Paul Koons pummels opposing players with the ferocity of a jackhammer. It is as though he wants to drive his man so far into the ground that only his cleats protrude.
But that is only half the fun for the Verdugo Hills High linebacker.
He gets the greatest pleasure out of taking a long gander at the victim's face after he flattens him.
"He'll have this look," Koons said. "It's a combination of fear and frustration and there's nothing else like it."
Koons, who was selected to the Times All-Glendale area football team, is one of this season's bumper crop of linebackers. He's also a fullback but says he prefers playing linebacker.
"I don't know if linebacker is the toughest position but I \o7 know \f7 it's the funnest," he said.
Other Times All-Glendale linebackers agree.
"I'm not a violent person," Jeff Dyrek of St. Francis said. "But when I hit . . . a feeling just occurs. I can feel it rushing through my body."
Dyrek considers himself a \o7 defensive \f7 quarterback of sorts and calls all the alignments.
"You're at the heart playing linebacker," he said. "(It's) where all the action goes. I'm a little nervous at first. But once that first play develops, I throw it all away."
Crescenta Valley Coach Jim Beckenhauer says playing the position well requires more than just the tenacity of a lineman and the quickness of a defensive back.
"It takes a certain mental capacity," he said. "It takes a linebacker's mentality."
Beckenhauer is well-versed in the psyche of good linebackers. Two of his own--Paul Wiley and Pat Kennelly--were selected to the Times team.
For a tough linebacker, few things are as exhilarating as mercilessly crushing a ballcarrier. Great linebackers long for brutal hits. Headaches from the pounding can linger long after a game.
But Kennelly's physical sacrifices go far beyond playing with a headache. He has undergone extensive reconstructive surgery on both knees. Though he had to sit out last year and was hobbled this season, his intensity never wavered.
"His attitude is very rare," assistant Alan Eberhart said of Kennelly. "Even when he was hurting we couldn't keep him out. He's all football. All business."
Like Koons, Wiley gets a charge out of staring down offensive players.
"If I see a guy giving me a dirty look and he comes up the middle, I drill him," Wiley said. "Usually, he won't look at me again."
Few feelings, Wiley says, rival that of intense contact.
"When you're going full speed and you run into somebody knowing that you're hurting him it's great--but not in a mean way," Wiley said.
\o7 Not in a mean way? \f7 Koons says he can't shed the desire to hit now that his season has ended.
"Football takes out all of my aggressions and I'm starting to get mean now," said Koons, who plans to play at a junior college for 2 years and then transfer to a 4-year school. "I don't know why I have it but I do."
First-team players and their coaches and parents are invited to the Times football awards brunch, scheduled for 9 a.m. Sunday at the Anaheim Hilton.
The winners of the coach-of-the-year, back-of-the-year and lineman-of-the-year awards will be announced for each team at the brunch.
Although hampered by nagging injuries, Chad Infranca still managed to make 46 catches for 628 yards and 5 touchdowns. Infranca, an All-City Section selection last year, finishes his 3-year career at Franklin with 109 receptions for 1,665 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Lamar Lovett, another Franklin player, caught 26 passes for 456 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also started at cornerback and had 7 interceptions. Lovett maintains a 3.7 grade-point average.
La Canada tight end Greg Thompson caught 28 passes for 468 yards and 2 touchdowns. Thompson also figured prominently in the Spartan ground game. "Whenever we needed a first down, we'd run right behind him," Coach Nic Larez said. "Our plays would go right at his back."
Glendale's John Garrett might be the most heavily recruited player in the area. The senior tackle seemed to play his best games against the toughest opponents. Coach Don Shoemaker says Garrett's performance against Pasadena tackle Terry McDaniels, a preseason All-American pick, pushed up his Division I stock tremendously.
St. Francis Coach Terry Terrazone calls Fred Hughes, "the heart of our offensive line." Hughes, a two-time All-Del Rey second-team selection, was a stalwart in an otherwise injury-riddled Knight line.
Coach Jim Beckenhauer says Crescenta Valley offensive tackle Darren Haines was easily the best of the Falcon linemen. "He never missed a down and we didn't have anyone to play behind him," Beckenhauer said. "He was the one kid who we never had to worry about missing his assignment."
Franklin Coach Armando Gonzalez says David Jackson is the Panthers' best blocker. Jackson, who played on the 1986 and 1987 City championship teams, was a major contributor to Lamont Lovett's success and blocked for Santiago Alvarez, who passed for more than 1,700 yards.