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In Southland, Football Is King Of Sports

September 03, 1987|SEYMOUR BEUBIS | Times Suburban Sports Editor

Prep football is back next week--and none too soon for the loyal army of fanatics who have suffered through nine agonizing months waiting for The King to return.

And make no mistake about it, football is The King.

More students play it, more watch it, and more, including band members, drill teams and cheerleaders, bask in its reflected glory.

"It's the sport," said Dean Moser, a 5-11, 205-pound senior center on Carson's defending champion Los Angeles City football team. "It's where it's at. It's the most exciting time of the year. At our school, it's what everyone talks and thinks about: football, football, football."

It may not be all everyone talks and thinks about at perennial CIF power Bishop Amat; girls after all talk and think about boys and vice versa, but football is close to the No. 1 topic of conversation at the school and in the community of La Puente.

Coach Mark Paredes said the question everyone asks him at shopping centers or on campus is "How's the football team going to be this year?"

"I've coached other high school sports," said Paredes, who is also Bishop Amat's athletic director. "But football's the one. It generates the most excitement.

"Football is the focal point for students. It brings people together. The football game is a place to go, a place to meet. It is the one thing that everyone has in common. It gives the hippie and chemistry student something to talk about."

Paredes said that during the season he is obsessed with football.

"I'm a zombie," he said. "Even when I'm home I'm always thinking football. It's like my wife is living alone. She'll cut the lawn and do just about everything around the house."

Zombie or not, Paredes always looks forward to the football season.

"You get the excitement you won't get in most jobs," Paredes said. "When we play at home, we have 5,000 to 6,000 hearts pumping, including mine. It's an amazing experience."

Kim Davie, 17, a cheerleader at Crescenta Valley High, has her own theory on why football is so popular among high school students:

"Since football comes at the start of the school year, everyone is enthusiastic. They're not sick of school yet. They don't mind being there."

Davie said she "loves the football season. It's the most exciting time of the year. It's fun leading the crowd."

Football to Davie is associated with pleasant things such as Homecoming and going out for pizza with friends after every game.

"I like all the sports," Davie said. "But the football season is special."

It is also special to Joe Nazzaretta, who is in his seventh year as band director at Culver City High.

"The football season is our season too," Nazzaretta said. "Football is a major deal for the band," a chance to display its ability before large crowds.

"If we're not there, the whole thing falls flat," Nazzaretta said. "The players and the crowd need juicing during portions of the game and we supply it. We play the right music for the right moment, and we do all the hit tunes."

Adds Nazzaretta: "We've been in movies and commercials, but the football season is what's major."

Football is also a major happening for school principals, but for reasons other than ego gratification.

Stan Steddom, principal at Cerritos High School, said that at most schools it is football that makes the money to help support the other sports.

But to Steddom there are other factors equally significant.

"Football starts everything," Steddom said. "A winning season has a positive effect on student morale, and the opposite is true if you have a losing year."

Steddom said the "euphoria from a winning football season can last most of the school year."

Paul Muff, athletic director and basketball coach at Crespi, agrees.

"We have found that football sets the tone for the entire school year," Muff said. "If you have a good football situation it sets a positive tone for the student body.

"We had an outstanding football team last year (Crespi won the Big Five Conference Championship), and it really helped. School spirit was in again. It became cool again to wear lettermen jackets."

There was also a carry-over effect, according to Muff. "The whole school year was special, and I think it was because of the football team's success. Football involves so many kids from the student body (almost 200 of the school's 700 students participate). If they feel good about themselves, there aren't going to be many problems."

Last year Crespi's 14 football games were attended by almost 90,000 spectators, more than twice the number that watched all the other sports combined.

Basketball is, and always will be, Muff's first love.

But if you ask him to name the sport with the most impact on a school and community, he will answer with his head, not heart.

And his answer will be football.

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