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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | ERIC SONDHEIMER

Foli: Newbury Park's Incredible Hulk

October 14, 1998|ERIC SONDHEIMER

Stay away from linebacker Anthony Foli of Newbury Park High. When he wraps his arms around a ballcarrier, there is as much chance of escaping his death grip as a fly trapped in a spider's web.

At 6 feet 3, 240 pounds, with 4.7-second 40-yard speed and the strength to bench press 340 pounds, Foli is Newbury Park's roaming behemoth.

He consumes so much food that his mother, Pat, says, "I always hope he stops at a takeout place before he comes home so he'll eat normal."

Younger brother Domenic confesses, "We all run when Anthony is coming to the table."

Pat has learned to hide meals in cupboards, closets, even the back seat of her car, just to prevent Anthony from finding the food.

It's a futile endeavor.

"I know all her hiding places," Anthony said.

His father, Ernie, calls him "Dick Butkus" whenever he breaks something around the house. Since he was a freshman, Anthony has followed the Hall of Fame linebacker's motto: "I'm not satisfied until I hit a guy so hard his head falls off."

No one messes with Anthony, not teammates, not his coach, not his little brothers.

"Everybody at practice just stays out of his way because he loves to whack away," Coach George Hurley said.

When the Panthers were seemingly headed to defeat against Buena, Foli became so enraged in the third quarter that he ran up and down the sideline exhorting his teammates to respond. They did.

"I think he scared all our players that they were afraid if they didn't win," Hurley said. "I was a little bit afraid if we lost, he might come after me."

Out of uniform, Foli hardly resembles his aggressive, intense, fire-in-the-eyes persona on the field. He becomes a quiet, trustworthy, relatively subdued 18-year-old senior.

"I use all my energy on the field," he said. "Something clicks when I put on my uniform. I'm a completely different person."

Foli lives so close to the high school he can hear the class bell ring while lying in bed. He said he stays in bed until the 8:10 a.m. warning bell, then makes a mad dash to campus to beat the 8:15 a.m. tardy bell.

"I get all my clothes and run to school," he said.

There are few quiet moments at the Foli home with a family of six boys and one girl.

Ernie Sr. was basketball coach at North Hollywood High from 1975-85 and teaches physical education at Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood. Ernie's brother, Tim, was a shortstop for 16 years in the major leagues. Pat teaches second-graders at Darby Elementary School in Northridge.

Among the children, Ernie Jr., 25, played quarterback at Thousand Oaks High and Cal Lutheran; Scott, 24, played baseball at Cleveland High; Brad, 21, is attending Northern Arizona and wants to become a doctor; Gina, 19, is a high jumper at Moorpark College; Domenic, 14, and Patrick, 12, will soon follow Anthony to Newbury Park.

After each game, Anthony receives a family evaluation of his performance.

"Scott will be telling me I missed this tackle, Ernie will be telling me I should have intercepted a pass," Anthony said.

Only Domenic and Patrick don't offer criticism, knowing Anthony might seek revenge. Then again, the little brothers are getting ready for their football careers by practicing on Anthony.

"Patrick would go for the legs and Domenic would jump on top of me," Anthony said. "They'd put up a fight."

Anthony shrugs them off like gnats.

"I give them a backhand and they give up or throw something," he said.

Having a large family is something Anthony truly enjoys.

"We're all close and we all watch each other play and support each other," he said. "It's fun to go home and talk with somebody about sports."

The next challenge for Foli and Newbury Park (4-1, 2-0 in league play) is a Thursday night Marmonte League showdown at Westlake (5-0, 1-0). The game will be televised on Fox Sports West 2.

"It's going to be a war," Foli said.

My advice to Westlake ballcarriers: Don't let him get close. And offer him a hamburger or two at halftime.

*

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

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