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THE HIGH SCHOOLS / PAIGE A. LEECH

At 14, Meyerson Ready for Big Boys

August 29, 1998|PAIGE A. LEECH

Chris Meyerson is trying to do something no other 14-year-old athlete from the region has ever done: Play City Section varsity football.

The Birmingham High sophomore is the fourth 14-year-old player in California to request a waiver from the state rule prohibiting athletes under 15 from playing varsity football.

"He's not a superstar," Birmingham Coach Dave Lertzman said. "He just fits on our varsity team more than our frosh-soph team."

Last year, the CIF began granting waiver requests to the rule, which has been in place for decades because of safety concerns. The first to receive the waiver was Geoff MacArthur of Palisades High.

MacArthur was a 6-foot, 185-pound sophomore linebacker last season. His coach argued that MacArthur was better suited to play on the varsity because of his size. He earned a starting spot and finished as one of Palisades' leading tacklers.

Lertzman believes Meyerson's strength--not necessarily his size--makes him a better candidate for varsity football.

"He's way physically stronger than a lot of the frosh-soph kids and matches up strength and size-wise with the receivers and defensive backs I have [on varsity]," Lertzman said.

"Is size more important than strength? I don't know about that. I have kids on my varsity who are much bigger, but not as strong."

Meyerson, a wide receiver who recently transferred from Verdugo Hills, is stronger than his 5-foot-9, 160-pound frame might suggest.

He bench presses 210 pounds, power cleans 170 and squats 300.

"With all due respect to the frosh-soph team, he is beyond all of those students on that team and right in line with all the guys on the varsity team," said Phil Meyerson, Chris' father.

Phil Meyerson spoke to the City Section rules committee on his son's behalf Wednesday.

The committee, pending a written letter of support from Chris' parents and additional information from his doctor, will recommend him for a waiver from the state rule, City Section Commissioner Barbara Fiege said.

Phil Meyerson said his son deserves an opportunity to play varsity football after working hard in the off-season.

"Of course we have concerns, but Chris has a true dedication to the game," Phil Meyerson said. "He believes in football and he plays it very, very well."

Chris Meyerson, who said he was an average player on the Verdugo Hills frosh-soph team last year, credits off-season wind sprints and weight training for his improved speed and strength.

Now he's ready to compete with and against older players.

"I'd rather be on varsity because it's more challenging to me," Chris Meyerson said.

It's up to Jack Hayes, CIF executive director, to grant or deny the request.

Of the three waiver requests to land on Hayes' desk in the last 13 months, one was denied, one was granted and one--a request from the Central Section--is still pending.

But Hayes believes Meyerson's request could be the last one to reach his desk.

The Southern Section is in the final year of a three-year study sanctioned by the CIF to chart the incidence of injury to 14-year-old football players, who have been allowed to play for Southern Section varsity teams the last two seasons.

Based on information presented by Southern Section officials at a meeting last December, Hayes expects all 14-year-olds to be eligible for varsity competition by as early as the 1999 season.

The state Federated Council will hear results of the study at its next meeting in November.

"We're anticipating the Southern Section will recommend that we consider the rule statewide to allow athletes under age 15 to play varsity football," Hayes said.

Meanwhile, the Meyersons might be a year too early.

"[Chris] would have to pull way back on what he does to play at the level of the frosh-soph team, and that would be detrimental," Phil Meyerson said.

Staff Writer Eric Sondheimer contributed to this column.

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