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Scarpace Lays It on the Line

Football: Newbury Park assistant coach has sage advice for players because he's been there, done that.

October 24, 1997|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEWBURY PARK — The resume goes like this:

A career at USC blocking for O.J. Simpson, a short NFL run under Vince Lombardi and Tom Fears, five years as head coach at Long Beach Poly High followed by 19 years of coaching college football, including three at UCLA.

So what is Mike Scarpace doing coaching linemen at Newbury Park High?

"I'm having a fantastic time," he said. "Football is football. I'm enjoying this as much as anything I've done."

Scarpace, who teaches at Glendale College, lives in Newbury Park. He wanted to coach close to home, so when Panther line coach Greg Mattes returned to Nevada Las Vegas this fall to get his degree, Scarpace volunteered.

"We are incredibly lucky to have someone with Mike's experience on our staff," Newbury Park Coach George Hurley said.

Scarpace, 52, has picked up where Mattes, 29, who played the line at Newbury Park and UNLV, left off.

"These guys already had the fundamentals down," Scarpace said. "They are good players."

Scarpace, who spent the past three years with Jim Fenwick at Valley College, has brought a college mentality to Newbury Park.

He prepares the linemen each week by handing them written breakdowns of upcoming opponents.

"He tells us how to prepare off the field too in terms of nutrition and getting enough sleep," said Justin Nagy, a three-year starter at center and nose guard. "And he's as good a defensive line coach as he is on offense."

The linemen who learned basics under Mattes and fine points under Scarpace believe they've had the best preparation possible.

"Mattes was a totally strict, yelling coach who taught us how to go hard all the time," said Brian Crain, guard and another three-year starter. "Then [Scarpace] comes in with really helpful techniques. It gives us confidence."

Scarpace, who attended Crescenta Valley High, played guard for USC. He played in the Rose Bowl following the 1966 season and on USC's national championship team in 1967. Next to him at tackle was All-American and future All-Pro Ron Yary. His college roommate was Mike Holmgren, now coach of the Green Bay Packers.

A knee injury kept Scarpace from playing against Indiana in the Rose Bowl his senior year and reduced his pro career to seasons on the taxi squads of the Packers and New Orleans Saints.

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