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

Cuppari: Catching Dose of Confidence

January 07, 1998|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WESTLAKE VILLAGE — The now-I've-got-it, now-I-don't battle with confidence most high school athletes wage is unfamiliar to Joey Cuppari.

He's always got it, and he put it to use for Westlake High.

Cuppari, a 6-foot-1 rail-thin receiver, scored 22 touchdowns this season, many the result of jaw-dropping receptions.

He went up for passes with such determination, it looked as if he positively knew he would come down with the ball and finish the play in the end zone.

"Joey wants the ball and feels he can get it on every play," Westlake Coach Jim Benkert said. "He makes acrobatic catches so often you begin to take it for granted."

The Warriors realized Cuppari's importance when he injured an ankle and missed three games late in the season. He played with the injury for one game--against Newbury Park--before sitting out, and despite being injured he made eight receptions that night.

Cuppari returned from the injury to finish his career with an outstanding performance in a 35-32 quarterfinal loss to Righetti. He had seven catches for 203 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 72 catches for 1,248 yards in nine games.

He averaged eight catches a game, so without the injury he was on pace to make 99 catches. In two years, Cuppari had 151 catches for 2,693 yards and scored 38 touchdowns.

He's always had a nose for the ball. As a sophomore, he played defensive back and set a school record with nine interceptions. This season in limited defensive duty, he returned two interceptions 122 yards, including one touchdown, extending his school career interception record to 13.

His play makes him The Times' Ventura County back of the year.

And he found another way to score. Cuppari took over kicking duties at midseason and made 14 of 15 extra points and his only field-goal attempt.

Above all, Cuppari will be remembered for his ability to reach the end zone.

"Every time I catch the ball I feel like I can score," he said. "That's the goal, to get to the end zone."

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