Typically, this kind of thing doesn't happen until November or December, playoff time. The best City team from the San Fernando Valley, usually ranked among the top three or four schools in the 4-A Division, is brought back to reality by some team from the Pacific League--Carson or Wilmington Banning or any of two or three others.
That it happened Friday, on opening day for City teams, meant either that the calendar was wrong or that Kennedy High School of Granada Hills had been rated too high. And since the calendar couldn't be wrong. . . .
"Being No. 3 in the City went to our heads," Kennedy tailback Edwin Jones said. "We thought it would be an easy game."
This time, the honor went to L.A. Crenshaw, The Times' eighth-ranked school and at best the No. 4 team in the Pacific League, which says plenty about what the Valley can expect the rest of the year. The Cougars, despite gaining only 53 yards in total offense, won at Crenshaw, 15-13, on the strength of a pass-pressure defense led by senior tackle Alfred Sanders, a transfer from Arizona.
Kennedy Coach Bob Francola, in charge for the first time after 15 years as an assistant for four City schools, figured this would be a different kind of year for his team. In senior Jeff Newman, he said, the Golden Cougars had their best quarterback since Tom Ramsey in 1979, while Dion Lambert would be a good receiver and Ron Simmons would live up to his publicity as one of the best linemen in the City.
That meant Kennedy would pass 60% of the time, an upgrade from recent years. But Newman's statistics Friday (6 completions in 11 attempts, 122 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception) and, more importantly, how he was used, did not support the assumption.
Trailing, 15-7, with 2:20 remaining in the game, Kennedy got the ball on its own 11-yard line and proceeded to run on five of the next seven plays. On the eighth play, Newman passed 18 yards to Jerome Hill for a touchdown to make it 15-13, but by that time there were only 44 seconds left.
The Golden Cougars then lost twice on the two-point conversion attempt--Newman's toss to Jones was tipped away by Crenshaw linebacker La Monte Gaston, after which the clock showed only 40 seconds to play. Four seconds had ticked off when time should never have elapsed.
Kennedy chose not to go for the on-side kick and instead opted to have Geno Tagliaferri chip the ball between the Crenshaw up men and the deep receivers and to hope to win a foot race. It didn't work. Crenshaw got the ball and simply had quarterback Jeffrey Sullivan fall on the ball twice.
Crenshaw's only touchdown from scrimmage came with 16 seconds left in the first quarter when Carlose Thomas ran five yards up the middle and Rashawn Weatherspoon added the extra point to make it 13-7. Wayne Peters' 95-yard kickoff return 4 1/2 minutes into the game (Weatherspoon missed the kick) had brought the Cougars to within one at 7-6 after Kennedy had opened the scoring on the previous drive with a Newman-to-Hill 32-yard touchdown pass.
The two-point margin of victory came off a Kennedy mistake, Albert Richardson centering the ball over the head of punter Craig Fleck and out of the end zone for a safety with 4:18 remaining.
Jones led all rushers with 79 yards on 22 carries.