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PREP FOOTBALL ALL-STARS 1987 : Talented Quarterback Pool Distinguishes Area Football

December 10, 1987|HEATHER HAFNER

Although Glendale-area teams were short on victories this season, they proved long on talent at quarterback. St. Francis Coach Terry Terrazone said that Bill Morris was one of the best.

"We didn't throw the ball a whole lot because we run a lot of the option," Terrazone said. "In terms of impact, there is no back in the league, except Russell White, that can compare to him day after day. I'm sure every coach in the league knew that they had to do something to stop Bill."

Morris, a 6-2, 180-pound senior, led St. Francis to the first round of the Big Five Conference playoffs and was named back of the year in the Del Rey League. The option quarterback rushed for 349 yards and 9 touchdowns and threw for 1,111 yards and 7 touchdowns this season.

Morris was also a capable team leader and started the last four games of the season at defensive back, intercepting two passes.

"I think his greatest asset is his ability to scramble and to see what's going on," Terrazone said "He has a lot of confidence and he was a real inspirational leader."

But while Morris spent the season scrambling, it was drop-back-and-throw for Franklin's Ronnie Lopez. Franklin's offensive line, which was one of the finest in the area, gave Lopez ample time to do just that.

The 6-4, 195-pound senior completed 96 of 156 passes for 1,578 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first season as a starter. Lopez led Franklin to the semifinal of the City 3-A playoffs and was named the Freeway League's co-most valuable player. But Franklin Coach Armando Gonzalez said that Lopez' greatest asset may be his poise under pressure.

"He has confidence in himself and he reads the defense very well," Gonzalez said. "He's not a runner at all. But when he does see the blitz coming he releases the ball and does a good job of quickly picking up his secondary receiver."

Lopez threw only three interceptions this season. At the beginning of the season, his lack of experience was a concern to the Franklin coaches.

"He has a lot of good qualities that helped him become a good quarterback quickly," Gonzalez said. "And he's been very durable."

Durability was something that came naturally to Eagle Rock quarterback Chuck Engel this season. Engel was a linebacker before moving to quarterback his junior season. On the first play of the Marshall game this season, Engel sprained the thumb on his throwing hand. Coach Dennis Shaw didn't notice any drop-off in Engel's performance and was not made aware of the injury until the next week.

"He's tough and he really hangs in there," Shaw said. "He knows when to throw the ball and he knows when to run. He only missed one game in two years."

Engel, who completed 99 of 172 passes for 1,445 yards and 14 touchdowns, was a repeat selection as player of the year in the Northern League.

"Most of the coaches felt that he was the guy that made it go," Shaw said.

For the past three seasons, Darren Fitzgerald has been the player that made Verdugo Hills go. The 6-2, 210-pound senior passed for 1,390 yards and 7 touchdowns as a sophomore, 1,550 yards and 5 touchdowns as a junior and finished with 1,480 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He was also an outstanding kicker, averaging 36.5 yards per punt and converting 25 extra points this season.

"You become good when you play under adversity," Verdugo Hills Coach Bill Novikoff said. "He hasn't had the protection that a lot of other quarterbacks have had. He doesn't have the supporting cast. But he has become a fine leader. He is the finest long passer I have seen in high school in a long time."

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