YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsDefense

Thousand Oaks Sends Best Team in Decade After Canyon's Streak

September 26, 1986|STEVE HENSON | Times Staff Writer

To hear their names, something lasting and large must be going on in these towns.

Canyon Country.

Thousand Oaks.

It's almost a disappointment for a visitor to find the usual assortment of housing tracts and fast-food outlets dotting the landscape in these cities.

At least the local high school football teams are trying to live up to the names.

Canyon, 2-0 and ranked No. 1 in the Valley area by The Times, has won 40 straight games. It's the second-longest current winning streak in the nation and the second-longest in the history of the Southern Section.

Lasting success, indeed.

Thousand Oaks, 2-0 and ranked No. 3, sends its most talented team in more than a decade to Canyon tonight at 7:30 in an attempt to snap the streak.

"This is a great test for our team," Thousand Oaks linebacker Gus Nelinger said. "We've had to be very focused in practice."

Preparing for Canyon is not an easy task. As is customary, Thousand Oaks uses its second-string offense to run opposing team's plays during practice against the first-string defense. Canyon's offense is so crisply run by quarterback Ken Sollom and Co. that exacting a replica of certain plays is difficult.

The Cowboys have a reverse in their playbook that calls for wide receiver Trevor Doyle to intercept a pitchout from Sollom that appears headed for a running back. It's an ingenious play that requires perfect timing to execute properly. Try as they might, the Lancer second-stringers couldn't get it right. Especially in the rain this week.

Although clear skies are forecast for tonight, rain is a word that causes tears around Canyon. The Cowboys' last loss came Sept. 30, 1983, against Notre Dame in the rain. Their biggest scare since was an 8-7 win over St. Joseph in the rain. And this week's foul weather may have contributed to the flu caught by several players, including wide receiver Chad Zeigler and fullback Paul Chadwell, and Coach Harry Welch.

"Rainy or muddy conditions absolutely benefit Thousand Oaks' style of play," Welch said. "And the bug has really taken away from our preparation."

Canyon's strength is the passing of Sollom, who has thrown seven touchdown passes in two games. Thousand Oaks relies on an experienced defense and junior running backs Marc Monestime and Mike Moore, who have combined for 375 yards rushing in two games.

"We need to control the ball and keep Ken Sollom off the field," Thousand Oaks Coach Bob Richards said. "I don't want him tapping his toe and throwing 40 times."

Instead, Richards wants his defense rapping ball carriers. Nelinger and fellow linebacker Joe Sturges wear easy smiles and floral swim trunks while umpiring Little League baseball games in the spring. Put them in pads and they become concussive hitters.

"They may have the best offense around but we have the best defense," Sturges said.

Tackle Mike Yasenchok, who starts both ways, and safety Matt Young are other top Lancer defenders. Tackle Spencer Smith, perhaps the team's best player and a Times' All-Valley selection last season, is lost for the season with a knee injury.

Besides Sollom, Canyon weapons that have helped account for 84 points in two games include Zeigler, who has scored six touchdowns, Chadwell and tailback Lance Cross, who is recovering from a back injury but is expected to play.

"We need to tackle with great technique," Nelinger said. "Hit and wrap. One pop won't bring Cross or Chadwell down."

Steve Sisco has replaced the injured Robb McKinnon at quarterback for Thousand Oaks and may pass fewer than 10 times. McKinnon dislocated his left shoulder last week and will be sidelined for at least a month. Although facing Canyon is a tall order for a 5-8 1/2 junior making his first varsity start, Sisco does not seem nervous.

"There is little or no extra pressure just because it's Canyon," Sisco said.

That comment, if you're wondering, was a Sisco kid. He laughed and added: "Of course I'm excited."

Sisco said the Lancers have added some new pass plays this week "because I can't see over the line as well as Robb, but I'm not saying what they are before the game."

Thousand Oaks Coach Bob Richards expects Sisco to respond well because of his experience as a starting shortstop on the varsity baseball team.

"Steve has a lot of confidence because he's not new to varsity level competition," Richards said. "Fielding a ground ball in the seventh inning with the winning run on base is similar pressure.

"Two weeks ago we didn't know what McKinnon could do and there was a certain amount of anxiety in our play calling. Now it's the same thing with Steve."

Two years ago Sisco led the Thousand Oaks freshmen to a 10-0 record, including a win over Canyon. Last year he led the sophomore team to a 9-1 mark, including another win over Canyon. The varsity has not enjoyed similar success.

In a nonleague series entering its eighth season, the Cowboys are 7-0, having outscored Thousand Oaks, 172-42. You have to go back to 1972, when both teams competed in the Marmonte League, to document a Thousand Oaks victory over Canyon.

Because it is a nonleague game, Richards is careful not to place too much importance on the outcome. "Beating Canyon won't help us win the Marmonte League or make the playoffs," he said.

The coach may have forgotten to tell his players, however.

"To me it's bigger than a normal league game," Sturges said.

Who can blame him? Special is the opportunity to snap a 40-game winning streak. For perspective, realize that no Marmonte League team has a current winning streak of more than two .

Los Angeles Times Articles