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High School Notebook

Stewart's Death Hits Hard at Taft

December 25, 1991

The death of Taft High football Coach Larry Stewart on Saturday was an emotional loss for the school faculty, but the news was especially hard on Tom Stevenson, who has known Stewart for almost as long as he can remember.

Stewart and Stevenson attended the same elementary school, junior high and high school. After completing college, they began their teaching careers on the same day, 19 years ago at South Gate Junior High.

Stewart, 43, suffered an apparent heart attack while attending a Christmas party in Long Beach. A memorial service will be held Friday at 10 a.m. at Lorenzen Mortuary in Reseda.

"I was told he just dropped to the floor and died," Stevenson said. "Just like that, he was gone."

Stewart was a highly regarded history teacher who taught two periods of advance-placement courses. His classroom was located next door to that of boys' basketball Coach Jim Woodard, a history teacher who often spent the morning break talking with Stewart.

"It's a shocker, no question," Woodard said. "It startled everyone."

Stevenson said that because Stewart was not overweight, did not smoke and monitored his diet, the loss of his friend was doubly hard to understand. Stewart's sideline demeanor was typically reserved, rather than demonstrative or combative.

"He was more internal, more cerebral," Stevenson said. "He was a straight shooter."

Before taking over for Stevenson this year, Stewart served for seven seasons as Taft's defensive coordinator and the Toreadors won or shared five league titles in that span. Taft was 1-8 this season.

Former players found Stewart's passing difficult to accept. Steve Harris, a 1990 Taft graduate who played defensive back for Stewart, said assistant Seb Bull, another former Taft player, called Sunday night with the bad news.

"I said, 'Seb, I know you're joking,' " Harris said. "He said, 'Steve, I'm serious. I wouldn't joke about this.

"It's just hard to believe. He was young and hyper too."

Finding a coaching replacement for Stewart might take several weeks, Stevenson said. Stewart had no on-campus assistants last season and the school is closed for an eight-week break.

HIT THE BOOKS. . . .

His grades are good and so is his dribbling.

But Moorpark point guard Richard Hernandez will be devoting his efforts to only one of the above in the future.

Guess which one?

Hernandez, who leads the Musketeers with 29 steals through eight games, has been scratched from the roster by his parents who were less than pleased with their son's recent progress report.

According to Moorpark Coach Tim Bednar, Hernandez received a C in one subject after having received a B earlier in the school year. Bednar said that Hernandez, who also played for the school's football team, is far from being academically ineligible and that he maintains a grade-point average above 3.0.

"He could easily pull a C and probably get a B in the class," Bednar said. "But his parents just have really high standards for him and he understands that."

THE HARDER THEY FALL

Burroughs' two biggest players--6-foot-5 junior center Jeff Pinnow and 6-4 junior forward Mike Merina--are out of the lineup after suffering serious injuries while driving to the basket.

Pinnow suffered cartilage damage in his left knee during a game in the Burbank-Hoover tournament two weeks ago and is lost for the season.

Last week in the Bosco Tech tournament, Merina landed hard on the hardwood and broke his right hand--the one he shoots with--and suffered wrist damage too. Merina will be out at least six weeks.

Said Coach Art Sullivan: "My line with the team now is that, with this team, if you stick around long enough, you'll probably start."

ROUT REDUX?

One would think that Bell-Jeff would not want to play North Hollywood for some time after being hammered by the Huskies, 99-48, last week in the first round of the North Hollywood tournament.

Yet the Guards (6-2) will play host to North Hollywood and six other teams in the Bell-Jeff tournament, which begins Thursday.

Should Bell-Jeff and North Hollywood each win their first two games, they will meet in Saturday's tournament championship game.

"I think we'll play them really tough next time," Bell-Jeff Coach Steve Wahl said. "Being on our home court could make the difference."

REPROACHED COACH

As if Hart's 4-6 start is not disappointing enough for Greg Herrick, the Indian coach was given a one-game suspension last week by Principal Laurence Strauss for shouting at an official after a game three weeks ago.

Herrick admitted using profanity in the incident, which occurred after a loss to La Canada in the Saugus tournament.

However, Herrick claims he was inappropriately disciplined and is seeking retribution through the teachers' association.

"I just want a memo attached to this whole file that the disciplinary action was in (error) and that the administration was not acting appropriately," Herrick said. "I don't feel I should have been suspended."

EASY AS 1-2-4

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