The Bell Eagles (5-1 overall, 5-0 league) are perched atop the Southeastern Conference's Central League thanks to Co-Coaches Ray Galarze and Henry Santiago.
They have turned around last year's 3-6 team with an off-season regimen of tough practices, physical dedication and mental preparation.
"Last year's team was young," Galarze said. "This year we have over 30 seniors and our experience shows in our total team effort."
Bell has rung up impressive statistics on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Running backs Bobby Sullivan and William Mendez have rushed for 379 and 312 yards, respectively. And the Eagles' rugged defense held Jefferson running back Isaac Hatley, who had eight touchdowns as of Oct. 10, to just 40 yards on 15 carries--and no touchdowns--in a 13-6 victory.
"That first (loss) at Bell Gardens was a reality check," Santiago said. "But if we meet again, it will be a different story."
Hammer Time--There's no love lost among the Bell, Bell Gardens, El Rancho and Montebello football teams.
"There is no finesse when these teams play," said Bell Gardens football coach Dave Newell. "We just go out there and hammer each other."
So far this season, Bell Gardens (5-1 overall, 1-0 league) has been doing most of the hammering. The Lancers nailed Bell 23-0 to open the season, then rolled over El Rancho 21-8.
Last year marked the first time since 1978 that Bell Gardens failed to make the playoffs under the direction of Newell, and only the second time in his 16-year tenure as head coach.
This year, he is relying on an option game to carry him back to post-season play, with quarterback Ricky Oropeza and running backs Junior Samano and German Chavez leading the charge.
The rough-and-tumble rivalries will come to head Friday, when Bell Gardens plays Montebello in a game that will likely decide the Almont League championship.
"The game will come down to special teams," Newell said. "We will continue to grind it out on offense and smack them on defense."
Family Affair--For Jefferson football Coach Hank Johnson, three is definitely not a crowd. He is the proud coach of the Morse brothers--Ed, Ronald and Tyrone.
In Jefferson's 27-7 upset of South Gate on Oct. 16, senior Ed not only had five interceptions but threw a touchdown pass to brother Ron, also a senior. Sophomore Tyrone intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown.
"That's the biggest game we've won since I have been here," said Johnson. "It was great to see all three kids score. They're really something special."
Jefferson also has something special in running back Isaac Hatley. Though he is just 5-8 and 148 pounds, as of Oct. 18 he led the league in touchdowns, scoring and was fourth in rushing.
"If these kids continue to play with intensity, I expect big things from them," Johnson said.
Decline of the Romans--This season has been the decline and fall of the Roman quarterbacks at Los Angeles High.
First, highly touted senior quarterback Marvin Willingham was declared academically ineligible. "I thought he would be the best quarterback I've had since 1974," said Coach John Watson.
Then second-string quarterback Juan Romano was hurt in the Oct. 16 game against Manual Arts. Watson sent in third-stringer Ron Austin.
You guessed it. Austin went down with an injury too.
Now, Watson has to rely on sophomore Wesley Watson to quarterback the team.
"I was counting on these players," Watson said. "In our league, one player can make a major difference."
And the quarterback weren't the only major injuries for the winless Romans (0-7). Derek Royal, who plays cornerback and wide receiver, was injured in the first game of the season against Chatsworth.
"This is the worst year I have ever had," Watson said. "I tell the kids to play hard . . . and (that) we have a legitimate shot against University."
University (0-7) scored its first touchdown of the season Friday with 36 seconds left in a a game against Manual Arts--but lost 7-6.