, decided to become coach at Trabuco Hills of Mission Viejo, a school with 750 students that held classes for the first time last Thursday and will play its first football game Saturday. Jaso and Whiting were named co-coaches to succeed Barnett at Poly.
The Jackrabbits have eight returing starters on defense, including Mark Carrier, and four others on offense, the best being wide receiver Chris Roscoe. When they open the season Sept. 20 at Gardena--most other schools begin play this weekend--it will be as The Times' No. 1 team in the Southern Section.
As Barnett said recently about his former team: "They can be really good. If Michael Herring stays healthy and does everything that he can do, they will be real tough. But so much of it is on what he does. If he has success at quarterback, they can be hell."
Herring, 6-2 and 180 pounds, is one of the few uncertainties on the team, and only because he has never played quarterback in high school. He is a former defensive back and played point guard on the basketball team. So, Jaso and Whiting aren't expecting expecting miracles from him. But they won't be too surprised if he turns into quite a player, either.
"He's no stranger to pressure games or tense situations," Jaso said. "But this is his first year at quarterback, so we know it might take a little time for him to get rolling."
Otherwise, the Jackrabbits have plenty of talent.
Carrier, 6-2 and 180, was tabbed as one of the top three prep defensive backs in the country by Street and Smith magazine. Roscoe, also 6-2 and 180, is the deep threat at wide receiver. Defensive linemen Stacy Elliot, 6-3 and 240, and Gilbert Moxley, 6-2 and 230, are tough against both the pass and run. Eric Golston, an All-Moore League guard at 6-2 and 220, is one of three players returning in the offensive line. Cornerback Michael Coulson has the speed to cover almost anyone man to man.
Poly will also get a chance to gain revenge for at least one of last season's losses, a 48-27 thumping by Banning. The Jackrabbits and the City Section runner-up will meet Oct. 5 at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach, after the Gardena game and before Fountain Valley, meaning that Carrier & Co. will get the chance to prove exactly how good they are.
The rest of the preseason Top 10, with last year's record in parentheses:
2--FONTANA (11-3)--Dick Bruich is concerned that his players may be overconfident after reaching the Coliseum and the Big Five Conference final in 1984. But, the Steeler coach is keeping a close check on his own high expectations. He says his team will be lucky to make the playoffs from the tough Citrus Belt League.
Sixteen starters and 35 lettermen are back from the team that outscored its opponents, 300-95, last season. Two of last season's losses were at the hands of Riverside Poly, one of them in December's championship game, 27-7. All-Southern Section tackle Nigel Clay, 6-4 and 250, is one of four starters back on the offensive line and, like tight end Ernie Rogers, 6-6 and 240, should be popular among recruiters. Quarterback Barry Titus and his primary receivers, Tim Zickuhr and Michael McClellan also are back.
3--HUNTINGTON BEACH EDISON (8-3)--Coach Bill Workman figures to have a good team, especially on offense. Senior quarterback Mike Angelovic, a scrambler who spent most of last season on the JV team, completed 67% of his passes when with the varsity. He will be well supported by a veteran line, a proven group of receivers--Rick Justice, with a 20-yard average for receptions, and tight end Ken Griggs were both all-league--and young but promising tailbacks in junior David Sherman and sophomore Kaleaph Carter.
The defense, by comparison, is less experienced, with only nose guard Jim Collins and defensive end Phil Nabal back.
As Workman said: "If we're still standing after five games, and have won a few and put together a tough defense, we'll be OK. . . . Can Edison High School stop anybody? If not, then we won't win too much. If we can, then we'll be very good."
4--BISHOP AMAT (8-3-1)--How the La Puente school will adjust to Don Markham after six successful years under Jim Patricio, who moved on to Walnut, remains to be seen. This much, however, is certain: