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Cannon for the Defense : Lancer Star Growing Into Stephon Pace's Shoes

October 20, 1988|MITCH POLIN | Times Staff Writer

Defensive back Loren Cannon shudders at the thought of being compared to former Bishop Amat High star Stephon Pace, a freshman at USC after playing in the secondary for the Lancers the last three years.

It's not that the 17-year-old Cannon is not talented. It's just that Cannon and his coach, Mark Paredes, think that such a comparison may be a little premature.

"He is not as highly sought after as Stephon Pace was but he's definitely in the picture," Paredes says.

Super scout Dick Lascola, who operates the Fallbrook-based Scouting Evaluation Assn., was willing to go a little further on the subject. He listed Cannon as one of the top three preseason college prospects in the San Gabriel Valley.

"They (Bishop Amat) always have some talent and he's definitely their best player," Lascola said.

While Cannon doesn't want to be mentioned in the same sentence as Pace, there are good reasons for such comparisons.

After all, both players starred in the secondary for the Lancers although Pace was a safety and Cannon is a cornerback.

"He's got the same role as Stephon Pace," Paredes said. "He's the key defensive back for us. He's not a safety because we have other people who can play safety. Loren's primarily a pass defender."

At 6-0 and 170 pounds, the senior has above-average quickness with 4.6-second speed in the 40-yard dash. Paredes said Cannon is especially skilled at playing man-to-man defense.

"Loren has done well enough that the defenses are throwing away from him," the coach said.

A 2-year starter for the Lancers, Cannon was an All-Angelus League selection as a junior when he was second behind Pace in interceptions with five. Cannon has three interceptions midway through the 1988 regular season and Paredes said he has also knocked down several key passes.

More than just statistics, though, Paredes said he has noticed a marked improvement in Cannon's play this season.

"I think you notice it in his maturity, decisiveness and eagerness," Paredes said. "He's more hungry. Last year he played scared a little bit. But this year's he has really asserted himself and that's from being a senior."

Cannon said because he is a senior he has also accepted more of a leadership role on this year's team.

"In practice when guys are not going strong, I try to help pick them up and get them going again," he said. "That's the only way we're going to be a success. We have to keep working hard."

An excellent athlete, Cannon has also developed into an outstanding basketball player. Just like Pace, Cannon is also a point guard.

He played for Bishop Amat's varsity as a junior, only to spend most of his time on the bench while the Lancers posted their best season ever en route to a berth in the CIF 5-A Division finals. Cannon will start this season and is expected to be among the team leaders.

But while Cannon enjoys playing basketball, he said he will not have difficulty deciding which sport to focus on in college.

"Football's definitely my sport," he said. "I like to play basketball but when it comes to playing in college it's definitely football."

That is part of the reason why Cannon said he prepared harder than ever for his senior year in football. Without as many blue-chip players on the squad as usual, Cannon said hard work has been a necessity.

"The coach has really enforced the words 'hard work' through the summer conditioning to now and it's starting to pay off for us," he said.

It has certainly helped Bishop Amat on the field, where the Lancers--despite the absence of marquee players--have a 5-1 record and are in contention for their fourth straight Angelus League title.

Cannon realizes that he still has to improve his playing skills in several respects.

"I need to keep staying down low (on tackles) and work on my foot speed," he said,. "because I have a tendency to stay up (when I tackle)."

Added Paredes: "What he has to improve on is his consistency. He was excellent against a good Carson team. He covered their receivers like a glove. But in the game against Long Beach Poly (which Bishop Amat lost, 27-17) he wasn't quite up to par."

Cannon is hoping that his hard work will not only help him improve his game but also receive more notice from college recruiters.

"I've received a lot of letters from colleges saying I've made their recruiting list but I haven't received many phone calls," he said.

If Cannon had his druthers, he said he would probably follow the footsteps of former Bishop Amat players to USC or Washington. He also likes UCLA. Former Bishop Amat standouts such as Pace, running back Mazio Royster and wide receiver John Jackson play for USC and linebacker Chico Fraley is at Washington.

Said Cannon: "I know I have the potential but it's going to take a lot of hard work to become like one of those guys."

He also realizes that he will have to apply himself more in the classroom, where he is a C-average student. "I could be doing a lot better," Cannon admits. "I have to really push myself more."

Cannon is not yet considered in the same class as past Bishop Amat stars such as Pace at the moment. But Cannon is eagerly working at it.

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