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He's a Kidder but It's No Joke to USC

November 18, 1998|ERIC SONDHEIMER

John Kidder, a former UCLA tackle who coaches the offensive line at Westlake High, is ready to engage in verbal battle with any USC fan who wants to take him on.

This is USC vs. UCLA week, and Kidder is on lock and load.

"I have an 8-year-old daughter who can't understand why I get excited," Kidder said. "She wants to know what's the big deal. She's never seen a USC victory."

Another Westlake assistant, Erik Affholter, a former USC wide receiver, has been frustrated with the Trojans' seven-game losing streak to the Bruins. But a victory on Saturday at the Rose Bowl will end his grief.

"If we keep UCLA from winning a national championship, the seven years [of losses] would be worth it," Affholter said.

Kidder and Affholter were on opposite sides in the 1987 USC-UCLA game.

They're focused on preparing Westlake for its Southern Section Division IV playoff opener Friday night at San Marcos, but the USC-UCLA game also looms large.

"There's something about this game that gets everybody's egos going," Affholter said.

Added Kidder: "There's a natural hatred and this week everything comes to surface. One of my linemen made a mistake wearing a USC hat to practice. I told him that's worse than wearing a Thousand Oaks hat."

Another Westlake assistant, Clay Matthews, a former USC linebacker, is trying to maintain a low profile. He last played at USC in 1977, then enjoyed a long, successful NFL career with the Cleveland Browns.

"When I was at SC, we had a healthy rivalry with UCLA," he said. "But it wasn't like we had a hate for them. Now Notre Dame, we had a hate for them. UCLA, you definitely wanted to beat them, but you respected them. You grew up with them."

Affholter said a week doesn't go by without a UCLA fan asking him about his controversial 33-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter of the Trojans' 17-13 win over UCLA in 1987.

"They're still crying about it," Affholter said. "If anybody from UCLA asks, I tell them I didn't make the catch. If it's USC, absolutely."

So what's the truth, Erik?

"It happened so fast [the officials] could have called it either way," he said.

Kidder has enjoyed seven consecutive years of bragging rights over USC fans.

"Let's put it this way: Life has been so fun," he said. "I don't have to listen to them."

Affholter admits, "We're in a bad situation. I've got nothing to talk about except '87."

Coach Jim Benkert of Westlake is trying to maintain a neutral stance. He has two former players, Billy Miller and Bobby DeMars, playing for USC and another, Craig Walendy, at UCLA.

Tight end Mike Seidman, a Westlake senior, is being recruited by both schools.

Affholter insists, "This is the year" USC will end its losing ways to the Bruins.

Kidder is counting on his daughter, Jessica, keeping her perfect record intact against the Trojans.


The debate continues to rage: Who's a better quarterback, J.P. Losman of Venice or Kyle Boller of Hart? Losman has committed to UCLA; Boller is being recruited by Florida State, Oregon, Tennessee, Colorado and California.

Chuck Price, an assistant coach at Palisades, said, "To me, he [Losman] throws a much better ball, and in the open field, he's as dangerous as a running back."

Losman has completed 61% of his passes and thrown for 3,009 yards and 44 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Boller has completed 63% of his passes for 3,710 yards and 46 touchdowns with two interceptions.

Coach Troy Starr of Taft saw Boller play on television against Valencia and came away in awe.

"Kyle Boller is the best high school quarterback I've seen in my life," Starr said. "When I saw that game [on TV], I was so excited. I was without words. That kid is outrageous. That kid's pocket presence and poise are not teachable."

All I can say is 20 years from now, somebody is going to be naming a stadium after Boller. . . .

The California-Texas Shrine All-Star game has been moved up a month and will be held June 26. Look for Boller and Chris Lewis of Long Beach Poly to be the quarterbacks for California. Losman is graduating in December, so he won't be available.. . . .

Hart is bringing up 16 players from its 10-0 sophomore team, including kicker Josh Cummings, who made a 52-yard field goal. Also promoted is quarterback Kyle Matter, who passed for 2,314 yards and 19 touchdowns, and running back Tim Gregory, a freshman who gained 1,159 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. . . .

The Valley Youth Conference will play its championship football games Sunday at Sylmar High. Games begin at 9 a.m. Beware of the speedy Pratt twins, Michael and Paul. They are seventh-graders who play for the Chatsworth Chiefs' Pee-Wee team. . . .

Federico Arroyo, a junior at Cal State Northridge who played soccer at Van Nuys High, led the nation in assists per game. He finished with 16 assists and 12 goals. Northridge (12-5) won 12 of its last 13 games but failed to make the NCAA playoffs. The Matadors have only two seniors. "I'm guaranteeing we're going to the NCAA playoffs next year," Coach Marwan Ass'ad said. . . .

Best of luck to golfer J.T. Kohut of Westlake. He leaves Sunday for Orlando, Fla., to compete in the American Junior Golf Classic, a Thanksgiving tournament that brings together the nation's top 100 junior players. Kohut is considering UCLA and USC as his college choices. . . .

Never underestimate the basketball skills of a priest. Father Bill Wert won the three-point shootout at Crespi's Midnight Madness last week.

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

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