COACH: Myron Gibford, 9th year
LAST SEASON: 7-4; 2nd in league, 4-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Gibford calls them his "rookies," which is a kind way of saying Chatsworth has several players at key positions with no football experience. "We've been pounding the hallways," he said. "We were hoping one of the baseball players would try out." The Chancellors' transition from the 3-A Division to 4-A might not be easy. At quarterback, Gibford will choose between sophomore Tyler Johnston (6-0, 170) and senior Louis Scott (5-10, 165). Neither have varsity experience. The offense probably will revolve around senior fullback Jeffrey Jones (6-1, 220), a converted defensive tackle. "He's a rookie, too, but he has real talent. He runs the 40 in 4.7, so he's not a guy who just walks around out there." Kurt Gustafson, a senior, returns at receiver. Gibford calls his offensive line the "best in years," but only center Jason Heber (6-2, 240) is a sure starter. Ten others are fighting for the remaining positions. The defense is led by two-year starter and All-Sunset League linebacker Matt Helm (6-0, 190), who also plays offensive guard. Sean Deitch (5-10, 180), Kurt Mayo (6-2, 190) and Chris Whittington (6-3, 240) are expected to start on the defensive line. The secondary lacks experience, Gibford said.
OUTLOOK: Gibford is up front about assessing the Chancellors' chances in their first year of 4-A play. "We should be very good up front," he said. "The question is whether we'll be able to get our skill people squared away in time." This is a league where skill personnel dominate--last year, the quarterbacks from Granada Hills and San Fernando each were offered scholarships to attend Division I schools. "It may not be the best year for us to join, but we'll give it a shot," Gibford said.
COACH: Darryl Stroh, 4th year
LAST SEASON: 9-3; 1st in league, 4-0
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Can it be? The most consistent pass factory in the area and its strength this year might be defense? Granada Hills, the defending City 4-A champion, has six of its starting seven linemen or linebackers back, and after graduation decimated last season's skill-position ranks, defense might be the strong suit. Returning linebackers include Sebastian Glaze (6-2, 215), David Kim (6-2, 215), Randy Spitzer (5-11, 180) and Mike Gadomski (6-2, 190). Gadomski also will play tight end, where he will be on the receiving end of a pass or two from his brother Chris, a 5-11 junior who was the team's No. 3 quarterback last year. "He's had a pretty good summer throwing the ball," Stroh said. "He can do the job." There is good news for proponents of the aerial assault that has been the Granada Hills trademark. The offensive scheme will generally stay the same, with perhaps a touch more run mixed in. "Right now, I think we'll be looking for balance," Stroh said. "At least, as much as we can." Senior Mario Walker (also starting at nose guard) and fleet sophomore Brett Washington (5-11, 215) will play fullback along with Spitzer. Linemen Mike Williams (6-1, 220) and Chris Robbins (6-0, 230) return.
OUTLOOK: The Highlanders are on solid ground, Stroh said, with one exception. "Our biggest question mark is the offensive line," he said. "It's really up for grabs, and we're not real big." If the line cannot pass block, that could mean Chris Gadomski might have to chalk up the year to one of development. And next year already looks good with sophomores Washington, Robert Haywood, Eric Moss and Derrick Stewart on the varsity and battling for playing time. If Stroh plugs the line leaks, Granada Hills will challenge for a playoff berth.
COACH: Bob Francola, 3rd year
LAST SEASON: 1-6-1; 5th in league, 0-3-1
PLAYERS TO WATCH: After winning its opener last year, the Golden Cougars hit the skids and failed to win another game. Kennedy, in fact, fell all the way from first place in the Valley League in 1986 to last in '87. This season, the team has worked overtime to prevent a repeat performance, starting with 7-on-7 passing competition in January. "When you're 1-6-1, you'd better practice," Francola said. Kennedy's revamped offense finished 20-10 in passing competition, led by returning quarterback Tony Smets (5-10, 160). Smets, a senior, passed for 193 yards and 4 touchdowns last year as a part-time starter. Kennedy will operate out of a run-and-shoot set and will attempt to run plays every 15 to 20 seconds to keep defenses off balance. Said Francola: "It's a run-and-shoot, double-wing set with men in motion." That means plenty of action for senior running backs Gerry Gandy, Jay Davis and Mike Broussard. Sophomore Antiwaun Carter also will see action, and he could be the best of the bunch--he has run the 200 meters in 22.8, Francola said. Carlos Gomez and Billy Parra, both 5-10, will start at receiver. Three starters return in the offensive line: Doug Huff (6-0, 215), Mike Choi (6-0, 215) and Joel Silver (6-6, 285).