Beverly Hills and Santa Monica high schools had the CIF-Southern Section's best football teams on the Westside last year, and it should be more of the same in 1985.
Both lost key players to graduation after they carried their squads to the playoff semifinals, Beverly in the Northwestern Conference and Santa Monica in the Coastal Conference. But both have key players returning, particularly at quarterback.
Santa Monica Coach Tebb Kusserow is thin in both lines, where nine of 10 regulars have graduated, and will also miss star pass catchers Mark Hill, Lawrence Crayton and Louis McAdoo.
Bill Stansbury and Dick Billingsley, Beverly co-coaches, will have a difficult time replacing premier running back Chris Williams, top two-way linemen Steve Nikzad and Patrick Cunningham and linebacker-fullback Adorium Williams.
But both teams are solid at quarterback. For Santa Monica, senior Pat O'Hara, a second-team All-CIF selection, will try to outdo what he did last year--and that will take some doing. He threw for 1,976 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Beverly Hills quarterback Eric Mueller did about half as well as O'Hara, but he played about half as many games. After he passed for 820 yards and 13 touchdowns in seven games, Mueller suffered torn wrist ligaments against North Torrance and missed the rest of the year. But he's 100% now and has grown an inch to 6-4 and weighs 205, a gain of 15 pounds.
Santa Monica finished the year with a 10-2 record, and Beverly was 8-3-2.
Of the other Westside CIF schools that play 11-man football, Culver City was 5-4-1, St. Monica was 4-4-1 and Daniel Murphy 3-5-1. Graduation riddled the three teams, and each may find it tough going this season.
Santa Monica--Kusserow is "very concerned about both lines; we don't have a lot of depth." But he added that quarterback O'Hara "looked fabulous" in summer passing leagues.
But O'Hara's chief targets at wide receiver will be largely inexperienced, though talented. Travis Clark, a defensive back and backup quarterback last season, will play a lot at wide receiver, and so will junior Dominic Holland, up from a Bay League champion sophomore team that was undefeated. Like Clark, Holland will also play defensive back. "We have good guys outside who can run and catch," Kusserow said.
Linemen who can block and tackle, however, are scarce. They include offensive tackles Dale Evans (6-0, 235), the only returning starter from both lines, and Tom Edelberg (6-5, 240), a reserve last year; junior center David Lee (5-11, 190) and junior Ramon del Castillo, who will play either offensive or defensive tackle.
Running back should be a strong point. Cedric Burris, the Vikings' leading scorer in the playoffs, will start at tailback, and Bernard Shockley, son of former St. Louis Cardinals' star Walt Shockley, will spell Burris at tailback and play fullback and defensive end.
Junior strong safety Mario Mitchell also will be a running back at times, and junior linebacker Eric Davis (6-1, 205) will play some fullback.
A top defender from the sophomore champions is junior linebacker Corwin Bailey (6-2, 210).
Kusserow, whose 11-year record is 84-33-2, is not happy that his team is picked second in the Coastal Conference in the CIF preseason poll and said he thinks the high ranking is based on the fact that he had the conference champion in 1981 and the runner-up the next year and was a winner last year.
In other conference rankings, Santa Monica' Bay League rivals are rated highly. South Torrance is fifth, Palos Verdes is sixth, and West Torrance is included in the "others" category. Kusserow said that, if he was doing the ratings, "I'd pick West, which historically finishes higher that predicted."
Opener: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20, Loyola at Santa Monica's home field, Santa Monica College.
Beverly Hills--If quarterback Mueller is sound, so are his receivers, Greg Silver and David Barad, who are experienced and capable. Barad was second-team All-Ocean League last year.
Candidates to replace top running back Williams are Alfred Gragg (5-9, 165), a defensive back last season, and sophomore Willie Crawford (6-0, 185), up from a freshman team that was 6-3. Coach Stansbury said Crawford is pushing Gragg "real hard."
Stansbury said his "greatest area of concern" is in both lines. Two-way tackle David Ellis is getting a lot of press, but that seems to be based on the fact that he has grown from 6-5, 240 to 6-7, 255. Stansbury said Ellis is "working on his quickness."
Other experienced linemen are tackle Ben Grossman (5-9, 183), who will go both ways, and guard Martin Boags (5-10, 182). Newcomers are sophomore tight end Ezra Gottlieb (6-3, 195), who did well in summer passing leagues, and junior defensive tackle Joe Rosen (6-0, 215).
A promising transfer from Hacienda Heights Wilson is senior linebacker Jeff Hammond (5-11, 180).