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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | MARMONTE LEAGUE

Persistence Pays Off for Moorpark

Musketeers' decision to join the league causes scheduling scramble for remaining teams.

September 05, 1998|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Moorpark High football players seeking to learn perseverance in their first season in the Marmonte League need look no further than the school's administrators.

Refusing to take no for an answer, Principal John McIntosh twice appealed and finally in October convinced the Southern Section council to listen to his reasoning: Like Mickey and Minnie, Moorpark and the Marmonte are a perfect match.

The decision annoyed neighboring schools because it left an odd number of teams in the Marmonte and in the Channel League, which Moorpark originally was slated to join.

Everyone had to scramble to fill a bye week in its football schedule. Marmonte champion Newbury Park wasn't able to do so, and will play only nine games.

"Moorpark belongs in the Marmonte," Newbury Park Coach George Hurley said. "But my fear was that in an odd-number league, we wouldn't have anybody to play during our bye week. That fear materialized."

An exhaustive search by Royal for an opponent to fill the ninth week of the schedule turned up one team: Orange Glen High in San Diego.

"The scheduling was a nightmare," Royal Coach Gene Uebelhardt said. "I was 100% for putting Moorpark in the league and 100% against an odd-number league. We had to scour the state."

Hard feelings toward Moorpark will not linger, coaches said. Moorpark Coach Ron Wilford says that's as it should be.

"I hope people realize it wasn't a kids' decision or a coaches' decision, it was an administrative decision," Wilford said. "If anyone takes that out on a 16- or 17-year-old kid who wants to play football, there's something wrong with that."

More likely, the established Marmonte teams will take aim at Moorpark because it is coming off a 13-1 record and Southern Section Division X championship.

The Musketeers held up well in summer passing-league competition against large schools and the pervading belief is that they will compete for one of the Marmonte's four playoff berths.

David Oviedo, the Frontier League player of the year, returns at inside linebacker and also will play center. Experienced running backs Art Garcia and Artie Lopez will have holes opened by a line that returns three starters.

Moorpark's biggest challenge will be stopping teams such as Newbury Park and Westlake that boast high-powered passing attacks. The ferocious blitz the Musketeers rode to the championship last season will be exploited by quarterbacks adept at changing plays at the line of scrimmage.

Newbury Park senior Nick Czernek (3,358 passing yards and 24 touchdowns last season) and Westlake junior Zac Wasserman (2,788 yards, 31 touchdowns) are the league's best passers. Not surprisingly, most observers point to their teams as the league favorites, although Royal is mentioned as possessing the most overall talent.

Newbury Park and Westlake must replace nearly their entire offensive and defensive lines. Czernek and Wasserman had plenty of time to pass last season, and if that is reduced, so could their gaudy numbers.

Royal returns most of its defense, including All-Ventura County sack specialist Brian Montesanto. Three offensive linemen and running back Steve Sheehan (1,020 yards rushing last year) also return.

Rivaling Royal as the league's top running team will be Thousand Oaks, which returns speedy tailback Wes Cobos (468 yards rushing in seven games). The Lancers are coming off a 4-6 record, but Coach Mike Kelly said the team is improved.

"We are a better, more athletic, faster team," he said. "The league has a lot of parity. We will be in the mix, I'm convinced of it."

With Camarillo and Channel Islands now in the new Pacific View League, Agoura and Simi Valley probably will be fighting to stay out of the cellar.

Agoura is coming off its best season under Coach Charlie Wegher, but must replace its entire line and backfield. Simi Valley won one game last season.

Said Wegher: "We have a lot of question marks going in, but the kids have a good attitude. I'm excited about the team and I think we will do well."

Said Simi Valley Coach Ron Veres: "We will be much improved. The kids are really working hard, there is a lot of enthusiasm. I am very optimistic."

With four of seven teams playoff-bound instead of the three of eight the Marmonte lived with for so long, everyone is upbeat.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

AT A GLANCE

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