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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | BIG SKY FOOTBALL KICKOFF
NOTEBOOK

Northridge Officials Turn Back the Clock

July 22, 1998|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PARK CITY, Utah — If you change the time, they will come.

At least that's part of the reason Cal State Northridge will play home football games at 3:05 p.m. next season instead of the 6:05 starting time last year.

"We are trying to look more into a family entertainment value," said Northridge Athletic Director Paul Bubb, who was in Park City for the three-day Big Sky Conference summer kickoff meetings that ended Tuesday. "They can be home by 7 o'clock at night."

Bubb said other concerns factored into the change, including poor lighting at North Campus Stadium and the prospect of Matador scores reaching the East Coast faster.

"We've tried to get more of a national exposure," Bubb said. "We'd like to see our scores get on ESPN earlier in the day."

Northridge's home games are Sept. 26 against Eastern Washington; Oct. 3, Southern Utah; Oct. 10, Montana; Oct. 24, Montana State and Nov. 7, Portland State.

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Northridge Coach Ron Ponciano got off one of the better lines of the meetings in response to facility improvements at other Big Sky schools.

"We got 40 new shrubs," said Ponciano, the Matadors' first-year coach.

The Matadors indeed have a long way to catch up.

Montana State will unveil a renovated stadium that includes 30 suites on Sept. 5 and Portland State will use a new $2.3 million practice field starting in October.

Ponciano said the refurbishing process is underway at Northridge.

"We are getting a team room," Ponciano said. "I've been hanging dry wall on the weekends."

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Senior outside linebacker Ken Amato, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound former all-state player at Moorpark College, is expected to help anchor Montana State's defense.

"Kenny might be the second-toughest guy on our team," Bobcat Coach Cliff Hysell said. "He truly busts his bones every practice and every play.

"He's got a chance to be an NFL guy as a snapper but right now he's not as consistent as he needs to be."

Hysell said Ty O'Connor, an All-Big Sky defensive tackle, edges Amato in the grit department.

The Bobcats have another former Moorpark player, Walter Glover, a 6-3, 300-pound redshirt junior who is listed No. 2 at right guard on the depth chart.

"He's a talented guy but he's up and down," Hysell said.

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The Moorpark connection to the Big Sky also reaches Northern Arizona and Portland State.

Senior outside linebacker Terrance Petty, 6-3 and 235 pounds, received honorable mention on the All-Big Sky team last year and is one of five returning defensive starters for Northern Arizona.

"Terrance has tremendous potential," said Jerome Souers, Northern Arizona's first-year coach.

Steve Zirnite, an All-Western State Conference selection last season, is listed behind returning starter Ian Falconer at center for Portland State.

Zirnite, 6-4, won't be at Portland until school starts but Coach Tim Walsh said the former Royal High standout could challenge for the starting job.

"He needed to put on some weight," Walsh said. "He played at 240 [pounds] in junior college but he says he's bulked up to 265. . . . He's extremely athletic and extremely tough."

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The coaches and media polls have Montana as the overwhelming favorite to win the Big Sky title.

Here's the predicted order of finish: Coaches' poll--1. Montana, 2. Weber State, 3. Montana State, 4. Portland State, 5-6. Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona, 7. Northridge, 8. Idaho State, 9. Cal State Sacramento. Media poll--1. Montana, 2. Montana State, 3. Eastern Washington, 4. Weber State, 5. Northern Arizona, 6. Portland State, 7. Northridge, 8. Idaho State, 9. Cal State Sacramento.

"I can't remember a time when our league from top to bottom has been as good as it is now," Montana Coach Mick Dennehy said. "There are five or six teams that should be considered favorites for a variety of reasons."

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