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The Preps / Scott Howard-Cooper

The Citrus Belt, It Seems, Is in a League by Itself

September 15, 1987|Scott Howard-Cooper

It was quite an opening day for the Citrus Belt League in football.

Last Friday, Fontana beat Montclair, 42-0, and Eisenhower defeated Escondido of the San Diego Section, 41-0, and that wasn't even the big news. Redlands tying Crespi, No. 1 in the state and No. 2 in the nation by USA Today, stole the show. Colton tying Servite, No. 9 in The Times' Southern Section rankings, wasn't bad, either.

Is there any doubt, even this early in the season, which is the strongest league in Southern California, probably even the state?

Fontana, by virtue of its win and Crespi's tie, moves up to the No. 1 spot in the Southern Section. Eisenhower is No. 3 and Colton No. 13, and Redlands proved that playing any Citrus Belt League team at home, even one that went 6-5 and graduated two 1,000-yard rushers, is never easy. Ironically, the team that has fallen on hard times is Riverside Poly (3-7 last season), which went 10-1 in 1985, 13-1 and won the Big Five Conference title in '84 and 14-0 and won the Eastern championship in '83.

Meanwhile, Crespi drops to second after its tie that stung--and had to look--more like a loss. "Hey, they beat us," Celts Coach Bill Redell said after the 17-17 game. "I mean tied us. Hell, it feels like they beat us."

Disappointing seasons are made of such starts (Westminster opened 1986 as the nation's No. 17 team and started 1-2-1), but don't look for that to happen to Crespi. The Celts played 2 1/2 quarters without Russell White, who had suffered a hip pointer, and it's safe to say the best running back in California would have made a difference. He gained just 23 yards in 8 carries and is questionable for another tough game Friday, on the road against No. 10 Palmdale.

Fontana gets Vista this week, the start of some very curious scheduling by the perennial San Diego Section power.

In addition to Fontana, the No. 2 team in the Cal-Hi statewide preseason rankings, Vista will also meet No. 17 Cordova of Rancho Cordova near Sacramento Nov. 7, a week before its league finale and what figures to be its biggest game. The Fontana and Vista matchups are both at home. Strange scheduling, but the Panthers, ranked No. 9 by Cal-Hi and currently No. 2 in their section, will be in the unique position of having played some of the best teams from the San Diego area, one of the best from the Los Angeles area and one of the best from Northern California.

According to Coach Dick Haines, Vista got stuck without a game when a new school opened in the section, messing up previous schedules. So, given the alternative of an easy game or no game, Haines lined up Cordova. "I would rather play with anybody instead of nobody," he said. He proved it by paying Cordova "a ton of money to get them down here," reportedly more than $5,000.

Three of the best sprinters in the state all at Taft for the 1988 season?

The possibility was there recently, and not just in thought.

Tony Miller of Riordan High in San Francisco and Brian Bridgewater of Washington were both telling people at The Athletics Congress National Junior Olympics in Provo, Utah, in July that they would be attending Taft for their senior year. Miller, who finished fifth in the state 100-meter dash, reportedly gave the move some serious thought, and Bridgewater, who finished sixth in the same race, even turned in an application during the summer to transfer from the inner-city to the San Fernando Valley. He later withdrew it, and both are staying put.

Now, Taft Coach Tom Stevenson will have to be satisfied with having only Quincy Watts, who won the 100 and 200 at Sacramento and finished the season with the best prep times in the nation in the 100 (10.30) and 200 (20.30) meters.

"Quincy told me they were coming," Stevenson said. "They all ran together during the summer with the West Valley Eagles (a club team) and became real good friends. I think the idea was to get together and be awesome.

"They both wanted to come to Taft because it would have been a positive situation for them. The guy who coached them on the Eagles (Hilliard Sumner), we are going to hire as an assistant coach next year. He did a great job with them."

Pomona opened its football season with a 21-7 loss to San Dimas, which may not be as bad as it sounds for the Red Devils. Preseason plans were to have just 25 players on the varsity at a school with an enrollment of 1,450, and reportedly the junior varsity team was in danger of being dropped because it had only 15 players.

"If we ever went back to the ancient rule of one-platoon football, we'd be in good shape," first-year Coach Steve Gillette told the Ontario Daily Report. "We have 11 good players, but everyone else uses 22."

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