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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Booker Provides Winning Data

Option quarterback leads Antelope Valley with efficiency.

November 03, 2000|DAVE DESMON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LANCASTER — Imagine a computer that is sturdy, durable and capable of processing information and spitting out correct answers with regularity.

Now, imagine one in shoulder pads.

That's what Demetre Booker has been for Antelope Valley High, running its triple-option offense to near perfection and leading his team to the brink of a Golden League championship.

Antelope Valley (7-1, 3-0 in league play) plays at Palmdale (6-1-1, 3-0) tonight at 7 in a game that will clinch a share of the league championship for the victor.

One rival coach has called Booker the best quarterback in the state for what he does, another coach described him as a nightmare to defend.

One thing is clear: If the Antelopes' computer is up and running, opponents are in trouble. If he crashes, it's likely his team will as well.

"I felt going into the season that we'd be as good as Demetre is," offensive coordinator Brandon Newcomb said. "We're 7-1, so that must mean he's doing OK."

Better than that.

Booker, 5 feet 10 and 170 pounds, leads Antelope Valley in rushing with 639 yards and nine touchdowns, guides an offense that is averaging 6.2 yards a carry and has completed 33 of 63 passes for 515 yards and four touchdowns with only one interception.

None of those numbers are near the region's best. But Booker isn't a numbers guy.

"I just want to do whatever it takes to win," said Booker, who also plays safety, a position the senior figures to play in college. "If I need to pass to win, I will. If you want me to give it to the running back every time because he's having a good game, I'll do it. If I need to contribute on defense, I'll do that."

Booker showed his versatility in the Antelopes' 19-0 victory over Littlerock last week. The left-hander threw for a touchdown, ran for another, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble.

"At this point in the season, I think he's the league MVP," Coach Jim Bauer of Littlerock said. "He never comes off the field and he's in on every play both ways."

On the practice field, Booker rarely rests. When he is asked to sit out a play, he stands on the sideline and shouts instructions to teammates and redirects out-of-position players, sometimes before his coaches notice.

"He's a team leader," Coach Brent Newcomb said. "Demetre is a guy any coach would like. He works hard, stays late on Saturday to study extra game film and does a lot of the things you don't see very often from players anymore."

Few have questioned Booker's decision-making ability while running a complex offense, but he is still questioned about a crucial decision he made in the spring of 1998, a decision Booker stands by.

He transferred from Palmdale after his freshman season.

"People said I would find out the grass isn't always greener on the other side, that I would regret the decision," he said. "But I wasn't comfortable there and it was time for a change."

He says he chose Antelope Valley not only because of the football program's tradition as a powerhouse but also because he hopes to become a computer software engineer and Antelope Valley had a fledgling laptop computer magnet program.

He remains in that program and carries a B average.

To do so, Booker left behind his buddies at Palmdale, including best friend Terry Furlow, Palmdale's senior quarterback.

If Antelope Valley wins tonight, it's likely Booker will be selected the league's back of the year. If Palmdale wins, Furlow will probably get the honor.

"It seems to have worked out great for both of us," said Booker, who started at quarterback on Palmdale's freshman team while Furlow played receiver.

When Booker arrived in Lancaster, Antelope Valley had won five of the previous six league titles.

But the Antelopes were a combined 6-14-1 during his sophomore and junior seasons, missing the playoffs in 1998.

It was at the end of the 1998 season that the Antelope coaching staff recognized what it had and installed an offense that Antelope coaches describe alternately as the triple-option, wishbone, flexbone and veer.

It's not a job they would have heaped on anyone, but Booker had run similar offenses since he was 7.

"To me, I think it's tougher to be an option quarterback," Brandon Newcomb said. "Everything happens in a split second and he has to make decisions knowing he's going to get hit on every play."

Antelope Valley's computer has gotten plenty of hits this season. Now, he wants a little something on his desktop.

"I want that championship trophy," he said.

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