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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

High School Notebook

November 08, 2000|JOHN ORTEGA

In the unpredictable world of high school football, things have actually gone to plan at La Canada this season.

The Spartans are 8-1 heading into Thursday night's Rio Hondo League showdown with four-time defending league champion Monrovia.

A tie or victory will give La Canada its first league title since 1987, just as Coach Rich Wheeler had imagined when he took over the program in 1997.

"We were thinking along a four- to five-year plan when we came in," Wheeler said. "It takes three to four years to clear out the old system and get the players used to your system."

La Canada, which was 4-7 the season before Wheeler took over, went 7-5, 5-6 and 5-6 in his first three years at the school. But an efficient offense and a superb defense have the Spartans ranked fourth in the Division X poll.

"My offensive and defensive coordinators have done a great job," Wheeler said. "And we've been blessed with a great group of kids. We've never had as many good skill-position kids as we do now."

Chase McKibben has rushed for 1,058 yards and nine touchdowns for La Canada. The defense has shut out four opponents and given up an average of 8.9 points and 186 yards a game.

Defensive end Matt Jackson and linebackers Tony Naples, Chris Woolridge and Tommy McGuiness have anchored a defense that has intercepted 18 passes and forced 12 fumbles.

"We don't have any real superstars defensively or offensively," Wheeler said. "But we've got a lot of good kids who play well together."

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