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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW : Desert Boom No Boon to Antelope Valley Teams

September 05, 1993|STEVE ELLING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The folks in Lin Parker's clan have seen 'em come and seen 'em go for decades, dating to when there were actually antelopes in the Antelope Valley.

Parker, the Highland High football coach, has an antelope head mounted in his den to prove it.

Parker's grandfather, Boyd Church Linton Parker, played at Antelope Valley High in 1917. Boyd II, Lin's dad, played and graduated in 1932. Lin, a.k.a. Boyd III, graduated in 1961. Lin's son, Boyd IV--who plans to include a V on the end of his firstborn son's name--also played for the Antelopes.

Tradition. Roots. Convention. The numbers are Roman, but this family isn't roamin'. Football in the area has hardly been as static.

Housing tracts are sprouting everywhere. The sands of time don't stand still, and neither does the sand in the Antelope Valley when the bulldozers move in.

Unquestionably, the region has experienced growing pains. What's more, it has affected the quality of play in what was once a football-rich region.

"There's no Tommie Smith," Parker said. "No Aaron Emanuel. Some of these players are good, but not in the same class. There's no question the talent is diluted."

For most of the past three decades, the high desert was virtually the exclusive stomping ground of Antelope Valley, Palmdale and Quartz Hill highs. The region turned out several memorable teams--Antelope Valley won Southern Section titles at various levels in 1976, 1977, 1981 and 1988, while losing in the 1985 and 1986 finals. Quartz Hill played in the Division I final at Anaheim Stadium in 1990.

Without a doubt, those teams had the horses. Smith (Antelope Valley, 1988) was a standout defensive back at Washington and Emanuel (Quartz Hill, 1984) was a starting running back at USC.

Highland and Littlerock, which both opened in 1989 and carry enrollments of 2,000 or higher, joined the realigned Golden League last season. The impact on football? There goes the neighborhood.

Last season, Golden League teams were 0-3 in the first round of the Southern Section Division I playoffs. Coaches expect the level of play to improve in 1993 but not by leaps and bounds.

"I think the league will be better this year, but it won't be as good as it was before the new schools were added," said Antelope Valley Coach Brent Newcomb, who is entering his 16th year.

What happens beyond 1993 is anybody's guess. Developers are divvying up new areas by the minute.

And you thought expansion thinned the ranks of major league baseball? More growth lies ahead in the high desert. Lancaster and Ritter Ranch highs are expected to open their doors to freshmen by 1996.

The Golden League already contains six teams, and sectional releaguing is not scheduled until after the 1998 season. If no realignment takes place, it could be standing room only.

"It's not gonna be too long before we'll have too many schools for one league," Parker said.

A new school, Vasquez High, opened Tuesday in Acton with a freshman class of 70. Though its enrollment base isn't large enough to warrant inclusion in the Golden League anytime soon, if growth projections for Acton are accurate, it could happen. Acton freshmen this year were given a choice: Attend Vasquez or take a bus ride to an Antelope Valley school. Not surprisingly, more than a few stayed home.

"We're only five years old (at Highland), and pretty soon schools are going to be stealing my k ids ," Parker predicted.

Veteran coaches know the feeling. Growth areas, predictably, are primarily located on the Lancaster-Palmdale periphery.

"All the people (moving to the region) live in the new areas," said Newcomb, whose roster includes only 33 players. "We're kind of the inner-city school now."

In light of the rapid change, it is debatable whether the league can compete at the Division I level, even though the five member schools in the Antelope Valley boast student bodies of 2,000 or more.

"I may catch flak from some of the other coaches, but I really think (we're no longer of Division I caliber)," Parker said.

Though the Antelope Valley population has skyrocketed as Southland families search for affordable homes, the Highland populace generally hasn't been the cornerstone of a superlative football program, Parker said.

At least, not yet. Perhaps when youth programs are in place within the communities with new schools, things will change. Generally, though, more population hasn't automatically translated to more talent for any of the schools, Parker said.

Tradition, roots, convention. . . .

"The people who live here are all from somewhere else and they all work somewhere else," Parker said. "It's been tough to get them out on Friday night for games. When I grew up in AV, everybody was raised and worked here.

"The demographics are changing."

The state's cash-strapped public schools system has complicated the issue. Parker complains that Golden League schools each receive only $3,700 for football from the Antelope Valley Union High School District.

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