Teams listed in predicted order of finish by Times staff writers. Hart
COACH: Rick Scott, fourth year
LAST SEASON: 13-1; 1st in league, 5-0
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Whenever Scott needs new talent he looks to the school's sophomore team. "Our sophomores are undefeated the past three years," Scott said. "We're just reloading." Still, many key players are gone from last year's Northwestern Conference championship team, including All-Southern Section quarterback Jim Bonds and tailback Chris Hite, who caught 88 passes. But Scott says he has qualified replacements. One is quarterback Darren Renfro (5-10, 160). Senior tailback Craig Whitten (5-11, 175) is a breakaway threat and receivers Joe DeSchryver (5-11, 170) and Brian Allen (6-4, 185) are excellent. The Indians should have little trouble controlling the trenches. Seniors Brian Jacobs (6-5, 265), Jim Blowers (6-3, 220), Joe Schrier (5-10, 190), Ray Gardocki (6-0, 210) and junior Keith Kershaw (6-0, 213) form the league's largest offensive line. "All our linemen know all the positions, so they'll all play all five," Scott said. Hart's defense also appears strong, with seven returning starters. Linebackers Scott Holden and Frank Williams, and Whitten at safety were all-league selections last year. Also returning are defensive ends Blowers and Jeff Trogan, a senior.
OUTLOOK: After losing to Canyon last season, Hart won 13 straight. It won't be so easy this year. "Our schedule scares me," Scott said. Hart opens against Canyon again, then plays at Mission Viejo, which the Indians edged last season, 14-13. "We're going to try and win with defense early," Scott said. "If we've got anybody standing after three games, we'll be tough."
COACH: Butch McElwee, first year
LAST SEASON: 10-2-1, 2nd in league, 4-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: With several players returning at key postions, Burroughs may have the best offense in the league. Senior quarterback Jeff Barrett (6-1, 180) passed for a school record 2,766 yards last season. "He's stronger and he's better this year," McElwee said. Joining Barrett in the backfield are fullbacks Jason Applegate (6-0, 180) and Wes Bender (5-11, 21O), and tailback Doug Dragomer (5-9, 175), all seniors. Tight end Jason Teitel (6-0, 205), another senior, is the only returning starting receiver, but Barrett will throw often to Kevin Strasser, Scott Hartman and Bruce Luizzi. All were backups last year as juniors. Linebacker Fernando Gaona (5-10, 185) is the team's hardest hitter. All-league linebacker John Butler (5-11, 175) and defensive tackle Ron Walters (6-0, 238), a second-team all-league selection, also return. Senior Scott Pavkovich (6-0, 180) will move from linebacker to defensive end and Luizzi, an all-league cornerback last year, will move to free safety.
OUTLOOK: After going from the league cellar in 1985 to the semifinal round of the playoffs last year, the Indians are overflowing with optimism. "I think we're the team to beat," McElwee said. "Hart's gonna have to work their butts off to get ready for us."
COACH: Ken Davis, 15th year
LAST SEASON: 7-5; 3rd in league, 3-2
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Schurr won't be much different from last season, Davis said. Fullback Freddy Burgueno, who gained 965 yards last year as a junior, is the big offensive weapon. Halfback Joe Valles also returns. "We expect big things from those guys," Davis said. Quarterback Brian Murray is a senior, but a starter for the first time. Tight end Ralph Bravo and center Alex Sahagun are the only other returning seniors. Tim Woodfield, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, is the Spartans' top receiver.
OUTLOOK: The Spartans will be tested early when they travel to Burroughs on Oct. 16 to open league play. "We could either be in first place or last place real quick," Davis said. "We'll probably be somewhere in the middle, chasing the same teams as last year, like Hart and Burroughs. We don't have a lot of depth."
COACH: Dave Carson, fifth year
LAST SEASON: 3-7; 4th in league, 2-3
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Much of Burbank's success will depend on the leadership of senior quarterback Fred Castillo. "He's inexperienced," Carson said. "He has to be able to take command." Senior tailback Gabe Jimenez will replace departed Abo Velasco, who last season rushed for a school record 1,046 yards. Carson will start three seniors on the offensive line--Chad Keiser, Mark Overstreet and Wade Wells. "All three played as juniors, so we have a little experience there." Carson also has "two really good tight ends" in Ed Ness and Tom Sugg. Defensively, the Bulldogs will rely on a quartet of linebackers. Juniors Tony Sptola and John Youn will anchor the inside of the 4-4-3 formation. Seniors Rick Guzman and Rafael Salinas will play the outside.