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CENTURY LEAGUE | PREP FOOTBALL '96

Lang Looking for Happier Ending

Quarterback put up impressive numbers last season, but he wants to be sure Foothill doesn't fall short of the playoffs again.

September 10, 1996|MICHAEL ITAGAKI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SANTA ANA — Foothill quarterback Tyler Lang contends his senior season isn't solely about redemption.

Lang did enjoy a fine junior year, individually. He completed 49% of his passes for 1,398 yards and 12 touchdowns with only four interceptions, and he was among the top-rated passers in the county for most of the season.

During baseball season, he finished 6-3 as a pitcher and he also hit .500.

But Lang, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior, would like to rewrite his teams' abrupt season endings.

Bell Gardens defeated Foothill, 5-4, in the first round of the Southern Section Division II baseball playoffs. Lang walked five in 2 2/3 innings of the loss.

"It wasn't my best effort," Lang said. "The year before, we [stunk] in baseball and, sure, we were happy just to make the playoffs. But we expected to do better."

The football team should have been so lucky.

Foothill, the two-time defending league champions, entered the final week of the regular season with a chance to win a third consecutive title. But after Chris Bell scored three touchdowns to lead Villa Park to a 35-28 victory, Foothill not only missed out on a league title but also missed the playoffs.

"It was unreal," Lang said. "It seemed like a given we were in the playoffs, then all of a sudden, we were out."

On that same night, Canyon defeated Santa Ana Valley, 28-19, to clinch third place and the final playoff spot. Santa Ana Valley and Villa Park shared the league title.

"We played pretty well last season, but we lost the wrong games at the wrong times," Lang said.

That disappointment is feeding the Knights this season.

"Last year was such a downfall, you didn't need anyone to kick you in the butt to get fired up for this season," Lang said. "It's been a huge difference over last season.

"There were more expectations last season. Maybe all of us took it for granted and we weren't as motivated as we should have been.

"I think there are fewer expectations of us this season and it's a little more laid-back. We'll see how it goes."

The Knights aren't exactly underdogs in the Century League. In fact, most coaches are picking Foothill to win the league title.

And Lang, a third-year starter who has drawn attention from both football and baseball recruiters, is one of the big reasons the Knights are favored.

"Tyler is a pretty low-key guy," Foothill football Coach Tom Meiss said. "He's smart and he doesn't get rattled. Now he has more confidence and he's developed some bulldog in him."

Lang got tougher during baseball season.

"He went to work on the weights during the off-season and he began immediately ripping the ball in baseball last spring," Meiss said.

That improvement has Foothill's baseball coach, Vince Brown, convinced that baseball is in Lang's future.

"He has shown signs of being a phenomenal hitter," Brown said. "I thought maybe he just had a hot streak during the season, but throughout the summer, every time I saw him he got better and better.

"And in baseball, if you can swing the bat well, they'll find a spot for you."

Meiss knows the two sports can feed off each other, but he has had a tougher time convincing others.

"I get irritated with some parents who keep talking about their kids' futures," Meiss said. "Some won't let the kids play football because they're playing baseball.

"If the kid is the one in 150 million that makes it in baseball, it's not because he didn't play football in high school. I think you've got to experience everything you want to right now.

"The future is now."

Lang realizes this and he is excited about his senior year.

"It's been a huge difference since last season," Lang said. "Take for example the entire offensive line. They've been great. They're not the biggest, in fact, I'm bigger than some of them. But they're strong. They all can kick my butt."

"Everyone is working harder."

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