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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | HIGH SCHOOL NOTEBOOK

Cleveland Hopes to Get Well on Defense

October 26, 2000|STEVE HENSON

Cleveland High (6-1) is healthy for the first time in six weeks. No sprains, many gains.

Matthew Clark, the speedy tailback who missed two football games and hobbled through two others because of a sprained ankle, has consecutive 300-yard rushing performances.

Victor Gomez, a 6-5, 300-pound two-way tackle, has recovered from an ankle injury and is knocking people senseless.

Kris Kawanuka, a fullback and linebacker, should be OK from a knee injury that has slowed him for more than a month.

But whether good health can translate into an upset of unbeaten Birmingham will be determined Friday.

"We're still a little banged up, but it's a lot better than it was," Coach Bill Paden said. "At this point, doesn't much matter."

Paden is more concerned with patching up a defense that has allowed 406 yards a game, the most of any City Section team in the region.

"We've struggled mightily defensively," he said. "There is nowhere to go but up. The last three games, we've had significant improvement. But holding Birmingham will be a severe challenge."

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Meanwhile, Birmingham is banged up and distracted.

Tailback D'Andre Sewell, who has rushed for 358 yards and averages 6.8 a carry in a reserve role, might miss the game because of a sprained ankle. Two-way lineman Mario Palomino is hobbling, but will play.

Stomping Taft, 41-14, has given the Patriots a sense of fulfillment. There's nothing more dangerous than a satisfied football team. Dangerous to itself, that is.

"Practices have been flat, the whole weekend was big celebration," Coach Ed Croson said. "The kids are tired. They don't have a track record of being undefeated. They are a willing group, though."

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