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THE HIGH SCHOOLS / VINCE KOWALICK

Chatsworth's Preis on the Outs With Card-Carrying Referees

February 18, 1996|Vince Kowalick

Mike Preis looks at a soccer official and sees red.

"He was a Bozo," Preis said Saturday.

These days, Preis probably envisions everyone in striped shirts sporting red noses. But in fact, Preis was the red-faced one Friday after being ejected in Chatsworth High's 1-0 overtime victory over North Hollywood in the opening round of the City Section playoffs.

Preis, Chatsworth's all-time scoring leader, received a red card--soccer's signal for an early shower--after colliding with the North Hollywood goalkeeper for the second time in the first half.

Preis, a senior striker with a school-record 26 goals this season and 45 in his three-year career, charged after a loose ball in front of the goal and, according to the official, raised his cleats after the goalkeeper had scooped up the ball.

The infraction earned Preis his second yellow card of the game, the equivalent of a red card and an automatic ejection. It also means Preis is prohibited from playing in Chatsworth's next game, a second-round matchup Wednesday against Sherman Oaks CES (10-0-2).

Without Preis, who is being recruited by Cal State Northridge, San Jose State and Nevada Las Vegas, the Chancellors' chances are decidedly slimmer; no other player has scored more than four goals for Chatsworth (10-8-4).

"We have a good supporting cast," Chatsworth Coach Desmond Willows said. "But Mike is definitely our go-to guy. We're going to have to win without him."

Again. The ejection was the third this season for Preis, who protests that he was undeserving of each. And he's become a bit angry by repeatedly having to battle a crimson tide.

"It's ridiculous," Preis said. "There's no way he should have given me that card. The referee [Friday] was, probably, the worst referee we've had all year."

Officials typically caution players in violation of various fouls with yellow cards, reserving the red card for serious offenses, such as swearing at an official.

Preis said he can count on one toe the number of red cards that have been flashed his way in 12 years of playing club soccer.

"Every once in a while, you run across a bad call," Preis said. "But these referees in high school, they're on such power trips. They like to pull the card out for no reason."

Preis received the first red card of his high school career in December against Newbury Park in the Simi Valley tournament. Preis was fouled, then carded after allegedly making a profane remark to the official--a charge he denies. Preis said he has never used profanity toward an opponent or official.

Red card No. 2 came against Taft after Preis protested a call. "I'm the captain," Preis said. "I was trying to talk to him."

Chatsworth has split the two games after Preis' ejections, defeating Dos Pueblos, 3-0, and losing to San Fernando, 1-0. Friday, the Chancellors went on to edge North Hollywood in a shootout, 5-4.

Willows said he cannot recall a player receiving three red cards in one season. Chatsworth's entire team did not receive a red card in either of the past two seasons, he said.

Willows defended Preis in each red-card occasion. The coach contends that videotape of Friday's game clearly shows Preis did not commit a foul. But the matter is in the past.

"[Red cards are] something I don't tolerate as a coach," Willows said. "If they were blatant [fouls], I would feel that he let me, the team and himself down. But they haven't been. The call was so iffy. For an official in a playoff game to kick one of the best players in the City out of a game. . . . Mike is really going to have to watch himself."

Putting a stop to the red-card treatment is paramount, Preis acknowledged.

"That could have been my last game," he said. "When I come back . . . the only thing I want to do is go out and score some goals."

*

What do Magic Johnson and Jermaine Sweet have in common? Both are forwards who came off the bench Friday night to score a team-high 30 points and lead their team to victory.

Johnson scored a season-high 30 in a 119-114 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

Sweet, a 6-foot, 160-pound junior for L.A. Baptist, scored 30, a career high, to lead the Knights to an 81-69 victory over Mojave in the opening round of the Southern Section Division IV-A playoffs.

But that's where similarities end.

Johnson, who guided the Lakers to five NBA titles as a point guard during the 1980s, is flourishing in his new role as a reserve. Sweet, who started playing basketball this season, has never been a starter.

But that suits Sweet fine.

"I wouldn't mind [starting]. But right now, this situation is what's best for us," said Sweet, who averages a team-high 15.5 points a game. "I think I play better that way. I can get a feel for the game, the tempo and how it's going."

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