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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Reverse Run

Gunny Excels Under Stroh on Different Field

October 20, 1998|MICHAEL LAZARUS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GRANADA HILLS — Peter Gunny, who had his choice of high schools, picked Granada Hills in part because he wanted to play baseball for Darryl Stroh.

Three years later, Gunny is finally getting his chance to play for the veteran coach, although not in the sport he imagined.

Stroh retired as Granada Hills' baseball coach after the 1996 season, a year before Gunny reached the varsity. But the senior wide receiver has thrived on the football field under Stroh, who returned with Tom Harp this year to coach the Highlanders.

Gunny's highlight-reel season has included:

* Catching 28 passes for 601 yards and five touchdowns.

* Intercepting two passes in the first three games.

* Returning two punts for touchdowns in a 51-2 victory over Cleveland two weeks ago.

* Scoring four touchdowns in the last two games.

* Helping Granada Hills to a 6-0 record, its best start this decade.

After three years of futility, in which the Highlanders were a combined 3-27, Gunny and his teammates were ready to embrace the disciplinary approach of Stroh and Harp.

"It really wasn't hard to sell it to us," Gunny said. "We knew [the coaches] had been successful before. We're OK with the rules. We're much more together."

Stroh left the football team in 1993, followed by Harp the next season. The departures triggered a sharp decline in the program, which has bounced back this season to become the prime challenger to unseat Taft as Northwest Valley Conference champion.

Gunny, whose parents are longtime City Section coaches, grew up around sports.

Carolyn Gunny coaches varsity basketball and softball at Granada Hills, and husband Ed has coached several sports at Taft, including football and baseball.

"It certainly hasn't hurt [Peter] that he's had that experience," Stroh said.

Being the son of coaches has rubbed off in certain ways. After each game, Peter returns home with Highlander lineman Roberto Garcia to watch his performance on videotape.

"He probably watches that thing 20 times over the weekend," Carolyn Gunny said. "Slow motion, fast forward, he looks at every play."

Gunny's attention to detail was the biggest reason he wanted to play baseball for Stroh, even though he lives in Woodland Hills.

He applied to several schools under open enrollment before starting classes at Granada Hills, his first choice.

"I remember going to [football] games with my mom and seeing the band and all the spirit," Gunny said. "I'd always wanted to go to Granada."

The excitement was tempered when Stroh, who won five City Section titles as baseball coach, retired.

Transferring crossed Gunny's mind, but the thought was fleeting.

"There was no way I would ever seriously consider going anywhere else than Granada," he said.

So, even though the Highlander football and baseball teams have struggled--the baseball team hasn't reached the playoffs since Stroh's retirement--Gunny's perseverance finally paid off. The football team is again a contender in the City Section and the baseball team, with several returning starters, should challenge for the North Valley League title.

"Having people like [Gunny] is one reason why we've been successful so far," Stroh said. "These kids stuck around when others may have switched schools. It's a sign of good character that they stuck with it."

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