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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEWS | FRONTIER LEAGUE

Calabasas Won't Just Play It Safe

Senior Coppola makes move to secondary to bolster Coyotes in chase for elusive title.

September 04, 1997|MIKE BRESNAHAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Calabasas High has already made a change of sorts, moving standout linebacker Robby Coppola to free safety, but the Coyotes are hoping for a bigger break from tradition when the Frontier League football season ends.

The only Frontier team without a league title the past decade, the Coyotes think this might be the year they are atop the standings at the end of the regular season.

The Coyotes will be challenged by defending champion Nordhoff and Moorpark, but are favored with Coppola, the league's best player, back for his senior season.

The 6-foot, 205-pounder led the league in rushing last season with 1,842 yards and 19 touchdowns and, despite a 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash, didn't exactly dodge tacklers.

"If he sees that he's going to get tackled, he'll accelerate," Calabasas Coach Larry Edwards said. "We have a lot of matadors in practice. People sometimes get out of his way on opposing teams."

Surrounding Coppola will be a strong offensive line and his younger brother, Drew, who will be the lead blocker at fullback.

There are questions at other skill positions.

Dallas Enoch, a 6-3, 195-pound junior quarterback, looked sharp in summer passing tournaments but must replace Scott Quigley, the league's offensive MVP last season. Enoch will throw to four new receivers.

Defensively, the Coyotes are young, but solid. Coppola makes the move to safety because, Edwards said, the Coyotes have plenty of depth at linebacker. Coppola is also more likely to play safety in college.

The most intriguing player on defense--and certainly the most noticeable--is Taft transfer Adam Sylvester, a 6-5, 310-pound defensive tackle. A junior, Sylvester is still rounding into shape.

"We can hide most of our defensive backs behind him," Edwards said. "He takes up a lot of real estate in the middle, but he's got good quicks for 20 yards."

Calabasas lost to Nordhoff last season, 10-6, and plays the Rangers on their homecoming Oct. 31.

Nordhoff returns several players on defense.

End Mike Sedlak had 12 sacks and was named all-league last year, as was defensive back Josh Brousseau, nose guard Chris Jones and inside linebacker Andrew Merritt.

Newcomers from the junior varsity, which went 9-1 each of the past two years, could also contribute. Quarterback Brandon Titus, a 6-1, 170-pound junior, is the apparent starter.

The Rangers, who lost to St. Bonaventure in the Division X title game, aren't making predictions.

"I really think it's a coin toss [for the league title]," Coach Cliff Farrar said.

"I think it's a matter of who's going to stay healthy."

It's an odd-numbered year, which is good news for Moorpark.

Frontier League winners in 1995 and 1993, the Musketeers own the league's largest student body (1,780) and face a challenging nonleague schedule (Burroughs, Simi Valley, Kilpatrick and St. Bernard) to prepare for their move to the Channel League next year.

The Musketeers' team speed is noteworthy with the return of tailback Art Garcia and receivers Erris Green, the league's 200-meter dash champion, and Jeremy Shoop, part of the league-winning 400 relay team.

Santa Paula's season may rest on the shoulder pads of senior quarterback Willie Zavala.

Zavala topped league quarterbacks in total yards (1,487) and completed 97 of 190 passes (51.1%) for 1,347 yards last year.

But he threw only six touchdowns and had 13 interceptions.

The 5-11, 160-pounder also plays safety, punts, handles kickoffs and may return punts.

"He does everything but sell programs at halftime," Coach Hoppy Mumford said. "It's hard to hold a practice without him."

For Santa Clara, the biggest off-season change may be the promotion of Kevin Sherry to offensive coordinator.

The team's offensive line coach last year, Sherry inherits an offense that scored 4.5 points a game.

He has junked the Delaware Wing-T and split-back offenses the Saints employed in recent years and replaced them with the Oklahoma Belly, a derivative of the triple option.

If the Saints amass 4,000 yards, a goal set by Sherry, "we'll win more games than we did last year," he said.

Then again, they were 0-10.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

AT A GLANCE

* THE PROVEN: Nordhoff High running back Kevin Zielsdorf rushed for 897 yards and 15 touchdowns despite not being the Rangers' featured back last year. His numbers can only get better with the departure of Sam Farrar. Calabasas tight end Jeff Wilk is a superb blocker with his 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame and is also somewhat of a touchdown-maker: Of his 12 catches last year, six were for touchdowns.

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