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Feeding Frenzy for Taft

West Valley League: Toreadors chew up Granada Hills, 40-6, as Clausen throws five touchdown passes.


WOODLAND HILLS — Not even cafeteria food can stop Steve Smith and Chris Morgan.

Queasy since lunch from ingesting the indistinguishable, the Taft High receivers distinguished themselves quite well in a 40-6 victory over Granada Hills on Friday night in a West Valley League opener.

Smith had 11 receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns. Morgan had 74 yards and one touchdown on four receptions and returned an interception 82 yards for a score.

"We were both feeling ill from that stuff they feed us," Smith said. "My stomach was killing me. I was out of it until the second quarter."

Taft (5-1) started slowly, failing on a fourth-down play at its 31-yard line that enabled Granada Hills (4-2) to score first on a five-yard run by Robert Ortega.

But the Toreadors were unstoppable thereafter, driving 74 and 80 yards for second-quarter touchdowns and opening the third quarter with a 92-yard scoring march.

Rick Clausen had time to throw and tailback Lee Marks had room to run. Clausen completed 24 of 42 passes for 340 yards and five touchdowns while being sacked only once.

Marks rushed for 159 yards in 22 carries and added 71 yards on six receptions. Taft amassed 489 yards and held the Highlanders to 155.

"We've had two good weeks of practice in a row and are building on that," Taft Coach Troy Starr said. "We have a lot of firepower."

Granada Hills was reduced to a popgun offense because its primary weapon, receiver Joey Rodriguez, was sidelined from a concussion he suffered a week ago. The Highlanders rushed for only 24 yards and Bobby Baca completed 16 of 32 for 131 yards while under a strong rush from Taft linemen Chris Daniels, Jose Reyna, Octavio Flores and Lamar Maxie.

Six of the Highlanders' nine possessions following their touchdown ended in punts. The other three ended on interceptions by Marks, Morgan and Paul Pratt.

Marks' performance was especially impressive because he played for the fourth game in a row with a cast on his right hand. Taft's most successful plays on its first touchdown drive were three swing passes to Marks that gained 49 yards.

"We played really good," Marks said. "During the game, I don't even think about my hand."

By the end, nearly every Toreador had a hand in the victory. Receivers Waylon Witcher and Clarence Simpson made key catches during a fourth-quarter drive capped by a 21-yard scoring pass from Clausen to Simpson.

Linebackers Kris Govea and Lance Broadus helped hold running backs Robert Ortega and Bryan Wilson to a combined 33 yards.

The Toreadors work is not over. Unbeaten Birmingham looms next.

"We're building something," Clausen said. "It's so fun. As long as we keep having good practices, we'll keep improving."

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