YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Monroe Will Run, So Some Players Run Off


For all the headaches and heartaches Sloan Bunting has endured since taking over the Monroe High football program in June, he holds the perfect antidote.

Senior running backs Vinny Walker and George Garcia, the most productive backfield tandem in the Valley Pac-8 Conference last season, return for Monroe and provide the Vikings with a double-barreled offensive weapon second to none.

Walker and Garcia combined for 2,759 yards and 20 touchdowns. Whether Walker and Garcia can overcome an inexperienced line and Monroe's personnel losses remains a question.

"I believe we're going to be contenders [but] we're going to need some luck," Bunting said. "If we get hurt at all, we're going to have some problems."

Since Bunting took over, Monroe has lost 15 players--including eight starters--who either transferred or became ineligible because of sub-standard grades or off-the-field problems.

Monroe features only four returning starters on a team that has dwindled from 50 to 30 players in a year.

"We've lost so many kids," said Bunting. "Unfortunately, a lot of good ones."

The exodus started when Bunting was hired in June to replace interim Coach Don Senegal, who replaced Fred Cuccia after Cuccia suffered a debilitating stroke and missed the 1996 season.

Several players were upset when Cuccia was not allowed to reclaim his job. They were further incensed when Senegal--a longtime Cuccia assistant--wasn't named the coach.

Almost immediately, four starting wide receiver-defensive backs transferred to Kennedy through open enrollment.

"They didn't think I was going to throw the ball a whole lot," Bunting said.

"When you've got two running backs like I do, you're not going to throw a whole lot."

Bunting, who was 17-2-1 as coach of the freshman-sophomore team at Grant the past two seasons, is one of three new coaches in the conference this season. And he isn't the only new coach to lose players after taking over.

Poly co-Coaches Bob Mesa and Lee Jackson, who take over a team that was winless on the field in 10 games last season, will begin their inaugural season without four starters who transferred.

Wide receiver Terrance Brandt and linebacker Jerry Dandridge were the first to bolt Poly and they headed to Sylmar. Only Brandt managed to stick it out with Sylmar Coach Jeff Engilman.

"I sent [Brandt] to Jeff [Engilman] with my blessings and told him to take care of this kid because he's a good kid," Mesa said.

Jason Garrison is set to embark on his first season as head coach at North Hollywood after eight years as a Husky assistant.

North Hollywood is another recipient of a Poly transfer, quarterback Vadim Valcu.

Although the coaching staff at Sylmar remains the same, job descriptions do not.

Engilman reshuffled his staff, moving defensive coordinator Darryl McIntyre to offense and promoting frosh-soph coach London Woodfin to defensive coordinator.

Engilman, entering his 11th season at Sylmar, said he will take more of a supervisor-specialist roll on the sideline--but don't bet on it.

Sylmar has won 53 consecutive conference games in eight years and if that streak appears threatened, Engilman is sure to jump in and start directing assistants and players with the same fiery passion that earned him four City titles--including two at Sylmar.

The Spartans return five offensive linemen, who are built to move people, and Engilman said this year's squad reminds him of the 1994 squad which won a City championship.



* THE PROVEN: Monroe running backs Vinny Walker (6 feet, 190) and George Garcia (5-10, 190) combined for 2,759 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. . . . Canoga Park's Junior Galvan (5-9, 160) had 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. . . . Sylmar's Ray Solis (6-3, 240) is the best offensive lineman in the league and teammate Shaun Avalos (6-1, 180) the best all-around athlete. Avalos, Sylmar's first four-year starter, will play free safety, wide receiver and handle the kicking. . . . North Hollywood's Jonathan Hicks (6-3, 260) is among the area's best defensive linemen. . . . Sylmar running back Donald Carpenter (6 feet, 205) returns for a third varsity season, but will split playing time with Errol Bowen (6-1, 195) and Anthony Wells (6 feet, 175). . . . Van Nuys' offensive line returns and averages 6-1, 240 pounds. . . . Ray Armstrong (6-2, 275) will provide experience on both lines for Grant.


* THE PROMISING: Grant's Lawrence Monroy completed 55% of his 219 passes for 1,512 yards and 11 touchdowns, but threw 13 interceptions. . . . Vadim Valcu (5-11, 185), who threw nine interceptions in 106 passes last season for Poly, has transferred to North Hollywood. . . Reseda tailback Jeral Lewis (5-11, 190) had a team-high 355 yards last season. . . . Van Nuys backs Alex Aguilar (5-9, 165) and Demetrius Henry (5-9, 150) will run behind a huge line.


* FAST FACT: Monroe, North Hollywood and Poly have new coaches.



Los Angeles Times Articles