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Ventura Fields a Friendship

Football: Garcia and Crespo, who played together in Florida, bounce back from rough first outing.


VENTURA — Can two freshman football players 3,000 miles from their Florida homes share an apartment without driving each other crazy?

No problem. That's the easy part for Rolando Garcia and Steve Crespo, the odd couple of the Ventura College football team.

It's on the field that tempers tend to flare between the unlikely but highly successful former pass combination at Miami's Coral Park High.

At least, that was the case two weeks ago in their not-so-impressive California debut.

Garcia, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound quarterback, threw four interceptions in a 48-17 Western State Conference loss to West L.A.

Crespo, a 5-foot-5 receiver, dropped four passes and caught none.

"Roly was throwing the ball too soft and Crespo started swearing at him in Spanish," said Scott Preston, Ventura's offensive coordinator. "So, Roly started throwing lasers.

"When Rolando starts having a night like he had the other night, his best friend gives it to him straight between the eyes."

Not exactly the kind of first impression the duo intended to make.

"I'm shocked," Garcia said. "I've never performed like that. I have no idea why. Interceptions are always the quarterback's fault, so I have no excuses."

The experience soured Crespo to the point he was reluctant to talk about it.

"We were horrible," he said. "I'm so embarrassed. We came all the way out here to perform. And then this?"

The pair showed a measure of improvement last Saturday in a 31-18 loss at Santa Monica. Garcia passed for 385 yards and connected with Crespo for a 13-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Garcia and Crespo, roommates and physical anomalies in their roles, figure to be in the thick of things this season at Ventura.

Garcia, a three-year starter at Coral Park, threw for more than 3,500 yards over the past two seasons. During his junior year, he threw 53 completions to Crespo, a senior who spent a year away from football after graduating in 1996.

Garcia and Crespo, who share an apartment in Ventura, moved in tandem this summer, trailing after Preston, who signed on as an assistant to first-year Coach Terry Morris.

Preston, an assistant at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, Ga., recruited Garcia at Coral Park and was vaguely familiar with Crespo.

"I told him I was coming here and he said, 'What do I need to do to go there?' " Preston said. "Then, Roly called up and said, 'I want to bring my buddy.' We'd never seen Crespo before, but we found out he could play."

Garcia initially intended to enroll at Georgia Military. "But the coach that was going to go in there was going to run the option," he said.

"And," Garcia added with a shrug, "I'm not made for the option."

Despite having the build of a fullback, Garcia's demeanor is quite contrary. He doesn't take to lowering his shoulder and delivering a blow.

"We want him to sit in the pocket and throw," Morris said. "He's got a strong arm, good finesse. He can beat you throwing the deep ball and he can beat you throwing the short pass."

Crespo, whose weight is overstated on the roster, Preston said, has grown accustomed to summoning courage since he often is the smallest player on the field.

"He truly weighs about 124 pounds," Preston said. "But he'll knock some water out of your eyes every once in a while."

Said Garcia: "I describe him as having the biggest heart I've ever seen. When he gets hit hard, like when I throw it over the middle, he would always get right up before the defender."

Morris attributes their slow starts to jitters. Garcia will remain the starter. Crespo is battling for a starting position.

"We're not going to throw [Garcia] back in the pile just because of a bad performance," Morris said. "[Crespo], obviously, he's done something right to play at this level. He does have good hands."

Neither will either player hold a grudge. All was quiet on the home front this week. But then, it usually is.

"He's like my brother," Crespo said. "We think alike and we stick together and get along. But sometimes I scream at him."

Said Garcia: "I scream at him back."

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