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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW : Seasoned Quarterbacks Fuel Optimism


Meet Alex Muller and John Pawlik, human silver linings.

Muller and Pawlik provide reasons for higher expectations this season at St. Genevieve and Bell-Jeff highs, respectively, and each fell into the spotlight last year because of the misfortune of their teams.

Muller became the Valiants' quarterback as a junior after projected starter Ivan Garcia injured his eye in a summer league game. Pawlik took over as the starting quarterback as a sophomore after Luke Barrett transferred to St. Francis in midseason.

With last year's experiences tucked under their helmets, Muller and Pawlik seem poised to lead their rebuilding teams to respectability.

"Every year we've been looking at a senior (quarterback) that had been sitting back and not getting any experience until his senior year," Bell-Jeff Coach Doug Woodlief said. "There's no question (Pawlik) gives us something to build on."

The Guards are optimistic because they were 5-5 last season, after winning five games in the previous four seasons in the San Fernando League. Pawlik took over after four games and led the team to victories in three of his first five starts.

Pawlik completed only 27 of 82 passes (32.9%) for 333 yards, but he rushed for 251 yards in 61 carries and made the all-league team.

"He's the kind of a guy that can do a lot of things," Woodlief said. "He's kind of a take-charge guy on the field. He makes things happen and he's got a little experience now."

The moment last season that best showed Pawlik's ability was in a game against rival St. Genevieve, Woodlief said. The Guards trailed in the fourth quarter, needing a big play on fourth down.

Pawlik improvised and threw a 40-yard pass for a first down. Bell-Jeff eventually won the game, 21-15.

"He's the kind of guy who can make plays," Woodlief said. "He's done that in other sports. He's a basketball player. He's a baseball player. He's the kind of athlete you put on the field and he can make plays."

It was just another defeat for the Valiants, who would go on to lose their 23rd in a row before beating Cathedral, 20-0, in the final game of the season.

That one-game winning streak, along with Muller's presence, are the reasons Coach Richard Fong thinks the Valiants might shed their image as a downtrodden program.

"I think we can make the playoffs and, depending on who we draw, we might even win," Fong said. "I always try to shoot for the league championship and the (Southern Section) championship."

That will depend in large part on Muller. To say Muller got a chance to play because of Garcia's injury is actually misleading. Garcia was injured trying to play tight end in a passing league game because Fong wanted to see Muller throw.

When Muller had the opportunity to pass in games, the results were not great. With no varsity experience, he completed 101 of 214 passes (47.2%) for 1,277 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw 23 interceptions.

But Fong, who runs a pass-oriented offense, insists Muller has improved.

"Our passing game looked really good this summer," Fong said. "Alex has improved tremendously since last year. He's improved his reads."

Murphy Coach Greg Dixon, whose team won the league title last season, was impressed with Muller enough over the summer to pick St. Genevieve as one of the league's top contenders.

"I just have this feeling," Dixon said. "They look pretty decent."

Santa Fe League at a Glance

1992 STANDINGS OVERALL LEAGUE PROJECTED FINISH Murphy 8-3 5-0 Murphy Salesian 7-5 4-1 Cathedral Bell-Jeff 5-5 2-3 Bell-Jeff Cathedral 5-6 2-3 St. Genevieve La Salle 2-8 1-4 Salesian St. Genevieve 1-9 1-4 La Salle


Player School Pos. Ht Wt Class Albert Alvarado Cathedral OL 6-0 215 Sr. Marco Escobar Bell-Jeff OL 6-2 275 Sr. Tim Esquival La Salle WR/DB 5-11 170 Jr. Emanuel Faatagi Murphy OT/LB 6-3 260 Sr. Jeff Martinez Salesian QB 5-10 180 Sr. Alex Muller St. Genevieve QB 6-3 180 Sr. John Pawlik Bell-Jeff QB/DB 5-10 185 Jr. Gibbons St. Paul Murphy SE/DB 5-9 160 Sr. German Torres St. Genevieve LB 5-10 180 Sr. Greg Videles Cathedral WR 5-8 150 Sr.

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