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Quarterback Dilemma: It Can Be a Boon

October 29, 1987|STEVE HENSON | Times Staff Writer

Fans love it. Coaches hate it. Nothing spices up a season more than a good quarterback controversy.

Coach Steve Dann avoided one at Santa Clara, oddly, through misfortune. And his team is winning.

Coach Joel Gershon is confronted with one at Channel Islands, even though he considers it good fortune. His team is also winning.

Not coincidentally, a talented sophomore quarterback named Mark Contreras transferred from Santa Clara to Channel Islands one year ago.

Contreras left Santa Clara because it appeared he would play behind senior Mike Teron and sophomore Tim Gutierrez this season. Declared eligible at Channel Islands two weeks ago, Contreras replaced starter Vince Medina--a junior who led the Raiders to a 5-1 record--in the second half last week against Camarillo and led the team to a 24-21 victory.

Changing quarterbacks midway through a winning season might seem odd, but Gershon can handle controversy.

"The starter next week will be decided in practice," Gershon said. "It will be a real battle for the job."

Medina plays a mistake-free game but Contreras has a stronger arm, Gershon said. Both are mentally suited for the job. And no matter who calls signals, he'll have Victor Caro (13 catches for 282 yards) on the receiving end of passes and any one of four capable running backs at his disposal. Fullbacks E. J. Miller, Mike Campos and Reggie Williams each have rushed for more than 250 yards and tailback John Johnson has 538 yards, 11 touchdowns and an average of 7.7 yards a carry.

Meanwhile, at Santa Clara, Gutierrez was handed the job when Teron, the returning starter, was lost for the year because of a knee injury the first week of the season. Dann is down to one quarterback but isn't complaining--Gutierrez, who has completed 72 of 123 passes for 1,006 yards and 8 touchdowns with only 3 interceptions, has led the team to a 5-2 record.

"Timmy has that natural ability to see the whole field," Dann said, "including secondary receivers. He's really gifted in that sense."

It hasn't hurt that Gutierrez sets up behind a large and experienced line. Center Ben Clark, perhaps the best blocker, is only 5-10, but all the guards and tackles are at least 6-3. Santa Clara also has several fine receivers, including Matt Young, Richard Mendez and Kasha Clemons.

"The older players readily accepted Tim," Dann said.

And despite the loss of two talented players, the absence of a quarterback controversy seems to be better for the whole Dann family.

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