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1987 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEWS : DEL REY : No. 2 Back Enhances Crespi's Chances

September 10, 1987|STEVE ELLING | Times Staff Writer

Those who ponder such things would have little difficulty choosing the best high school running back in the Valley area. Even the most argumentative fan would agree it's not even close--Crespi's Russell White led the state in rushing last season as a sophomore.

With the question of No. 1 aside, let's proceed, then, to the compelling question of who the second-best ball carrier in the area might be.

If you are Crespi Coach Bill Redell, you don't have to scrutinize statistical charts, there is no need to mull the multitude of possibilities. Redell's nomination comes right out of his own backyard, or rather, his own backfield.

"You'd have to go a long way to find a running back as good as J. J. Lasley," Redell said. "Well, not too far with Russell back there, but you know what I mean."

Lasley, White's part-time partner in the Crespi running attack last season, returns, and Redell has been unabashedly thrilled with the team's double-edged ground game.

But is objectivity a problem here?

"No, seriously, he's going to be one of the most recruited kids in the state," Redell said. "He's an excellent, excellent running back. He just got lost in the burn last year with Russell."

While White was leaving opponents in flames last season, Lasley was indeed doing a slow burn--on the sideline. Lasley injured a hand in midseason, which cost him four games and playing time in several others. This year he's healthy, and Redell says that's a key--for Lasley and the Celts in general.

"If he can avoid injury, he'll get as much attention as anybody," Redell said. "Shoot, this guy rushed for 2,000 yards on the JV team."

Last season, Lasley cruised for 496 yards and scored five touchdowns. White rushed for 2,339 yards, which makes a gruesome twosome for league opponents to stop.

"It's not just one guy," Loyola Coach Steve Grady lamented, "but two."

Beyond Lasley and White, however, the Celts aren't deep in the backfield, or anywhere else, for that matter. Redell says the team is stronger that last season's Big Five Conference champion but only in terms of the starters.

"There's no question in my mind that we're better as far as the first 11 on offense and defense," he said, "but the depth just isn't there. That's one of the weak points of being at a school with only 500 students."

Before the sympathy cards pour in, be apprised that those in the know nationally have rated Crespi as the team to beat. The Celts are ranked No. 1 by the National Prep Poll and ESPN. The team is No. 2 in the USA Today ratings.

Redell says preseason ratings are a mixed blessing.

"It's the greatest thing to happen to Crespi, and the kids think it's just wonderful," he said. "But rankings are, well, if you tore the date off the top of the clipping and put in in your scrapbook, a year later nobody would remember. You can't let yourself get sidetracked by those things."

Senior quarterback Rob O'Byrne will be given the opportunity to throw more this season. By Crespi standards, however, more is a relative term.

"We averaged about 11 passes per game last year," Redell said. "We'll probably throw 12 to 16 times this year. Hey, we're still a running team."

There are other teams lurking if Crespi rests on its laurels. League rival Loyola, which finished 9-3 last year, is ranked No. 15 by USA Today.

Alemany and Notre Dame seem likely to improve from disappointing seasons. St. John Bosco--which played Crespi in the Big Five championship game at Anaheim Stadium last year but lost three key skill position players to graduation--is still "a real question mark," Redell said.

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