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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | Eric Sondheimer

Bonds Runs Show, St. Francis Will Pass

May 31, 2000|Eric Sondheimer

A meticulous search is under way at St. Francis High, where people are looking under desks, in closets, through file cabinets, storage sheds, even lockers to see if former football coach Bill Redell left behind any booby-traps for his old coaching colleagues.

"If we don't find them, he'll probably come back and set them," assistant Terry Terrazone said.

The fatherly, respected Redell resigned to start a new program at Oaks Christian in Westlake Village, but most of his coaching staff remains intact, taking directions from the man Redell once groomed to succeed him, Jim Bonds.

"He's like another son to me," Redell said.

From 1993-96, Bonds was Redell's offensive coordinator. He left to coach Alemany, transforming a team that had made one playoff appearance in the 1990s into a squad that was ranked No. 1 in the region at one point last season.

Bonds, 31, is finishing his third week of spring practice at St. Francis and acting like he never left.

Oh, he's having trouble going up and down the stairs from the football field to the upper campus (it's 93 steps), something he forgot to bring up when negotiating his new contract.

But give Bonds a talented quarterback, a running back who runs over and away from defenders and a receiver who loves to catch 60-yard bombs and he won't complain about anything.

That's what he inherited from Redell.

Quarterback John Sciarra, running back Matt Milton and receiver Brett Mitchell are going to be kissing the turf after spending a year with Bonds and seeing what he can do for them.

Just look what Bonds accomplished with his trio of Alemany stars last season--quarterback Casey Clausen, running back De'Andre Scott and receiver Derek Goodman.

"I think we have the makings to put up a lot of points on the board," Bonds said.

That's no cocky boast. Bonds knows offense like Einstein knew math. Every season he'd lobby Redell to open up the offense, particularly the passing game.

Redell slowly gave in--to a point.

"I wanted to throw the ball 70% of the time," Bonds said. "He wanted to run the ball 70% of the time."

Said Redell: "He'd start [passing the ball], then I'd call him aside. 'Let's start running the ball more,' then he'd make a face, then we'd have to have a meeting at a restaurant to have a little father-son talk. I'd tell him some things, he'd tell me some things. He always stuck up for his opinions."

Perhaps Bonds' philosophy rubbed off on Redell, because Sciarra set a school record last season with 2,861 yards passing and 28 touchdown passes.

Coaching quarterbacks is Bonds' specialty. He played the position at Hart and UCLA. And he's no ordinary coach. He prepared the 6-foot-5 Clausen so well, he has a chance to start as a freshman this fall at Tennessee.

Bonds has walked into a dream coaching situation, an ex-UCLA quarterback tutoring the son of one of the most famous UCLA quarterbacks.

"John Sciarra came to speak to the football team at UCLA when I was playing there," Bonds said. "It never crossed my mind I'd be coaching his son."

Sciarra, 6-1 1/2, doesn't have the size of Clausen, but he has similar arm strength and Clausen's athleticism.

"Casey was a football player," Bonds said. "He learned how to play quarterback. John is a raw athlete. Casey was just unbelievable once he got to the line of scrimmage reading the defense. [John] reminds me of a Cade McNown with the intangible things he does running and throwing."

It doesn't take long to conclude St. Francis' players are going to thrive under Bonds. He blew his whistle at precisely 3:30 p.m. and more than 100 players hustled to their warm-up positions, ready to follow Bonds' instructions.

"He's a great coach," Sciarra said. "He's real easy to talk to. Whenever there's a doubt in my mind, I ask and he tells me. The whole team is following whatever he says."

Much has changed since Bonds' first spring practice seven years ago.

"There were 18 to 25 guys out and we were looking around, 'This is going to be rough,' " he said. "Our first day of spring practice, we had 110 kids out here.

"Coach Redell and everybody who coached with him along the way did a great job restoring this program."

Hart might be known as the region's quarterback factory, boasting an All-Southern Section quarterback for 15 consecutive years. But give Bonds time. Besides Sciarra, St. Francis has an incoming freshman quarterback, 6-1 Alex Gonzalez, who's creating excitement for the future.

Of course, getting past Hart and the Herrington brothers in the playoffs will be Bonds' toughest test.

Two years ago, Alemany lost to Hart, 21-13. It's the second-closest playoff game any team has played against Hart in two years.

"I'd like another chance," Bonds said. "It's hard coaching against your best friends, but for high school football, it was an awesome atmosphere."

St. Francis and Hart will get a look at each other during summer passing competition in July.

Nobody wants to jinx anything, so leave it to a sportswriter to make the prediction: St. Francis will play Hart in the Southern Section Division III final next season. It will be Bonds vs. Herrington, Sciarra vs. Kyle Matter, Milton vs. Tim Gregory.

What a dream matchup. Let the preparation begin.

*

Eric Sondheimer's local column appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422 or eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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