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PREP FOOTBALL 2000 / PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE

Romo Is Estancia's Can-Do (It All) Man

Versatile senior cornerback plans to add running, receiving and kick returning to his repertoire in bid to help Eagles end their five-year playoff drought.

September 01, 2000|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It has been five years since Estancia High reached the Southern Section playoffs, 10 since it won a league title.

If there is to be a change of fortune on Placentia Avenue, Andy Romo's going to be a part of it.

Romo is a third-year varsity starter for Estancia, a lean 6-foot-2, 155-pound wisp of a cornerback with designs on becoming the Pacific Coast League's premier all-around threat.

At least, that's the plan. Romo has proven himself in the Eagle lineup as a defensive back and linebacker, and now he's going to play running back and receiver, as well as return punts and kickoffs.

Basically, Estancia is going to try to take advantage of the 20 pounds Romo gained in the off-season, after he rushed four times for 41 yards last season and caught five passes for 55.

"Unless C.J. Zuniga comes back to [Costa Mesa], I don't see a better offensive player in the league," said Dave Perkins, Estancia's second-year coach. "Andy's an unproven commodity, but he showed flashes last year, and in camp this year, that he can definitely get it done.

"If he plays offense the way I think he can play offense, I think we're the team to beat."

Perkins' confidence has some validity. Quarterback Kenny Valbuena is back after missing most of last season with a deep thigh bruise, and there's a good group of receivers. Estancia has eight starters back on offense, seven on defense. Seven players are three-year varsity starters.

The Eagles' one major loss was Marshall Hendricks, who graduated after rushing for 1,574 yards and 18 touchdowns. That's where Romo comes in. Perkins thinks Romo will make his teammates better in a way that Hendricks didn't.

"Chemistry is so important," Perkins said. "You can have ability, but some guys can be good and turn their teammates off by the way they act, or how they handle themselves when bad things happen.

"That [chemistry] often gets overlooked. If your offensive linemen like you and want to block for you, it makes a difference. Marshall struggled. He had a lot of opportunities to do that but didn't. And Marshall didn't handle adversity very well, and if things didn't go well, he faded into the sunset.

"Andy is totally different." Romo is free and easy with the compliments. He recalled his sophomore season, when he got some encouraging words from the team's offensive star. "When Manu Tanielu told me, 'Good job, nice catch,' I'd get all pumped up," Romo said. "Every play, I try to let someone know they did a good job."

Many of the seniors on this year's team have also taken on a complimentary role, and the positive vibes could lead to a banner year.

Among the reasons teammates rally around Romo: He broke his finger July 15 on the second series of a passing league game, yet never missed a snap or begged out of weightlifting during the summer. "I'm sure it wasn't comfortable for him to be playing receiver with a broken finger," Perkins said.

That is Romo's nature. When his grandmother died last year on the day of the rivalry game against Costa Mesa, Romo told only two people, teammates David Rodriguez and Fahad Jahid. The coach found out only because Romo's father said something.

"I tried to stay focused and keep everyone together, make sure we win, tried to keep everyone intense," Romo said.

He knows this could be his last year of football--though he would go to a community college to continue playing--and his commitment to winning seems sincere.

"It's not just about me," Romo said. "As long as we win, I don't care. I'll sit on the bench if that's what it takes. I just want to win."

There's no way he will sit on the bench. There's too much at stake, and he has too much to prove.

"I do want to be the go-to guy," Romo said. "[Perkins' confidence] makes me realize I have to work that much harder, because I know what I've got to do. I have to be a leader and I have to make plays on both sides of the football.

"I'm pretty confident on defense. I don't really have any doubts on offense. I think if I get the chance, I'll step up."

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