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PREP FOOTBALL '98 / CENTURY LEAGUE

Santa Ana Valley Has Winning Potential

Coaches knew receiver Bryan Save had the tools for success, and he has not disappointed.

September 08, 1998|MICHAEL ITAGAKI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It was time to hand out the uniforms. Dozens of kids began buzzing around Eddie Steward, but something didn't look quite right.

As his 1993 Santa Ana Valley freshman football team began to line up, he noticed one youngster who didn't quite fit in.

"Bryan was standing in line with all the other players," recalled Steward, who is in his third season as the Falcons' varsity coach.

"But I told him, 'Hey, you're too young. I can't give you a uniform.' But the fact was, he could have started for us right then."

Bryan Save was a seventh grader in 1993, but Steward already saw his potential. Five years later, college coaches have recognized that potential.

Save caught 91 passes for 1,528 yards over the last two seasons for Santa Ana Valley, and the 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior is one of Orange County's top prospects at tight end and linebacker.

Now Save and the Falcons are primed for their best season since the team won the Century League championship in 1995.

Although Santa Ana Valley struggled to a 3-17 record when Save was a sophomore and a junior, he wasn't overlooked.

USC, Washington, and Washington State lead the list of Pacific-10 schools that have contacted Save, whose future in the collegiate game could be at tight end, linebacker or defensive end.

"He's just a good football player," said Steward, who has been at Santa Ana Valley for 26 years. "He has some of the best hands I've seen since I've been here."

Opposing coaches also praise Save.

"He's what, 6-3, about 245 pounds or so and runs well," said Pat Mahoney, who is in his 15th season at Villa Park. "He's an athlete. And I've seen him during wrestling season and that has shown me some more things about his character."

Steward said that character also has encouraged college recruiters. Save is an A-minus student with intangible qualities any coach or parent would appreciate.

"He's just a real good kid," Steward said. "He takes time with all of the kids at school, he's a great student. His mother told us from Day 1 that Bryan would only play football if he could maintain a B average.

"He's done that and then some. And then, there's his tremendous loyalty. He's going to finish what he started here. He stuck with this program and this school. "

Save said he had opportunities to transfer to other schools, especially after he had a standout sophomore season.

"I heard from a lot of different people at different schools," Save said. "But at Valley, this is where my friends are. This is where I feel comfortable."

Save wasn't always completely comfortable on the football field.

"As a freshman, we wanted Bryan to be more aggressive," Steward said. "He was the type of player who would knock you down, then go check and make sure you were OK. But that's just Bryan."

And Save hasn't changed much through the years, longtime friend and teammate Larry Chavez said.

"We used to play three-on-three football in the street every day after school when we were in junior high," Chavez said. "Bryan would make these one-handed catches, then I'd try to top him. He always had soft hands."

Joining Chavez and Save in those games sometimes was Chavez's older brother Ricky, who played quarterback for the Santa Ana Valley '95 league title team.

"Bryan and I always said to each other that we couldn't wait to get to play at the Bowl [Santa Ana Stadium]," Larry Chavez said. "Boy, time flew by. Everyone's pumped for this season."

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