Some people may have thought Leuzinger High School an unlikely representative in the championship game of the El Camino College Summer Football Festival, but the Olympians' opponent was no surprise to anyone.
And Fountain Valley proved most worthy of its No. 1 seed and top-rated status by capturing the passing tournament crown Saturday with a 31-8 drubbing of Leuzinger.
The championship game put the finishing touches on the 2-day festival at El Camino in which 28 teams from Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties competed in a 7-on-7 touch format.
But the festival was more than just a passing fancy. It also featured a kicking and punting competition, a 40-yard dash, an 880-yard relay and a weightlifting contest.
It was, according to El Camino football Coach John Featherstone, an athletic festival in the true sense of the word.
"Originally, we were just trying to get the local district teams involved in a summer tournament that coincided with our (El Camino) summer program, but we were also looking for something else special," said Featherstone, who guided the Warriors to the 1987 junior college state championship.
"So we started weightlifting for the linemen and the relays and the dashes. And I really think it's gone well so far. This is our third year, and it's gotten better each year, and that's all we were looking for to happen."
On offense, teams scored points for completed passes, based on the length of the completion. The defense could score with interceptions and by stopping the offense on three consecutive plays. The first team to score 31 points won.
Leuzinger surprised a few people by winning its first four games, knocking off some pretty good competition in the process. The Olympians defeated heavily favored Carson, 31-18, and San Fernando, 31-22, on successive days to advance to the final game.
Meanwhile, Fountain Valley, behind the strong left arm of quarterback David Henigan, an all-CIF performer the last two years, was mowing down opponents with its passing game.
Among those surprised by Leuzinger's showing was Steve Carnes, who is entering his second year as the Olympians' head coach.
"I really didn't expect us to do this well," Carnes said. "I look at this as a good way to get some experience, and it's really not a good indication of how you're going to do in the season. It's just a chance to play against some good teams."
The Olympians got their chance against Fountain Valley, a Sunset League team that figures to turn some heads next season. Henigan has a host of good receivers to throw to, but his favorite Saturday was Mike Cook--ironically, the backup quarterback for the last two years.
Carnes was impressed.
"They are just an excellent team," he said. "Every time you looked up, they were popping another big gain on us. They're just a real good passing team, and fortunately we probably won't see anybody else like that the whole year."
Leuzinger quarterback Zac Odom established himself as the No. 1 candidate for the job, and Quang Banks looks to start on offense and defense.
Odom, however, was not pleased with having to settle for second place.
"Once we got together as a team, we felt we could do about anything," he said. "But this team can only go as far as it permits itself. The key is to work together as a team, because if we make mistakes, the other team is going to capitalize."
The third-place finisher was Long Beach Poly, which defeated San Fernando, 31-13, on Saturday.
Glancing at the schedule, a smart oddsmaker would have tabbed Carson High a candidate for the championship game, but the Colts instead wound up facing Verbum Dei in the game for seventh place.
Leuzinger beat Carson on Friday. Then, on Saturday, Long Beach Poly and North Torrance also beat the Colts, sending them reeling into the lower echelon of the festival.
"We lost to Leuzinger, which is a very good team, in an intense game," said Carson Coach Gene Vollnogle. "All the kids were up and yelling and it was a super game, but they really felt defeated afterwards. Then we got beat twice in the same kind of games, and it was as bad as I've ever seen us play."
The Colts have two experienced, strong-armed quarterbacks fighting for one position, which is a problem many coaches wouldn't mind having. Vollnogle has solved it for the time being by saying he will use both Fred Gatlin and Perry Klein.
Klein was absent Saturday, so Gatlin picked up the slack and passed Carson to a 31-17 victory over Verbum Dei, despite the absence of receiver Tydus Winans, who is nursing a summer-league hamstring injury.
"People all want to talk about the quarterbacks, but we have outstanding running backs in Larry Billoups and Errol Sapp and one of the best offensive lines we've ever had at this school," Vollnogle said. "I'm really looking forward to the season. In fact, about a week ago I was already saying to myself, 'I can't wait to get out there and get started.'
"But you're right about the quarterbacks: I don't mind having that kind of problem at all."