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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
1997 / ALL-VALLEY FOOTBALL TEAM : PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Fargas Maintains the Center Stage

January 07, 1998|TRIS WYKES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SHERMAN OAKS — It had taken Notre Dame High's Justin Fargas 20 minutes to escape the horde of relatives, teammates and well-wishers on the football field at Pierce College on Dec. 12.

Hundreds of people, it seemed, had wanted to console him after the Knights' crushing, last-second loss to Arroyo Grande in the Southern Section Division III title game.

Now, with the locker room in sight and a chance to be alone with his thoughts, Fargas found two more people in his path. He stopped and smiled.

"A mother and her little son came up to me and she said, 'I know this is a bad time but I just wanted my son to meet you,' " Fargas said. "But to me, it wasn't a bad time for that. It was special the impact they had on me, and I guess, the impact that the team and myself had on them."

Fargas, The Times' Valley player of the year in football for the second consecutive season, certainly made an impact in his high school career. Starting as a nervous sophomore who fumbled on his first varsity carry, Fargas proceeded to rush for 6,293 yards and 76 touchdowns from 1995-97. He gained 2,816 yards and ran for 35 touchdowns this season.

Though he left high school football without a championship ring, Fargas led Notre Dame to consecutive appearances in the division title game and set new standards for grace and maturity while in the spotlight's glare.

"The fact he's such a good kid has made it so enjoyable," Notre Dame Coach Kevin Rooney said. "Sometimes the superstar kid has an attitude and . . . coaches are just as glad to see him go. But Justin was a great player and a great leader and we're going to miss his presence."

Fargas has adapted to being the region's most publicized high school athlete without losing focus on reality.

"You wonder what would happen if I decided not to play anymore," he said. "Would people who have my autograph still want it?"

Headed for the less-forgiving confines of college football, Fargas is well aware that he is moving from one stage to another.

"There's a lot of hard work but high school sports are really about fun and the bottom line is to have a good time," Fargas said. "It's not a business, like I can already see it's going to be at the next level."

When others look back at his Notre Dame career, Fargas wants them to see more than his electrifying runs.

"I want them to know I gave it everything I had, and to know that you could erase my name from the record books . . . because that's not what it's about," Fargas said. "I love the game and I love being a team player. And I know that most of the guys who play and don't get the attention, they love the game as much as I do."

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