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Memories of '92 Season Bring Optimism to Harbor's Camp

September 10, 1993|MITCH POLIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

First came the winning season. Now the Harbor College football team will try to live up to expectations.

The Seahawks, who finished 8-3 and defeated Orange Coast in the K-Swiss Classic bowl game in 1992, will try to string together back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1981-82.

"From last year's standpoint, nobody expected us to win and we did, and that gave us a lot of team unity," defensive linemen Brandon Johnson said. "This year there's a lot more unity to start out with."

Harbor's last winning season before 1992 was 1986.

"Before last year, there was a lot of concern about the future of the program here," quarterback Gabe Sadi said. "But I think last year's success has really helped a lot. It's been good for the morale of the players here and it's been good for recruiting."

But will the momentum be enough to help Harbor win in 1993? There is a challenging schedule, which includes consecutive road games against Moorpark, Glendale and Santa Barbara, and concerns about the offense.

Only Sadi returns on offense, and he is being pressed by former San Pedro High player and Cal State Northridge transfer Rino Marconi.

Sadi, a converted linebacker, completed only 61 of 155 passes for 711 yards, two touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Seahawks ranked last in passing in the Western State Conference and Coach Don Weems has decided to double as offensive coordinator after Leo Hand, who was in charge of the offense in 1992, left for a coaching position in New Mexico.

"We have been working hard at developing a passing attack, and I am optimistic that we will present a more balanced offense this season," Weems said.

Freshmen wide receivers Ismael (Itchy) Del Pino from Hawthorne, Ralph Martinez from Torrance and Dean Halvorson from North Torrance should help pump life into the passing game. Halvorson, who recently transferred from El Camino, led South Bay preps in receptions last season with 67 for 1,058 yards and eight TDs.

Weems said the offensive line, which lacks experienced players, must also develop. Michael White, a 6-foot-5, 330-pound tackle, should help the Seahawks continue their success running the ball. They averaged 232.5 yards a game in 1992.

Running back Damin Hurst, who rushed for 793 yards and 11 TDs for Banning in 1992, is expected to get the bulk of the carries. Hurst also excels as a receiver and return specialist.

"He was one of the better high school recruits in the area last season and we expect big things from him," Weems said. "He's still learning and it's going to take a little time, but he's coming along nicely."

Transfer running backs James Frank from San Diego State and Adrionne Crawford from West Los Angeles College should have an impact.

If all else fails, the Seahawks can turn to their defense, which returns seven starters.

"We have a sign in our office that says defense wins championships, and I truly believe that," Weems said.

Among the defensive stalwarts are linebacker Jeff Keith, cornerback Chris Smith, free safety Keith Pouncey and defensive linemen Chris Lopez and Johnson. Harbor has also added transfer linebackers Tyrone Coleman from Long Beach City College and Kal Latu from the University of Hawaii.

"(Defense) was a strength last year and it's going to be a strength again because the older kids are experienced and they're very good athletes," said Scott Beattie, in his first season as defensive coordinator. "I was at Illinois State last year (as linebacker coach) and some of these kids could have played for us."

Sophomore kicker Jon Williams returns. Williams, who made 10 of 15 field-goals attempts in 1992, was selected to the Cal-Hi Sports News preseason all-state team. The punter will be Josh Bendik.

Harbor opens Sept. 18 at home against Mt. San Jacinto.

Harbor at a Glance

Date Opponent Time Sept. 18 Mt. San Antonio 7 p.m. Sept. 25 Pierce 1 p.m. Oct. 2 at West L.A. 1 p.m. Oct. 9 at Valley 7 p.m. Oct. 16 Santa Monica 1 p.m. Oct. 23 Compton 1 p.m. Oct. 30 at Santa Barbara 7 p.m. Nov. 6 at Moorpark 7 p.m. Nov. 13 at Glendale 1 p.m. Nov. 20 Ventura 7 p.m.

Fast Facts

* Harbor's 1992 record of 8-3 was its first winning season since the 1986 team finished 5-4. The 1982 team also finished 8-3.

* The Seahawks' win over Orange Coast in the K-Swiss Classic was the school's first bowl game victory since the 1982 Southern California Bowl. In that game, Harbor beat Ventura.

* Floyd Rhea is the only coach in Harbor history with a winning career record. Rhea went 57-47 in 11 seasons from 1963-73.

* Former Harbor players who competed in the NFL include wide receivers Haven Moses of the Denver Broncos and Richard Johnson of the Houston Oilers and quarterback Don Horn, who played for Green Bay, San Diego and Cleveland.

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