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ORANGE LEAGUE | PREP FOOTBALL '96

Valencia Fully Expecting to Pull a Reverse

Quarterback Eric Young looks to lead Tigers back into the playoffs, which they missed last season for first time in 14 years under Mike Marrujo.

September 10, 1996|PAUL McLEOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PLACENTIA — His name doesn't show up on many college scouting charts, but Valencia's Eric Young doesn't care.

He knows he's not the most recognized quarterback in the Orange League, either.

That honor, he concedes, belongs to Matt Kalcevich of Brea Olinda.

Yet, Young just may be the most important factor in the 1996 league race. If Valencia is to regain its status as a playoff team, how well Young plays will determine how well the Tigers do this season.

Young was at the helm last season when Valencia failed to make the playoffs for the first time in Coach Mike Marrujo's 14-year tenure. It was a painful time on campus. For years the Tiger student body had grown accustomed to league titles and playoff appearances. Under Marrujo, Valencia has won 10 league crowns. It had become ordinary, assumed.

It didn't happen, and Young took losing hard.

"We had some bad luck. I wanted to take that team into the playoffs," Young said. "We didn't make it. We need to get that playoff streak going again."

Marrujo calls that 3-7 season "a fluke" and predicts his club will get back on track this year.

"It was a very off year in terms of running backs," Marrujo said of 1995. "Eric had no help. He had to do a lot of things on his own, yet he had a real good year."

The disappointing tone was set early when Valencia went 0-4 to start the season. The Tigers lost their opener to Villa Park, 31-28, battled Servite in a 35-14 loss, fell to El Dorado, 28-7, and lost to Kennedy, 17-7. There was improvement every week, but little to show for it until they upended Sunny Hills, 31-28, in week No. 5.

But the joy was short-lived. The Tigers opened Orange League play with a 28-14 loss to Savanna. They played catch-up for the rest of the season.

Young uses those memories as motivators, but in reality he wants to put all that behind him.

Like Kalcevich, Young was a second-team, all-league pick in 1995. He posted about the same numbers, too, throwing for 1,102 yards to Kalcevich's 1,292. He threw for 15 touchdowns, two more than his Brea rival, while having one less pass intercepted (nine). When Valencia and Brea met in the second-to-last game of the season, Young helped the Tigers to 13-10 upset, keeping Valencia's slim playoff hopes alive.

But the Tigers' inconsistent season ended on a sour note the next week, when they were defeated by Anaheim, 19-7. Brea tied Savanna for second place and advanced to the Division V playoffs. Valencia stayed home.

Preseason picks this year have again focused on Brea and Kalcevich, while Young has toiled in near obscurity.

There's no rivalry between the two, and Young really doesn't like to be compared to Kalcevich.

"Everyone is different," Young said. "Everyone has different talent. I just want to do well."

His goal, he says, is simple: Return Valencia to the playoffs.

"I know there is pressure on me," Young said. "So maybe that makes me more of a player. It makes me want to be at least twice as good as I can be."

Normally quiet and reserved, Young comes alive on the football field. Marrujo calls him a born leader.

"He's not a real rah-rah guy," the coach said. "He leads by example. He's at the school for everything. We have a passing league, he comes. You can really count on him. He never misses a practice and the other kids realize that."

Young is itching for the chance to lead the Tigers back into the playoff hunt.

"Summer is a lot of work. A lot of running. A lot of lifting weights," he said. "But it is worth it when you get on the field."

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