COACH: Pat Blackburn, 1st year
LAST SEASON: 3-5-2; 6th in league, 0-4-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Blackburn was 13-9 in two seasons at Montclair Prep, a school from the Southern Section Division IX (formerly Small Schools). He moves to a team that last season did not win a game in the Del Rey, a Division I league that features the top-rated teams in the state (Loyola is No. 1 and Crespi is No. 2). If Blackburn makes the big step and leads the Indians to the playoffs, tailback Tyler Robuck will play a big part. Robuck (5-10, 170) rushed for 464 yards (4.9 a carry) and 5 touchdowns last year at Montclair Prep and is the most experienced ballcarrier for Alemany. Mark Dannemiller (5-10, 165) and Jeff Voss (5-10, 195) will alternate at fullback. The team's best returning skill-position player is left-handed quarterback Joey Rosselli (6-1, 168), who passed for 1,226 yards and 6 touchdowns as a sophomore. Rosselli will pilot Alemany's new option offense. Juniors Bill Markowitz (5-10, 165) and Scott Goldsmith (5-9, 140) will start at receiver. Brian Swanson (6-4, 225) is the top returning lineman and a Division I prospect with 4.8 speed and a 3.6 GPA, Blackburn said. Mark Sauter (6-1, 190), a returning starter, will start at nose guard and offensive guard. Versatile Brian McClain (6-1, 205) will play tight end, linebacker or on the offensive line.
OUTLOOK: Six players will go both ways. There are only 13 seniors on the team. The Del Rey might be the toughest league in the state, yet Blackburn believes Alemany has what it takes. "Our goals are to make the playoffs and to have a winning season," he said. "I think to do that we'll have a split in our first two league games." Wish them luck. Alemany opens league play with Crespi and Loyola. But last year Loyola barely beat Alemany, 6-0.
COACH: Bill Redell, 4th year
LAST SEASON: 10-2-1, 2nd in league, 4-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Crespi enters the season rated No. 1 in the Southern Section's Division I rankings and No. 2 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports. Consensus All-American tailback Russell White (6-0, 185) is ranked by one scouting service as the top high school recruit in the nation. White (4,609 yards and 69 touchdowns in two years) leads the offense, but Crespi's attack will be double-edged. Senior quarterback Ron Redell (6-3, 191), who is listed among the state's top 50 players in one publication, will pass approximately 25 times a game, Coach Redell said. While some find strength in numbers, Coach Redell cringes when he looks at the depth of his team. "This team has the capability to be the best we've ever had, but we are not a deep team." Crespi's schedule is not conducive to quick healing, either--the Celts play five teams ranked among the state's top 20. Two key players, brothers Quinn and Chris Fauria, have been injury prone and must remain healthy for Crespi stay on top. Quinn has been moved from tight end to fullback and Chris takes Quinn's position. Other returning players--the Celts have 13--include offensive linemen Mike Parkes (6-3, 210) and Dan Hunt (6-0, 220). Brett Borkgren returns at linebacker.
OUTLOOK: If Crespi can stay healthy, a berth in the Division I title game is certainly possible. Redell, as always, is confident that the team has the talent. But then, talent is not always enough. Even though Crespi won the Division I title (formerly the Big Five Conference) in 1986 and advanced to the semifinals last season, the Celts have not won a league title in Redell's tenure. Yet, if the passing game clicks and relieves some of the pressure on White, if the offensive line holds up and if the team stays healthy, Crespi will be in contention at season's end. Otherwise? "One or two injuries in the wrong place and we could be in some kind of trouble," Redell said.
COACH: Terry Terrazone, 6th year
LAST SEASON: 4-7, 3rd in league, 2-3
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Golden Knights' defense should be able to keep Terrazone on terra firma. Seven players return, including all four starting linebackers--Mike Weisenberg (6-3, 210), Jeff Dyrek (6-0, 200), Ed Aguilar (6-0, 190) and Matt Smith (6-3, 200). All are seniors and will be joined by returning starters Eric Echeverry and Gil Jurado at cornerback. "Our defense is really squared away," Terrazone said. Option quarterback Ron Morris, the Del Rey Back of the Year, has graduated and untested Erik Hagge (6-3, 175) or sophomore John Willis (6-3, 190) will try to fill the void. Injuries slowed St. Francis backs last year, but junior Peter Morales (6-0, 195) and senior Francisco Diaz (5-8, 180) both started last year. Dave Wooland (5-9, 175), who led the team in receptions with 19, also returns. Center Fred Hughes (6-1, 230) is a three-year starter whom Terrazone calls a Division I prospect.
OUTLOOK: St. Francis has 13 returning players, but in a league with the likes of Loyola and Crespi, third place may be the most realistic goal. "If we get the offense going, we'll be able to hold our own," Terrazone said.