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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | KEEPING TABS

Connection to Valley Paying Off for Carlsen

September 19, 2000|STEVE HENSON

The year is 1953.

Linebacker Don Shinnick is a star at Valley College. Marsha Tatlow is homecoming queen.

The year is 2000.

Receiver Kevin Carlsen is a star at Azusa Pacific who made 11 receptions and scored two touchdowns against La Verne on Saturday.

Without Shinnick meeting and eventually marrying Tatlow, Carlsen probably never sets foot on the Azusa campus.

Diagramed on paper, the path connecting the two events looks like a desperation play drawn up by a coach charged with caffeine.

Metaphorically, the play led to the end zone.

Literally too: Carlsen scored the winning touchdown against La Verne.

"I'm glad for the opportunity," Carlsen said. "I was in limbo, and everything came together for me."

Carlsen went to Valley after leading the region with 18 touchdown receptions as a senior at Canoga Park High in 1996. He thrived in the Monarchs' pass-oriented offense for two years, and while at Valley met defensive back Chris Shinnick, the youngest of Don and Marsha's five sons.

Don Shinnick spent his life in football, going from Valley to UCLA to the Baltimore Colts to several coaching positions. Another of his sons, Peter, was an assistant at Humboldt State in 1998 and recruited Carlsen.

Before Carlsen could commit, Peter Shinnick became head coach at Azusa Pacific. Carlsen took off for Quincy, a Division II school in Illinois. He had 40 catches and eight touchdowns last season, but never took to the small town.

Carlsen contacted Peter Shinnick after the season and asked if there was a place for him. Shinnick, who led Azusa to a 9-3 record and No. 4 NAIA ranking in his first season, was delighted.

"I knew Kevin would make an impact," Shinnick said. "He has great hands and is a hard-working player. I figured it would be a good fit."

The impact was immediate. Carlsen had 14 catches in the Cougars' opener, a 24-23 victory over San Diego.

"I figured Azusa would be a great place for me to come in and play because Coach Shinnick is a great coach. After the first game, then I was sure."

Quarterback Luke Winslow was injured early in a loss to Southern Oregon in Azusa's second game and Carlsen had only one catch. But against La Verne, Winslow was back and so was Carlsen.

Trailing, 23-7, in the fourth quarter, Azusa scored three touchdowns in four minutes. Carlsen, who earlier made a 45-yard touchdown catch on a post pattern, scored the winning touchdown on a 42-yard play with 8:10 to play.

Although everyone at La Verne swears he stepped out of bounds. Carlsen caught the ball 15 yards downfield and cut up the sideline to the end zone.

"I didn't think about it," he said. "If I stepped out, I stepped out. If not, I was going to the end zone."

Carlsen's 11 catches went for 148 yards. He is the NAIA's leading receiver with an average of 8.7 catches per game.

But the number that pleases Carlsen most is the friends he had in the stands.

"That's what I missed at Quincy," he said. "I'm glad to be back home."

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