Through the first three weeks of the 1987 football season, some of the best prep players in the area--and the state--have been lost to injuries, and at a faster rate than usual. Worse, some didn't even make it past the first quarter of the first game, and some have been duplicate casualties.
The medical report:
--El Toro quarterback Bret Johnson, the 1986 Southern Conference player of the year as a junior, is expected to miss at least two more weeks of play after suffering a ligament strain in his right knee in the Chargers' game Sept. 17 against Fountain Valley. Thus, the South Coast League pass-a-thon between Johnson and Todd Marinovich of Capistrano Valley is on hold.
--Damon Mack of Gardena, the best wide receiver in the City, dislocated his right shoulder early in the first quarter of the Mohicans' season-opening victory over San Pedro last Friday while playing safety. Initial reports were that he would be out at least two weeks.
--Lamont Hollinquest of Downey Pius X, one of the top defensive backs in the state who doubles as the Warriors' quarterback, will be out for at least five more weeks and possibly the rest of the season with a broken left ankle. He was hurt on the first play of the first game, Sept. 11 against El Rancho.
--Running back-linebacker Kaleaph Carter of Huntington Beach Edison has been hurt twice. Carter, who rushed for 1,015 yards in 1986, opened the season by gaining 13 yards in 4 carries before leaving with back spasms and a pinched nerve in his neck. After returning the next game and picking up 161 yards in 15 carries in a 29-27 loss to Capistrano Valley, he suffered a dislocated left shoulder Saturday while making a tackle against Servite. He is expected to miss four to six weeks.
--Punter-kicker Paul Stonehouse of Loyola. An All-Big Five selection last season as a sophomore, he suffered a pulled groin muscle last week and kicked only three times Friday against Long Beach Jordan.
--Mike Mooney, the All-Northwestern Conference running back at Temple City. He played 10 minutes in the Rams' season-opening loss to Arroyo because of a bruised thigh and was later found to have torn a ligament in his left knee. He doesn't remember it happening. He hopes to return for the Rio Hondo League opener.
--Niu Sale of Torrance Bishop Montgomery, an option quarterback who rushed for 1,056 yards and passed for 1,100 more last season, is expected to miss at least two more weeks after breaking his right hand--his throwing hand--in the season opener. There was some hope that he would play defensive back last Friday against South Torrance but he was unable to perform.
--The Encino Crespi running backs both started hurt. Though you can't tell now, Russell White, who had a hip pointer, and J.J. Lasley, who had leg cramps, both missed much of the season opener, when the Celts, ranked No. 1 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, were tied by Redlands. White went from that to 218 yards the next week against Palmdale and then a school-record 266 in 16 carries against Santa Barbara. Lasley also had a career-high 153 yards in that game, a 55-0 win.
--Tailback Tim Lavin of Canoga Park Chaminade, who had rushed for 229 yards in the first two games of the season, strained a knee during the first series Friday against Calabasas and missed the rest of the game.
Said Edison's Dave White, who has lost Carter and his three best linebackers to injuries and is the first coach to lose three straight games since the school opened in 1969: "This is my 11th year as a player and a coach, and I've never seen injuries like this. Some of them are freak, some of them are the nature of the game, but it's definitely snowballed."
The Southern Conference holds a 13-3-1 advantage over the formerly superior Big Five in games this season. That includes a 4-2 bulge in Week 3.
Quarterback Perry Klein of Palisades, a junior making his third varsity start, was the passing star in the first week of play in the City. In the Dolphins' 48-42 loss to Santa Monica, he completed 28 of 47 throws for 378 yards and 4 touchdowns, with only 1 interception.
Beyond that, there were some coincidences. Palisades Coach Jack Epstein graduated from Santa Monica and Klein went there as a freshman. And, Epstein coached Warren Moon, now with the Houston Oilers, on the B team at Hamilton when Klein's uncle, Mel Klein, was the varsity coach.
"He's very impressive," Epstein said of Klein. "That boy has everything going for him at this point. He'll have a much better junior year than Moon did. We have much better receivers, for one thing, and better backs. . . . But they're both about the same size at this stage (6 feet 2 inches, 170 pounds) and have the same smarts."
This could be only the start of big numbers for Klein, since the Dolphins plan to pass 30-50 times a game. They will play Beverly Hills Thursday.