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Rail-Thin Scott Jensen Plays Substantial Role for Resurgent Birmingham

November 12, 2000|ERIC SONDHEIMER

Teenagers roll their eyes and act incredulous when 135-pound Scott Jensen tells them he plays quarterback for Birmingham High.

Even adults have a hard time taking him seriously. Examine the reaction of first-year Coach Ed Croson last spring when Jensen introduced himself for the first time.

"OK, umm, you're pretty small," Croson said.

New quarterback coach Tyler Fenwick didn't know what to think.

"I didn't believe this was going to be our quarterback," Fenwick said. "I said, 'Oh man, he's so little.' He was 132 pounds. I said, 'You better eat.' "

Any concerns about Jensen's size have vanished. The 5-foot-10 junior has passed for a school-record 1,908 yards and 21 touchdowns with only two interceptions in 188 passes.

"Everybody tries to get to him because they think they can beat him up," Croson said. "But he's wiry and he's tough."

Jensen deserves credit for helping transform Birmingham from a 2-8 team last season to a 9-1 team that shared the West Valley League championship with Taft.

He started seven games as a sophomore and passed for 804 yards. In more than doubling his passing yards, Jensen has learned to read defenses while making good decisions in pressure situations.

"He's amazing," Fenwick said. "I was pretty shocked to see how strong his arm was for his size. He keeps telling me he's supposed to be 6-4, but I don't believe him."

Jensen tries to gain weight, but it's difficult. Invite him to a buffet and he'll match anyone with a knife and fork.

Give him steak, meatloaf, potatoes. Offer a chocolate sundae or banana split.

"I can eat all I want, but it doesn't stick," he said.

Just watch him stick defenders. Croson has to plead with him to throw the ball away instead of running.

"He'll try to deliver a blow on a linebacker and that's crazy," Croson said.

Said Jensen: "I just have a lot of heart that I can do it. Nobody can stop me from doing what I want to do."

Jensen has benefited from a group of fast receivers, four of whom are averaging 20 or more yards per catch.

"They go, 'Give me the ball and I'll make you look good,' " he said. "So I give them the ball."

It has been a memorable season for Birmingham, which was unbeaten until a 34-27 loss to Chatsworth on Thursday night.

Few envisioned the Patriots winning so many games. Maybe that explains why players didn't know how to react following their disappointing defeat on Thursday. Some had begun to think they were invincible. Several players threw their helmets in disgust, forgetting the City playoffs begin Thursday.

It will be crucial for Croson to help his players regroup for their City Championship playoff opener against Palisades at Birmingham.

Jensen gets the chance to compete against All-City quarterback David Koral of Palisades.

Jensen will be underestimated again, but it would be no fluke if he leads Birmingham to the City Championship game at the Coliseum.

"It would feel real good knowing we had worked so hard and gotten to where we wanted to be instead of sitting in the stands," he said.


The winter baseball season began Saturday, and Coach Jim Ozella of Hart has another impressive young player, sophomore shortstop Chris Valaika. He was the top player on a 20-2 freshman team, broke his elbow late in the season, started throwing again in July and is ready to make a strong bid to start on the varsity.

"He's a listener, he's a learner and I think he's going to be a real good player," Ozella said.

On his first at-bat against Chaminade on Saturday, Valaika hit a one-hop double off the fence at College of the Canyons against University of San Francisco-bound pitcher T.J. Franco. . . .

Another improving player is junior third baseman Cody Haerther of Chaminade. He has gotten bigger and stronger, and is on his way to becoming a college prospect. . . .

Former Hart infielder Eric Horvat, a senior at Cal State Northridge, has decided to redshirt this season. He's scheduled to undergo shoulder surgery. . . .

Thousand Oaks began basketball practice Saturday without three starters. Ben Olson, Dave Anderson and Kevin Rex are involved in the football playoffs.

Olson, the Lancers' talented quarterback, said he occasionally sneaks in shooting practice with Anderson. The two don't make bets when practicing free throws "because [Dave] knows I can win." . . .

Jessica Creith, former Granada Hills High and Cal State Northridge softball player, has been appointed coach at Chaminade. . . .

Notre Dame's freshman football team was 10-0, gave up 10 points and recorded eight shutouts. . . .

Former Alemany quarterback Casey Clausen is 4-0 as a freshman starter for Tennessee. He threw five touchdown passes Saturday against Arkansas. He's proving to people in the South that Valley boys can play pretty good football.


Eric Sondheimer's local column appears Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422 or

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