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Stars, Starr Are Out for Taft

High school football: Big plays help Toreadors improve to 4-1 despite absence--until after game--of suspended coach.


WOODLAND HILLS — There was a little bit of magic at Taft High on Friday night.

From Rick Clausen's 277 yards passing to Steve Smith's 140 yards receiving, and from Lee Marks' 134 yards rushing to Chris Morgan's 92 yards receiving, the Toreadors' offensive stars were on full display in a 31-14 victory over San Fernando.

But the greatest trick of all was the appearance of suspended Toreador Coach Troy Starr. As fast as you can say "hocus-pocus," Starr could be found on the field addressing his team moments after the victory.

"It's like, magical," said assistant coach Jason Blatt, who directed the team in Starr's absence. "He showed up out of the clouds."

Several San Fernando officials expressed displeasure at Starr's sudden arrival, since he was banned from attending the game as punishment for holding a Labor Day practice.

"I'm allowed to be here after the game," Starr said.

Taft (4-1) turned loose its four talented offensive standouts in the second half after San Fernando (3-2) had battled the Toreadors to a 7-7 halftime tie.

Clausen completed 14 of 19 passes for 217 yards in the final two quarters and finished 19 of 32 for 277 yards and two touchdowns. He guided Taft on a 66-yard, seven-play drive to start the third quarter, connecting with Morgan on a four-yard touchdown pass.

The Toreadors seemed to be lacking their usual intensity without the fiery Starr yelling on the sideline.

"In the first half, I was struggling a little bit," Clausen said. "I lost a little composure. We just got comfortable in the second half. I think we were pressing without Coach Starr."

San Fernando turned in a much stronger performance than last week, when the Tigers were routed by Birmingham, 43-12. They played that game without seven starters, most of whom returned Friday night. And what a difference they made.

Back at full strength, the Tigers blocked and tackled like the team that had won its first three games. Ruben Nevarez was sacked only once and finished 15 of 32 for 248 yards and two touchdowns.

Junior receiver Ramon Perry caught eight passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns.

Nevarez was successful early on fooling the Toreadors with play-action passes. He guided San Fernando on a 65-yard, 15-play scoring drive to open the game. Three times the Tigers converted fourth-down situations, the last a 22-yard touchdown reception by Perry.

Marks had the game's most spectacular individual effort. He scored on a 55-yard run in which he got the ball on a draw play designed to go up the middle, saw there was no hole, broke to the outside and sprinted down the right sideline for the touchdown.

San Fernando closed to 21-14 late in the third quarter on Nevarez's 27-yard touchdown pass to Perry.

The Toreadors closed out the game with the aid of a 32-yard field goal by Richard Ploesch and a 49-yard touchdown pass play from Clausen to Smith.

It was an important victory for a Taft team playing without its head coach.

"I can breathe now--and I understand now why Coach Starr is getting gray hair," Blatt said.

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