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FOOTBALL

It's Too Early to Let Air Out of Big Game

September 12, 2000|BEN BOLCH

The knee-jerk reaction would be to say that that game between Orange County's top two high school football teams Sept. 29 at Orange Coast College no longer looks like the marquee matchup once expected, if the results from Week 1 become a trend.

Top-ranked Mater Dei was as good if not better than advertised in its 28-21 victory over a strong Fallbrook team, while second-ranked Edison struggled to hold off El Toro, 21-18.

But it's a little too early to start playing the comparison game.

The first week of the season offers little more than a glimpse into a dimly lit room. Little by little, the room becomes illuminated as the season progresses. Teams iron out kinks and shore up mistakes with each game.

We do know this much about Mater Dei and Edison: The Monarchs are strong on both sides of the ball and have one of the strongest quarterbacks in the county in Matt Leinart, who was practically unstoppable last week in completing 16 of 22 passes for 284 yards and a touchdown. The Chargers have the most feared backfield in the county in running back Darryl Poston and quarterback Richard Schwartz.

Still, Edison Coach Dave White didn't exactly give his team a vote of confidence after its high-powered offense was outgained and outscored by an inexperienced opponent. Asked if he was embarrassed, White said, "Yep . . . but I'm not the one who ranked us No. 2 in the county."

Poston, who rushed for 1,701 yards and scored 29 touchdowns last season, didn't start against El Toro because of a pulled muscle in his back, though he said, "it should be better next week." He gained 24 yards on his first carry--the last play of the first quarter--but gained only 32 yards on his next 12 carries.

"All that matters," Poston said, "is that we won."

When it comes to the first week of the season, he's absolutely right.

NEED PLAYERS, MAY NOT TRAVEL

Rod Markum, athletic director at Saddleback Valley Christian, is scrambling.

The school's football team, which has only 14 players but competes as an 11-man freelance squad, came out of its first varsity game against Los Angeles Daniel Murphy, a 47-0 loss, "way too banged up," Markum said. When he arrived at school Monday, Markum was informed by Coach Mike Henjum that five players would be out for 10 days.

Markum said he will probably call coaches from next week's opponent, La Canada Flintridge Prep's junior varsity, today to let them know whether Saddleback Valley can field a team for Saturday's game.

"The only saving grace here is that it's against a JV team," Markum said. "If it was a varsity team, we'd have to suck it up and think of something to honor that game. If we're dinged up going into a JV game and get dinged up again . . . then you're looking at bailing out of varsity games [against Fairmont and St. Margaret's the following weeks], and I don't want to do that.

"We're talking about a first-year program with kids who never played football. Are these kids bumped and bruised and just sore, or are they really hurt? That's why I need to do my homework before I call Flintridge."

Markum said the Warriors have so few players because a good chunk of the 25 or so students who last spring said they would play didn't fulfill their commitment. Ninety students attend the school, 52 more than last year.

OUT OF THE RUNNING

Northwood, Irvine's newest football program, won't get a chance to play for the city championship this season.

Woodbridge, Irvine and University have competed for the Dennis Toohey Fence Post Trophy since 1978, but Northwood doesn't have Irvine or Woodbridge on its schedule in the near future.

The Timberwolves will play University in a Pacific Coast League game Oct. 27.

"The fence post is not a big deal for us right now," Northwood Coach Rick Curtis said. "That's something for down the road. Right now, we're trying to get this program off the ground and get respectable."

Northwood played valiantly in its season-opening 18-12 loss to first-year Fontana Kaiser last Friday.

THE CATCH OF THE FAMILY

Fullerton wide receiver Daniel Fells showed he possesses the soft hands in the family when he caught six passes in the first 10 minutes of a 36-6 victory against Anaheim.

Fells' older brother, David, who played at Fullerton last season, is an offensive lineman at UC Davis. His younger brother, Darren, is a lineman on the Fullerton freshman team.

Fells, who finished with seven receptions for 89 yards, kept his brothers in mind during the game, inscribing David's jersey number on his left wristband and Darren's on his right.

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Staff writers Martin Henderson and Dan Arritt and correspondent Pat Larkin contributed to this report.

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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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