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PREP FOOTBALL '95 : Countdown to Kickoff, by the Numbers : Season ahead: From one to 10, a preview of what to look for this fall in Valley-area high school football.

September 08, 1995|JOHN LYNCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

One of these days, the City might actually bump a team from the playoffs, but don't bet on it. If ever there was a paper tiger, the City athletics office is it.

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7 Westlake will play at . . . Coach Jim Benkert calls his team's opener tonight against Buena the biggest game in Westlake history. In this case, the hype might be right.

For the first time since the school opened in 1978, Westlake will play a home football game, now that its football stadium has been completed. Benkert is delighted not only because his team finally has a home-field advantage, but now he has a built-in motivational tool.

"We've been using [the new stadium] on the players," he said. "We're telling the players this is a huge community event. This will be a real shot in the arm."

The Warriors don't need much help. They won the Marmonte League title last year and in the past two seasons in league play have a 12-1-1 record.

Said Benkert: "We've established a tradition." Now, the Warriors have a place to celebrate it.

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8 Scott and Contreras will vacation together.

They might be bleary-eyed and maybe even a little wary of each other, but coaches Rick Scott of Buena and George Contreras of Rio Mesa will board a plane together at dawn for a midseason football vacation.

Scott, Contreras and their wives will fly to Seattle on Oct. 7--just hours after their league games the night before--to watch the Notre Dame-Washington game as Husky rooters. Contreras is a Washington alum and Scott received tickets from fullback George Keiaho, a former Buena High running back now a redshirt freshman at Washington.

The coaches will have trouble avoiding shop talk, especially considering their teams play each other the following week.

"Yeah, we'll probably exchange game film on the plane," Scott said.

In an era when the pressure to win has infected even the high school game, it's encouraging that rival coaches can enjoy each other's company. In this case, friendship comes first.

"It's neat," Scott said. "It says something about sportsmanship."

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9 Former friends will become foes.

Free agency has taken root in the high schools. Open enrollment rules, which took effect last summer and allow students to choose schools in their district, can work for high school athletes like free agency has in the pros. Don't like your situation, hit the road.

Rookie Coach Brad Ratcliff of Granada Hills is feeling the pinch. He lost six top players this summer to open enrollment--two to crosstown rival Kennedy. Jason Ascencio, a senior defensive back and wide receiver, didn't like it when Ratcliff asked him to play quarterback, so he split for Golden Cougarland. Classmate and running back Eric Richardson joined him.

Did the players make the right choice? Show up at Granada Hills Nov. 9 when Kennedy meets the Highlanders and see for yourself.

10 Valencia will bide its time.

Valencia Coach Brian Stiman is no dummy. His football team plays its first varsity season in 1995 without a senior class. Stiman has scheduled accordingly.

Fellow Santa Clarita Valley schools Canyon, Hart and Saugus must wait till next year, Valencia's first in the Foothill League. This season, the Vikings will play the likes of Yucca Valley, Cantwell, Mammoth and Sultana, a new school near Hesperia that also has no senior class.

"Hart, Saugus and Canyon definitely wanted to play us, but we cannot line up and play those teams," Stiman said. "There's nothing to gain when kids have no chance for a positive experience. Those teams will have to wait to get us next year."

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