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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | Hands Down

Versatile Cremarosa Catches On for Burroughs

October 14, 1998|PETER YOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The scrawny, 14-year-old sophomore showed up for football practice on a hot August day at Burroughs High, not knowing fate would tap him on the shoulder.

On the second day of full-pad practice in 1996, Kyle Cremarosa figured he'd work out with the junior varsity team, as he had during conditioning.

The booming voice of then-coach Robert dos Remedios changed everything.

"Cremarosa," the voice echoed through the locker room. "You go out with the varsity today."

A shiver shot up Cremarosa's spine.

Two days earlier, the Southern Section had passed a rule allowing 14-year-olds to play varsity football.

Cremarosa, who weighed 135 pounds at the time, grew wide-eyed at the announcement.

"Oh man, I was so nervous," he said. "I was so young going on varsity and I didn't know what to expect."

He made history that season, becoming the first 14-year-old to play varsity football at Burroughs. And he started, finishing with 42 catches for 612 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Cremarosa has started every game since then, becoming a valuable, if widely overlooked, weapon in Burroughs' attack.

His play is a big reason Burroughs (3-2) brings a three-game winning streak into its Foothill League opener Friday night at 7 against Valencia at Canyon High.

Despite playing two seasons in the shadow of All-Southern Section receiver Glenn Adriatico, Cremarosa has 111 career receptions for 1,692 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Without Adriatico, now at UC Davis, Cremarosa has emerged as the Indians' go-to guy.

He ranks second in the region this season behind Jerry Owens of Hart with 577 receiving yards, and is third with 32 catches and seven receiving touchdowns.

"Playing as a sophomore made a world of difference," Cremarosa said. "It really gave me a lot of self-confidence and I came into this season really ready to be the leader on this team."

Cremarosa's prowess doesn't end when the offense leaves the field.

He has become one of the region's best defensive backs. Of his four interceptions, he has returned three for touchdowns of 44 yards or more. If not for a clipping penalty, he would also have a punt return for a touchdown.

"He's one of those rare kids with a great work ethic," Burroughs Coach Keith Knoop said. "He's a great leader and he's right up there with the top receivers around."

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound senior, who won't turn 17 until November, is attracting recruiting interest from several Pacific 10 Conference schools.

Still, some feel Cremarosa does not get the respect he deserves. He has been a second-team, All-Foothill League selection the last two seasons, an oversight according to teammates.

"People don't respect him or his ability," said Mike Holmes, a Burroughs defensive back. "You have to respect him, even in practice, or he'll embarrass you. I don't think there's a corner[back] out there that can stop him."

Speed is not an issue. He was timed in 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the UCLA summer combine. And he takes academics seriously, carrying a 4.2 grade-point average and scoring 1200 on the SAT.

On the field, what separates Cremarosa is his focus, especially on game days.

"He takes it really seriously," said Brian Criscuolo, a Burroughs receiver. "You see him sitting by himself before games sometimes and everybody knows he's thinking about the game. Nobody really bothers him."

The team ritual on Fridays is to gather for pregame meals, attend the junior varsity game and prepare for the varsity game.

Not Cremarosa. He skips the JV game in order to spend time alone with his thoughts. In the quiet solitude of the locker room, Cremarosa reaches for his checklist: keep everyone relaxed, go hard on every play, make the first hit, don't take on hits, every ball in the air is mine, the defensive back can't stop me.

He goes over the list before each game, then reads it again at halftime.

"It's just some stuff I've come up with on my own," Cremarosa said. "Stuff I try to remember for the game to keep focused."

Another game-day ritual involves water.

Sometime a while back, Cremarosa heard that drinking water will prevent cramping. He doesn't remember where or when he heard it, but he makes a point of drinking a gallon of water on game days, carrying a jug wherever he goes.

"People make fun of me for that," Cremarosa said. "But it's something I just got used to doing."

The water comes in handy. Cremarosa rarely leaves the field during games.

Aside from playing defense and offense, he returns and covers punts, and is the holder for extra points and field goals. The only breaks he gets are during kickoffs.

"I couldn't imagine coming out of the game," Cremarosa said. "If I did, I'd feel like I wasn't doing everything I could to help my team.

"I don't feel exhaustion until the game is over. During the game, I don't have time to be tired."

Cremarosa has been putting together a recruiting film of career highlights. One day he found a video of his first varsity game and popped it into the VCR.

"My arms were all tense when I lined up," he said. "They were locked out straight."

He's come a long way since then, relaxing at the line, running crisp routes and pulling down balls that look impossible to catch.

"His receiver tactics are amazing," Holmes said. "He's got some great hands and makes catches in some weird places--like behind his head."

It wasn't always that way.

"I remember my first catch in high school," Cremarosa said. "I think it was a slant. I caught it and got hit and went down right away.

"It got a lot easier after that."

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