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NOTEBOOK : Eagles' Defense Lays an Impressive String of Goose Eggs


When it comes to statistics, tackles and sacks are as important as passing and rushing for the Verbum Dei High football team. The Eagle defense has not allowed a touchdown in three of its first four games.

The only time Verbum Dei's defense has cracked was in the first game of the season, when the Eagles made the long trip north to play at Santa Maria.

The Eagles gave up two first-half touchdowns, but thereafter the defense began to mesh. Verbum Dei twice kept Santa Maria out of the end zone on first and goal in the fourth quarter of an 18-17 victory.

Clinging to an 18-14 lead, safety Justin Sewell ran down Santa Maria's Jeffrey Campbell at the one-yard line after a 72-yard gain. But Santa Maria could get no farther, and the Eagles took over on downs.

Then, after Santa Maria drove to the Verbum Dei three-yard line in the game's closing minutes, the Eagles held again, giving up only a field goal.

There has been little drama since. Verbum Dei's defense has not given up a touchdown in 14 quarters.

The Eagles shut out Salesian, 22-0, in the second week of the season, allowing only 48 yards offense and recording 12 sacks, including three by tackle Keane Smith.

The next week, Verbum Dei held Belmont to 80 yards offense in a 9-2 intersectional victory, with 12 tackles by linebacker Frank Harris and 11 each from Jason Steen and Shamsu-Din Shaheed.

Verbum Dei's special teams allowed Compton to score on an 81-yard kickoff return on Sept. 30, but the Eagles won, 16-6. Steen had 14 tackles, including four for a loss of yardage. Harris and Shaheed had 12 and 11 tackles respectively, and the Eagles gave up 31 yards passing.

The secret to Verbum Dei's success? Coach Lalo Mendoza says there is none.

"We set out to try to make everything simple as possible," Mendoza said about the Eagles' zone defense. "We don't do anything confusing or different. We just try to line up the same way every down."


Footnotes--Roosevelt's 23-22 victory over Locke on Sept. 30 marked the Roughriders' first victory over the Saints since the schools were placed in the Southeastern Conference in 1988. Locke won the first five games. The teams played to a 20-20 tie last year.


Showdowns--The Cal State Los Angeles women's volleyball team will play host to Cal State Bakersfield on Tuesday night at 7:30 in a match between the nation's top two NCAA Division II teams.

Andrea Ferchaw had 18 kills to lead second-ranked Cal State L.A. (17-0) to a 15-6, 12-15, 15-13, 15-13 victory over Cal State Dominguez Hills last Tuesday. The Golden Eagles' 17-game season-opening winning streak is the longest by any Cal State L.A. team in any sport. . . .

Bell Gardens High defeated Cantwell Sacred-Heart, 15-4, in the third-place match of the Whittier tournament Oct. 1. Lisa Valenzuela, Georgina Juarez and Diane Cordoso were selected to the all-tournament team for the Lancers.


Runaround--Grace Padilla won the 35th annual Biola cross-country invitational Oct. 1. The former South Gate High runner covered the 5,000-meter course at La Mirada Park in 18 minutes, 9 seconds, to lead Asics Track West to the team title.


Back in the saddle--Akili Roberson of L.A. Southwest made the switch from playing quarterback to safety for the first three games of his freshman season.

But the former Locke High standout was back at quarterback Saturday in the Cougars' Western State Conference game against Valley.

L.A. Southwest's fourth-string quarterback got the promotion after passing for 271 yards off the bench in a 41-20 loss against Santa Barbara on Oct. 1.

Roberson, who also rushed for two touchdowns, entered the game with the Cougars trailing, 33-0, in the third quarter. He quickly led the Cougars on a 68-yard drive, capping it with a four-yard touchdown run.

Correspondent Ethan Allen Thomas Jr. contributed to this report.

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