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Battle Lines

Unbeaten Crenshaw Brims With Confidence About Title

October 12, 2000|GARY KLEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Crenshaw High football players seem to repeat the statement, individually and collectively, after every game.

The Cougars' appearance in last year's City Section championship game, in which they were defeated by Carson, was a mere tuneup for bigger things to come.

"We're going back to the Coliseum to finish the job," quarterback Devin Hollins said after victories over Westchester and San Pedro.

Crenshaw is 5-0 entering the Coliseum League opener Friday against Locke. The Cougars, Sylmar (5-0) and Van Nuys Birmingham (5-0) are the City Section's only undefeated and untied teams. Granada Hills Kennedy is 4-0-1.

Last year, every team that won or tied for a league championship was guaranteed a berth in the City Championship division.

This year, regardless of the number of co-champions, each of the eight leagues will receive only one automatic berth in the top division. The other eight spots in the bracket will be determined by record and strength of schedule.

Here is a look at the section's eight leagues:

COLISEUM LEAGUE

Crenshaw's defense causes numerous turnovers and either scores or sets up the offense for short scoring drives. But Hollins and the Cougars proved against San Pedro that they can make long game-winning offensive plays as well.

Dorsey (4-1) counts among its victories a road win at Arroyo Grande and has erased the notion that the Dons were a year away from making a serious run at the City title.

Jefferson quarterback/defensive back John Brown is a playmaker for the Democrat (3-2) and a preleague schedule that featured games against Woodland Hills Taft, Granada Hills and Gardena has the team prepared for league opponents.

Locke (2-3) too has been battle-tested against San Pedro, Taft and Carson.

Fremont (4-1) is a question mark.

EASTERN LEAGUE

When Roosevelt Coach Jose Casagran took over the Roughrider program in 1998, his intent was to make Roosevelt (3-2) a contender for a major division title. Casagran appears to be on schedule with a team that lost to Carson in its opener and played Dorsey tough before losing.

Bell (0-5) was regarded as one of the favorites for the league title but has struggled in preleague play.

NORTHERN LEAGUE

Opportunity is in the air. At least, that's what Eagle Rock (3-2), Belmont (4-1) and Marshall (4-1) believe upon seeing Franklin enter league play with a 3-2 record.

No one is foolish enough to predict that the dominant league power will not contend for the title, but the Panthers are not the rock-solid pick they were in years past.

Eagle Rock quarterback Torwin Session, Belmont running back Secel Montgomery and Marshall defensive back Timothee Boonyarit are players that give their teams title hopes.

MARINE LEAGUE

Though it must still work through the death of cornerback Dominick Batiste, defending section champion Carson (3-2) is finally clicking behind quarterback Justin Cooper and running backs James Robinson and Trevion Stephens.

Narbonne's only loss was against Loyola. The Gauchos (4-1) might be the most physically talented team in the league.

San Pedro (3-2) has shown flashes on offense and has been mostly solid on defense, even in losses to Dorsey and Crenshaw. Gardena (3-2) started fast before consecutive losses to Gardena Serra and Jefferson.

Wilmington Banning (1-4) lost to Taft, Long Beach Poly, Crenshaw and Santa Ana Mater Dei, but showed enough talent and determination to make the Pilots a favorite.

WESTERN LEAGUE

Westchester (4-1, 1-0) looked as if it might lose its grip on the league title after the Comets were shut out, 23-0, by Crenshaw in the season opener. But that seems like ancient history to a team that has the most favorable schedule in league play.

Palisades (4-1, 2-0) and Venice (4-1, 2-0), which play Friday, have displayed offensive fireworks with quarterbacks David Koral and Anton Clarkson. Defense is still a question mark for both teams.

SUNSET SIX LEAGUE

Canoga Park (4-1) is the only team at .500 or above in a league that includes Hollywood (1-3-1) and five schools from the San Fernando Valley.

VALLEY MISSION LEAGUE

Sylmar, led by quarterback John Valdez and linebacker Josh Martin, was the overwhelming preseason favorite. That was before Kennedy stepped up the last two weeks and won nonleague games against Taft and Granada Hills.

WEST VALLEY LEAGUE

Taft (4-1), led by running back Lee Marks and quarterback Ricky Clausen, was thought to be the favorite.

Then along came Birmingham, which behind running back Kevin McCleary has left last season's 2-8 finish behind. Granada Hills (4-1) also may challenge.

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