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PREP FOOTBALL

Having Any Answers Now Is Out of the Question

September 05, 2000|BEN BOLCH

Ways you know the Orange County high school football season is upon us: Mater Dei car flags are spotted up and down Interstate 405, Los Alamitos Coach John Barnes stops returning phone calls and Pacifica superfan Gary Freeman, a.k.a. Peter Pacifica, kicks into high gear.

Around here, it's not just about Friday night lights. Football takes up three days of the week, and fans love every single second of it.

As is the case every year, questions abound heading into the 2000 season. Here, hand-selected and vine-ripened, are 10 of the more pressing ones:

1. Can Edison supplant Mater Dei as the county's top team?

Our preseason top 10 ranking says no, so we're sticking to our guns, hoping they don't backfire.

Edison has the best one-two punch in the county in running back Darryl Poston and quarterback Richard Schwartz, but the Chargers' defense is suspect. Mater Dei, on the other hand, has talent at every position on what seems like a 12-deep roster.

Edge: Monarchs.

Still, there's only one way to know for sure: Show up when the teams meet Sept. 29 at Orange Coast College.

2. Is this the year Mater Dei beats Concord De La Salle?

First, let's ask Bruce Rollinson.

"Am I stupid enough to sit here and say yes? No way," the Mater Dei coach said. "I think we can go with De La Salle. That is a tremendous, tremendous ballclub. Not only do they have great players, but they have a great coaching staff. They believe they can win, they know they can win and they have beaten us. They're the thorn in the side now.

"But I like that challenge. It's not the end of the world if we don't beat them, but it would be a great victory if we did."

Now, let's break it down. De La Salle returns quarterback Matt Gutierrez and receiver Demetrius Williams from the team that routed Mater Dei, 42-0, last season. The Monarchs have reloaded as usual but cannot replace USC safety Matt Grootegoed.

Here's predicting that the Spartans win their third game against Mater Dei in three years when the teams play Sept. 23 at Edison Field, though the final score should be closer to 1998's 28-21 De La Salle victory than last year's romp.

3. Is there a two-way player this season the caliber of Grootegoed?

Not unless San Clemente defensive lineman Justin Tomerlin learns how to run like Poston. As it stands, Loara's Rudy Acosta, a dynamo wide receiver and defensive back, may be the closest thing.

4. Can Ben Haley resuscitate Anaheim?

Yes, but probably not this year. Haley brings a reputation as a rebuilding genius to his new post at his alma mater, having taken Santiago from Garden Grove League doormat to respectability.

But the task at Anaheim is more daunting. The Colonists, their winning tradition all but faded, have won one of their last 29 games.

5. Who will win the wide-open Sea View League?

The majority of league coaches predict Newport Harbor will take the title, but this race is too close to call. Considering that each team won a Southern Section title in the 1990s, there's simply too much tradition to overlook anyone.

Aliso Niguel may have gotten hammered, 40-7, in its season opener last week, but Wolverine Coach Joe Wood has said his team has almost as much talent at the skill positions as his 1996 team that won the Division VIII title.

6. Will Poston break Kerwin Bell's single-season school rushing record?

The speedy Poston certainly has the talent to shatter Bell's mark of 2,268 yards, which was set in 1979, but there are a couple factors working against him.

First, Edison has to contend with a killer nonleague schedule that includes games against Mater Dei and three South Coast League opponents, teams that will be geared to stop the run.

Also, Schwartz is sure to get his share of yards at quarterback. The Chargers are expected to be a balanced team on offense, meaning that Poston may not get the number of carries he needs to break the record.

7. Will referees show up when Brea Olinda and Western meet Nov. 10 at Brea?

Southern Section media relations director Thom Simmons insists additional safeguards have been put in place to ensure there is no repeat of last year's playoff fiasco, when referees didn't show up until hours after the scheduled start and the game between these two had to be postponed a day.

Here's giving Simmons the benefit of the doubt. For now.

8. Will Bruce Belcher really step down as an assistant football coach at Edison after the season?

The longtime assistant talks a good game, but no one's buying it. He insists he wants to spend more time with his family and on his role as athletic director.

Yet, it's hard to believe that a guy who bleeds green and gold can keep himself away for long. Look for Belcher to stalk the sideline at Charger games for years to come, even if he surrenders the official title, as he says he will.

9. Will Doug Case regret his move to Foothill?

Possibly, at least during those moments this season when his team is losing, 56-3. Then again, Rancho Alamitos, Case's former school, isn't expected to make much noise either.

10. Can Northwood win the Pacific Coast League in its first season?

It's an intriguing possibility. The league is traditionally weak and susceptible to overlooking a first-year program. The problem for Northwood, though, is that the team doesn't have any seniors on its roster. The physical maturity of other senior-dominated teams may overwhelm the Timberwolves, especially as the season progresses.

*

If you have an item or idea for the high school football report, you can fax us at (714) 966-5663 or e-mail us at ben.bolch@latimes.com or martin.henderson@latimes.com

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