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Prep Football Preview | FOOTHILL LEAGUE

Hart Bypass No Good in This Operation

League appears vastly improved, but Indians could still be in a championship vein.

September 07, 1996|DANA HADDAD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There is reason for optimism at nearly every school in the Foothill League, but when it comes to the league championship nobody is willing to predict a victory over five-time defending champion Hart High.

In fact, the only one hinting at a changing of the guard is Hart offensive coordinator Dean Herrington.

"We've got probably the least amount of starters back and our seniors never won a lower-level championship," he said.

Canyon could have its best team in three years under Coach Larry Mohr.

Saugus has the biggest team in the league.

Burbank, under new Coach Gary Willison, will be much better than last season's winless squad.

Burroughs has an NCAA Division I prospect at quarterback--J.K. Scott.

Newcomer Valencia has Donavan Calhoun, the league's top running back, among 20 returning starters.

All of the coaches agree on one point: Every team in the league has improved, except Hart.

After winning the Southern Section Division II championship last year with a 35-28 victory over Antelope Valley, the only place for the Indians to go is down.

Then again, Herrington won't rule out a repeat.

"On paper, Saugus should run away with the league," he said. "But I'm sure we'll show up to play that night [Nov. 15, the regular-season finale]. I like our group."

He should. Back is receiver Cody Joyce, the league's No. 1 college prospect who caught 51 passes for a region-best 1,157 yards last year.

The offensive line, with two returning players, averages 255 pounds.

Among key newcomers, junior Chris Wright steps in at running back and three of the four receivers in the run-and-shoot offense are starting for the first time. So is senior quarterback Travis Carroll.

Saugus has eight returning starters on offense and four on defense, including two all-league selections. The average size of the line on offense is 6 feet 2 and 270 pounds, 6-3 and 240 on defense.

But Coach Jack Bowman's excitement is tempered by the fact that he's had good teams in the past but has never been able to beat Hart. Saugus lost last year's showdown, 47-7.

"I think we're going to be very good," Bowman said. "But I also think Hart is going to be very tough, and we've got a lot of things to do right before we play them."

Mohr should take Canyon to the playoffs for the third year in a row. And with 11 returning starters and an offensive front that averages 242 pounds, the Cowboys should also be considered a title contender.

"Everybody thinks we stink again," Mohr said. "We don't. This is my best team."

Valencia figures to take lots of bumps and bruises in its inaugural season in the Foothill League, especially with only four players who weigh more than 200 pounds.

Coach Brian Stiman can't understand why the linemen are so big elsewhere in the Santa Clarita Valley.

"If I knew what they were eating, I'd be feeding my players the same thing," Stiman said. "I'm playing with guards that are 170 or 175 pounds."

Burroughs, as usual, will suffer from a lack of bulk and depth, but a solid passing attack should keep the Indians in most games. Scott, a senior, last year threw for 1,764 yards in his first year playing football.

Among other key returners is Glenn Adriatico, who caught 62 passes as a sophomore.

Burbank's Willison doesn't promise any miracle turnaround, but he said the Bulldogs' talent is surprisingly on par with Canyon and Saugus.

"Very honestly, if I was to compare this team to the Saugus team that got to the second round of the playoffs and the Canyon team from the year before, we are better than them, physically," said Willison, who was an assistant at Saugus the past two seasons.

"The only thing that could stop us is a lack of mental toughness."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

AT A GLANCE

* THE PROVEN: Hart senior receiver Cody Joyce led players in the region with 1,157 yards receiving last season. He is a top college prospect in football and baseball. Hart senior tackle Mike Wambolt (6 feet 5, 280 pounds) is a three-year starter who was a Times All-Valley pick in '95. Valencia senior running back Donavan Calhoun rushed for 1,411 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Burroughs senior quarterback J.K. Scott passed for 1,764 yards last year. His favorite target is junior receiver Glenn Adriatico, who made a region-high 62 catches in the regular season.

* THE PROMISING: Senior quarterbacks Matt Pike of Burbank, Rick Thomas of Canyon and Chris Kobe of Saugus; running backs Monte McKeon of Canyon and Mark Pecaro of Saugus; receivers Caleb Willis of Valencia and Scott Collins of Hart. Linemen Danny Sutton (6-3, 290) of Hart, Ashton Holbrook (6-3, 280) of Valencia and Steve Butcher (6-5, 265) of Burbank; defenders Ryan Manheim and Brandon Alvarado of Saugus and Todd Hourigan of Hart.

* FAST FACT: Hart quarterbacks have earned All-Southern Section honors in each of the past 11 seasons.

Foothill League Schedules Burbank

Sept. 12--at Harvard-Westlake,

4 p.m.

Sept. 19--Glendale

Sept. 27--Crescenta Valley

at Glendale High

Oct. 4--at Santa Paula

Oct. 10--at Gabrielino

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