Parity appears to be the watchword and revised leagues the look as CIF high school football opens the 1986 season this weekend.
There don't appear to be powerhouses in the South Bay, but most teams look competitive and close league races are forecast all around.
If nothing else can be forecast before the first pass or tackle, it can be predicted that there will be new champions in several leagues because there are new alignments in nearly every league.
The good news for the sake of local rivalry is that the four Torrance schools are back together in the Bay League, along with Palos Verdes Peninsula neighbors and rivals Rolling Hills and Palos Verdes. Perennial Bay League power Santa Monica has shifted to the Ocean League. Torrance and North Torrance shift back from the Ocean League to the Bay. Mira Costa goes from the Bay to the Ocean.
Leuzinger will be back to defend its Pioneer League title, but not its Desert-Mountain Conference championship. The Pioneer League is now in the Northwestern Conference. A newcomer to the league is Redondo, which immediately becomes one of the league favorites, along with revived Morningside.
The constantly shifting Camino Real League loses St. Bernard, which moves up to the powerful Angelus League. "We're looking forward to the challenge, even though the kids don't know where most of those schools are," said St. Bernard Coach Duke Dulgarian. Where most of the schools--including Servite, St. Paul and Bishop Amat--are is high in the CIF Big 5 rankings.
The South Bay team that earned the highest pre-season rating in coaches' polls was little Chadwick, which has become a power in the Eight-Man Conference. The Dolphins are ranked second behind Templeton.
Here are how the league races shape up:
Bay League--West Torrance and North Torrance are ranked in the pre-season Coastal Conference top 10, but league coaches like South Torrance, which has one of the state's top linemen in Brian Kelly (6-5, 245). The Spartans also return several all-league players, including tailback Steve Kujawa.
There's a new look at North High, where Don Bohannon replaces Steve Schmitz, who stepped up to El Camino College after 10 years as North's coach. Bohannon has one of the South Bay's top receivers in Dustin MacGillivary among 14 returning starters. Another standout is linebacker Ryan Kanehaillia, who packs 190 pounds on a 5-8 frame. The 31 lettermen will be challenged by the young players from last year's 9-0 junior varsity.
West Torrance, the surprise league champ last year, has a solid nucleus of 12 starters and 17 lettermen. Dominic Cefalone was on the All-South Bay team as a kicker and will add linebacking duties. Other who earned post-season honors were linebackers Jon Henderson and Steve Lancaster and lineman Vince Pellerito.
Torrance has a roster of juniors but can anchor its lines on two-way seniors Dan Hernandez (6-0, 215) and Todd Tuione (6-0, 230).
Palos Verdes is the league's junior partner. About two-thirds of the players are juniors, including fast 185-pound halfback Matt Seaburn and 6-3, 215-pound tight end David Porter. The offense will revolve around senior running back Austin Peters, who gained 600 yards in a support role as a junior. Mark Choate, another backup a year ago, takes over at quarterback. Coach Bill Judy said Peters is also a blue-chip prospect as a defensive back. Senior nose guard John Milam (5-10, 225) anchors the line. Despite the preponderance of underclassmen, Judy said, "I think we have a good chance to make the playoffs."
Rolling Hills returns one of the area's top quarterbacks in Dan Bellow, and Coach John Mack Brown feels he has a major college prospect in tailback Greg Thomas, a 6-2, 200-pound senior who played fullback last year. The lines should be stronger and Brown has instituted a year-round weight program. The Titans had no all-league players a year ago but Brown is ready to turn that around. "We have a lot of very good athletes returning," he said.
Ocean League--Santa Monica becomes the favorite merely through its introduction to the lineup. League coaches say Hawthorne may be the only other team with athletes to match Santa Monica. Area coaches say a league bunching Santa Monica, Hawthorne and Inglewood becomes a "speed league."
As usual, Hawthorne boasts a lot of that speed, including several members of last spring's state track champion team. However, much of Hawthorne's talent pool is made up of untested underclassmen. Sophomore Curtis Conway, a member of the state champion 400-meter and mile relays, will start at quarterback, running an I formation that will feature Yke Valeri and Richard Harrison, a part-time starter last year, at tailback and Kevin Edison at fullback. Wide receiver Treamelle Taylor is a returning starter with speed and great hands. Reed also likes 6-4 junior Tony Church at receiver. The defense features returning linebackers Ed Logia and Elgin Lofton. The rest of the cast is new.