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FOOTBALL '88 : Muir and Bishop Amat Look Like Cream of the Prep Crop

September 08, 1988|MITCH POLIN | Times Staff Writer

In recent years, Bishop Amat High of La Puente and Muir of Pasadena have stood high above the rest in San Gabriel Valley prep football.

About the only question has been whether it was Muir and Bishop Amat or Bishop Amat and Muir.

So it is not surprising that as the 1988 season gets under way tonight, Muir and Bishop Amat are expected to lead the way again.

At this point, Muir may hold a slight advantage, although the schools will have an opportunity to decide the matter when they clash in a non-league game Oct. 1 at La Canada High.

About the only thing that has changed since last season is that the CIF Southern Section has adopted a different system for playoff groupings, listing schools and leagues by divisions instead of conferences.

But that does not figure to change the power structure in the valley.

Other top teams from last year include CIF Eastern Conference champion Northview, Pasadena, Claremont, Los Altos and South Hills. They are expected to be among the elite again along with Glendora, West Covina and Nogales.

The Top 10

1--Muir (Pacific League; Division II)--By their own lofty standards, 1987 was hardly the Year of the Mustang.

After winning back-to-back Coastal Conference titles, the Mustangs finished 9-1 only to forfeit their first eight wins because of an ineligible player and miss the playoffs.

But the program is back on track. "I think Muir is on its way back, if it ever really was down," said first-year Coach Herb Robinson, former coach at cross-town rival Blair.

With a roster mostly of juniors and sophomores, Muir figures to be even better next season.

As for this season, Robinson said: "There are some young, talented kids, but they're going to make young, talented mistakes."

While they develop, the Mustangs will probably rely more on returning standouts: wide receiver Derick Holmes, linemen James Ellison (6-2, 270), Henry Johnson (6-0, 230) and George Bugarian (6-0, 210) and defensive backs Jerry Phillips and Stephon Crutchfield.

Among the younger players to watch are junior tight end Elic Mahone (6-4, 220) and sophomores Reggie Reese at running back and defensive back Reggie Hunt (5-10, 205) at fullback and linebacker and Dimitrius Martin at quarterback.

2--Bishop Amat (Angelus League; Division I)--You may not find any can't-miss, blue-chip prospects among these Lancers.

At least, not any as highly regarded as defensive back Stephon Pace or tailback Mazio Royster--two stars from last year's 11-1 team who are at USC.

That does not mean the Lancers are not loaded. Even without a marquee player, Bishop Amat has as much talent as any team in the valley.

"We don't have the great talent (of) the last few years, but we have some good ones," Coach Mark Paredes said.

Taking the place of Royster and Pace are tailback Adam Rogers and cornerback Loren Cannon. Paredes said Rogers, a 5-8 and 185-pounder who rushed for 407 yards as fullback last season, is more like former Amat star Eric Bieniemy than Royster "in the sense that he hits the holes a lot harder and has great strength."

Rogers will run behind a big offensive line. The leaders are Ken Canchola (6-3, 245), Geoff Jamora (5-11, 245) and Joe Patterson (6-1, 235). Two other top offensive players are quarterback Brian Harmon and tight end Jason Green.

The defense includes linebacker Kurt Szalonek (5-11, 200), defensive end Doug Ramos and defensive backs Pat Sullivan and Jeremy Smith.

3--Pasadena (Pacific League; Division II)--If Muir is the best team in the Pacific League, cross-town rival Pasadena--as usual--is a not-too-distant second.

With 22 lettermen from a squad that was 7-4-1 and reached the CIF Coastal Conference quarterfinals, the Bulldogs do not have to take a back seat in talent.

"We have a good group of youngsters," Coach Gary Griffiths said. "I don't think we're going to be intimidated by anybody."

One player who certainly will not be intimidated is heavily recruited offensive and defensive tackle Terry McDaniels (6-5, 245), who has 4.9-second speed in the 40-yard dash.

The offensive line also returns Aaron Branch (6-0, 205) and Michael Turner (5-11, 230). Other leaders on the run-oriented offense are speedy flanker John McCoy, quarterback Kyle Washington and tailback Chris Thomas.

On defense, the Bulldogs have experience in all-leaguer Chris Jeter at linebacker, linemen Chuck Jackson (6-3, 225) and Howard Brown (5-10, 210) and defensive backs Bobby Webster and Tahrell Miles. Jeter and Miles are also running backs on offense.

4--Claremont (Baseline League; Division IV)--The Wolfpack usually has one of the best teams in the valley.

So you can imagine how Coach Bob Baiz feels about having 12 starters from a team that was 9-2 and tied for the league title.

"We feel real good because we've never had that many starters returning before--even on our championship teams (of 1984 and 1985)," he said. "We've won or shared the (league) title five of the last seven years, so that says something for our program."

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