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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Taft Snoozes, Loses to Kennedy

High school football: Starr, Toreadors give Golden Cougars a free play that sets up winning touchdown in 27-22 victory.

September 29, 2000|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WOODLAND HILLS — Star light, star bright, did Troy Starr show up last night?

Or was that an impostor of the normally savvy Taft High coach making an embarrassing blunder that cost his team in a 27-22 loss to Kennedy on Thursday night at Taft.

Kennedy faced a fourth-and-10 situation at its 28-yard line with one minute to play and Taft leading, 22-21. Time out was called. Starr believed possession had changed and he jogged onto the field and huddled with his offensive unit.

Meanwhile, Kennedy's offense remained on the field with offensive coordinator Billy Parra. The timeout ended. Both offenses walked up to the ball.

While the Toreadors stood frozen in confusion and horror, Kennedy snapped the ball and quarterback Adam Geery hit a wide-open Efren Lopez with a pass for a 40-yard gain.

Two plays later, Geery connected again with Lopez for a 32-yard touchdown with 31 seconds to play.

"It was the Twilight Zone, a terrible mistake," Starr said. "Everyone on our sideline thought it was our ball. That was a coaching mistake right there. It was my fault.

"It was a bizarre end to a bizarre week."

Starr didn't know until Thursday morning that he would be on the field. His two-game suspension scheduled to begin against Kennedy was cut to one game by a City appeals committee. Starr, who was punished for holding a practice on Labor Day, is scheduled to miss next week's game against San Fernando, although he might appeal to the CIF office.

Kennedy (3-0-1), which had not defeated Taft (3-1) since 1995, had to be grateful Starr was in a position to make such a colossal error. The scoreboard read first down, but the down marker on the Taft sideline had it right: Fourth down.

"That is the first time I've seen two offenses on the field in 31 years of football," Cougar Coach Bob Francola said.

The unusual ending obscured a spirited Taft comeback from a 14-7 halftime deficit. Kennedy played with more intensity and controlled the line of scrimmage in the first half, but the Toreadors roared back with a 90-yard scoring drive in the third quarter.

James Norris of Kennedy returned the ensuing kickoff 66 yards and the Cougars scored within a minute on a three-yard run by Jerome Williams, who had three touchdowns, a two-point conversion and rushed for 100 yards in 19 carries.

An interception by Lee Marks near midfield set up Taft's go-ahead score. Rick Clausen, who completed 21 of 39 passes for 244 yards, connected with Steve Smith from 18 yards for a touchdown, then hit Marks with a swing pass for the two-point conversion and a 22-21 Taft lead with 2:36 to play.

Smith, who scored on a 25-yard pass play in the first quarter, had 174 yards in kick and punt returns and had a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown nullified by a penalty.

Taft hurt itself throughout the game. The Toreadors were penalized for 75 yards and had several big plays nullified. Clausen had two passes intercepted and fumbled twice.

"We were flat," Starr said. "We had a terrible week of practice. I had to spend the week dealing with issues that were not relevant to the football team.

"This one's on me."

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