Forget the howling winds and numbing cold. The real problem facing teams that visit Antelope Valley is the home team.
So says Harvey Kochel, coach of Ventura, and in case you've forgotten, an expert on the subject. Ventura was defeated by Antelope Valley, 34-0, in the first round of the Coastal Conference playoffs last season.
Ventura (10-1) must again make the long trip to Antelope Valley (8-3) for a second-round game Friday at 7:30 p.m. But it's not the travel that worries Kochel.
"It's the program," he said. "They're just a good team. They are practically every year."
Fortunately for Ventura, the Antelopes might not be as good as they were last season when they reached the conference championship game.
"They have a whole different cast," Kochel said in dismissing the result of a year ago, "and so do we."
Ventura, which was missing five starters in last season's game, should have a healthy team.
Running back Tim Albrent, who missed Ventura's 14-3 first-round victory over Crescenta Valley last week because of a knee injury, will play. The senior has rushed for 699 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Antelope Valley, which defeated Palos Verdes, 41-14, in the opening round, has scrapped its normally potent ground attack in favor of a passing offense.
Quarterback Ron Whipple has completed 127 of 227 passes for 1,827 yards and 20 touchdowns. He has thrown for 44 touchdowns and almost 5,000 yards in his three-year career. Wide Receiver Shon Grimes has 60 catches for 918 yards and 8 touchdowns this season. In his three-year career, he has 151 receptions for more than 2,000 yards.
Ventura's defense, which has allowed an average of 11.7 points a game, is led by middle linebacker Steve Dailey, linemen John Dotsy and Ed Ramirez and defensive backs Kyron Johnson and Lawrence Cottrell.
Channel Islands at South Torrance, Friday at 7:30 p.m--Joel Gershon, Channel Islands' coach of 14 years, is after his 100th career victory. Although he says the milestone isn't important, he would much rather reach it this week than some time next season.
"I haven't given it that much thought," said Gershon, who has a career mark of 99-51-3. "We're preoccupied with staying in this thing."
This thing is the Coastal Conference playoffs and the Raiders (9-2) have stayed alive so far behind the running of junior John Johnson, who rushed for 174 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-19 win over Quartz Hill last week. Don't think South Torrance doesn't know all about Johnson.
"John Johnson is a class back," South Torrance Coach Joe Austin said. "We haven't seen anybody that quick. He'll probably run wild in the first quarter until our kids adjust to his speed."
With 1,157 yards and 20 touchdowns in 119 carries, Johnson averages 9.7 yards a carry. He is complemented by fullback E. J. Miller, who has 663 yards and 7 touchdowns in 96 carries. Channel Islands has passed for 892 yards.
South Torrance (9-2), which defeated Hueneme, 21-14, last week, has a more balanced attack. Quarterback Zack Krislock (6-5, 185) has thrown for 1,980 yards and 21 touchdowns and tailback Mike Wyrick (5-9, 190) has rushed for 1,641 yards.
"Krislock is very accurate with a nice touch," Gershon said. "We'll have to pressure him."
Palmdale at Thousand Oaks, Friday at 7:30 p.m.--Thousand Oaks defeated Canyon, 13-10, this season. Canyon defeated Palmdale, 14-12, two weeks ago. So, Thousand Oaks ought to beat Palmdale something like 17-14, right?
Thousand Oaks Coach Bob Richards only wishes it was that easy. Palmdale (9-2), he believes, has the finest talent in the Coastal Conference.
"I spoke with Canyon Coach Harry Welch last week and he said he doesn't even want to see Palmdale again," Richards said. "We are in for a tremendous ballgame."
Palmdale Coach John Lowry is equally respectful of Thousand Oaks (9-1-1), however.
"We haven't played our best game yet but we may need to against Thousand Oaks," he said. "They hang onto the ball all night."
Behind an offensive line led by guard Eric Dennis and tackle Greg Banks, the Lancers churn out chunks of yardage on the ground. Thousand Oaks has rushed for 2,563 yards, more than half (1,380) coming from tailback Marc Monestime, who is Ventura County's all-time career rushing leader.
The Lancers, who defeated San Marcos, 35-6, in a first-round game last week, are a hard-hitting bunch on defense led by linebacker Mack Humphries. Lowry, however, is more worried about fatigue than intimidation.
"Our kids will hit with them," Lowry said. "My concern is that we have seven guys playing both ways and they go with 22 starters."
Bob Cline, a 6-2, 225-pound senior, anchors the middle of Palmdale's 4-3 defense. He doesn't play offense, but several key Palmdale players rarely leave the field.
Eric Thomas, a 5-11, 170-pound senior who has rushed for 1,128 yards, also plays cornerback. Jim Nevelle, a 6-2, 227-pound junior, and Zae Perrin, a 6-5, 220-pound senior, are two-way linemen.
Palmdale, like Thousand Oaks, does not pass a great deal, although junior Shannon Culver has thrown for more than 100 yards in each of the past two games. Lancer quarterback Steve Sisco, a 5-9 senior, has passed for 558 yards and rushed for 338.