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PREP EXTRA / A weekly look at the high school sports
scene in the Southland | SOUTHERN SECTION REPORT

Cloud Cover Appears to Be Lifting at Fontana

September 28, 2000|GARY KLEIN

The Fontana High football team began the season under its third coach in three years and with the cloud of last year's events still hanging over one of the Southland's proudest and most successful Division I programs.

Four Fontana players were arrested, 13 were suspended from school and two were expelled in the aftermath of violence that erupted following the Steelers' 28-7 first-round playoff loss to Loyola at Pierce College in Woodland Hills last November.

But Richard Smith, who coached Bloomington to consecutive Division VIII championships, has not wasted any time getting Fontana back on track. Smith succeeded Bob Stangel Jr., who resigned after last season.

The unbeaten Steelers defeated Santa Fe Springs St. Paul, 28-21, Corona, 54-0, and Colton, 37-16.

"The kids and the coaches were under a magnifying glass because of what happened last year," said Smith, who was born in Fontana and graduated from Redlands High. "We were all being scrutinized. So for everyone to get through that St. Paul game, especially after we were down by 10 points, was huge for us. It was much more than a win. It helped put last year behind."

Fontana will get a major test tonight when the Steelers travel to Veterans Stadium to play defending Division I co-champion Long Beach Poly.

Fontana is led by running back Cedric Baker, wide receiver Aaron Gipson and inside linebacker Adam Fakatumafi.

Smith said the Steelers must eliminate the penalties that have plagued them in their last two games. Fontana had 17 penalties for 147 yards against Colton and 15 for 120 yards against Corona.

"When you play a team of Long Beach Poly's caliber, you have to execute flawlessly," Smith said. "We can't afford to make mistakes."

Long Beach Poly, which has lost only one game since the start of the 1997 season, defeated Vista, 20-14, then shut out Wilmington Banning, 42-0, and Santa Barbara, 62-0.

The Jackrabbits feature standout junior running back Hershel Dennis and linebacker Marvin Simmons among others.

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