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BETWEEN THE LINES / HIGH SCHOOLS

The Question Is, Can They Pass Muster?

September 11, 1997

If last season was the year of the quarterback, then this season is certainly the year of the question mark at that position.

Strong-armed passers put up big numbers game after game last season, but a majority of them were seniors. Of the returning quarterbacks, Ryan McCann of Agoura (2,109 yards) and Peter Dirksen of L.A. Baptist (2,081), are certainly the most polished. Several other schools with strong passing traditions, however, will be leaning on relatively inexperienced quarterbacks to run their complex offenses.

Here's a look at some of the quarterbacks in the region who are replacing passers who made headlines along with compiling big numbers:

* Garrett Valencia, a junior who is known chiefly because his brother, Roth, was a 1,000-yard rusher at Camarillo three years ago, has the daunting task of replacing Joe Borchard.

Borchard led the Scorpions to a 13-1 record and the Southern Section Division III championship with second-half heroics time and time again. Valencia is an elusive runner who must refrain from trying to duplicate Borchard's 2,851 passing yards and 30 touchdowns.

* Nick Czernek, a junior who played wide receiver last year, has some huge shoes to fill. His brother, Chris, passed for more than 8,000 yards the past two seasons at Newbury Park. He was impressive during summer passing leagues, but it remains to be seen how he handles the inevitable comparisons to his brother.

* Zac Wasserman, a rail-thin sophomore, steps in for Casey Preston, who set Westlake records with 3,565 yards and 37 touchdowns and led the Warriors to the Division III semifinals last season.

Wasserman has one distinct advantage: the region's best receiving corps, led by wideouts Joey Cuppari (79 catches, 1,445 yards). Expect Wasserman to take short drops and get the ball to receivers quickly.

* Scott Ange, a 6-3 Thousand Oaks senior who played linebacker and punter last season, has waited two years for the graduation of Scott McEwan, who set nearly every Lancer passing record.

McEwan, a redshirt at UCLA, was a big-play specialist who averaged nearly 20 yards per completion last season. Ange has a good arm but only tight end Jeff Wyly returns among the Lancers' receivers and running backs.

* David DeMartinis, a starting defensive back last season, replaces Jorge Piedra at Notre Dame. Although his main job will be to hand the ball to All-American tailback Justin Fargas, DeMartinis must deal with the pressure of engineering the offense of the region's No. 1-ranked team and replace the 1,370 passing yards and 552 rushing yards Piedra amassed.

* David Neill, a Hart senior, takes over for Travis Carroll, who completed 66% of his passes for 2,780 yards and 27 touchdowns. If Neill falters, junior Kyle Boller is ready and, according to Coach Mike Herrington, plenty able.

* Chris Santoyo and Ryan Sullivan, both seniors, are locked in a fierce battle at Burroughs for the right to replace J.K. Scott, now at Washington. Santoya was the backup last season.

Scott passed for 3,013 yards and 32 touchdowns last season. The team's top receiver, Glenn Adriatico, a two-time All-Valley selection, is back.

* Steve Alvarado, a 5-11, 160-pound junior at Taft, backed up Nick DiPadova, the City Section 4-A Division co-player of the year who passed for 31 touchdowns and ran for 19.

Alvarado is improved, beating out K.C. Bounds, a converted wide receiver who played quarterback all summer.

* Ray Rodriguez, a 5-8, 165-pound senior, must replace Calvin Zinck, who passed for 2,221 yards and 25 touchdowns for Kennedy.

Coach Bob Francola has been impressed with Rodriguez in practice, although the team didn't play very well in summer passing competition. Kennedy's receivers are inexperienced.

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