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Champion Franklin Looks Tough Again, but Watch Out for Eagle Rock

September 10, 1987|SCOT BUTWELL | Times Staff Writer

Defending City 3-A champion Franklin High School figures to be the cream of Glendale area teams in 1987, but resurgent Eagle Rock may not be far behind.

In the CIF Southern Section, all Glendale-area teams except Flintridge Prep will try to rebound from losing records.

The passing game should be prominent as quarterback Steve Lightbourne returns at Crescenta Valley, Chuck Long at Eagle Rock, Mark Hansen at La Canada and Darren Fitzgerald at Verdugo Hills. All passed for more than 1,000 yards in 1986.

New coaches are at La Canada, Verdugo Hills and Pater Noster: Nic Laraez, Bill Novikoss and Andy Herrera.

Here is a capsule look at the area teams in alphabetical order:

Crescenta Valley--(CIF, Pacific League)--Falcon Coach Jim Beckenhauer has only six returning starters but having Lightbourne and his primary receiver of a year ago, Cotie McMahon, is a big plus.

They make up a feared battery. Lightbourne (6-2, 180), a left-handed senior, passed for 1,200 yards and 11 TDs last year. A good portion of that yardage, 550, went to McMahon, a 5-9, 160-pound senior who caught 27 Lightbourne passes.

Former La Canada Coach Steve Gillette praised Lightbourne's skills. "I'd drool if I had a kid like him," he said. "If he gets going, Crescenta Valley could pass traditional Pacific League powers Muir and Pasadena. He's the best quarterback in the western valley, a left-handed Joe Montana."

The Falcons finished 3-6-1 in 1986 and the few players back will have to go both ways because of lack of depth. Scott Ackerly (6-2, 205) will be at offensive guard and inside linebacker; James Moran (6-2, 250) will play tackle on offense and defense; Victor Ramirez (5-4, 140) will be at running back and safety; Eric Anderson (6-2, 185) will double as a wide receiver and safety, and Leon Tanduro (5-8, 215) will go both ways at guard.

The squad will feature a host of juniors from last year's 10-0 sophomore team, a reason Beckenhauer believes his team will be improved.

Crescenta Valley will open against La Canada on Friday at Glendale High School.

Eagle Rock (L.A. City, Northern League)--Call them midgets or munchkins, but don't underestimate them.

"Our average height and size?" says Coach Dennis Shaw, laughing. "Don't ask." Most of the Eagles' best players are under six feet, but that didn't stop them from becoming Northern League champs last year for the first time since 1974. Even after a winless preseason.

"These guys sparked the town of Eagle Rock," Assistant Coach Larry Rader said. "Fan attendance went from spasmodic to packing the bleachers."

Quarterback Chuck Engel (5-9, 170) was recognized as league MVP and All-City after passing for 1,200 yards and seven TDs as a junior. Senior inside linebacker John Gregory (5-5, 135), cornerback Fernando Ruiz (5-6, 150) and defensive end Billy Fults (5-11, 180) received first-team all-league honors.

There's more help too. Seniors Carlos Vargas (5-8, 170), center; tackle Russ Shiraishi (5-11, 250) and nose guard Danny Acosta (5-10, 185) and junior nose guard Lex Pike (5-10, 175) consistently outplayed bigger players.

Six-foot, two-inch Mike Nelson has been moved from fullback to tailback to improve the running. Emanuel Washington (6-0, 170), an all-league basketball player, is out for football for the first time as a receiver.

Eagle Rock will open against California High on Sept. 25 at Poly High School.

Flintridge Prep (CIF, Prep League)--Injuries and flu have diminished the third-ranked Eagles squad to 12 players. Luckily, they play eight-man football.

With quarterback Gerrick Aschenbrenner returning, Coach Glenn Baettie said he will throw about three times more than last season. Aschenbrenner threw only 69 times in 1986, completing 31 for 455 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Baettie is projecting senior middle linebacker Gil Fareau and tackle Tom Fakourf for All-CIF honors. Fareau led the team in tackles a year ago and has added 20 pounds. He's 5-10, 190.

Flintridge Prep will open at La Hoya on Friday.

Franklin (L.A. City, 3-A Freeway League)--Co-coach Armando Gonzales is feeling the pressure: "Everybody's pointing the finger at Franklin. We must repond."

Life as the City returning 3-A champ is hectic. But with inside linebacker Jose Aguilar (6-0, 212) wreaking havoc on defense, and with Ronnie Lopez (6-4, 190), the little brother of Ricky Lopez, the Panthers' 1986 All-City quarterback, connecting with streaking receivers, the possibility of another championship is there.

Gonzales has a solid chance to win his third consecutive championship. He won the 2-A championship in 1983, then took a two-year sabbatical and won the 3-A title with co-Coach Robin Cardona.

Four returning starters join Aguilar, who had 19 tackles in the championship game, on defense. "He's our quiet leader," says Gonzales. "He's humble. All he wants to do is just be part of the team. When I was coaching in the Shrine game, he asked to be a ball boy." The secondary is solid with Adrian DeNava and Ernie Barraza back.

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