Bell Gardens is loaded with talent and experience. So is Montebello, and El Rancho and La Serna will be worthy challengers.
1. BELL GARDENS--The Lancers, 10-1 in '86, have 26 seniors and are a potential Southern Section champions. The leader is Rudy Torres, a 6-0, 240-pound three-year starter at offensive tackle. Three all-league linebackers return--George Robles, Frank Murillo and Joe Munoz--as does George Garibay, the Whitmont defensive lineman of the year. Coach Dave Newell calls junior Albert Cabral the toughest quarterback he's ever had--and with good reason. Cabral was grazed in the head by a shotgun blast the first day of practice last season, and last spring injured his right elbow when hit by a train. Fortunately, the all-league Cabral throws left-handed. His receivers are Santos Barrientos, Jessie Ibarra and Murillo, who also plays tight end.
2. MONTEBELLO--"We plan on winning the championship," said Coach Doug Rihn, who has most of his players back from last season. Among those returning are these all-league players: running backs Don Avina, who gained 1,076 yards last year, and John Macias, who gained 772, linebacker Mike Heathcock, defensive end Fred Canales, cornerback Art Velasquez and safety Warner Fowlkes. Rihn is high on Andrew Godinez, an offensive guard. Quarterback is a concern, with Rene Cornejo and Larry Razo competing for the No. 1 job.
3. LA SERNA--All-Southern Section tailback Robbie Watkins, who has gained 2,802 yards and scored 32 touchdowns in two seasons, returns as a senior to lead the Lancers. Coach Ron Moncrief figures to challenge Bell Gardens by using quarterback Kenny Foor's passing to keep opponents from concentrating on Watkins. Other key returners from a 7-3 team including strong safety Carl Lopez, 6-3, 260-pound lineman Dan Lopez and linebacker Dave Herrera.
4. EL RANCHO--Coach Don Peterson expects a very competitive team. The Dons will pass more than in recent years with quarterback Paul Ulibarri, who lettered last season. Other top players are all-league wide receiver Oscar Rodriguez, all-league offensive guard/defensive tackle Art Salas and linebacker Roland Toriz.
5. PIONEER--Tom Cruickshank, who hasn't coached since he was defensive coordinator for Nevada Las Vegas in 1981, takes over the Titans, who have gone 15 years without a winning season. But Cruickshank is delighted with his team's early attitude. Top players are junior quarterback Mike Trujillo and Steve Diaz, a 5-9, 240-pound senior defensive line.
6. SANTA FE--The Chiefs have lost 19 straight games but second-year Coach Mike Thomas is counting on victories through better work habits. Twelve starters return, the best of whom are tailback Henry Orozco, fullback Elias Garcia, quarterback Richie Perez, cornerback Steve Garcioa and safety Alex Segura.
7. WHITTIER--New Coach Mike Fitch, who coached for two years at Brethren High, is impressed with twin linebackers Paul and Henry Castellanos, 5-11, 170-pound seniors. There are 33 lettermen back from a 1-8 team, including 6-2 1/2, 240-pound defensive tackle Eric Torres, linebacker Scott Taylor, wide receiver Johnny Redondo and fullback George Caballeros. Fitch says the Cardinals should be around .500 and have a good shot at the playoffs, although a replacement for graduated all-league quarterback Andy Emch needs to be found.
8. CALIFORNIA--New Coach Bill Zylstra is trying to reinstall a positive attitude in a program that hasn't had success in seven years. His top players are fullback/linebacker Karl Perez, quarterback/defensive back Jerry Johnston and wide receiver Alvaro Cortez. The defensive secondary should be the Condors' strength, said Zylstra, an assistant at the school last year.