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PREP FOOTBALL PREVIEW '98

The Times Orange County's Preseason Top 10

September 08, 1998|MIKE TERRY

There aren't many county players in the preseason national spotlight. But that doesn't mean county football will be any less competitive this season.

Only two teams--Mater Dei in the South Coast, Santa Margarita in the Sea View--are heavy favorites to win their leagues. The Eagles also are favored to win a third straight section title, although this year it will be Division VI, not V.

But the Sea View wasn't the only county league to move to a new division.

The Century, Empire, Golden West and Pacific Coast leagues also are in Division VI. The Freeway, Garden Grove, and Orange leagues are in Division IX. The Olympic League goes to Division XI. And the Academy League is now in Division XIII.

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1. Los Alamitos. Coach John Barnes has told friends this could be his best and deepest team since 1993. That's the last time the Griffins won a section championship. But the schedule has its challenges, especially when league play begins.

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2. Mater Dei. The 27-game winning streak is over, they are dethroned Division I champions, the nonleague schedule is a bear and the Monarchs have holes to fill on offense. But seven starters return to a defense that had five shutouts last season.

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3. Santa Margarita. Despite losing 14 starters, Coach Jim Hartigan says the 1998 Eagles are his biggest, fastest team yet. His last two teams merely went 27-1 and won consecutive Division V titles.

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4. Esperanza. If any team besides Mater Dei knows how to beat the Griffins it's the Aztecs, who have won the last three meetings between the teams and three consecutive Sunset League titles. Key returners include Sunset League MVP quarterback Grant Wagner.

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5. Fountain Valley. There's a good chance the Barons can go through nonleague games undefeated. If so, that will give Fountain Valley great confidence going into Sunset League play.

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6. Tustin. Yes, the Tillers, who reached the Division V final last year, will miss DeShaun Foster. But fleet running backs, big offensive linemen and explosive offenses are never in short supply at Tustin.

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7. Woodbridge. The Warriors ended their 25-game winless streak with a breakthrough season. There are 17 returning starters, and last year's Times coach of the year, Rick Gibson, to ensure the good times keep rolling.

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8. Newport Harbor. Coach Jeff Brinkley believes his team can challenge Santa Margarita in the Sea View League. Brinkley doesn't make frivolous claims.

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9. Trabuco Hills. There are four returning All-South Coast players in the league. The Mustangs have two of them--linebacker Dustin Pratt and wide receiver Brandon Heaney, who moves to quarterback.

10. Los Amigos. The Lobos have fewer questions marks than Rancho Alamitos and appear ready to replace the Vaqueros as the Garden Grove League's best.

Along with the teams listed above, Dana Hills, Pacifica, Brea Olinda, Laguna Hills and Rancho Alamitos could break into the county top 10 during the season.

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