The two most improved football teams in the Southern Section this season are from Ventura County.
Hueneme, which improved from 1-9 to 8-2 in the regular season under second-year Coach George Machado, improved the most, according to statistics compiled by the Southern Section office. The Vikings shared the championship of the Channel League with Ventura.
Oak Park, which was 7-3 in the regular season for first-year Coach Ron Veres, was a close second. The Eagles were 0-9-1 last season.
Both teams qualified for the Southern Section playoffs, but lost in first-round games last week.
Hueneme dropped a 21-14 decision to South Torrance, while Oak Park lost to Big Bear, 28-14.
Add Hueneme: Five of the Vikings' 11 games were decided by two points or less and No. 6 almost came against South Torrance.
Hueneme had two opportunities to score a touchdown late in the game, but drives deep into South Torrance territory were stopped on an interception and a quarterback sack after a dropped pass.
Marc Monestime of Thousand Oaks High set a county career rushing record by gaining 125 yards in 19 carries in the Lancers' 35-6 win over San Marcos last week.
Monestime, a senior, has 3,768 yards, 59 more than former Channel Islands quarterback Hilria Johnson gained from 1977-79. The record-breaking carry was a dazzling 51-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.
"It's a lot of yards when I think about it," Monestime said after the game. "When the season's over I can look back and think I had a pretty good high school record."
Pretty good, indeed.
Tony Kerr of Simi Valley finished ninth in the Southern Section with 1,520 yards rushing in 217 attempts during the regular season. Two other Marmonte League runners were included in the top 25. Bill Bell of Camarillo gained 1,418 yards in 231 carries and Monestime has 1,236 yards in 188 carries.
Will McInerney of Santa Paula was first in touchdown passes with 22 and 14th in passing with 1,757 yards. He added 201 yards and a touchdown in Santa Paula's 49-7 playoff loss to Chaminade last week. Sophomore Tim Gutierrez of Santa Clara was 22nd with 1,557 yards in nine games.
Marco Sanchez, who teamed with McInerney to form the county's most prolific passing combination, was fifth in receptions with 55 for 850 yards. He had six more catches last week.
In scoring, John Johnson, a junior from Channel Islands, was 18th with 17 touchdowns and a two-point conversion for 104 points. Johnson added three touchdowns in last week's playoff win against Quartz Hill. Jason Stein of Oak Park was 24th with 98 points on 16 touchdowns and a two-point conversion. John Weich of Santa Clara was eighth among kickers in scoring with 50 points. He had nine field goals and 23 PATs.
David Stratton of Moorpark was sixth in punting with a 41.6 average for 45 kicks.
Defensively, Nick Schlesinger of Nordhoff and Jesse Moura of Santa Paula each had 133 tackles to tie for fifth. Gil Valencia of Camarillo was tied for third with seven interceptions. James Jones of Royal had six to tie for seventh and Chris Gann of Thousand Oaks had five to tie for 13th.
Don MacLean of Simi Valley High, one of the top high school basketball prospects in the nation, chose not to sign an early letter of intent.
There had been speculation that the 6-10 center would sign by midnight, Nov. 18, the last time high school basketball players can sign a letter until the second week of April.
He reportedly had narrowed his choices to Kentucky, Georgia Tech, UCLA, Nevada-Las Vegas and Pittsburgh. MacLean has visited all five campuses.
"I think it's a healthy decision for him," said Bob Hawking, Simi Valley's coach. "I would have hated to see him make a decision just because he's tired of the whole thing and just wanted to get it over with."
MacLean averaged 24.7 points and 11.3 rebounds a game last season in leading the Pioneers to the Southern Section 4-A Division semifinals.
Debbie Sharp of Oxnard College placed third in the state junior college cross-country championships at Woodward Park in Fresno last week.
Sharp was timed in 17 minutes, 42 seconds over the 3.1-mile course to narrowly edge Ruth Vomund of Ventura, who was clocked in 17:43 and finished fourth.
Teri Gerber of Ventura was fifth in 17:47 and teammate Rachel Rossbach was 10th in 18:12.
Debbie Ball was Moorpark's top finisher, placing 31st in 19:17.
Corey Zigler of Ventura placed highest among county representatives in the men's race. He was 32nd in 20:21.
Larry Smith, coach of the Rose Bowl-bound USC football team, will be the guest speaker at The Times annual football awards banquet, Dec. 13 at the Anaheim Hilton Hotel.
First-team selections from each of The Times 12 circulation areas will be invited to the awards brunch. Coaches and parents of the players also are invited.
This is the first time a Ventura County team will be selected by Times staff writers. The All-County team will be published Dec. 10.
Players were selected by Times staff writers after balloting and interviews with coaches from the area.