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PREP FOOTBALL '97: SUNSET LEAGUE

Kogler Is Primed to Be the Chargers' Cog

Edison running back and linebacker hopes to help his team go from missing the playoffs to winning its first league title in seven years.

September 09, 1997|MIKE TERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

HUNTINGTON BEACH — The gray-and-green T-shirt Edison running back Josh Kogler wears is from a year ago. And it bears last season's slogan: "See the lightning, feel the thunder."

There will be a new shirt and new slogan before the 1997 season begins. But the slogan stretched across Kogler's chest would still work this year.

It has been seven years since Edison won or shared the Sunset League football title. Two champions during that span--Santa Ana and Servite--are now in different leagues. And the two teams that replaced them--Los Alamitos and Esperanza--have won the past three. Next year it will be even tougher if Mater Dei joins the league, which it would under the realignment proposal.

Kogler--who rushed for 968 yards and nine touchdowns--says Edison is ready to win its 10th league title since 1974.

"I will say this is the best Edison team I have been on," said Kogler, who is one of Edison's 22 returning players.

"We think we can challenge for the league title; I don't think there are any doubters on this team. Last year we did, even after a 4-1 preseason. But we didn't really have any seniors [four], but all these transfers coming in. This year we have experience. After the offensive line, the only other questions are strong safety and free safety, because neither of those guys has played the position before."

Indeed, Edison's offensive line--completely rebuilt after last year's starters graduated--holds the key to the Chargers' chances. And how fast they mature through the course of the season will determine Kogler's output.

Edison Coach Dave White made it clear that, even with key returners such as quarterback Jeff Grady, fullback Brandon Jordan and receiver Ryan Tritz, Kogler--who will also play linebacker--is the offensive hub.

"This year he will be the workhorse," White said. "I feel good about offense; we have enough talent so teams just can't key on Josh. Depending on the offensive line, Josh's stats might not be much better than last year, but when we need him at crunch time he gets the ball.

"Last year he got better as the season went on. I remember the Sonora game [that Edison won, 19-0], where we had a couple of receivers hurt. The game plan was to give Josh the ball and pound away. He got 165 yards and was shedding tacklers. He is one of the better guys we've had getting yards after contact. He's not that big in the upper body, but his legs are thick and he keeps them moving."

His running style is simple. "I'm a power guy," said Kogler, 6-0, 190 pounds. "If I see a guy [in front of him] I try to run over him. That's my whole attitude, even if they are bigger.

"I have some speed. And I have gotten a little quicker. Most of the summer I have been working on full out sprints to increase my speed."

Last year Kogler would have been content to be the starting linebacker and a backup running back. Vince Catani was going to be the Chargers' main rusher, and looked every inch the part after rushing for 107 yards and three touchdowns against Paramount in the opening game.

But Catani went down with a knee injury in the third game of the season, against Costa Mesa. White told Kogler to take the ball and run with it; he had 110 yards and a touchdown in the 18-12 victory, and remained on first string even after Catani had recovered enough to play again.

After the 4-1 start, the Chargers won only two more games, and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1987.

Don't think it will be easy this year. Once again Edison must go through the Esperanza-Fountain Valley-Los Alamitos gantlet in successive weeks.

"Los Al, Esperanza; They can sometimes beat teams just by walking on the field," Kogler said. "But I think this year it is different."

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