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They Receive Passing Grade on Midterms

October 11, 2000|ERIC SONDHEIMER

It's the midway point in the high school football season, making it a good time to determine who's living up to expectations, who's rising from obscurity and who's going to be sipping apple cider in December.

First, some elite players have put together five-game performances that have enhanced their reputations.

Start with running back Tyler Ebell of Ventura. College coaches who want to recruit him as a defensive back should go back to Recruiting 101. If 1,785 yards and 24 touchdowns in five games don't convince you of his rushing skills, what does?

Sophomore receiver Steve Smith of Taft and senior linebacker Josh Martin of Sylmar were ranked No. 1 at their positions in the preseason and haven't taken anything for granted.

Smith leads the region with 40 receptions for 702 yards and seven touchdowns. If Martin doesn't make at least 10 tackles a game, he'd probably force himself to run 20 laps in darkness as punishment.

Senior cornerback Ryan Foltz of Westlake is everybody's choice for the best defensive player in the region. Opposing quarterbacks hope Coach Jim Benkert plays Foltz at receiver so he will be too tired to cover their No. 1 targets. It's not happening.

Foltz is so good on mancoverage it allows the top-ranked Warriors to blitz linebackers without worrying about receivers in his area.

Most intriguing are the players who were largely unknown before the season but have quickly established themselves.

Topping the list is junior quarterback Adam Geery of Kennedy. How's this for an unlikely hero: A year ago, he didn't know how to put on shoulder pads, throw an out pattern or call a play in the huddle.

"I'm used to street ball," he said. "Go to the tree and turn around. Go to the farthest car and look over here."

Geery must be the quickest learner around because in his first season as a varsity starter, he has led Kennedy (4-0-1) with 1,064 yards passing and 11 touchdowns.

He's an All-City pitcher on his way to becoming an All-City quarterback.

"I'd rather take a hit than get a home run hit off me any day," Geery said. "My love for baseball, I can't even describe it. I am having a lot of fun [in football]. Every time I get a signal from my coach, I have a big smile going into the huddle. It's so intense. It's so awesome."

Junior defensive back Albert Griffin of Alemany is another rising prospect. He played last season on the sophomore team at Marin Catholic in the Bay Area. He has six interceptions and is on his way to becoming a major college prospect for 2002.

Another player stepping forward is senior free safety Felipe Samano of Sylmar. He once considered himself a baseball player playing football. The reverse is true today. He spent two months in the off-season working on his speed, and what a difference it has made.

"He's a general on the team," Coach Jeff Engilman said. "He's everything we hoped he would be. He's gotten so much faster than he was."

Oak Park has won four of five games, and one reason is the kicking and punting of junior Monte McNair. Paul Hackett of USC should give him a call. He's three of five on field goals, including a 53-yarder.

One day, he's going to thank his father for introducing him to kicking as a 9-year-old at the park.

"I'd kick his foot a couple times," McNair recalled of using his father's toe as a tee.

Then there's junior Jeremy Boyle of El Camino Real. He's a wide receiver and free safety who suddenly found himself playing quarterback when starter Will Savage broke his collarbone on the second play of the season opener.

"I had no idea what they were talking about," Boyle said when the coaches told him to start taking snaps. "I thought I was going in to run a running play."

He hasn't come out since. Despite having no quarterback experience, Boyle has passed for 827 yards. In addition, he is averaging 13 tackles a game, has three interceptions and a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Savage is supposed to return next week, which isn't soon enough for the 6-foot-2 Boyle. He wants to go back to catching passes instead of throwing them, but no one has been a better emergency quarterback.

Other observations, insights and conclusions:

Most impressive turnaround: Birmingham (5-0). Last season, the Patriots finished 2-8.

Biggest disappointment: Thousand Oaks (0-5).

Most underrated player: Junior defensive back Brandon Browner of Monroe. He has five interceptions in four games.

Best young player not named Steve Smith: Sophomore receiver Whitney Lewis of St. Bonaventure.

Best player nobody has heard about: Kicker Jason Tompkins of Frazier Mountain. He has made three field goals of 50 yards or longer, including a 57-yarder.

Teams that will win Southern Section championships: Hart (Division III), Westlake (Division IV), St. Bonaventure (Division XI) and Montclair Prep (Division XII).

Most stunning statistic: Quarterback Kyle Uebelhardt, son of Royal Coach Gene Uebelhardt, has thrown 20 touchdown passes in five games for the Highlanders' unbeaten sophomore team.

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