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Offended Coppola Gets Defensive

Football: Denied a scholarship, linebacker from Calabasas helps West to 9-0 victory.


VAN NUYS — For many players in the Valley Youth Conference All-Star football game at Birmingham High on Friday night, the occasion marked one final time to play in front of their families and friends before heading off to four-year universities in the fall.

For Robby Coppola of the West, the game was a chance to show that he could play at the four-year level before heading to Valley College in the fall.

Coppola, who rushed for 1,219 yards and 19 touchdowns and was one of Calabasas' defensive leaders at linebacker during the 1997 season, had his chances at a scholarship to a four-year school fade when he missed four games with two sprained ankles.

Coppola helped the West defeat the East, 9-0, in a game dominated by defense.

"I was surprised at the score," Coppola said. "I expected it to be a little bit higher."

Coppola forced a fumble, had two sacks and was in on several other tackles as the West held the East to 74 yards--only one passing.

Coppola made a huge play late in the first quarter when he jarred the ball loose from East running back Errol Bowen on the West's three-yard line on fourth down and goal.

Bowen, who rushed for 1,147 yards and 14 touchdowns for Sylmar last season, gained 57 yards in 16 carries, but he was smacked by Coppola on the crucial play.

"I felt like I had a little something to prove," Coppola said. "I wanted to prove that I should have been offered a scholarship to a four-year school."

Dave Rosenberg, Coppola's Calabasas teammate, kicked a 55-yard field goal off the left upright on the last play of the half to give the West a 3-0 lead.

Rosenberg was selected the game's most valuable player.

"That was big," Coppola said. "I was out there jumping on him when he made that, but I wasn't surprised he hit it."

Neither was West Coach Rick Hayashida of El Camino Real.

"We had been watching him kick 55- and 60-yarders all week in practice," Hayashida said. "So we knew if we could get him within that range, we had a chance to score."

Sedric Hurns scored on a 65-yard interception return on the last play of the game.

Hurns, a member of the Taft 1,600-meter relay team that placed fourth in the 1997 state track and field championships, put that speed to good use when he intercepted an overthrown pass by Kjell Nesen of St. Francis, headed upfield and zigged and zagged his way into the end zone.

"I just saw a whole bunch of open field at first," Hurns said. "But a couple of guys almost got me. The first thing I thought about was make the interception. The second was run it back. The third was to get it into the end zone."

Nesen, who is headed to Washington State, completed one of nine passes for one yard.

Quincy Wright of El Camino Real gained 47 yards in 11 carries for the West.


* KICKBACK: Dave Rosenberg of Calabasas made up for two poor punts by kicking a 55-yard field goal for the West. C12

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