The question at the start of each prep football season on the Westside is "Who Is Number One?" The answer is always more difficult than the question.
But if you answer Beverly Hills or Crenshaw you won't be far afield. Both figure to be strong.
Beverly Hills returns all-everything running back Willie Crawford along with improved passing. Crenshaw, as usual, has speed to burn and a large offensive line.
If either of these teams falters, waiting to grab the top spot could be traditionally strong Santa Monica or Culver City. Or University could sneak in.
Here is a look, alphabetically, at the Westside 16 teams, nine of them in the Los Angeles City section and seven in various divisions of the CIF Southern Section.
Beverly Hills Normans
(CIF-Southern Section, Southern Conference)
COACH: Bill Stansbury and Dick Billingsley, fourth year as co-coaches
LAST YEAR: 8-2-1 overall; 4-0-1,tied for first with Santa Monica in Ocean League
FIRST GAME: Sept. 11, North
Torrance, 3 p.m.
Strengths: Senior RB-LB Willie Crawford (6-1, 190), the Ocean League's most valuable player, who gained 1,151 yards rushing and scored 16 touchdowns and was in on 74 tackles, 34 unassisted. Considered one of nation's top preps. All-league senior OT Erez Gottlieb (6-4, 245) broke weight-lifting record at El Camino Sports Festival with 340 pounds for bench press, 740 pounds for leg press, 275 pounds for power clean. Passing game should be better. Senior QB Jason Goldberg said to be much improved, as is senior TE Brad Amman (6-1, 205). Two sprinters from track team who will be wide receivers: senior Monroe Gorden (6-1 1/2), whose best time in the 100 meters is 11.1, and junior Damon Greene (6-1, 165), an 11.4 in the 100. Stansbury said the offensive line has more strength and size than any other in his 15 years at school, with everyone up front over 200 pounds. He said entire team is stronger and has 13 players over 200, compared to just three who weighed that much last year.
Problem areas: Offensive line, largely inexperienced. Finding adequate replacements for three graduates: FB-LB Memo Kahan, P-LB Alan Glazer, PK Gary Melnik.
Offensive and defensive sets: Pro style, multiple sets. Split six, i.e., 6-2-3.
Players to watch: All of the above plus senior OT Galo Medina (6-4, 230), transfer from Daniel Murphy, and two returning starters, senior defensive tackles Josh Haims (6-1, 205), an all-leaguer, and David Shuman (5-11, 195).
(CIF-Southern Section, Eight-Man (Large) Conference) LAST YEAR: 5-4 overall; 1-2, third in Delphic league.
COACH: Pat Brown, seventh year.
FIRST GAME: Sept. 12 at Big Pine, 1:30 p.m.
Strengths: A weak league and talent at most skill positions has Brown saying: "If we don't win it this year, I'll be surprised."
Dropback passer Ian Dalsemer, a 6-1, 155 senior, was "the only one we had who could play that position last year," Brown said, and with his experience Dalsemer, second-team all-league in 1986, returns as the one Eagle the rest of the team wants to protect because he's so valuable. Dalsemer poses no running threat, but senior TB-FB Freddie Kim (5-10, 195) and junior TB Jay Langan (6-2, 170) will pick up the slack. Kim, "a run right-over-the-top type," according to Brown, started on varsity as a sophomore but did not play last year when he transferred to a private school in Santa Barbara. Langan, who Brown said is second fastest on the team, earned MVP honors last season on junior varsity squad.
Junior TE Matt Hatten (6-5, 205) gives Brentwood one of the biggest passing threats in the league. After transferring from Daniel Murphy, Hatten played on junior varsity club last season and should become "the best receiver we've ever had at this school," Brown said.
Senior TE-WR Bobby Ahn (5-9, 160) "has the best hands on the team and a knack for finding the open area," said Brown.
Offensive line returns Brentwood's 1986 MVP, senior C Andy Barash (6-1, 185). The captain garnered the most votes of any offensive lineman when he was named first team all-league last year. Senior G Steve Ross (6-0, 205), a victim of chronic injuries, should be another force if he can stay healthy.
Although the Eagles are somewhat inexperienced, newcomers carry undefeated 1986 junior varsity season up to varsity. "Rarely have we had an explosive team," Brown said, "but this year we're gonna change that."
Problem areas: Defense always has size problem, and 1987 is no exception. Many players are small, quick and hitters, including senior MLB Tommy Burr (5-10, 175), a first-team all-league and honorable mention all-CIF player in 1986. Senior Tray Gardner (5-8, 210), "a real fireplug," Brown said, returns to defensive line, but Brown hopes new players can form stable unit.
Punting and kicking also are problems as Eagles lost starter. "Defense and finding a punter and a guy who can kick" is what Brown worries about, he said.