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Change Is Great for Pomona

November 07, 2002|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

When the Southern Section realigned divisions for football, moving some schools to different leagues, no one was happier than the players at Pomona High.

Certainly, Coach John Capraro recognized the significance.

"We were thinking that we weren't going to have to play [Covina] Charter Oak and [Hacienda Heights] Los Altos anymore," said Capraro, whose Red Devils were moved from the Miramonte League to the Valle Vista League, which is in Division IX.

"The Miramonte League has consistently been the best league in Division VII, and this year, in Division VI," Capraro said. "You throw in [Hacienda Heights] Wilson and [Pomona] Garey, who are physical, and you have to be well-prepared each week to play the whole Miramonte League schedule.

"That's not to say you don't have to be in the Valle Vista League, but five of the last six years, a Miramonte League team has won the championship."

Pomona is 7-1, 3-0 in its new league -- the same record as Covina Northview, which it plays Friday at Ganesha High. Northview is ranked second in the division in the section's poll; Pomona is ninth.

"It was almost unfair for those guys," Northview Coach Bill Zernickow said of Pomona. "When you're in a league that's so tough, it's hard to get a positive image of yourself and your team. They're better this year, and they're having a revival because they've had some success."

That success comes from a united effort and solid leadership from seniors Husain Abdullah, a wide receiver and safety, and two-way linemen Faleolo Toia and Desmond Maxwell.

"We have a bunch of guys who, when they play as a unit, are sound," Capraro said. "No one kid is a team for us."

Running back Paul Thomas, a junior, has rushed for more than 800 yards, and senior quarterback Josh Huerta doesn't make many mistakes.

"We always felt if we had a chance to get to the playoffs in Division VII, we could do some things," Capraro said. "We did that last year by upsetting [Gardena] Serra. [But] every year, we knew the first two playoff spots were going to Los Altos and Charter Oak.

"We figure we're playing schools [in Division IX] more like us, competition-wise, skill-wise, size-wise."

Capraro, whose teams haven't won a league championship in his eight seasons, is cautiously approaching what could be a watershed season.

"We haven't played anybody," Capraro said. "We'll find out how good we are Friday night because Northview is a heck of a football team.

"What people have to understand is, we're not doing anything different from what we did the last eight years."


Long Beach Millikan Coach Kirk Diego wasn't even sure the Stanford band could have helped his team Friday against Compton.

The Rams trailed, 15-14, after Compton scored with one second left in the Moore League game. All Compton had to do was kick off, make a tackle, then celebrate a rare league victory.

However ...

Compton was penalized for excessive celebration after its touchdown, forcing the Tarbabes to kick from their 25-yard line rather than the 40.

Compton attempted an on-side kick to reduce the chances of Millikan returning it for a touchdown, like California did in 1982, when it used five laterals and made its way through the bewildered Stanford band for the winning touchdown.

However ...

A Compton player illegally touched the ball before it traveled 10 yards, giving the Rams possession at the Compton 31 with still one second left.

Diego initially called for a pass into the end zone, but after receiving input from his assistants, decided to send out Tom Peale, who routinely makes field goals from 50-plus yards during practice. Peale was short on the 48-yard attempt.

However ...

Compton was off-sides on the play, allowing Peale another chance from 43 yards. This one sailed through the uprights, giving the Rams a 17-15 victory.

"That was pretty amazing," said Diego, in his second year at Millikan. "Four plays and three penalties, all in one second."


Foothill running back Mike Liti, a senior, has tried to pay homage to his Tongan heritage by asking newspapers to refer to him as Maikolo, a derivative of his father's name, Kolo, who was born in Tonga.

And how is he referred to by his teammates?

"The kids at school," his father said, "call him Mike."


Brandon Laborde rushed 44 times for a school-record 304 yards, including touchdown runs of 24, 15, 33, eight and two yards in Lebec Frazier Mountain's 35-19 High Desert League victory over Rosamond.

He broke the record of 215 yards he set a week earlier against Bishop, which had broken the record of 165 he set the week before against Lake Isabella Kern Valley.

"The old record was something like 148 yards -- nothing real special," Coach Jason Fayter said. "He had his three best games of the year since missing two games with a neck stinger."

For the season, Laborde has 915 yards and 12 touchdowns.


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