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FOOTBALL '93 : Southwest's Hopes Will Be On the Line : Community colleges: Although 12 starters return, a lack of depth on offensive and defensive fronts could be downfall.

September 17, 1993|MITCH POLIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

During the past four seasons, Henry Washington has endured highs and lows as coach of the Southwest College football team.

There was the 1989 season, when the Cougars finished 8-2-1 and played in their first postseason bowl game, followed by a 5-5 record in 1990.

Southwest rebounded in 1991, posting a school-best 9-2 record and defeating Antelope Valley, 28-0, in the Southern California Bowl. But in 1992, the team stumbled to a 2-7-1 season.

Does this indicate a winning season in 1993? Washington is optimistic that the Cougars, who return 12 starters, will be a force. And for personal reasons, the 43-year-old coach is hoping for less stress.

Washington spent much of the 1992 season in pain. He had surgery to repair a bowel dysfunction, which forced him to miss four weeks of practice. Although he was often uncomfortable on the sideline, Washington didn't miss any games.

"There were times last year when I felt maybe I shouldn't have been here on campus," he said. "But being the only full-time coach here, it was hard for me to stay away."

In part, Washington said his health problems paved the way for the Cougars' disappointing season. It didn't help matters when several players were ruled academically ineligible, leaving the team short at more than one position.

"It really put us behind a lot, but I'm happy to say that . . . I feel a lot better now," he said. "I'm just really blessed that I can be here and work with these players."

Washington's priority is rebuilding the offensive line, which was believed to be a strength until three players were ruled eligibility.

Much of the burden now rests on the hefty shoulders of tackle Marlon Roberts, a 6-foot-6, 290-pound sophomore who was a 1992 preseason All-America. Roberts ended up having to sit out the 1992 season because of academic problems.

On the defensive line, Washington will build around sophomore Brian Burks, a returning starter.

If the line play develops, Southwest could be tough to beat.

"I feel like we're very talented in the skill positions," sophomore linebacker Teazell Hall said. "But if we can't do well on our offensive and defensive lines, we're not going to be that effective."

Southwest, which opens against Citrus (0-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday, is expected to start freshman Brad Freeman from Westchester High at quarterback.

"He's very talented and quick, but with a young line we just hope he can hold up until it develops," Washington said.

Sophomore tailback Katia Ransom, who rushed for 172 yards and three touchdowns and caught three touchdowns passes in 1992, will be joined by fullbacks Earl Franklin and Darren Walton.

Donovan Burks, who has run a 10.2-second 100-meter dash, and Tyrone Gallien, a transfer from West Los Angeles College, will be the receivers.

Perhaps the deepest positions are linebacker and defensive back.

In addition to Hall, the linebacker corps includes Corey Theus from Inglewood High, Chris Williams from Leuzinger and identical twins Chris and Cory Long from Serra. The secondary is expected to be led by cornerbacks Darryl Cash and Sheldon Anderson and safeties Darryl Cooley and John Cotton--another former Leuzinger player.

"There's a lot of enthusiasm, but right now it's more from the second-year people," Hall said. "We have to get the new players more involved in it too. But I think we're getting there."

Ransom said he has seen positive signs.

"This team is more intense and there's a lot more focus than last year," he said. "We're just a much closer team. We all hang around together on weekends and we've got more trust in each other than we did last year."

Hall said the 1992 season is serving as motivation to the players.

"Being part of a losing season last year, we don't want it to happen again," he said. "We want to show people we're the new and improved Southwest football team."

Southwest at a Glance

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

Fast Facts

* In 1989, Southwest played in its first bowl game, losing to College of the Desert in the Southern California Bowl.

* The Cougars had their best season in 1991, when they finished 9-2 and defeated Antelope Valley, 28-0, in the Southern California Bowl.

* Among former Cougars playing in the NFL are defensive end Chris Mims of the San Diego Chargers, offensive tackle Bernard Dafney of the Minnesota Vikings and cornerback Larry Brown of the Dallas Cowboys.

* Cowboy defensive back James Washington played for Henry Washington when he coached at L.A. Jordan High in 1981.

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