Considering their imposing stature, it is no wonder that interior linemen Rick Fuller (6-8, 280) of Arroyo, Bascom Mellon (6-4, 240) of Diamond Bar and Mark Johnson (6-3, 270) of Mountain View stand out among this year's senior crop of high school football prospects in the San Gabriel Valley.
But the three giants, who are receiving the most national attention, are not the only players from the valley who have caught the eyes of college recruiters.
Others include Bishop Amat defensive back Stephon Pace, Damien linebacker Charlie Lough and Ganesha defensive end Aaron Brown, three who figure to be on
the shopping list of many of the top colleges.
In addition, there are a handful of other valley players who figure to wind up with NCAA Division I scholarships.
Dick Lascola, who runs the Fallbrook-based Scouting Evaluation Assn., said it may not be the bumper crop of last year when the top players included running backs Eric Bieniemy of Bishop Amat and Ricky Ervins of Muir and defensive end Tom Lassalette of West Covina.
But he still rates it an above-average year.
"You always figure the San Gabriel Valley will have a pretty good base of players," he said. "It's a good year for offensive linemen but some of the other positions are not quite as strong."
A look at the top prospects after Fuller, Mellon and Johnson:
Pace--Every year Bishop Amat produces a major-college prospect in a skill position. Last year it was Bieniemy, now at Colorado. At 6-0 and 181 pounds, Pace has quickness (4.5 in the 40-yard dash) and a knack for coming up with the football. He intercepted six passes last year and caught 17 tosses for 236 yards as a wide receiver. An excellent athlete with good hands.
Brown--Ganesha is another school that regularly sends out Division I players, and Brown is the top prospect for the Giants this year. As a junior, Brown (6-2, 190) was one of the best pass rushers in the valley. A fierce hitter, he was among the leaders in quarterback sacks with 33. He runs the 40 in an exceptional 4.6. Lascola says Brown will probably play outside linebacker in college but will need to add 10 to 15 pounds.
Lough--With a 6-5, 220-pound frame, Lough has the perfect build for inside linebacker. Major-college scouts are excited. He is a solid hitter with field presence and speed. An all-league performer last year, he was a second-team Times All-San Gabriel Valley selection and comes from a Damien program that produces fundamentally sound players.
Denail Sparks (Claremont, nose guard)--At 6-4 and 235, Sparks has attracted a lot of attention after an outstanding junior year. He has the size and speed that Division I programs like. A fine pass rusher, he runs the 40 in 4.6 and has strength. An all-league performer last year, Sparks will start for the Wolfpack for the third straight season.
Bill Gallis (Northview, quarterback)--While it may be a down year for quarterbacks in the valley, Gallis may be an exception. Northview has never been known as a factory for college prospects, but Gallis should receive notice. At 6-3 and 180, he has a strong delivery and was one of the passing leaders in the valley as a junior with 131 completions in 217 attempts for 1,897 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Mark Mooney (Temple City, fullback)--Despite its success in recent years, Temple City has not produced many major-college prospects. At 6-2 and 220, Mooney may be an exception. He has the size and blocking ability to play for a top Division I team. The lingering question among scouts is whether he has the quickness. Mooney, a three-year starter for the Rams, had an outstanding junior year, rushing for 1,410 yards and 10 touchdowns in 233 carries.
Chad Brown (Muir, defensive end)--On a squad loaded with outstanding seniors last year, Brown was the underclassmen who stood out. At 6-4 and 220, he has grown but will probably wind up as a linebacker in college. He has adequate 4.7 speed and is quick off the snap. Brown also has good hands, excellent field presence and is a solid hitter.
Larry Bryan (Damien, offensive lineman)--Damien produces some of the imposing players in the valley, and the Spartans have another prospect in Bryan. At 6-3 and 260, he has the size and strength for an offensive guard. Scouts also are impressed that he comes from a fine program and is solid fundamentally.
Kevin Szalonek (Bishop Amat, interior lineman)--He's from a school that has produced imposing linemen in recent years. The Lancers have a top prospect in the 6-4, 253-pound Szalonek, who plays tackle on offense and defense. He has quickness and is strong fundamentally.