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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW : Formula for Success Is Most Definitely Up in the Air

August 31, 1994|JEFF FLETCHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Used to be, if there was anything in the air over an Agoura High football game, it had a pilot. A football in the air meant it was third and long or someone had broken into Charger Coach Frank Greminger's office and stolen his playbook.

But today, spend five hours watching Agoura practice and you will see Agoura passing the football for five hours.

Credit the change to a new coach, Charlie Wegher, who took over this year after Greminger retired.

Wegher is just bringing Agoura up to speed with the rest of the Marmonte League, which has become increasingly pass-oriented.

"I think more people have a better understanding of the passing game now than before," said Simi Valley Coach Roger McCamy, whose team again will use the run-and-shoot offense this season.

"Before everyone said, 'When you throw the ball three things can happen and two are bad.' That's the old coach. I think now they are realizing that it can be done."

Marmonte League teams passed for an average of 1,733 yards last season. The other 55 teams in the region passed for an average of 1,189 yards. Of course, much of the Marmonte's total can be attributed to Newbury Park.

Panther quarterback Keith Smith passed for 4,244 yards and 40 touchdowns, leading Newbury Park to a 14-0 record and a Southern Section Division III title. Newbury Park called only two running plays in the championship game, "and they went for minus-two (yards)," Coach George Hurley joked.

"I think the run-and-shoot kind of thing and more wide-open offenses have become more attractive to high school teams, not just because of us, because it is effective," Hurley said.

"If you've got four receivers out there and they are good athletes, you've got a chance to beat somebody."

There is one catch to the continuation of Pass-O-Rama in the league this year: Only two of the eight quarterbacks likely to start for Marmonte teams threw more than 50 passes last year.

Royal's Wes Lagatta, who completed 85 of 170 passes for 882 yards, is the most experienced of the group. Simi Valley's Tim Bennett completed 48 of 105 passes for 502 yards filling in for injured Jeremie Watkins.

Many of the others were either taking snaps on the sophomore team or holding a clipboard.

"The teams in the league don't have the dominant quarterbacks they had last year," McCamy said, "but they have talented, young, athletic quarterbacks."

A brief roll call: Agoura's Eric Fitzgerald, the younger brother of University of Pittsburgh starting quarterback and Agoura alumnus Sean Fitzgerald, attempted only 28 passes because he missed part of the season because of back problems.

Camarillo's Joe Borchard passed for nearly 1,000 yards on the sophomore team, Coach Carl Thompson said.

Channel Islands' Chris Heffernan was a defensive back and played some quarterback, throwing 47 passes. Newbury Park's Justin Vint was the sophomore quarterback.

And at Thousand Oaks and Westlake, coaches had three-pronged quarterback races going as practice began.

The Lancers' three candidates were all on the sophomore or freshman teams last year. Of Westlake's quarterbacks, only Steve Spruill, who completed two of six passes, was on the varsity.

Steve Aylsworth was on the sophomore team and Brian Shubin was at Taft.

But Westlake Coach Jim Benkert isn't about to let a little inexperience keep him from calling as many pass plays as possible.

After all, he has to get the ball to blue-chip receiver Billy Miller.

"We have 33 passing league games," he said. "We work hard at throwing the football. It would be a shame to work that hard and not throw during the season."

Thursday: Northwest Valley Conference and Foothill League.

Marmonte League at a Glance

1993 STANDINGS OVERALL LEAGUE PROJECTED FINISH Newbury Park 14-0 7-0 Royal Westlake 8-3-1 5-1-1 Westlake Royal 6-5 4-3 Simi Valley Camarillo 5-5 3-4 Newbury Park Simi Valley 5-5 3-4 Thousand Oaks Agoura 4-6 3-4 Agoura Thousand Oaks 2-7-1 2-4-1 Camarillo Channel Islands 0-10 0-7 Channel Islands

*PLAYERS TO WATCH

Player School Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. Christian Broussard Royal DB 6-1 190 Jr. Brant Diediker Newbury Park TE/DL 6-2 200 Jr. Brock Diediker Newbury Park RB/LB 6-2 215 Jr. Jon Gibbs Agoura FB/LB 6-1 235 Sr. Brandon Jackson Thousand Oaks RB 5-10 190 Sr. Jerome Lee Royal RB 6-1 210 Sr. Billy Miller Westlake WR/DB 6-4 215 Sr. Mike Muller Camarillo FB/LB 6-3 230 Sr. Craig Walendy Westlake RB/LB 6-1 215 Sr. Tim Wolleck Simi Valley K/DB 6-1 215 Sr.

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