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O.C. Eats

Big Men on Campus

High school linemen tackle massive amounts of food before dishing out pain on the field.


As the waitress approaches with a full tray of icy chocolate cappuccinos, the supercharged high school football players sitting at a long table at Mimi's Cafe in Tustin fix their eyes on the frosty treats.

When served, Dave Liti, a 6-foot, 290-pound guard for Foothill High in North Tustin, immediately dips a dinner roll into the whipped cream topping and takes a bite.

Liti and a dozen of his teammates have gathered for a much-honored weekly ritual: the Linemen's Dinner. The big meal for the largest players on the field is consumed the day before the varsity game. It's usually held at a team member's house or a local restaurant.

Eating next to Liti is another senior, Dave Torres, a 5-11 tackle who tips the scales at 275 pounds. His nickname--most linemen have one--is "Chunky Butta."

You think you eat big on Thanksgiving? In less than two hours, Liti and Torres will each polish off:

* a one-third-pound lean ground beef patty with avocado, Swiss cheese, bacon and Thousand Island dressing sandwiched between grilled garlic and Parmesan sourdough bread, and fries ($7.25);

* 12 pieces of breaded and fried chicken breast with ranch dressing and fruit garnish ($6.25);

* one 12-ounce iced cappuccino blended with white and dark Ghirardelli chocolate and topped with chocolate powder and whipped cream ($2.95);

* soft drinks ($1.50)

Liti tops off his dinner with a thick piece of vanilla ice cream wrapped in two layers of chocolate brownies and crowned with hot fudge and a tennis ball-size dollop of whipped cream ($3.95).

Total for both: $39.85

"If we didn't do anything [athletic], we wouldn't be able to walk," Liti said.

Liti's confidence is as rock-solid as his physique. Asked if breaking the 300-pound barrier might put him in the overweight category, he quickly replies, "Can you squat 600 pounds? Can you bench [press] 405?"

Some may think size matters most in football, but Torres says, "Strength is the factor." Monday through Friday weightlifting sessions add the muscle he needs to compete.

Dr. Richard W. Parlee of Villa Park, who has worked with athletes for 30 years, says Liti's and Torres' eating habits aren't unusual among today's jumbo-size players.

"There are so many big guys in sports," he says.

Weight training, improved nutrition and generational growth result in high school players who make the lines of 20 years ago--which averaged 200 pounds--look puny. Several county players tip the scales at 340 pounds or more.

Parlee said successful athletes concern themselves with getting the proper amount of nutrients and staying in good physical condition; those who don't risk injuries.

"I've seen a lot of heavy athletes in good shape, muscle-wise," said Parlee, who stressed that an occasional eating binge shouldn't be cause for concern. Long-term eating habits are more important.

OK, but who's going to try to intercept dessert from these guys?


What's a lineman's favorite meal? We asked some of Orange County's biggest players what was on their plates:

Aliso Niguel High Wolverine No. 69 Rob ("Twinkle Toes") Schwartz, 6-2, 320 pounds, senior: Ted's Place in Laguna Niguel--"humongous" avocado cheeseburger, fries,. Pepsi.

Capistrano Valley High Cougar No. 71 Matthew Cantu, 6-3, 270 pounds, junior: El Molino de Oro in San Juan Capistrano--a couple of bean-and-cheese burritos, chicken quesadilla, "everything else" on the menu.

Capistrano Valley High Cougar No. 72 Anthony Garrio, 5-10, 290 pounds, junior: Buffy's Family Restaurant in San Juan Capistrano--teriyaki steak, garlic bread, baked potato with butter and sour cream, apple pie, iced tea.

Corona del Mar High Sea King No. 73 Zack Wald, 6-3, 330 pounds, senior: Gina's Pizza in Corona del Mar--large Maui Mamma pizza (bacon, Canadian bacon, pineapple); Charo Chicken in Costa Mesa--Papa Charo (half of a chicken with lemon garlic butter, tortillas, bean and rice); Taco Bell--lots of items on the menu.

Costa Mesa High Mustang No. 54 Eric Connaty, 6-2, 290 pounds, senior: Outback Steakhouse in Costa Mesa--16-ounce prime rib, baked potato with "mounds" of butter and sour cream, Coke or water.

Costa Mesa High Mustang No. 74 Luther ("Biggie") Mitchell, 5-9, 300 pounds, junior: That's Aroma in Costa Mesa--meat-and-cheese lasagna, "all the good stuff," bread, Shirley Temple.

Cypress High Centurion No. 62 Joe ("Fifth Wheel") Long, 6-3, 280 pounds, senior: Shogun Restaurant in Cypress--75 pieces of all-you-can-eat sushi, including six shogun rolls (seaweed wrapped around tempura, rice and crab with a teriyaki glaze) and assorted fish-and-rice rolls.

Dana Hills High Dolphin No. 76 Travis Wannlund, 6-3, 290 pounds, junior: Fuddruckers in Lake Forest--bacon burgers with "the works," onion rings, customized drink (a mix of Surge and fruit punch); for dessert, Toppings in Laguna Niguel--frozen yogurt.

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