Teams listed in predicted order of finish by Times staff writers. Montclair Prep
COACH: Pat Blackburn, second year
LAST SEASON: 6-4; 3rd in league, 5-2
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Defense was Montclair Prep's forte last season and it should be again. The Mounties surrendered only 183 yards a game in '86, third-best among Valley-area Southern Section schools. Jason Bailey, a 6-2, 210-pound senior, whom Blackburn describes as the "best high school linebacker in the Valley," will call signals. "He's big. He's strong. And he's very aggressive," Blackburn said. With personal bests of 300 pounds in the bench press, 550 in the squat, and 4.7 speed in the 40, Bailey has the statistics to support Blackburn's claim. Senior center/inside linebacker Josh Berger (6-0, 215) was an all-league selection the last two years. Senior Gabe Alonzo (5-10, 215), who bench presses 400 pounds, will also play both ways at guard and nose guard. Sophomore Michael Jones (6-1, 190) leads the offense. Jones rushed for 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns at the sophomore level last season. Enis Howard (6-2, 200) who played strong safety last season, will start at quarterback.
OUTLOOK: "I consider us and Marshall Fundamental as the teams to beat," Blackburn said. "There are two keys to our success. If Howard can become a consistent quarterback and we stay healthy, we'll be all right." The Mounties should be well prepared for league play. Simi Valley and Palmdale, two Coastal Conference schools, are preleague opponents.
COACH: Lew Underwood, fourth year
LAST SEASON: 4-6; 4th in league, 4-3
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Thirteen starters return from last year. The backfield of quarterback LaWayne Byrd and running backs Salis Perry and Alvin Rhodes remains intact. All three are seniors. "Team speed is one of our biggest assets," Underwood said. "Our running game should be super." Peter Pacheco (6-0, 225), Pres Delatorre (5-11, 250) and Murray Hill (5-10, 190) are all seniors beginning their third season as starting offensive linemen. Steve Parker and Sherman Amos are wide receivers with big-play capability. The Marshall defense is led by a secondary that includes juniors Jason Taylor and Lester Gamble. Senior Marshall Landry (6-0, 180) and Perry will lead the linebacking corps. The defensive line is a question mark, but identical twins Deontay and Jaime Potter could help out.
OUTLOOK: "We should be right in the thick of things," Underwood said. "Our offense will be strong and so will our defense."
COACH: Mike Fisher, first year
LAST SEASON: 8-3; 1st in league, 6-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: All-league quarterback John Kitterman completed 92 of 153 passes for 1,523 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior. His 60.1 completion percentage was the best in the San Gabriel Valley. "He's had a great summer," Fisher said. "He's only been intercepted twice in passing league games. He reads defenses very well and he has a cannon for an arm." Mike Warner is the team's leading receiver and a returning all-league selection. All five starters return on the offensive line, including Aaron Hinojosa (5-9, 235) and Tendaji Lathan, (5-10, 205). Hinojosa and Jeff Kliewer (6-0, 165) will anchor the defensive line. Other standouts include linebacker Ernie Ticzhhauser (5-10, 175), cornerback Warner and free safety Jeff Huelster, who was an all-league selection last season.
OUTLOOK: "Our offense is way ahead of our defense at the moment," Fisher said. "Kitterman looks great and the offensive line is solid. Our running backs have to improve. Montclair Prep is the team to beat, but there aren't going to be any easy wins in league this season. I see us and Marshall battling for second."
COACH: Mike Plaisance, seventh year
LAST SEASON: 4-6; 5th in league, 3-4
PLAYERS TO WATCH: With its starting offensive line returning, Village Christian should be much improved. The line is led by Brian Bovee (6-3, 216), who was an all-league pick last season. "He's very strong in the upper body and he has great technique," Plaisance said. Comprising the rest of the line are Gregg Spahr (5-10, 175), Rusty Young (6-2, 210), Ken Bolin (6-0, 205) and sophomore Frank Castellucci (5-9, 185). They will clear the way for running backs Scott Phillips and Craig Hudspeth. Phillips rushed for 504 yards in 1986. Sophomores Drew Martinson (6-3, 210) and Matt Bates (5-8, 150) will contend for the starting quarterback spot. Martinson has the physical tools but suffers from a lack of consistency, according to Plaisance. Although Bates doesn't possess the physique of Martinson, he overcomes his size with intelligence, Plaisance said.
OUTLOOK: "Our passing game is going to be suspect," Plaisance said. "Our offensive line will be our strength. We've probably got the best line in the league. Marshall Fundamental is the team to beat, but we can contend if we play to our capabilities. Our special teams could also be a big plus."
L. A. Baptist
COACH: Mike Boshers, second year
LAST SEASON: 3-7; 6th in league, 2-5