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Just Playing Each Week Good Enough for Petty

Former standout at Moorpark, Ventura colleges is happy as a linebacker for Northern Arizona.

September 18, 1998|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

His speech is sprinkled with giggles and chuckles, for Terrance Petty is one happy camper.

It makes no difference to Petty, a two-year starter at linebacker for Northern Arizona, that he was moved to weak side after playing strong side last year.

All the former standout at Ventura and Moorpark colleges wants is to be in the lineup.

"I just like to play," Petty said. "Sometimes I get to play all three [linebacking] positions. It depends on what the other team is doing or if some of our guys are tired."

Petty, 6 feet 3 and 235 pounds, probably won't rest much Saturday night when the Lumberjacks (2-0) host Cal State Northridge (0-1) in the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams.

He started in Northern Arizona's victories over Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Southwest Texas State, making a combined 15 tackles, and has one of the team's 11 sacks.

The Lumberjacks, ranked No. 13 in Division I-AA by the Sports Network, are emphasizing defense under new Coach Jerome Souers, a former longtime defensive coordinator at Montana.

Northern Arizona ranks third in I-AA in pass efficiency defense with a 57.7 rating and 13th in defense, allowing 231.5 yards per game. The Lumberjacks are counting heavily on Petty to help keep the unit solidified.

"We think an awful lot of Terrance," said Robb Akey, Northern Arizona's defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. "Size and strength, combined with excellent athletic ability, makes him an impact player at this level."

Petty started every game last season and finished with 73 tackles, third-best on the team, and was All-Big Sky honorable mention. He made 11 tackles against Minnesota-Duluth, 10 at Weber State and nine each at New Mexico and Idaho State.

He made five tackles and had one sack in Northern Arizona's 21-13 loss at Northridge on Nov. 22, ending the season for the underachieving Lumberjacks with three consecutive defeats. Northern Arizona had been picked to win the conference title.

"It was pretty tough. We didn't play with any fire," Petty said.

Petty seldom lacked fire in 1996 at Moorpark, where he landed after one season at Ventura. An all-state selection at Highland High in Bakersfield, Petty chose Ventura over other junior colleges but didn't hang around long.

"We really didn't press much," Petty said of Ventura. "I like to attack. We basically played a 52 defense. We stopped the run but it wasn't the blitzing defense I like to play."

It wasn't a winning team either, not like Moorpark. Ventura finished 2-8 in 1995, Moorpark was 8-3. Petty's compass started pointing south.

He helped Moorpark to second place in the Western State Conference Southern Division at 5-1, earning all-conference honors.

One of Petty's best games for the Raiders came in a 38-20 victory over L.A. Southwest, when he had seven tackles, six assists, three sacks and returned a fumble 12 yards for a touchdown.

"We sort of built the defense around him and tried to take advantage of his skills," Moorpark Coach Jim Bittner said. "He really blossomed into a leader for us.

"He was so personable. It made your day to see him, he was just such a positive guy."

Petty said his season at Moorpark was well spent.

"They taught me a lot. I still needed to learn, but coming out of there helped me a lot," Petty said.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Northern Arizona vs. Cal State Northridge

What: Big Sky Conference opener

When: Saturday, 6:05 p.m.

Where: Walkup Skydome

Fast fact: Northridge has won once in eight games in Flagstaff, dating to 1968.

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