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Western Keeping Its Distance From Defeat : Football: Margin of victory has been narrow for the Pioneers, who are the county's only unbeaten team.


ANAHEIM — Western's football games are usually close. The Pioneers' average margin of victory is 9.2 points, and their two biggest blowouts have been by only 21 points.

But close or not, the fact is they win. Western is the county's only undefeated team through the eighth week of the season.

The heart and soul of the Pioneers is quarterback Dean Chambers, who has not lost a varsity game in which he has started and finished.

Western enters tonight's Orange League game against Savanna as the third-ranked team in the Southern Section Division V rankings. The Pioneers (8-0, 3-0 in league) broke into the Orange County sportswriters poll for the first time this week, at No. 9. Some believe the team has a soft schedule, but its game against the Rebels (6-2, 2-1) will be a genuine test.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday November 3, 1995 Orange County Edition Sports Part C Page 14 Sports Desk 1 inches; 23 words Type of Material: Correction
Prep football--The photo identifications of Western football players David Bell and Dean Chambers was reversed in Thursday's edition of The Times Orange County.

Chambers, a senior who has passed for 959 yards and seven touchdowns this season, said his team is used to being snubbed.

"We'd rather go through the whole year not being ranked, having no publicity, until after the 14th game. . . . if we got that far," Chambers said, referring to the section championship game. "Hopefully we will. But we are not a bunch of guys who are selfish or egotistical. We just like to go out and play football, and whatever comes with it, comes with it."

Last year, the Pioneers started 7-0-1 before Chambers injured his knee in the first half of the Valencia game. He left with the score tied, 7-7, and did not return. Valencia won, 24-7.

Chambers' injury kept him out of the last regular-season game against Savanna and the first-round playoff game against Servite, both Western losses.

David Bell, who plays wingback and linebacker, said there's no secret to Western's success this season.

"I think our guys just come out here and want to play," he said. "They practice hard and play hard. They're always going 100%. And we want to keep the winning tradition going."

Western is not a large team by today's standards. Only 14 of its 35 players weigh 200 pounds or more. The Pioneers run the wing-T, which is an offense that relies more on speed and precision than strength and power.

Bell, a senior, may be the quintessential Western player: He's listed at 6 feet 1 and 200 pounds, but doesn't appear that tall or large. In addition to running (26 carries, 191 yards), receiving (six receptions, 116 yards) and tackling, he is also the punter and kicker, meaning he rarely misses a play. Last week, in a 38-27 victory over Anaheim, Bell was off the field a total of 45 seconds.

Coach Jim Howell, who is in his 16th year at Western and 35th year of coaching, admits a fondness for this year's team.

"We are in an area now [because of changing school populations] where the kids don't have a lot anyway," Howell said. "They have learned to exist and get by in the world. They don't get a lot of praise, so they appreciate what they do get.

"I tell them I don't care where we are during the season, but where we are at the end."

Howell has guided Western to three Orange League titles and the playoffs 10 times. He said he entertained thoughts of retiring a couple years ago, but decided he wanted to see this senior class through its graduation.

"I hung in there because I knew this was a good senior group," Howell said. "There are a lot of things about coaching that don't make it fun, but not these kids."

Bell, who is considered a Division I prospect as a kicker and punter, said his teammates are glad Howell decided to stay.

"In a team meeting we had, he hinted he wanted to see our class through," Bell said. [The seniors] are using that as motivation; we don't want to see him go out a loser. We wanted him to have a winning season."

Despite its two toughest games of the season remaining--Savanna tonight and Brea Olinda next week, which, like Western is unbeaten in league--Howell looks forward to postseason play and believes his team could do well.

"One reason we haven't gained respect is we have not gone out and dominated teams," Howell said. "And some say our schedule is not that tough, though I don't agree.

"I think we can play better and look better at times. But this team seems like they wait around to win. They are poised, and have a lot of confidence in themselves. The juniors this season have never lost at any level [expect those brought up last season for the playoffs]. They will get a loss somewhere, but they don't look for it. They look to be successful."

Which is why Chambers won't worry if Savanna--"a very excellent offensive team," he says--approaches its game against the Pioneers with the same disdain as other opponents.

"We knew what we could do at the beginning of the year, but nobody else knew," Chambers said. "And still, nobody thinks we are for real. But we like being the underdog. If they are 10-point favorites over us, that's great.

"We know what we can do, and they know what they can do. Let's just go out on the field and play."

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