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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS PREP EXTRA

Neill, Crook Ride High on Nevada Trail

College football: Former Hart, Westlake quarterbacks will meet Saturday in intrastate rivalry.

September 29, 1998|DAVID WHARTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Both quarterbacks began their careers at high schools in the region. Both now play college football in the state of Nevada.

But the similarities between David Neill and Kevin Crook end there.

When Neill leads Nevada against Crook and his Nevada Las Vegas Rebels in an intrastate rivalry on Saturday, it will mark the intersection of two divergent paths.

Last fall, Neill was a senior at Hart High and his coaches were telling college recruiters that his best years were ahead of him. Neill wasted no time proving them right.

Saturday, just a few games into his freshman season at Nevada, Neill got his first start and guided the Wolf Pack to a 27-24 victory over Fresno State.

"This was a big win for the program," Nevada Coach Jeff Tisdel told the Associated Press. "Our freshman quarterback stepped up."

Playing in an intermittent rain, Neill started a bit shaky, completing one of his first nine passes, but finished with 21 completions in 38 attempts for 328 yards.

"We all came together as a unit tonight," said Neill, who earned Big West offensive player of the week honors. "When we play together, we can't be stopped."

Neill won the starting job the previous week by leading his team to two fourth-quarter touchdowns against Colorado State.

Against Fresno, he gave Nevada a 14-7 lead with two 10-yard touchdown passes in the second quarter. His 51-yard scoring pass to Trevor Insley put the game away with 5:09 to play.

"He looked good," said Dean Herrington, the Hart offensive coordinator who was in Fresno for the game. "He made some great throws on the run."

While Neill was establishing himself as a phenom, the veteran Crook was fighting for his life at that other Nevada university.

The former Westlake standout waited four years to establish himself as UNLV's top quarterback. A fifth-year senior, he began the season as a starter and promptly lost the job to redshirt freshman Chris Hayward.

But Crook was back on the field Saturday after Hayward threw two quick interceptions against--who else?--Colorado State. Crook put himself back in the driver's seat by completing 13 of 27 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-16 loss.

"I just prepared hard all week," he told the Las Vegas Sun. "I got my chance and somewhat made the most of it."

The same can be said for several other quarterbacks from the region.

At Arizona, Keith Smith continues to impress while playing in a two-quarterback system.

The Newbury Park alumnus scrambled for touchdowns of 20 and 30 yards and threw a 19-yard scoring pass in a 35-16 victory over San Diego State last Thursday.

Smith has started three of four games, but alternates quarters with Ortege Jenkins.

Elsewhere, Joe Borchard gained more experience at Stanford. The Camarillo alumnus was called into action in the waning moments of a Sept. 19 game against North Carolina and drove the Cardinal to a game-winning field goal. Saturday, he played late in a 63-28 loss to Oregon, completing three of four passes for 40 yards.

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