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October 06, 1994|ROB FERNAS


When a majority of Coast Area administrators voted to disband the Pioneer League last year, the league's high schools cried bloody murder.

Now they're getting killed on the football field.

In their reincarnation as members of eight-team Bay and Ocean leagues, the old Pioneer League schools have come back as cannon fodder.

All six of the former Pioneer League schools lost league openers last week and were outscored, 190-40. El Segundo took the worst beating, 49-2, against Mira Costa, but the Torrance schools didn't fare much better. Only Torrance managed to score in double figures in a 28-14 loss to Leuzinger.

Naturally, not everyone is happy.

"Do the former Pioneer League schools really have any football future in the Bay and Ocean leagues, or will they just become body bag opponents to fill out the schedules for the original Bay and Ocean League schools?" asked an official from a former Pioneer League school who requested anonymity. "How long can the former Pioneer League schools take these poundings before the football programs and athletic morale deteriorate?"

The situation looks especially bleak for West, North and Torrance, which are competing for playoff spots against established football powers Hawthorne, Leuzinger and Peninsula in the Bay League. West and North tied for the Pioneer League title last season, but Friday they were overwhelmed by Peninsula, 35-7, and Hawthorne, 34-6, respectively.

South should be competitive in the Ocean League, although the Spartans were badly outplayed in a 24-3 loss to talented Culver City. As for El Segundo and Centennial, it's apparent they have little chance of ever making the playoffs in the Ocean League's current setup.

Last year, Pioneer League administrators had hoped to keep three leagues. But their counterparts from the five-team Bay and Ocean leagues, wanting to reduce scheduling hassles, voted unanimously to go with two expanded leagues.

Since the leagues are in place for a four-year cycle, one-sided football scores could become commonplace.

And that's not good for anyone.


Although Mira Costa's football team is 4-0, it's only natural to wonder how much better the Mustangs would be if Phil Fonua and Dino Rossi were playing.

They were the only All-Southern Section players back from the 1993 Division VII championship team, but both had their senior seasons wiped out before the first game. Fonua, a preseason All-American nose tackle, suffered a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. Rossi, a wide receiver-defensive back who was one of Mira Costa's fastest players, had surgery to repair a torn knee ligament.

Coach Don Morrow has dealt with the disappointment of losing two of his best players, but occasionally he still asks himself, "What if?"

"It's not so much that I wonder what our record would have been or how we would have stacked up against other teams with those guys," Morrow said. "I just wanted to see what they would have done in their senior years."

Morrow, though, pointed out that Fonua and Rossi are still contributing in an inspirational sense. They joined Mira Costa's captains on the field before Friday's game against El Segundo.

"Our senior group is very close and they always want both of those guys around," Morrow said. "The kids who are playing have a good feel for what has happened. They know what has been taken from these guys. Our attitude has been good, but we still miss them. We've never denied that."


With Mira Costa's Fonua sidelined, the area's most disruptive defensive player clearly has to be Banning lineman John Toavalu.

The 5-foot-11, 280-pound senior was a one-man wrecking crew last week in the Pilots' 17-0 victory over San Pedro, getting three sacks and forcing a fumble. As a team, Banning had six sacks and forced five turnovers.

Pilot assistant Titus Tuiasosopo says there's a simple reason why Toavalu is so effective.

"No one can block him," he said.


The South Bay's most dominant offensive player has been Mira Costa tailback Mike Fikes, who leads the area with 690 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior has rushed for more than 200 yards in each of the past two games and has rushed for more than 100 yards in all six of his starts at tailback for Mira Costa since becoming eligible late last season.

So, Fikes has to be the best running back Morrow has coached, right?

"He could end up being (the best), but I've had some good tailbacks in the last few years," said Morrow, who took over the Mira Costa program last year after coaching South Torrance for four seasons. "He doesn't have blazing speed, but he can get to the corner and has real good moves. And he's a load (to bring down)."


Can the ever-changing Leuzinger defense stop the option?

Can the fast-improving Peninsula offense continue to rack up yardage?

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