The Big Sleep is over. What comes next will either be "A Star Is Born" or "Gone With the Wind."
After the big coaching change and the big buildup, Harbor College is ready to take the wraps off what has been a sleepy football program--at least in terms of community appreciation--and hit the big time.
The junior college football season kicks off Saturday with all three South Bay teams playing: Harbor is at Moorpark, El Camino College is at home against Glendale and newly revived Southwest College opens at home against Victor Valley after a year off.
Wilmington may still be off-Broadway, but first-year Coach Chris Ferragamo says Harbor is ready to take its place alongside El Camino as a major junior college program.
"We're trying to turn a corner. We're trying to run a major college program at the junior college level," Ferragamo said.
With customary enthusiasm he added, "We're doing things now that haven't been done in the past. We have more Division I (major college potential) players here than I've ever seen in my life. Kids are coming out of the woodwork to play. We raised money for a new weight room. We raised money for new uniforms--we'll be the best-looking team around. It's a new program with new ideas. Everybody's in a tizzy around here."
Now all Ferragamo has to do is win with some of the frequency he did at nearby Banning High School. He may have the players to get something going, certainly to be a factor in the Southern California Athletic Conference.
"We have 90 players in uniform, all great players, all hand-picked," Ferragamo said with customary understatement.
The backfield includes standouts Alvin Goree from Carson, the City 4-A player of the year in 1986, and Benjamin Smith, the CIF Small Schools player of the year from Leffingwell Christian. Jeff Sullivan out of Crenshaw will be the starting quarterback with flanker William Pope serving as backup until injured Ed Kapu returns.
Archie Jean, Banning's top player last year until injured, will be the Seahawks' kick returner. "He's the best punt returner in the country," Ferragamo said. He also likes his tight end, 6-6 Scott Harper.
The defensive secondary is impressive, with All-City players Ted Presley, Ken Franklin and Jimmy de los Santos joining returner Charles Thomas.
The offensive line is huge, featuring returner Jeff Manzo (6-7, 275), Hawaii transfer Josh Taotoi (6-7, 295), Mike Su'a (6-4, 255) and Sam Siufanua (6-5, 270). The defensive line will include Aaron Pulliam (6-3, 255) out of Narbonne and former Carson star Nevel Wood (6-2, 230), plus Larry Beverly (6-0, 220), and John Tago (6-4, 255).
Ferragamo said his team will be more varied than at Banning, mixing power and finesse and some passing as well as his trademark option. Ferragamo is already counseling players on what courses to take for specific four-year schools.
"We plan on sending a lot of kids to universities--every year," he said.
At El Camino, Coach John Featherstone said he'll know what to expect quickly. The Warriors' three preconference opponents, Glendale, Saddleback and Bakersfield, are preseason Top 10 teams, as are two of the first three South Coast Conference foes, Cerritos and Fullerton.
"We'll find out about our character in the first three games," Featherstone said. "But we've always felt we're a Top 10 team too, and the teams who play us have to be ready for a game."
The Warriors should have a balanced offense featuring letterman Dan Speltz. Three receivers are back, led by all-conference sophomore Sean Smith. Dwight Pickens and Ricky Wills will be pushed by freshmen Treamelle Taylor out of Hawthorne and David Blakes from Bishop Montgomery. All-conference tight end Keith Roberson also returns.
Featherstone said Speltz, a strong passer, is a special weapon because he can run as well. Two talented freshman, Scott Yessner from Redondo and Frank Dolce from Culver City, back up Speltz.
In the backfield, returning fullback Hector Murrillo will be joined by wingbacks Mike Jones and Brian Burnett, University of Oregon transfer Brian Connors and freshman tailbacks Richard Harrison and Aaron Craver. The line has five returners, led by all-conference guard Pat Morris, Jim Tulette, Pat Hunt, Adam Brown and Tau Itula. Freshmen Tim Drevno, Mark Merritt and David Bertilla will also see action.
The offense should be balanced and capable of scoring regularly, especially with the return of kicker Erik Estrada and competition from Dominic Cefalone.
However, Featherstone would like El Camino to get away from its reputation as strictly offense-minded.
"I think our defense will be exciting," he said. "It will be a real aggressive, attacking defense. We're going to put the onus on the defense early to carry us."