A tight race is expected. "Poly and the other five in top pursuit," said Millikan Coach Dave Radford.
1. POLY--The Jackrabbits have the defense to win another title, led by 6-foot-3, 210-pound linebacker Danianke Smith, a Division 1 college prospect who was a Times' All-South Coast defensive end last year. For experienced linemen, co-Head Coach Jerry Jaso has Marcellous Elder (6-5, 275), Earl Oliver (6-2, 235) and Lawrence May (6-0, 200). The defensive backfield is dominated by Marquez Pope (5-10, 180), who can play free safety, strong safety or cornerback. The player to watch, Jaso said, is Jason Jones, a 5-9, 175-pound safety/cornerback. Poly is searching for a few good runners--Rufus Young and Bill Harris will be among them--who can combine for the 1,200 yards gained by Leonard Russell, who graduated. Co-Head Coach Thomas Whiting's key offensive players are quarterback Michael Carter, guard Michael Loyola, tight end Rocky Williamson and wide receiver Tony McCullouch.
2. MILLIKAN--The Rams lost a lot of players from last year's 9-2 team, but Coach Dave Radford is happy with his "typical Millikan guys." That means they play hard. Returning are quarterback Bob Crane and guard Pat Smith, who were on The Times' All-South Coast Team last season. Other top Rams are wide receivers Rod Daniels and Marcus Tyrone, offensive lineman Kevin Branch, defensive lineman Nick Silver and defensive back Henry Worcester.
3. WILSON--The best Wilson team in years was expected--and then misfortune struck. Derek Smith, a strong, fast linebacker/running back, had a motorcycle accident and is out for the season, and Daniel Russell, a top cornerback, injured his knee. Their loss has Coach Al Taylor talking about finishing in the middle of the league. The Bruins will have a strong offensive line with guard Bob Pierce, a three-year starter; tackle Lon Grothan, a 235-pound newcomer from Northern California, and tackle Eric Denimon, the league's heavyweight weightlifting champion. They'll block for quarterback Scott Long and speedy running back Patrick Scott. Taylor calls wingback/linebacker Murphy Duckett one of the league's best players.
4. JORDAN--To prepare for the league season, the Panthers will play Muir, Loyola, St. Paul and Servite, games in which Coach Mike Ono hopes his defense keeps them in until the offense comes around. The defense is anchored by middle linebacker Demetrius Carlton, who since last year has grown from 5-feet-11 and 180 pounds, to 6-2, 230. "He has great speed and hits like a ton of bricks," Ono said. Another top defender is Donald Heard (6-3, 245). Ted Marshall, who led the league in yards passing last year, will throw to wide receivers Robert Johnson and Johnny Martin and tight end Louie Felix. All-star running back Marvin Montgomery has graduated, leaving Johnny Robinson (5-8, 180) as the big-play maker.
5. LAKEWOOD--Failing in close games, the Lancers were 2-9 last season, but Coach Gene Melvin expects to compete for the title this year. Wide receiver Gilbert Orbeso may be the smallest player in the area at 5-2 and 125 pounds, but he figures prominently in Melvin's plans. Orbeso is fast, has good hands and runs precise patterns. Another good receiver is Anthony Jones, who caught 22 passes last year. Renny Reed and Matt Nuez are the quarterbacks. End Benny Sobschak, safety Jimmy Corpus and cornerbacks Nuez and Kenny Fletcher lead a strong defense. The kicking is a strength, too, with Corpus punting and Nuez place-kicking.
6. COMPTON--The Tarbabes were 1-9 last year, due mainly to a bungling offense. Coach Curtiss Seymore says he now has a quarterback, Sean Williams, so he expects improved results. Williams' receivers will be Sylvan Dobbs, Brandon Thurmond and Gregory Thurmond. The defense is expected to be strong with returning linebacker Fred Williams (6-2, 205), end Soleni Foleni (6-3, 235) and tackle Juan Renoyso (6-2, 195).