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They Know Their History : Prep football: Instead of studying the passing tree, several players from the Valley region can trace their family trees to famous relatives.

November 12, 1995|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Inventiveness, leadership, bravery, courage. History books tell us our ancestorshad these qualities in abundance, enabling them to blaze trails, settle frontiers and generally hold down the fort.

It's the stuff of movies and schoolboy dreams. But for today's teen-ager, perhaps the most-civilized alternative to trading musket shots or dodging arrows is suiting up for high school football.

And when the blood surging through adolescent veins under Friday-night lights has been passed down from Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone or a legendary Indian chief, the game becomes a more-convincing slice of Americana.

Area players claim as ancestors famous folks of all stripes. A descendant of Benjamin Franklin makes electrifying plays for Agoura. A seed sown by Jesse James turns up more than a century later in a Saugus player intent on pilfering passes.

And more than one running back claims lineage to Pancho Villa. No wonder they're elusive.

Coaches have long known the importance of bloodlines, the frequency with which a brother or cousin of a former standout is a sure bet to excel.

What if the standout is named Standish, as in Myles Standish, straight off the Mayflower?

Kevin Standish of La Canada, a direct descendant of Myles, tackled a Blair runner short of the goal line on a two-point conversion attempt with 18 seconds left to preserve the Spartans' 13-12 victory two weeks ago. He also recovered the ensuing onside kick, giving his father, Myles Standish The Eleventh Or So, something else to puff his chest about.

The Standishes, incidentally, can't stop exploring. The family moved to La Canada from Wethersfield, Conn., a town the original Myles Standish founded, because the current Myles Standish works at Caltech for Jet Propulsion Laboratories and NASA.

Other descendants of those who shaped American history do work similar to their ancestors.

Samuel Chase signed the Declaration of Independence and generations later Stephen Chase signs his share of important papers as an administrator for the City of Ventura.

"If you look to the immediate right of John Hancock's signature, there is Samuel Chase's," Stephen Chase said.

Look to the immediate right of the football when St. Bonaventure is on defense, and there is Stephen's son, also Stephen Chase, who puts his John Hancock on opposing quarterbacks as a Seraph tackle.

Of course, without the Revolutionary War there might never have been a Declaration of Independence. Our first American soldiers were inspired by the writings of Thomas Paine, who wrote the immortal words, "These are the times that try men's souls."

Quartz Hill's Justin Holtfreter might have used that line after the Rebels' 27-0 loss to Antelope Valley on Thursday. A descendant of Paine, Holtfreter is a backup quarterback who constantly exhorts his playoff-bound teammates with Rebel yells.

"Justin's outgoing and tries to get everyone fired up," teammate Matt Matros said.

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Paraclete fullback Scott Wolfe occasionally is asked to bring in plays from the sidelines, and for good reason: A long-ago relative served as a cartographer for George Washington. If anyone can map the way to the end zone, it's Wolfe.

Need more proof that certain traits can be passed through the years like that electrical current discovered by Benjamin Franklin? Take Shayne Sobel, who is related to the old kite-flying, stove-inventing icon himself.

Just last Friday night, the Agoura receiver lit up the Westlake secondary, scoring touchdowns on pass plays of 44 and 12 yards in the Chargers' upset. Two weeks earlier he electrified the crowd with an 88-yard punt return.

And inventiveness? Shayne's father, Jan, founded the ever-popular Whizbo Disk, a cousin of the Frisbee, and developed a beach football game with the thing. Wouldn't you know it, Shayne's team won the "Whizbo World Championship" at Santa Monica pier last summer by knocking off three opponents.

To believe Jan Sobel, appearance as well as genius carries through many generations.

"If you look at Benjamin Franklin, and look at my mom, she looks a lot like Benjamin Franklin," he said.

Sobel added that his mother, Miriam, was stunning in her youth, and was the model Walt Disney used to develop Snow White. This would make Benjamin Franklin and Snow White look-alikes, although one would swear he bears a stronger resemblance to her sidekick dwarf, Doc.

Leadership could be expected from descendants of Presidents, something certainly true of Saugus guard Jason Huml, whose maternal grandfather traced the family back to John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Huml, a 230-pound senior, takes the lead on sweeps, making blocks that have helped the Centurions to the playoffs.

Players claim blood ties to many Presidents, including George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Rutherford B. Hayes, Zachary Taylor, Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. The obvious pride is tempered a bit in the family of Royal receiver Jesse Garner, a descendant of Jackson.

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