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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | ERIC SONDHEIMER

Comeback Year for Halladay Brothers

June 28, 1998|ERIC SONDHEIMER

A smorgasbord of notes, quotes and opinions from across the San Fernando Valley and its surrounding communities:

Before Cody Joyce and Jerry Owens were recognized as elite wide receivers at Hart High, the real trendsetter was Soren Halladay.

Armed with powerful hands that rarely dropped passes and possessing lots of determination and toughness, Halladay caught 49 passes for 1,062 yards and 10 touchdowns in 1993. That was the last season he played football.

He accepted a scholarship to Brigham Young, redshirted in 1994, then left on a two-year Mormon mission to Spain. He returned last November, with his weight a mere 160 pounds. "People in Spain called me 'E.T.' because my neck was so thin," he said.

The 6-foot-1 Halladay thought about quitting football. Then he went out for spring practice at BYU, raised his weight to 195 pounds and regained his receiving skills. He will contend for playing time this fall as a freshman.

"Now I love it," he said. "I don't do it for newspaper columns or girlfriends. I do it because it's my dream."

Halladay, 21, has been home in Valencia for the past month getting into shape while watching his younger brother, Jake, make his own football comeback at Hart.

Jake quit after his freshman season to focus on skateboarding and snowboarding. When Soren left for Spain in 1995, Jake was "a little runt." But things changed by the time Soren returned in November.

"It scared the daylights out of me," Soren said. "When I came off the plane, he [Jake] was taller than me."

They immediately arm-wrestled, and it was a draw.

Jake, now a senior, has become an important cornerback/receiver for Hart. The Halladay brothers could be comeback player of the year candidates this fall.

Big brother Soren wants to make one thing clear, though.

"I think I can beat him now [in arm-wrestling]," he said. . . .

Defensive back Chris Canoles of Chaminade has an impressive resume for Ivy League schools with a 4.25 grade-point average and 1,390 SAT score. And he's a three-sport athlete. The Eagles have three other potential Division I football recruits in lineman Justin Brown (6-7, 285), tight end Steve Racius (6-4, 225) and linebacker John Perry (6-0, 225). . . .

Beware of improving offensive tackle Keith Holt of Westlake. He's a 6-5, 295-pound sophomore-to-be. Line coach John Kidder, a former tackle at UCLA, said of Holt during spring ball, "He's the best 10th grader in high school football." . . .

St. Francis football Coach Bill Redell is going to become a grandfather for the fourth time. He has two grandsons, a granddaughter and another grandson on the way. "They're all going to play quarterback," Redell said. "If they're any good, I'll recruit them to St. Francis." . . .

The flashiest name for an area quarterback is Billydee Payne of North Hollywood. . . .

Arriving at San Fernando this fall is 6-5 freshman Ruben Nevarez, who's a quarterback, plays basketball and also pitches. His brother is All-City lineman Steve Nevarez. . . .

The sister of Westlake linebacker Matt Warman is marrying former Oak Park High, USC and Green Bay Packer wide receiver Erik Affholter. . . .

El Camino Real's baseball team keeps coming up with pitchers who love to beat rival Chatsworth. First there was Randy Wolf, then Shaun Fishman and this season Kurt Birkins.

The newest Conquistadore pitching weapon is junior Josh Deneau. He had a 6-2 record on the junior varsity and owned the only victory over Chatsworth's 26-1 JV team. On Monday, Deneau beat Chatsworth's Legion team, 7-5, to improve his summer record to 2-0. "He's the new Birkins," said one coach. . . .

Don't be surprised if Birkins and pitcher Mike Kunes of Chatsworth one day become teammates at UCLA. Birkins signed with the Bruins on Wednesday and Kunes is one of UCLA's top recruiting targets for 1999. . . .

All-Southern Section pitcher Tim Leveque of Crespi has been sidelined from mound duty because of a sore elbow. . . .

Former Poly High and USC infielder Danny Gil, 29, is working for a data processing company in Simi Valley. Gil played in the minor leagues for the Angels and is four classes short of earning a bachelor's degree at USC. . . .

On Friday night, at a playhouse in Agoura, former Notre Dame High and Cal State Northridge baseball player Kevin Milligan played the role of Greg, a blind Chicago Cubs fan, in the production of "Bleacher Bums." The director must have been proud. It was Mike Milligan, Kevin's father. . . .

Peter Hudnut of Harvard-Westlake is going to have plenty of college choices for water polo.

"He'll be the top prospect in the country," Wolverine Coach Rich Corso said. Hudnut is expected to make the U.S. Junior National team that travels to Cuba next month. . . .

Campbell Hall in North Hollywood is the early winner in the basketball transfer game. The Vikings have three new players--6-7 junior Jesse Foster from Birmingham, 6-5 senior Josh Levy from Chaminade and guard Anthony Locke from Pilgrim. . . .

Bell-Jeff basketball Coach Eli Essa said he's excited about the offensive skills of Grant transfer Mike Yildez, a 6-0 junior guard. Essa has hired former Chaminade JV Coach Bryan Camacho as his top varsity assistant. . . .

Harvard-Westlake's basketball team is rising fast thanks to the improvement of 6-7 Dan Kinzer, who suddenly resembles Dennis Rodman the way he's pulling down rebounds in bunches. . . .

In a form letter to football coaches, Buena Coach Rick Scott made the following comment on his son, Jake, a sophomore linebacker: "Father is the best coach in the area." . . .

Starting Wednesday, college coaches can begin contacting seniors-to-be by phone. My advice to athletes is to get your answering machines working.

Eric Sondheimer's local column appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422.

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