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He Leaves Them Breathless

The fierce hitting of Garrett Sabol, a defensive back at Kennedy High, has drawn interest of several top college programs.


LA PALMA — How could it be that Kennedy safety Garrett Sabol, one of the most ferocious hitters in Orange County, once hated the idea of making contact?

Most wide receivers in the Empire League would probably like to know.

"The first year I played I was scared to death to hit," Sabol said. "Then my father threw me in the backyard with my brother [Brad] and told us to go at it. Ever since then, I haven't been afraid."

But that doesn't mean Sabol has always liked the consequences of his vicious hits. Standing over a player who's grasping for breath or shouting in pain isn't exactly pleasant.

"The first couple years, I hated it," he said. "But after awhile, I realized it's part of the game. I figure I better get them before they get me."

And as a wide receiver himself, Sabol has been on the receiving end of a few licks. But none of the hits compare to the ones he puts on receivers who dare to enter the middle of the field.

Kennedy Coach Mitch Olson recites Sabol's statistics like he would a boxer's.

"Last year, he knocked six kids out of games and had 12 decleats, the most we've ever had," Olson said.

Said defensive coordinator Ted Canfield: "Not too many people want to throw over the middle. He will close like a ton of bricks. As an offensive coordinator, you have to say to yourself, 'Do I want to take six yards and run out of receivers?' "

Sabol said some receivers will answer the question for the offensive coordinator.

"A Loara receiver told me after a game, 'God, do you make me think twice about coming over the middle,' " Sabol said.

When he isn't leveling someone, Sabol is often picking off passes. Last year, he tied for the county lead in interceptions with eight. He also was fourth in the county in receiving with 59 catches. He was selected to the Times' first team All-County defensive team and was named to the All-Southern Section Division V first team as a receiver.

"That made me feel good," Sabol said. "It let me know people respect me as an offensive and defensive player."

If he wanted to, Sabol could probably be among the county leaders in rushing.

"He's probably the best running back in the whole league," said Olson, who moved Sabol from running back to receiver as a sophomore and hinted he will give Sabol more carries this year.

Katella Coach Larry Anderson said he will be glad when Sabol graduates.

"He can turn a football game around," he said. "Offensively, they move him around so much you can't find him. But defensively, that's where we all fear him the most."

Not surprisingly, defense is where most college coaches would like Sabol to play. Sabol said though he prefers safety he would play receiver in college if he had to.

Olson said there aren't many big-name coaches who haven't been to Kennedy's practice field.

"Texas A&M, Michigan, USC, Notre Dame, Oregon . . . We've seen some people this summer that we've never seen around here," Olson said.

Olson knows he won't be seeing them again any time soon.

"He's the best player I've ever had," said Olson, who's coached at Kennedy for 10 years.

And Olson said Sabol's not the best by accident.

"It's not like he's a star and doesn't work," Olson said. "He's very dedicated. He's also the best leader we've ever had. He's a coach's dream. It's going to be tough when he leaves."

But before he goes, Sabol said he would like to give Empire League receivers some hits to remember him by.

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