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Fountain of Youth Flowing

September 24, 1996|PAUL McLEOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Doug Case, football coach at Rancho Alamitos, knew he was taking a chance last year when he carried 25 sophomores on the varsity. If the first two weeks of this season are any indication, his gamble is paying off.

Rancho is 2-0 and, after beating Saddleback, 61-14, has outscored opponents, 95-21. The Vaqueros try to improve to 3-0 Thursday against Western. They were 0-3 last year before a late surge gave them a playoff appearance and 4-6-1 record.

"I took the entire sophomore class on the varsity last year and we started six," Case said. "They didn't have to learn the system from the ground up this year, so when we started summer camp it allowed me to start teaching the system from about the halfway point, rather than from the beginning."

Senior linebacker/running back Leo Kosi said the result is a fresh atmosphere on the team, which is far ahead of last year in terms of progress.

Junior Alex Blanco has scored five touchdowns and rushed for 304 yards, which has taken a load off Kosi at running back. Kosi has scored three times, but he can concentrate more on playing linebacker. The net result, Kosi and Case point out, is that the team is more well-rounded than it was a year ago.

*

The Mater Dei and Capistrano Valley football teams, both 2-0 and ranked 1-2 in the county, have lived up to early expectations. Each is listed among the top 10 of the USA Today national poll. The Monarchs rank fifth, the Cougars 10th.

How often have two teams from the same league been among the top 10 nationally at the same time?

"If I had to guess, it's never happened, but there's no way to check," said Dave Krider, the USA Today analyst who does the poll. "I can say it's very unusual. There are certain power states with more than one team, most of the time there's only one team from a specific area."

*

Even though it's early in the season, it was a surprise to find La Habra as the only undefeated Freeway League team.

In fact, a victory Friday over Whittier California would give the Highlanders their best start since 1991, when they began the year 3-0.

La Habra Coach Rick Milhizer is not too excited. For one thing, La Habra finished the 1991 season 6-4 (2-3 in league). California defeated defending Freeway League champion Fullerton last Friday. And La Habra is coming off consecutive 3-7 seasons.

Still, the Highlanders are showing positive signs. The defense has given up an average of 6.5 points in the first two games, and the team has not given up a point in the first half. La Habra is also demonstrating strength late in games, having scored a combined 28 points in their two fourth quarters.

"The game with California will tell us a lot about ourselves," Milhizer said. "But we are where we expected to be. This is a veteran team, and I thought we could get off to a good start."

*

Four years ago, a disgruntled player named Derrick Uhl left Mater Dei's football program and transferred to Trabuco Hills High, where he eventually became an key defensive player and helped lead the Mustangs to the 1994 Division VIII title.

This week, another unhappy Monarch player, 6-4 sophomore Roland Duran, joined the Mustangs and started at linebacker Friday against Laguna Hills. Whether he will have the same impact as Uhl remains to be seen, but he is desperately needed by the undermanned Mustangs defense. In two games, they have given up 478 and 483 total yards by the opposition.

*

Dave Brown, Capistrano Valley coach talking to his second-ranked team after its 34-0 victory over seventh-ranked Edison Friday: "Remember, defense wins games. Offense sells the tickets, but defense wins games."

'Nuff said.

Also contributing to this report were correspondent Michael Casey, and Times staff writers Steve Kresal and Mike Terry.

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