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Northridge Tries Some Patchwork on Line

September 15, 1998|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ

NORTHRIDGE — Bad news sometimes comes in big packages.

Ron Ponciano, Cal State Northridge's football coach, learned over the weekend that senior left guard Taffe Aina is academically ineligible.

"It's just a frustrating deal," Ponciano said.

Aina, 6 feet 5 and 320 pounds, did not play in Northridge's season-opening 26-13 loss at Boise State on Sept. 5.

The Matadors, who did not play last Saturday, were counting on Aina to help anchor a retooled offensive line that includes two freshmen on the right side.

Northridge now must replace Aina and senior center Beau Cherry, a transfer from Eastern Michigan who suffered strained knee ligaments at Boise State and is out for several weeks.

For the Big Sky Conference opener at Northern Arizona on Saturday, Ponciano said the Matadors will replace Aina with Mike Barnes, who last played at Arizona State, and Cherry with junior Julio Alcala, normally a tackle. Alcala had back surgery in the offseason.

Barnes did not play last season. He did not play at Boise State because his knee braces were not ready, but was slated to take over at right guard. He is now on the left side.

"He's the most experienced, the most-schooled [offensive lineman] we have," Ponciano said. "The [offensive line] is the biggest issue we have."


Ponciano said Taeao Salausa, a former Washington State defensive tackle arrested in July for the alleged rape of a university student, is trying to transfer to Northridge.

Ponciano said Salausa is not enrolled at Northridge but is attending some classes as a bystander so he is up to speed if he can gather money for tuition.

Salausa is ineligible to play for Northridge this season because he left Washington State with a grade-point average below 2.0.

"Hopefully he'll be ready for the spring," Ponciano said. "If he does get his grades, I anticipate putting him on scholarship once he becomes academically eligible."


Northridge coaches spent last weekend scouting local high school players.

"One coach was at the Sylmar-Notre Dame game and he was very impressed with those guys," Ponciano said.

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