Teams listed in predicted order of finish by Times staff writers. Chaminade
COACH: Rich Lawson, first year
LAST SEASON: 4-6-1; 3rd in league, 4-2
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Lawson is new to the league, but most of his players won't be. The team includes 20 returning seniors, led by quarterback Dave Morrison (6-1, 180), who passed for 1,211 yards last season. "Dave's had a good summer and he's spent a lot of time in the weight room," Lawson said. Chaminade suffered a major setback when tailback Sean Burwell transferred to Cleveland last month. Replacing Burwell in the I-formation offense is senior Tim Lavin (6-1, 200), who played at Miraleste last season after leading Chaminade in rushing as a sophomore. Another senior, John Hreno (5-8, 185) will also play tailback. Wide receiver Chris Noonan will be another major weapon and is an accurate field goal kicker. "I won't hesitate to go to him from 35 yards out," Lawson said. Senior two-way tackles Doug Kavulich (6-3, 230) and Wade Rockwood (6-2, 210), and guards Bill Mirabelli (5-9, 200) and Dave Smith (5-10, 195) lead a beefy offensive line. The team's linebackers, headed by Lavin and Joe Norton, lead the defense. "Our only question mark will be in the secondary," Lawson said. Senior Jonas Escal era is the only established starter.
OUTLOOK: Although he inherited an experienced team, Lawson took the Eagles back to square one, stressing heavy workouts. "It's very important for us to win our first game to set the tempo," said Lawson, who opens the season against his alma mater, Notre Dame.
COACH: Lindon Crow, 12th year
LAST SEASON: 4-5; 5th in league, 2-4
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Valiants lost three league games last year by seven points or fewer. "We're not very happy about last year," Crow said. "We had no running game and we just didn't win when it counted." This year's squad will attempt to make Crow's final season a happy one. The former NFL player has announced his retirement, effective the end of the season. To strengthen the ground game, senior Chad Russell will move from wide receiver to halfback. Senior Ruben Aguirre, who was ineligible last season, will join Russell in the backfield. Running interference will be juniors Ron Neilson (6-4, 210), James Cordola (6-2, 220) and senior Tony Panna chia (6-0, 200). Junior tight end Marc Colon will add to what Crow says is an improved offensive line. Leo Cortez, who was with the varsity last season as a sophomore, will start at quarterback. On defense, Russell will return at outside linebacker, where he was all-league last year. Nielson will play middle linebacker and Frank Aguirre, Ruben's brother, will be at strong safety.
OUTLOOK: "We need the running game in order to help out the passing game," Crow said. "We've had it before, we just didn't have it last year. I don't think we're going to be a high-scoring team, but no one in our league will be either."
COACH: Gary Thran, 14th year
LAST SEASON: 11-2; 1st in league, 6-0
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Although 11 players return, Harvard still has question marks at key positions. One is quarterback where last season's backup Tim Naud and junior Gene Kim are competing. "It's a toss-up right now," Thran said. Thran must also replace Andy Bell, who rushed for 1,858 yards last year. Bell and Alex Huh, who gained 811 yards, led an offense that rushed for 3,486 yards, second to Crespi in the Valley area. Thran has adopted a formation from the leather-helmet era, instituting the single wing this season. Junior Marty Holly (5-11, 185), a converted linebacker, will play tailback. Thran said guard Mike Huskins (6-0, 200) is the school's best lineman in the past 14 years, but Huskins may play fullback. Harvard will start two tight ends, seniors Matt Pauley (5-11, 172) and Dan Herman (5-11, 190). Sophomore Barry Burch (5-10, 170) could also see time. Linebackers Holly, Huskins and Pauley will lead the defense with help from tackle Brandon Willenberg (6-0, 215). Harvard replaces placekicker Dominic Sandifer, the Valley's leading scorer among kickers, with junior Sam Cooper.
OUTLOOK: Relying predominantly on the running game, Harvard may be at a disadvantage to such sizable defenses as Chaminade and St. Genevieve. "I don't think we'll be quite as skilled as we were last year," Thran said. "But we'll be solid."
COACH: Doug Woodlief, third year
LAST SEASON: 8-3; 2nd in league, 5-1