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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | HIGH SCHOOL REWIND

Starr's Bombshell Left Players for Taft Stunned

October 29, 2000|MIKE BRESNAHAN

Taft High dominated another opponent Friday night, this time Chatsworth, when Troy Starr gathered his football team for the obligatory post-game chat.

His players expected to hear how well they played, how their stunning loss to Birmingham two weeks ago was an aberration, how they were primed to pull off a surprise or two in the playoffs.

Instead they were stunned into silence as Starr calmly told them he was resigning after this season, his ninth at Taft.

Starr, who guided the Toreadors to a City Championship in 1998 and to runner-up finishes in 1996 and 1997, told his players it was time for a change.

With playoffs three weeks away, Starr thought the timing of his decision would neither motivate nor disrupt his players.

One of players most affected is sophomore receiver Steve Smith, who has 11 touchdowns and nearly 1,110 yards receiving.

"He said he was going to groom me into being a top player and a complete player," Smith said. "But he's leaving. We just have to roll with the punches and keep playing football."

As for his future at Taft, Smith said: "I'm waiting to see what happens. I was planning on being with Coach Starr for the remainder of my years at Taft."

Many of the players were still grappling with the news.

"The thought never even entered my mind that he was going to resign," said senior quarterback Rick Clausen, who transferred to Taft from Alemany before the season. "I don't think it's hit me yet.

"I feel bad for all the younger guys. This is what they've been waiting for, to come up to varsity and play for Coach Starr. He built the Taft program. No one's ever known another coach [at Taft] besides Coach Starr."

It hasn't been an easy season for Starr, who announced his resignation a week after Taft was blown out by Birmingham, 41-14.

Last month, he was suspended for two games for holding an illegal practice on Labor Day, a penalty that was reduced to one game by a City Section appeals committee.

He was also part of an embarrassing gaffe in the fourth quarter of a Sept. 28 game against Kennedy.

With Kennedy facing fourth-and-10, Starr believed possession had already changed and jogged onto the field to huddle with his offense during a timeout. Meanwhile, Kennedy's offense remained on the field and when the timeout ended, both offenses approached the ball.

While the Toreadors stood frozen in confusion, Kennedy completed a pass for a 40-yard gain and scored the winning touchdown two plays later.

Starr, who said he pondered resigning last spring, dismissed the notion that his recent troubles nudged him into resigning.

"This is not an impulsive decision," he said. "A loss to Kennedy or Birmingham? You know what, I've lost in the [City Championship] twice. That's devastating.

"I need to do what's best for my family. I never want to be an NFL coach or climb the [coaching] ladder, which some people just don't understand. But everything has been achieved."

Starr said he felt time slipping through his fingers, specifically quality time with his 11-year-old son, Brandon.

"I was listening to him tell war stories of him and his dad the other day and most of it was about really lame stuff," Starr said. "We're supposed to be talking about camping trips, not about watching videotape. I just feel like I really cheated him. Yesterday he was five, now he's 11. I didn't want to get older and feel that the years had gone by so fast."

Starr said he will continue to work as a life-skills teacher at Taft. He said he and his wife, Tana, hope to be co-coaches for the Taft track team in the spring.

*

Kim Valenzuela is not exactly your typical homecoming queen.

The Hueneme senior, who was named the queen during halftime festivities, kicked four extra points and played strong safety in the fourth quarter of Hueneme's 54-6 victory over Rio Mesa.

"She got in on about four or five tackles," Coach Larry Miller said. "She played pretty well."

Valenzuela is equally busy off the field.

A member of the girls' golf team at Hueneme, Valenzuela has been splitting time between the sports this season.

And she is involved in student government.

"She's pretty versatile," Miller said. "As a student and an athlete."

*

Ventura running back Tyler Ebell continues to move up the charts.

Ebell, who rushed for 351 yards and six touchdowns against Dos Pueblos, moved into fourth on the region's single-season rushing list.

Ebell has 2,737 yards, 47 behind former Notre Dame running back Justin Fargas.

Ebell is No. 8 in single-season performances among Southern Section running backs, also behind Fargas.

Jermaine Marshall of Kilpatrick tops both lists with 3,586 yards last season.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

SOUTHERN RUSH

A look at the top 10 single-season rushers in Southern Section history:

*--*

Player, School Year Yards Jermaine Marshall, Kilpatrick 1999 3,586 David Dotson, Valley View 1991 3,523 DeShaun Foster, Tustin 1997 3,398 Chris Hanks, L.A. Cathedral 1997 3,263 Oscar Arzu, Sierra Vista 1996 3,219 Justin Fargas, Notre Dame 1996 2,970 Justin Fargas, Notre Dame 1997 2,784 Tyler Ebell, Ventura 2000 2,737 Glyn Milburn, Santa Monica 1987 2,713 Alan Taylor, Yucaipa 1997 2,685

*--*

REGION'S BEST

A look at the Top 10 single-season rushers in region history:

*--*

Player, School Year Yards Jermaine Marshall, Kilpatrick 1999 3,586 Justin Fargas, Notre Dame 1996 2,970 Justin Fargas, Notre Dame 1997 2,784 Tyler Ebell, Ventura 2000 2,737 Curtis Brown, Paraclete 1999 2,632 Jermaine Lewis, Antelope Valley 1995 2,574 Wilbert Smith, Montclair Prep 1993 2,514 Manuel White, Valencia 1999 2,503 Josh Hawkins, Nordhoff 1994 2,454 Lorenzo Booker, St. Bonaventure 1999 2,440

*--*

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