Teams listed in predicted order of finish by Times staff writers. Crespi
COACH: Bill Redell, third year
LAST SEASON: 13-1; 2nd in league, 4-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Crespi enters the season ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation by the National Prep Poll and by ESPN. If you need a reason, you can find him lined up about three steps behind senior quarterback Rob O'Byrne (6-1, 185). Russell White (6-1, 187) led the state in rushing and scoring last year as a sophomore with 2,339 yards and 188 points. This year, White will team with senior fullback J.J. Lasley (6-1, 205), who split time last season. Lasley rushed for 496 yards on 72 carries, an average of 6.9 yards per carry. White averaged 12.0 yards per carry. And Crespi can throw the ball. O'Byrne, who passed for 1,072 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, will be backed by junior Ron Redell (6-3, 182), the coach's son, who will start in the secondary. Junior Quinn Fauria (6-0, 205), who missed much of last season with an ankle and hand injury, will play at linebacker and tight end. Eric Kieling (6-1, 172), one of the top receivers in the Valley area, and Dave Lefner (6-0, 177) will also play at receiver. Nose guard Kyle Cummings (5-11, 227) and linebacker Chad Santander (5-11, 205) return. Cummings will also play center.
OUTLOOK: Crespi finished a game behind St. John Bosco in the Del Rey race last year, but avenged the league loss with a 49-14 win in the Big Five Conference championship. As the conference champion and a favorite preseason pick, Crespi figures to feel extra heat. Will the Celts melt? It's doubtful. "If we stay healthy, we're a better team than we had last year," Redell said.
COACH: Steve Grady, 12th year
LAST SEASON: 9-3; 3rd in league, 3-2
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Loyola was a bit of a surprise last year, and with a few more points, the results could have been even better--the three losses were by a total of 11 points. This year's team has the personnel to challenge Crespi, Grady said, but only if the teams is as scrappy as the 1986 model. If lineage helps, Loyola has the talent. This year's team includes junior lineman Matt Butkus (6-2, 210), son of Dick Butkus; junior safety Jim Klein (6-2, 175), son of former Rams tight end Bob Klein; and junior cornerback Ryan Lefebvre (5-9, 165), son of former Dodger infielder Jim Lefebvre. In the offensive backfield, junior quarterback Jason Evans (5-10, 175) is neither big nor experienced. Don Gerety (5-10, 190) and Dan Glascott (6-0, 185) will alternate at fullback. A team strength will be at receiver, where seniors David Estwick (5-10, 165) and Andres Kennedy (5-11, 170) return. The Loyola offensive line looks sturdy behind all-leaguer Tom Condon (6-2, 210), John Nally (6-2, 225) and Butkus. Senior linebackers Josh Price (6-3, 215) and Chris Hentz (6-3, 205) return. Paul Stonehouse, an all-league selection, will handle the kicking duties.
OUTLOOK: "Barring injuries, I think we can contend," Grady said. "We are a little stronger than last year and a year older in the offensive line. We have as much talent or more than we had last season--it's just a matter of whether we have the same intensity. We probably beat a couple of teams last year that were better than us because we were good as a unit. I have to think that unity is our key."
St. John Bosco
COACH: Bill Friedrich, sixth year
LAST SEASON: 13-1; 1st in league, 5-0
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Braves lost "three of the best players in school history" when quarterback Jim Sterner, receiver Kelvin Means and running back Oscar Mesa graduated, Friedrich said. But the team didn't lose much from the defense--11 seniors will start. On offense, however, the Braves are less set. Bob Jakubik (6-2, 180), a varsity quarterback as a sophomore but a receiver last year, will start at quarterback. Jim Niccoli (5-6, 180) will play some at fullback, and is described by Friedrich as "a human bowling ball." At receiver, Leo Byrne (5-8, 165) has the name to match his speed. Byrne, a senior, caught 34 passes last year. The offensive line is huge by high school standards with massive Gabriel Mills (6-6, 280), Al Valdez (6-2, 262), Paul Kunkel (6-2, 237) and smaller but stronger Charlie Krolikowski (5-9, 195), who can bench press 330 pounds. On defense, the team has three linemen back in Mike Allen (6-2, 195), Ed Fuentes (5-11, 215) and Ray Navarro (5-10, 212). The secondary features Phil Schember (5-8, 170), David Vargas (6-0, 165) and Dan Zuvalla (6-1, 175).
OUTLOOK: Friedrich admits the team isn't what it was last year. "This is a solid football team," he said. "We'll play good, hard-hitting football. We don't have some of the offensive dimensions we had before, but we'll be OK."
COACH: Enrique Lopez, fourth year
LAST SEASON: 3-7; 4th in league, 2-3