Emotions run high for the Banning-Carson football game. The players get excited, the bands play like crazy and the communities of Wilmington and Carson rally behind their teams.
So what's wrong with Gene Vollnogle? The Carson coach, a veteran of the Banning-Carson wars, says he's having trouble psyching himself up for Friday night's showdown at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach.
"I don't feel as hyped as normally," he said. "I don't know why--if it's because Chris (Ferragamo) isn't there or what."
Ferragamo, Vollnogle's longtime coaching rival at Banning, moved to Harbor College this year. That might be one reason for Vollnogle's lack of enthusiasm, but another factor could be Carson's efficiency.
The unbeaten Colts have yet to be challenged, while Banning has struggled under first-year Coach John Hazelton.
Said Vollnogle: "I don't have the feeling we have to do something special to win."
If all else fails, Vollnogle can resort to using the series record for motivation. The teams are tied, 16-16, since their first meeting in 1963.
Like many of the nation's top prep basketball players, Michael Brown of Westchester chose to take advantage of the early one-week college signing period that lasts through Wednesday.
By signing a letter of intent with Cal State Fullerton, the 6-6 Brown hopes to eliminate the pressures of recruiting and focus on the season.
"I wanted to sign and get it out of the way," he said.
Brown was impressed with Fullerton Coach George McQuarn and his staff, which includes former Harbor College Coach Donnie Daniels. "It was more important whom I played for than where I played," he said.
Pepperdine was his second choice, followed by Nevada-Las Vegas. "UNLV wanted me to sign late (in April)," Brown said. "I wasn't sure about that."
Brown says he has recovered from a summer knee injury. He averaged 13 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists last season for Westchester and is projected to play off-guard in college.
About 90% of the top prospects across the country will pick a college during the one-week period.
James Moses of Serra, the South Bay's most heavily recruited basketball player, this weekend will complete to a barnstorming tour of the nation's colleges.
The 6-5 Moses left Wednesday for Arizona. From there he will fly to Louisiana State for his final recruiting trip. He has visited Florida State, Nevada-Las Vegas and Iowa since early last month.
"There's a possibility I will sign early," he said. "I don't want to make a decision and then change my mind."
Moses, who averaged 28 points a game last year and has been named to several preseason All-American teams, said he is not leaning toward any college.
"All the schools have the credentials," he said. "It just depends on what school I feel is suitable for me."
Damon Mack of Gardena and Tim Fletcher of Mira Costa, perhaps the South Bay's two best wide receivers, were expected to have big football seasons. Instead, they've had to deal with lost seasons because of injuries.
Fletcher, an All-CIF selection last year, has not played since the fourth game because of a sprained knee. Mack, an All-City selection who was named to several preseason All-American teams, has played in only one full game because of a dislocated shoulder that will require surgery after the season.
Neither senior has enjoyed watching from the sideline.
"It's terrible," Fletcher said. "I'd love to be out there. It's so hard not to be. This is the first injury I've had that's taken me out for so long. I'm not used to not contributing."
Mack has been equally frustrated as a spectator, but he does not think it will hurt his chance of landing a college scholarship.
"I still played in some games," he said. "Colleges are still sending me letters, and I'm sure they've found out about my injury."
Gardena Coach Dale Hirayama said recruiters from UCLA and Notre Dame visited the school last week to check on Mack, who says his top college choices are UCLA, Washington and Illinois.
"I told them about Damon's injury and it doesn't seem to deter them about recruiting him," Hirayama said. "I know UCLA likes Damon."
Mack, who suffered the injury last spring while sliding in baseball, hopes to play Friday against Fremont. Doctors reportedly have told him the injury cannot get worse and will be corrected by surgery.
Scout Dick Lascola said he becomes concerned about a recruit's future when surgery is performed.
"I know that a lot of times if the shoulder is not healed properly, it needs surgery," he said. "And that's major."
Lascola said knee injuries are considered most serious. "I've seen good kids have to go the JC route after knee surgery," he said. "After two years there, they might get picked up (by a four-year college)."
Fletcher's knee injury apparently isn't as severe as thought. What may have been more damaged is his status as a college prospect. Because he is only 5-7, Fletcher figured to need a big season to ease the doubts of recruiters.
"A lot of colleges have stopped writing since my injury," he said.