The sky is blue. Politicians smile a lot. The movie isn't as good as the book. It's going to be a big year for running backs in the Mission League.
Some things just go without saying.
Four Mission League backs gained more than 1,000 yards last season. The new Mission League, comprising six schools with the addition of St. Francis and Harvard-Westlake and the subtraction of Crespi, Alemany and St. Paul, could have a few more.
The leader of this year's crop is Chaminade's Justin Giovannettone, who led the Eagles a year ago with 1,315 yards and 15 touchdowns in 215 carries.
Notre Dame features a pair of juniors, Jabaar Craigwell and Lei Malieitulua, who were the team's top two rushers.
Bishop Montgomery senior Tim Woods gained only 184 yards, but he was running behind Koury Clark, who gained 1,612 yards and was named the league's most valuable back. Woods, who has drawn the attention of recruiters from Oregon and Nevada Las Vegas, will bask in the spotlight this year.
St. Bernard senior Joseph Henderson, who gained 650 yards, is being recruited as a fullback by Air Force, California, San Diego State, UCLA and Washington.
St. Francis is pinning its rushing hopes on junior Ben Collins, who gained 1,363 yards and scored 16 touchdowns in 165 carries for the junior varsity.
Chaminade Coach Rich Lawson is not surprised by the number of quality running backs dotting the league.
"You've got good programs that are well coached and obviously they have good talent," Lawson said. "(But) it's hard to say if this is the best year of running backs in the league."
Last season, Alemany's Terry Barnum (1,058 yards), Crespi's Torie Lee (1,167), Clark and Giovannettone each gained more than 1,000 yards.
Giovannettone is at the forefront this season. "He's a real good slashing-type runner," Lawson said. "Last year, as a junior, he really was the go-to guy for us, and he helped us win a few ballgames. I think he is one of the top five running backs in the area."
Giovannettone's weakness, which might keep him from being wooed by a major school, is that he lacks breakaway speed, St. Francis Coach Andy Boynton said.
Craigwell, on the other hand, does have the speed that Boynton and the other Mission coaches fear. Craigwell was Notre Dame's leading rusher last year with 562 yards in 107 carries and seven touchdowns.
"Craigwell is the one who scares me," Boynton said. "If he gets that opening he's got the speed to break one. I see him as a guy we have to shut down if we are going to beat them."
Craigwell's backfield mate, Malieitulua, who gained 401 yards in 87 carries, is more of a power runner than Craigwell.
Woods is perhaps the most intriguing. In his spare time he races motorized go-karts, which he said attain speeds of as much as 110 m.p.h. and accelerate from 0 to 60 in four seconds.
"He's hurt himself before doing that stuff and it really ticks me off when I hear about it," Bishop Montgomery Coach Bob Thompson said.
Collins has yet to play on the varsity, but he impressed Boynton in the opening week of practice. Boynton said Collins has been pushed in practice by Muir transfer Chris McAlister, the son of former UCLA and NFL tailback James McAlister who gained notoriety at Blair High in Pasadena.
Henderson is the prototypical fullback. He is 5-foot-10, 210 pounds. Several major schools are looking at him to play football, and Stanford is recruiting him as a wrestler, St. Bernard Coach Tom Strickland said.
"He's going to be a load to bring down," Lawson said of Henderson.
Then, there's Harvard.
The player who rushed for the most yardage on the team last year is Gold Lee--a linebacker. The Wolverines' hope to counter the rushing of their rivals is Don Donnester, a converted tight end.
"We \o7 hope \f7 that he's going to end up being a big guy for us," Coach Gary Thran said. "But I just think that we're going to have as much as we can handle every game."
FINAL 1991 STANDINGS PROJECTED FINISH Crespi* 7-4, 5-1 Notre Dame Chaminade 9-3, 4-2 Chaminade St. Paul* 3-8, 3-3 St. Francis** Alemany* 6-4, 3-3 St. Bernard Bishop Montgomery 6-4, 3-3 Harvard-Westlake** Notre Dame 5-5, 2-4 Bishop Montgomery St. Bernard 2-8, 1-5
* Denotes schools that have moved to the Del Rey League.
** Denotes schools that have moved from the San Fernando League.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Player School Pos. Ht Wt Class Chris Bowman St. Bernard TE-LB 6-4 205 Sr. Ben Collins St. Francis RB 5-11 180 Jr. Jabaar Craigwell Notre Dame TB 5-9 170 Jr. Rome Douglas St. Francis TE 6-6 245 Sr. Justin Ehrlich Harvard-Westlake QB 5-10 160 Sr. Brandon Gabriel Notre Dame DE 6-4 210 Sr. Justin Giovannettone Chaminade RB 5-8 175 Sr. Joseph Henderson St. Bernard FB-LB 5-10 210 Sr. Rudy Martinez St. Francis QB 6-0 175 Sr. Lee Malieitulua Notre Dame FB 5-9 220 Jr.