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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

ARMED AND DANGEROUS : Boller, Losman and Lewis Are at the Top of Recruiting Lists

November 25, 1998|PETER YOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There are three things high school football fans in Southern California should do before the season ends in three weeks:

Go see quarterbacks Kyle Boller of Hart High, J.P. Losman of Venice and Chris Lewis of Long Beach Poly.

Then, in three or four years, you'll be able to say you saw them play before they became college stars.

The three seniors rank among the nation's top signal callers, dangerous passers who command attention on every play.

College recruiters come from all over the country to see them. Football fans who would not normally attend high school games are willing to drive to Valencia, Venice or Long Beach on a Friday night.

When one of them drops back, sets and fires a deep ball, chattering students suddenly grow silent in anticipation of a big play.

Taft will face one of the elite three at 7 tonight when the Toreadors play Venice, led by Losman, in the quarterfinals of the City Championship playoffs at Venice.

Losman, Boller and Lewis are part of one of the best quarterback classes ever in Southern California, according to Rick Kimbrel of PrepStar, a national recruiting service.

Which begs the question: Who is the best?

"They are all outstanding quarterbacks," said Kimbrel, who declined to pick a favorite.

Said Losman: "We all match up pretty well. All of us are stronger in some areas than the others, but if you average it all out, we're all about the same."

College recruiters agree. All three are being heavily recruited and are ranked among the top 13 high school quarterbacks in the nation by PrepStar.

Losman has committed to UCLA and Lewis to Stanford. Schools they have followed since childhood. Losman plans to graduate in February and enroll at UCLA in time to participate in spring football.

Boller will decide from among Florida State, Tennessee, Colorado, California and Oregon after taking recruiting trips to each school.

Boller, 6 feet 3 and 195 pounds, and Lewis, 6-4 and 200, are nearly identical in size. The 6-2, 180-pound Losman reportedly is still growing.

Boller has the strongest arm of the three. Losman is the fastest and is the best scrambler. Lewis is the best field general. None is far behind the other in any of those categories.

Statistically, it is difficult to compare them.

Lewis, who has completed 127 of 201 passes for 2,463 yards and 34 touchdowns, with four interceptions, plays against tougher competition than the other two and Poly's balanced attack features two 800-yard rushers.

Boller, who has completed 236 of 372 passes for 4,062 yards and 51 touchdowns, with only three interceptions, plays in the run-and-shoot offense, giving him an average of 13 more passes per game than the others.

Losman, who has completed 157 of 250 passes for 3,272 yards and 47 touchdowns, with nine interceptions, directs a balanced offense that has rushed for 2,333 yards.

"They will all make a big impact on the Division I level," Kimbrel said. "Florida State doesn't come out [to California] for just anybody."

Losman and Lewis are in their third years as varsity starters. Each gained a solid reputation based on past performances and was selected to several preseason All-American teams.

Boller, who plays at a school that has produced All-Southern Section quarterbacks for 13 consecutive seasons, had to wait his turn. He played free safety last year and was unproven at quarterback, getting only spot play in relief of David Neill, who is starting as a freshman at Nevada.

But word spread quickly. He received his first scholarship offer, from Colorado, last summer before his first varsity start at quarterback. Early this season, he began sending out videotapes. Soon after, offers began rolling in.

If Hart reaches the Southern Section Division III final in three weeks, Boller probably will set national records for passing yards and touchdowns in one season.

The standards are 4,656 yards, set by Phillip Deas of Evangel Christian in Shreveport, La., in 1996, and 57 touchdowns, set by Chris Redman of Male in Louisville, Ky., in 1994.

Kimbrel was surprised at how well-kept a secret Boller was before the season. PrepStar ranked Boller an all-region quarterback, an honor bestowed upon about 1,150 players nationwide. But soon, Boller was in the Dream Team 100.

"There are advantages and disadvantages to not starting another year," Boller said. "The more experience you have, the more you're going to be acquainted with the game. But it wasn't like I was just sitting on the bench. By playing safety, I learned what defenses are going to do and how they think. It's neat to have experience on both sides of the ball."

The lack of experience seems to have had little effect. Boller shows the poise of a veteran, with a pocket awareness and a feel for the game beyond his years.

"He's like a Troy Aikman with more arm," Kimbrel said.

Losman has a tremendous arm, prompting UCLA to offer a scholarship after watching him pass for one day at a summer camp. He accepted immediately but said there are times when he wishes his reputation didn't precede him.

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