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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | ERIC SONDHEIMER

Sliding Would Make Graham Safe, Not Out

October 25, 2000|ERIC SONDHEIMER

Quarterbacks are taught to slide when they run to avoid being hit by mobile, aggressive linebackers.

The problem with Steve Graham of L.A. Baptist High is he refuses to slide.

Even John Elway and Steve Young learned to slide.

Not Graham.

"I haven't once," he said.

Maybe it will take a concussion or two to convince Graham of the virtues of sliding. He doesn't seem worried that he's risking a separated shoulder, broken collarbone or gash to his chin because of his stubbornness.

"He has the mental outlook of a middle linebacker, where he's afraid of nobody," receiver Andrew Petersen said. "He has the mentality, 'Nobody can stop me.' "

Graham, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound junior, is so physical that during practice this season he gave cornerback John Pearson a separated shoulder.

"I apologized," Graham said. "I wasn't out to hurt him. I was told to run hard because it was a defensive practice."

Maybe the Knights' defensive players should start wearing red vests instead of the quarterback as a warning to refrain from hard hits.

Graham saves his best for opponents. In helping the Knights to a 6-1 record, he has rushed for 195 yards and five touchdowns, passed for 1,527 yards and 16 touchdowns, and made his first start this season at middle linebacker Friday in a 60-44 loss to Kilpatrick.

Graham is more than a quarterback. As a sophomore, he played defensive end, middle linebacker, running back, tight end and quarterback.

On a receiver reverse, the quarterback is required to block the defensive end. Graham not only thrives on making the block, he draws oohs and ahs.

"He levels guys for me," Petersen said.

Added Graham: "You could say I don't block like the normal quarterback. I like to hit people."

L.A. Baptist could have its best offense since 1993, when it finished 13-0 and won the Southern Section Division X championship. That was the year the Knights were led by talented skill-position players such as quarterback Zack Hernandez and receivers Dana Berg, Jim Romero and Matt Hernandez.

Graham was 9 and attended the championship game against Brethren Christian at Birmingham High.

"I don't remember anything about the game," he said. "I just remember wanting to play."

Two years ago, Graham took quarterback lessons from Zack Hernandez, who passed for 3,634 yards and 26 touchdowns his senior year.

The Knights don't have the speed of the '93 team, but there are plenty of top athletes.

Running back Lord Cole is averaging 10.8 yards per carry. Receivers Petersen and Adam Weiss are tall and acrobatic. And Graham, a 12-foot pole vaulter, is capable of mastering any sport, from Ping-Pong to bowling.

"Steve is a really good kid who does whatever you tell him," Coach Gregg Frazer said.

Graham has been attending L.A. Baptist since seventh grade. He was the team's flag football quarterback in junior high and had two years to learn the high school offense as understudy to the graduated Scott Swenson.

By not being made a starter before he was ready, Graham gained confidence and insight as a backup. Until having three passes intercepted against Kilpatrick, he had thrown only two interceptions in 134 passes.

The Knights can't afford to lose Graham to injury, but he's not about to change his fearless attitude.

"I will do whatever I can to get more yardage," he said.

*

Justin Fargas, former Notre Dame running back, has begun playing as a second-string free safety for Michigan. Fargas switched from tailback after the Wolverines lost to UCLA at the Rose Bowl.

"I don't think I've given up on my dream," Fargas told the Oakland (Mich.) Press. "My dream was to have success. That's all I've ever wanted out of life, success, and I think I can have it at safety. I'm still a football player, so whatever position I'm at, I'm still fulfilling my dream." . . .

The Roosevelt-Garfield football game has gotten so big it has been moved to the Coliseum. It will be held Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. . . .

Former Chaminade pitcher Jason Urquidez has pitched three shutout innings for Royal this winter, two against Kennedy and one against Chatsworth. Urquidez, however, must receive a hardship waiver from the Southern Section to play for the Highlanders after transferring. His first appeal was denied. . . .

What's a tougher assignment than standing on the mound with the bases loaded, two out, a 3-and-2 count and the game on the line? Answer: Taking the SAT and having your calculator break down in the opening minutes. That's what happened to pitcher Eric Posthumus of Hart.

"I was speechless and pounded my desk," Posthumus said.

Posthumus still scored 1270, but he decided to take the test again after hearing too much trash talk from teammate Bill Susdorf, who scored 1300 and was "rubbing it in my face," Posthumus said.

"He's a little embarrassed with 1270," Coach Jim Ozella said.

Posthumus, who has a 4.4 grade-point average, came better prepared for his second SAT. He brought two calculators and changed batteries the night before. . . .

There's another Smith making a name for himself at Taft besides Steve Smith. Sophomore Noah Smith (no relation) has scored 16 touchdowns as a receiver for the Toreadors' unbeaten freshman-sophomore team.

He was one of the fastest age-group runners in the nation as a 13-year-old. He didn't run track last season because of a knee injury.

Put the two Smiths together and it will be a receiving duo for the ages. . . .

Marcel Jones, a 6-4 freshman forward at Chaminade, has been selected among the "Super Six Freshmen" on the West Coast by the Double Pump, Inc. basketball recruiting service.

Coach Jeff Young believes Jones has the potential to be one of the best players in school history. "He shoots the heck out of the ball," Young said.

*

Eric Sondheimer's column appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422 or eric.sondheimer@latimes.com.

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