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Dressed for Success, He Lost Cool and Game

September 16, 1993|ROB FERNAS

Tony Uruburu did his best to keep his emotions under control in his first game as North Torrance football coach.

He wore a dress shirt and tie, figuring a more dignified appearance would influence his behavior. And he forced himself to wear headphones, better to physically prevent any sideline tantrums.

It was no use. When Friday night's season opener at Artesia heated up, so did Uruburu.

"I'm very excitable," he said. "I was up and down as much as the game was. I threw (the headphones) a couple of times and I ate a little grass. I need to calm myself."

One of the lasting images of North's 28-25 defeat is that of Uruburu, a former Mary Star and Harbor College lineman, diving on the field and pounding the ground after the Saxons fumbled away a potential touchdown in the third quarter. Defensive back Rocky Jackson had picked up an Artesia fumble and was about to cross the goal line when the ball was stripped from behind and rolled out of the end zone for a touchback.

It was one of the low points in a roller-coaster night for North and Uruburu, who also witnessed:

* Artesia score three touchdowns in the last four minutes of the second quarter to take a 21-0 halftime lead. The third TD came on an 80-yard run with 15 seconds left.

* North rally to pull within 21-19 in the third quarter.

* North fail on three of its four PATs, including two kicks.

* A holding penalty nullify a touchdown on a 70-yard screen pass from Jackson, North's quarterback, to running back Ryan Delapina in the fourth quarter.

* Delapina lose a fumble at the Artesia two-yard line late in the game.

"We were all over the place," Uruburu said of North's inconsistency. "But we showed a lot of heart and a lot of courage. When we came into the locker room (at halftime) down 21-0, I was thinking maybe I'd walk out the back door.

"When we got it to 21-13 in the third quarter, I knew we had a chance to win. And we should have (won). We just shot ourselves in the foot."

Overall, though, Uruburu had a great time. He said coaching at the high school level is more fun and exciting than his previous assistant jobs at Fresno State and USC.

"One minute we were kicking off and the next minute it was over," he said. "It was just like playing."

Joe Radisich, who coached Uruburu at Mary Star during the school's heyday in the late 1970s, will make his first appearance as a North assistant Friday night when the Saxons play at La Mirada.

"He's going to sit up on the phones and be my eye in the sky," Uruburu said of Radisich, who coached several successful teams at Mary Star, including the 1977 squad that was 10-2 and featured former UCLA and Chicago Bears tight end Tim Wrightman.

Radisich has not coached much since the early 1980s because of a chronic back problem. He missed North's opener because he was out of town, but will attend the rest of the team's games this season, Uruburu said.

Other new members of North's coaching staff include Joe Radisich Jr., a former Mary Star quarterback and teammate of Uruburu's, and former South Torrance standouts Steve Kujawa and Mark Merritt, who, like Uruburu, are teachers at North.

The Saxon brain trust has a tough assignment Friday. Defending Southern Section Division VIII champion La Mirada is ranked No. 1 in the division and opened the season with a 28-27 victory over Fullerton Sunny Hills, the 1992 Division VII champion.

The game will feature two outstanding running backs. La Mirada's Ryan Hura rushed for 230 yards and three touchdowns against Sunny Hills, and North's Lacy Watkins rushed for 87 yards and a TD and caught a scoring pass against Artesia. Watkins is also a standout at free safety.

North handed La Mirada one of its four losses last season, 28-7.


Mary Star football Coach Mike Marinkovich was 28 the last time the Stars won a game. He's 30 now, and still waiting for another victory.

Kern Valley defeated Mary Star, 21-6, Saturday night at Lake Isabella to extend the Stars' losing streak to 17 games over three seasons.

Marinkovich, in his fifth season as coach, said he tries not to dwell on the streak, but it bothers him.

"I probably think about it more than anybody," he said. "As a coach, you don't like to lose. I don't like to lose at anything, whether I'm playing a board game at home or pickup basketball."

Mary Star's last victory came in the third game of the 1991 season when it beat St. Monica, 7-0. The Stars ended the season with six consecutive losses, finishing 1-8, and went 0-10 in 1992.

Marinkovich said one of the most frustrating aspects of the losing streak is having to listen to criticism.

"When you win, you're everybody's friend," said Marinkovich, who guided Mary Star to playoff appearances and a league title in his first two seasons as coach. "When you lose, everybody has a reason why you're losing. You open the door for every armchair quarterback."

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