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Nobody Is Riding Off With the Sunset Race

October 24, 2000|BEN BOLCH

It's three weeks until the champion of Orange County's toughest league is crowned. Do you know where your team is in the Sunset League standings?

Second-ranked Edison and third-ranked Esperanza, the only remaining teams with undefeated league records, are the front-runners, but don't count out No. 4 Los Alamitos or Fountain Valley.

A team with one loss could win this league, which has seen five of its six teams ranked in the county's top 10 at some point this season.

"It's going to be very difficult to go undefeated in this league," Edison Coach Dave White said. "I think a team with one loss has a chance to get it."

White's Chargers scored the biggest victory of the league season last Thursday with a 29-14 victory over then-No. 2 Los Alamitos. The victory broke Edison's seven-game losing streak to the Griffins dating to 1974.

"We showed some character and some consistency that we'd been lacking throughout the year," said White, whose Chargers haven't won a league title since 1990. "I don't think there's been too many times in the last 10 years when Los Alamitos hasn't scored in the second half."

Edison (6-1, 2-0) and Esperanza (6-1, 2-0), which meet in a regular-season finale Nov. 9, control their own destiny. But the Aztecs face the tougher road because they still have to beat Los Alamitos (6-1, 1-1).

Still, Edison doesn't exactly have it made. The Chargers play arch-rival Fountain Valley (4-3, 1-1) in two weeks in the "Battle for the Bell," and the Barons have won the last five meetings.

"It doesn't matter what kind of year the teams are having," White said. "It's always a good game."

Los Alamitos can get back into the hunt for its third consecutive league title with a victory over Esperanza in two weeks.

Fountain Valley, which needs victories over Edison and Los Alamitos, is a longshot.

Edison and Esperanza appear to be the two most dangerous teams in the league because they feature strong running games supported by solid quarterbacks. Aztec tailback Temitope Sonuyi is the county's leading rusher with 1,648 yards and 21 touchdowns, but quarterback Greg Farrell is an equally important component of the offense.

Likewise, running back Darryl Poston and quarterback Richard Schwartz showed they were both integral parts of the Charger offense when Poston ran for 111 yards and Schwartz passed for 111 in the victory over Los Alamitos.

"If there is a front-runner, it's Esperanza," White said. "I think they're playing at the top of their game. The rest of us are trying to be consistent, taking it one game at a time."

MONARCHS IN NO RUSH

Mater Dei is the top-ranked county team and will be one of the favorites to win the Southern Section Division I title when the playoffs begin in three weeks, but these are clearly not your older brother's Monarchs.

Gone from this season's team are the top-flight running backs, the Mike McNairs and Matt Grootegoeds, who made Mater Dei such a ground-oriented power the past few years. The Monarchs have gained 67% of their yards through the air.

Through their first six games, the limited run support wasn't an issue. But it was Saturday, when Mater Dei struggled to move the ball on the ground deep in Los Angeles Loyola territory; a bevy of Monarch rushers failed to reach the end zone on six runs inside the Cub five-yard line.

Mater Dei had the ball first and goal at the five late in the first quarter, but tailback Darius Williams could only move it to the one after consecutive two-yard gains. Loyola then stuffed Williams for no gain on third and fourth downs.

On another possession, Grant Melton and Brown Faavae also failed to score from the one. Quarterback Matt Leinart, who has passed for 1,663 yards, eventually scored on a bootleg.

"I felt bad for the offense," said Mater Dei Coach Bruce Rollinson, whose Monarchs needed a last-second field goal to pull out a 24-21 victory. "In 12 years, I can count on two fingers the number of times we've been stopped inside the five-yard line."

Mater Dei (6-1) was without Camron Carmona, its second-leading rusher, who was serving a one-game suspension for disciplinary reasons.

TALE OF THE TAPIA

Defensive back Jonathan Tapia led an aggressive La Habra defense that thoroughly shut down Sonora during the Highlanders' 21-7 victory Friday in a Freeway League game.

Tapia made three interceptions--one each in the second, third and fourth quarters--to help hold the Raiders to 80 yards of total offense--including only five in the second half.

The victory gave the Highlanders the La Habra "City Championship" trophy for the 11th time in 15 years.

"We were underrated coming in here tonight," said Tapia, who has five interceptions this season. "[Sonora] was ranked No. 2 [in Division IX] and we were unranked. That motivated us. We knew our defense would dominate and win this game."

SHOOTING THE LIGHTS OUT

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