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Russell White, Derek Brown: They Do Run Run

November 27, 1987|STEVE LOWERY | Times Staff Writer

Servite High School plays Crespi tonight at 7:30 in a Big Five quarterfinal game at Glover Stadium.

But some of the people who will attend the game have little interest in the final result. They are more interested in the matchup between Crespi's Russell White-- the Russell White--and Servite's Derek Brown.

"If I wasn't coaching the game, I'd come out just to watch him run," Servite Coach Leo Hand said of White.

Most people involved in high school football think White, a junior, is the best running back in California. There's a significant number who think Russell White is flat out the best high school running back they've ever seen. That includes his coach, Bill Redell.

"He's one of the once in a lifetime kids that comes along," he said. "He does things every game that I just stare out on the field and say, 'How did he do that?' "

As a 15-year-old sophomore, White led Crespi to the Big Five championship, earning Big Five player of the year honors. He gained 2,339 yards and scored 31 touchdowns in 14 games.

This season, he's gained 1,863 yards and scored 33 touchdowns in 10 games.

White is great, and Brown is very good.

Brown, a junior, also started as a sophomore. He rushed for 1,134 yards during the 1986 regular season. He set a school single-game rushing record by gaining 334 yards against Mater Dei.

This season he's gained 1,208 yards.

He's very good, perhaps the state's second best junior running back. Second to White.

"I think Derek probably suffers from being around at the same time as Russell," Hand said.

If there's only so much attention to go around, then White has indeed sopped up most of it for running backs.

In fact, White has refused to talk to the media during the playoffs. The kid is 16.

"He gets the attention from all over the country," Redell said. "He gets it all the time. That can get pretty tiresome."

Can you compare the backs?

Because, to many people, White is incomparable, it seems not. But each does a lot of the same things for their teams.

Most important is that each seems to hold victory or defeat in their legs.

For example, White scored five touchdowns and gained 348 yards in Crespi's first-round game against Riverside Poly. Unbelievable as it all sounds, White's effort was just enough to give Crespi a 38-32 victory.

For a good portion of the season, Hand couldn't seem to make up his mind what kind of offense he wanted to use. He tinkered with a full house backfield. He tried a passing offense with quarterback Jason Frank throwing more than 30 times in several games.

All that got Servite a 4-2-1 record. Then Hand decided to just give the ball to Brown.

Since then, with Brown gaining at least 100 yards in each game, Servite has four straight victories.

Brown said after one game: "I told coach just to give me the ball and I'd take care of it."

Having seen the results, Hand has admitted his error.

"It was a mistake to keep the ball away from Derek," he said. "He's such a great player you just have to get him the ball as much as you can."

Another thing White and Brown share in common is their ability, on one play, to change a game.

Westminster played Crespi in 1986 and trailed 16-6 early in the fourth quarter.

"At the time, I'm feeling real good about the situation," said Jack Bowman, Westminster coach. "We were pretty close and we had held White to about 100 yards. Then, he gets the ball and takes off on an 88-yard touchdown run. He was just amazing, cutting back against the grain."

That was White's last carry of the game. He had broken Westminster in the span of a few seconds.

"He makes that run and the game is over," Bowman said. "Brown is the same way. With one play both those guys can take you out a game."

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