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High Schools | SOUTHLAND FOOTBALL REWIND

Change Good for These Teams

November 05, 2001|GARY KLEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Justin Wyatt of Compton Dominguez moved from running back to quarterback at midseason because his coach wanted him to handle the ball on every play.

Eric Camarillo of Lakewood Mayfair moved from quarterback to receiver and safety at about the same time because his coach wanted him to have more freedom and space to make big plays.

The moves, two of several midseason position switches made by players throughout the Southland, have worked wonders for Dominguez and Mayfair.

"Sometimes you have to take a look at things and realize that your top players need to be playing somewhere other than where you thought they should be," Mayfair Coach Mike Fitch said. "You want to get good athletes the ball where they can be most effective."

For Dominguez, which lost several close games during a 1-4 start, that meant putting the ball in Wyatt's hands. The Dons have won four straight games with the USC-bound senior at the controls.

On Friday, Wyatt completed 11 of 21 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 41 yards and two touchdowns in 10 carries as Dominguez defeated Paramount, 42-7, to improve to 4-0 in the San Gabriel Valley League.

Camarillo started the season at quarterback for Mayfair and performed well, but the Monsoons suffered on defense because their coaches feared an injury to Camarillo.

During the fourth quarter of a loss to La Mirada on Oct. 5, Fitch had wide receiver Dante Bradford and Camarillo switch positions. Over the next few games Camarillo responded with several big receptions, runs and kick returns while solidifying the Monsoon defense.

Meanwhile, Bradford helped lead the Monsoons to four consecutive victories, including a 21-20 upset against previously unbeaten Cerritos on Thursday. Bradford completed 11 of 17 passes for 186 yards and ran for a 24-yard touchdown, and Camarillo had a key interception late in the game as Mayfair (6-3, 5-1) moved into a first-place tie with Cerritos (7-1, 5-1) and La Mirada (6-1, 4-1).

"The move really opened up our offense because Dante is doing a good job and we're getting the ball to Eric on reverses, hitches, all kinds of things," Fitch said.

Cortny Barton of Hawthorne is another player who has flourished since moving from wide receiver to quarterback at midseason. Barton has completed 40 of 80 passes for 680 yards and three touchdowns and has rushed for 300 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Barton scored both Hawthorne touchdowns and completed a pass to Aaron Simmons for a game-winning two-point conversion Friday in a 15-14 Bay League victory over rival Lawndale Leuzinger that keeps Hawthorne (4-5, 3-3) in the playoff race.

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Fast rise: Fontana Kaiser and Irvine Northwood, in only their second seasons playing full varsity schedules, did not take long to establish themselves as champions.

Kaiser's 19-14 victory over Riverside Rubidoux gave the Cats the Sunkist League title. Northwood won at least a share of the Pacific Coast League title with a 44-11 victory over Laguna Beach.

Meanwhile, some established programs ended, or appear to be on the verge of ending, years of championship drought.

Redlands clinched a share of the Citrus Belt League championship with a 42-0 victory over Redlands East Valley, the Terriers' first league title since 1977.

Thousand Oaks, which routed Simi Valley, 56-8, won a share of its first Marmonte League title in 11 years.

Goleta Dos Pueblos defeated Ventura, 41-22, to move into a tie for first place in the Channel League. Dos Pueblos is trying to win its first league title in 22 years.

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Breakthrough season: Cerritos' hopes for an unbeaten season ended with its loss to Mayfair, but barring a major stumble against Long Beach Cabrillo, the Dons will win a share of a league championship for the first time in the school's 31-year history.

Cerritos Coach Kurt Bruich, son of longtime Fontana and current Kaiser Coach Dick Bruich, was 27 when he was hired in 1998. The Dons finished 4-6 that year, then improved to 6-4 in 1999 and 7-4 last season. Kurt will celebrate his 31st birthday Wednesday. He and his players hope to celebrate a league title with a victory Thursday.

"When I first got the job, my father's exact quote was, 'You have to start somewhere. Someone has to give you a chance,"' Kurt said. "The whole thing is getting kids to have the expectation of winning. The first few years we were doing a sales job to get them to believe they could compete. Now, they believe they can do that and more."

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Back from the brink: Written off by many after stumbling through its preleague schedule and losing to Gardena in its second Marine League game, defending City Section champion Wilmington Banning is once again squarely in the title hunt.

The Pilots are 3-5 overall but 3-1 and tied for first place in league play heading into Friday's annual showdown with Carson (7-1, 3-1). Banning defeated Washington and received a forfeit victory over Harbor City Narbonne before defeating San Pedro on Thursday.

Last year, Carson throttled Banning, 48-18, in the regular season, but the Pilots beat the Colts, 26-10, in the championship game. Banning Coach Ed Lalau does not rule out the same scenario.

"We don't want to throw everything at Carson [Friday] because we will probably see them again in the title game," he said.

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Local flavor: The Mountain View League title is on the line this week with a matchup that seemed almost impossible last season.

Corona Centennial, which has won 20 consecutive games and is the defending Southern Section Division V champion, plays Corona Santiago, a school that until this season had gone 2-13 in three previous league campaigns.

Santiago (8-1, 4-0), under first-year Coach Steve Mitchell, is coming off a 17-9 victory over Corona. Centennial defeated Riverside La Sierra, 56-6.

"They're playing well and showing that they can compete,' Centennial Coach Matt Logan said of Santiago. "This is a game that definitely has the city of Corona excited."

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