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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

High School Notebook

November 29, 2000|ERIC SONDHEIMER

Long-time observers of Notre Dame High's football program say this season has been Kevin Rooney's finest as coach.

He has taken a team that had only five returning starters and molded it into a Southern Section Division III semifinalist.

Even players from last year's team that was upset in the quarterfinals by Valencia have been wondering how the Knights (11-0-1) have been able to succeed where they did not.

"We coach the same all the time," Rooney said. "Our players are stepping up and doing a great job. These guys have meshed together well."

For those who wonder about the importance of continuity, take a look at Notre Dame.

Rooney, 50, is finishing his 21st season at the Sherman Oaks campus.

Defensive coordinator Joe McNab, 42, is near the end of his 20th season.

Offensive line coach Jeff Kraemer, 40, is in his 21st season with the Knights.

They've been together so long that they can spot each other's gray hairs--although McNab is losing his hair.

The stability of a coaching staff that stays together for years and years is invaluable, especially if the coaches keep adjusting to the times.

And that seems to be Rooney's greatest strength. In the 1980s, the Knights were primarily an option team that rarely passed.

In the 1990s, Rooney opened up the offense to gain more balance.

Notre Dame won its only Southern Section championship in 1994 behind quarterback Ryan Bowne.

This season, the Knights have relied on a defense that has not given up more than two touchdowns in a single game.

Notre Dame plays Mira Costa Friday night at Mira Costa.

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Mira Costa's offensive line coach is Steve Butler, who coached Crespi to a 12-1 record in 1973 and served as head coach at Valley College from 1977-79.

Butler played on UCLA's 1966 Rose Bowl team.

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The Hart-St. Francis Division III semifinal game Friday night at College of the Canyons will be televised live by Fox Sports Net 2 at 7 p.m.

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