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PREP FOOTBALL '93 / EMPIRE LEAGUE : Dawson Isn't Leaving Loara in the Lurch

August 30, 1993|CHRIS FOSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If all goes well, and Loara's Denis Dawson certainly hopes it will, he'll get to relish those long touchdown runs instead of using them as an emotional release.

Dawson, a 6-foot, 190-pound running back, was the bright spot for Loara in an utterly bleak season a year ago. At times, it was a weary responsibility.

"El Modena was beating us, 42-0, and I was really down on myself and my teammates," Dawson said. "It was just so frustrating getting blown out. I caught a screen pass and just let it out. I went 77 yards."

Yes, as bad as the Saxons' 0-10 season was, they always seemed to look a little better whenever Dawson touched the ball. He hopes those moments will have more meaning this season.

The Saxons are expected to be better this time around. It's doubtful they're ready to challenge league powers Esperanza and Los Alamitos, but Dawson doesn't expect them to go winless again.

"We've improved a lot," Dawson said. "We'll be better."

How sure is he? So sure that he passed on getting out.

Dawson's mother, Debra Whitfield, moved to Phoenix, where she came from four years ago. For Dawson, it was an opportunity to better his situation.

How bad could the next high school be? Certainly not as bad as 0-10. But he decided to stay. He moved in with a teammate, whose parents have become his legal guardian.

"I had to stick it out," Dawson said. "I can't say I wasn't tempted. But I didn't want to leave Loara like that."

Instead, he wants to leave Loara a winner.

The Saxons' success will depend a lot on Dawson. He expects to have a larger role with the team.

That would be a neat trick, considering how much Dawson meant to the Saxons last season. He gained 950 yards rushing and caught 12 passes for 171 yards. Not bad for a guy on a team that got trounced regularly.

Dawson's performance was so impressive that the Empire League coaches voted him as the back of the year.

"He was the only thing we had," Loara Coach John deFries said. "It was amazing what he was able to accomplish."

But, no matter what Dawson did, the Saxons couldn't seem to win.

--He gained 97 yards against Katella. Loara lost, 29-9.

--He gained 95 yards against Villa Park. Loara lost, 17-10.

--He gained 81 yards against Anaheim. Loara lost, 21-3.

Although those aren't overly impressive numbers, they look a lot better considering Dawson didn't carry the ball more than 15 times in any of those games.

How could he? The Saxons were always playing catch-up. That could change this season.

"I've been told I'll be getting the ball up to 30 times a game," Dawson said. "I think I can make more things happen."

Dawson proved that against Cypress last season. He carried the ball 26 times, gaining 200 yards and scoring three touchdowns. He almost pulled off a victory, but Cypress hung on, 28-26.

"He's a great back," Los Alamitos Coach John Barnes said. "If he was on a real good team, he'd really be dangerous."

Dawson showed that his sophomore season, when the Saxons went 7-5 and reached the second round of the Southern Section Division III playoffs.

He made several big plays to help them get to the playoffs. He caught a 19-yard touchdown pass in the final second to give Loara a 17-15 victory over El Dorado. He later returned a kickoff 98 yards to start the second half in a 23-0 victory over Katella. That victory clinched a playoff berth.

Dawson gained 108 yards and scored a touchdown in a 29-7 victory over Orange in the first round of the playoffs.

"It was so hard to get up to play last season," Dawson said. "Getting back to the playoffs will make last season worthwhile."

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