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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

A Smithsonian Effort Powers Taft to Victory

Football: Sophomore's all-around game helps Toreadors beat Jefferson, 28-6.

September 23, 2000|GARY KLEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Steve Smith is only a sophomore, but the Taft High receiver and defensive back is already establishing himself as one of the top players in the City Section.

Smith caught nine passes for 159 yards, scored a touchdown, intercepted a pass and blocked an extra-point attempt in the Toreadors' 28-6 nonleague victory over previously unbeaten Jefferson on Friday at Jefferson.

"We knew this was going to be a tough game," Smith said. "And they came out and showed they were ready to play. But our quarterback made some great throws [Friday]."

Senior Rick Clausen of Taft was a model of efficiency, completing 18 of 23 passes for 264 yards without an interception.

Clausen, a transfer from Alemany, completed seven of his first eight passes and his last nine in a row.

Senior running back Lee Marks gained 106 yards in 13 carries and scored on a two-yard touchdown run for Taft (3-0) despite playing with a soft cast on his broken right hand.

"Our offense is unstoppable once we get going," Marks said.

Taft did not appear distracted by the section's rules committee's decision earlier this week that calls for a two-game suspension of Coach Troy Starr.

Starr was suspended for next week's game against Kennedy and an Oct. 6 game against San Fernando for holding an illegal practice on Labor Day. Starr is appealing the suspension.

Jefferson did not appear the least bit intimidated by Taft, which almost annually contends for the City title.

Jefferson (2-1) took a 6-0 lead on Jason Brown's 23-yard run with 7:39 left in the first quarter, but Smith blocked the extra-point kick.

Smith fumbled after a 10-yard reception on the ensuing possession, but he made up for the miscue by intercepting a pass by quarterback John Brown of Jefferson at Taft's one-yard line with 3:17 left in the first quarter.

Clausen then drove the Toreadors 99 yards in 12 plays and Marks capped the drive with his touchdown with 9:43 left in the first half.

Taft scored again a little more than two minutes later when Chris Morgan blocked a punt, picked up the ball and ran 19 yards for a touchdown.

The Toreadors built on their 14-6 halftime lead when Clausen passed 12 yards to Smith for a touchdown with two seconds left in the third.

That was the final play of a 92-yard drive on which Clausen completed six consecutive passes to three receivers.

Clausen scored Taft's final touchdown on a one-yard sneak with 5:37 left in the game.

"They went down and scored on their first drive which made us fight through some adversity," Clausen said.

"Coach always says that if you want to play in December, you have to fight through adversity. We did that [Friday]."

Despite the defeat, Jefferson players and coaches were encouraged.

"This game was good for us because Taft is a [Championship Division] team," John Brown said. "We need to be ready for teams like that when we get into our Coliseum League schedule and into the playoffs."

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