Teams appear in order of finish predicted by Times staff writers. Chatsworth
COACH: Myron Gibford, eighth year
LAST SEASON: 8-3-1; first in league, 4-0-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Seniors Jim Jolicoeur (5-11, 180) and Kurt Moeller (6-0, 190) are the backbone of the team at inside linebacker. Gibford has been impressed with senior defensive end Jim Studnicka (5-10, 170), allowing him to move last year's end, John Dunn (5-9, 165), to the secondary. "He's a great hitter and will do the job for us." He'll be joined in the defensive backfield by senior Kendria Watson (6-0, 170), who also will play wide receiver. Chatsworth has plenty of experience on offense, too. Seniors Howard Blank (5-10, 200) and Andy Ouvrier (6-0, 190) will play next to each other on the right side of the offensive line, and seniors Patrick Clark (5-10, 180) and Spence Durham (5-10, 180) will run out of the backfield together. About the only place an underclassman can be found is at quarterback, where Bryan Addison (6-0, 170) has made the jump from backup B-team player to varsity starter. "He's a good athlete," Gibford said. "he could play a lot of positions for us. All he needs now is experience."
OUTLOOK: "Most of the kids have played for us, and we should have a very solid defense," Gibford said. "The key for us is how fast our offensive line and our secondary come together. We have two good kids at each spot, but I'm not sure how fast the others will come together."
COACH: Tom Stevenson, second year
LAST SEASON: 6-3; third in league, 3-2
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Seven starters return from a defense that allowed only 120 yards a game last year, and three of those players rate Division I consideration, according to Stevenson. Inside linebacker Cornell Collier (6-3, 205), called a "pure hitter" by his coach, runs the 40 in 4.6. Kevin Wolfe (6-2, 195) plays beside Collier and also runs a 4.6 40. Defensive back Daryle Smith (6-2, 170), also runs the 40 in 4.6 is could plat at a major college, Stevenson said. Other key defenders are junior linebacker Jon Thompson (6-2, 185), and senior defensive backs Darren Finestone (5-10, 165) and O'Shun Pierre. If Stevenson can find some defensive linemen to join returner Mike Johnson (6-1, 195) up front, Taft may be even better defensively this year. Some of the same defensive players figure prominently in Taft's veer offense. Wolfe rushed for 890 yards last year and is joined by Collier, who missed half of last season with a broken arm. "He's superb and he's a little faster than Kevin," Stevenson said. Thompson and Finestone are battling for the quarterback job. "We're going to rotate quarters with them," Stevenson said. The few times Taft goes to the air, junior tight end Victor Villa figures to be the No. 1 receiver.
OUTLOOK: Taft has probably the best defense in the league and a potentially powerful running back combination in Wolfe and Collier. The offensive line is untested. Said Stevenson: "We have a good 1-2 punch, and if we get to the line of scrimmage, we'll be successful."
COACH: Alan Epstein, seventh year
LAST SEASON: 4-5; fifth in league, 1-4
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Birmingham should field its finest offense in years. Senior quarterback Kevin Zietz (5-11, 185), who passed for 1,109 yards and seven touchdowns last season, will be able to target several talented receivers and running backs. Jason Shaffer, who caught 26 passes last season, and Hasson Gay, who caught 18, are returning starters at receiver. Running back Mike Flores gained 831 yards and scored 12 touchdowns last season, but will be pushed by Vince Tolliver (6-2 185), a senior transfer from Antelope Valley. The Sunset League Class-B player of the year, Marcel Sellers, will play at running back and wide receiver. "He's really quick," Epstein said. "A real dynamo." Zietz, who was an all-league running back as a sophomore, will direct a sprint-out passing attack. "Rolling out will give Kevin more time to throw," Epstein said, "Our line is inexperienced." Much will be expected of junior tackles Ross Vera (6-3, 225) and Steve Pratt (6-3, 220). Pratt is a returning starter. Flores, Tolliver and Sellers are also big names on Birmingham's split-six defense. Senior defensive end Jeff Wilson is a returning starter.
OUTLOOK: Birmingham is very active in summer passing leagues. "The personnel we have this season at the skill positions made the summer very pleasurable," Epstein said. "I can see us scoring a lot of points if we don't get beat at the line of scrimmage."
COACH: Rudy Lugo, first year
LAST SEASON: 7-3; second in league, 4-1