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GOLDEN WEST LEAGUE | PREP FOOTBALL '96

Cicero Set to Write New Story for Servite

Senior quarterback has high expectations for himself and the Friars this season.

September 10, 1996|PAUL McLEOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Greg Cicero picked up one of those slick, preseason high school football magazines the other day and almost lost his lunch. Thumbing through the who's-hot-and-who's-not section he found the Servite Friars ranked 12th in the state.

A lot of guys would look at that and figure its a nice call with room to move up.

Not Cicero. He thinks the Friars have already established themselves as one of California's best teams.

"I was kind of upset," he said. "Being 12th in the state? I thought we deserved to be in the top five."

Cocky? Arrogant? Most likely not. Just the confidence of a young quarterback who has college scouts knocking on his door after a stellar junior season in which he passed for nearly 2,360 yards and a school-record 28 touchdowns. He led the Friars (11-3) on a nine-game winning streak and into the Division V championship game last season, where they lost to El Toro, 27-17. Cicero, however, completed 20 of 32 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns in the title and a star was born.

This year, just about every key player from last year's team is back and the Friars are loaded with underclassmen. So, maybe Cicero has a valid complaint. Maybe the Friars are going into the season a little less heralded than they should be.

"We just have some guys that can play, five or six Division I [-type] players," he said.

Cicero has his supporters. Said Tustin Coach Myron Miller: "Servite's freshmen team could win the varsity league title."

If Cicero were to flip through the pages of all those preseason guides, he'd see his name splashed all over the part about top quarterbacks. SuperPrep magazine ranked him 10th in the state and said "he can really hang in the pocket and throw the ball." The Sporting News goes one further, listing him as one of the top quarterback prospects in the country.

Not bad for a kid who only began calling signals two seasons ago. He came to Servite as a 6-4, 180-pound wide receiver, but in the spring of 1994 an assistant coach asked him to throw a few balls to fellow receivers during a drill. Cicero let fly with a 60-yard bomb. The rest is history. Cicero made the varsity as a sophomore, and although he didn't play a whole lot, he saw what it took to be a winner. He beat out the projected senior starter last season and he hasn't looked back.

"Greg as a football player is a great guy," said offensive guard Zack LaMonda, another of Servite's standouts at 6-2, 275 pounds. "He's worked really hard on his skills in the last two years and in my opinion he is one of the best quarterbacks I have seen. He has a great arm. He's tall and he's athletic."

Cicero has taken his future seriously. He visited about half a dozen colleges at his expense with his parents during the summer. It's not uncommon for the phone to ring in the football office of one of his favorite schools and for Cicero to be on the other end of the line asking coaches their opinions on what they think of him. He says he's interested in four Division I colleges at present, but is just waiting to see what happens after his senior season before deciding on where he will play next.

He has hired throwing coach Steve Clarkson, who works with many current and former Orange County quarterbacks, including former Los Alamitos standout Kevin Feterik. And he trains with fitness instructor John Estrada, an Anaheim policeman who coaches sprinters at Inglewood Morningside High in his spare time.

"Kids like Greg are easy to coach because they can comprehend the complex things you are telling them," Estrada said. "He learns real quick."

Servite Coach Larry Toner has watched Cicero blossom and expects improvement from his senior quarterback as the season goes on.

"He obviously understands the game better," Toner said. "You expect his decision-making to improve. That's the key thing for a quarterback, to be able to make decisions and process all the data in the microseconds that he has."

Cicero, meanwhile, is still brooding about that magazine.

"We know our team is pretty darn good," he said.

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