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High Schools | CITY SECTION FOOTBALL REPORT

Crenshaw Is Taking Cues From Mebane

November 19, 2002|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

Walter and Joyce Mebane taught their four children many values. One of the most important character traits they instilled was taking responsibility for one's actions.

In the Mebane household, youngest child Brandon learned it one day while throwing a football in front of the house.

"We had a Ford Aerostar van back then and it was parked in front," Joyce said. "Walter had been working with Brandon on throwing the ball. He told Brandon to always throw the ball overhanded but Brandon would like throw it underhanded sometimes.

"Well, [Brandon] threw the ball and broke the car window. Walter heard it and went outside. Brandon was looking all scared. Walter calmly said, 'Son, did you throw the ball overhanded?' Brandon said no. And then he just came inside, got the broom and cleaned it up. And that was that."

Brandon Mebane is one of the leaders of the Crenshaw football team that is playing Fairfax on Thursday in the first round of the City Section playoffs. The senior defensive lineman is one of the section's best players and is likely to wind up on the roster of a Pacific 10 Conference team.

The Cougars have one of the most physical defenses in the section. Linebackers Solomon Eliminian and Aaron Hutley are big and fast and defensive linemen Kristian Thompson and Scott Cook have been making regular appearances in the opposing backfield.

But their cue comes from Mebane, a 6-foot-1, 260-pound terror equally adept at stopping running backs and chasing down quarterbacks. In a 28-21 victory over then-undefeated Fremont three weeks ago, Mebane sacked elusive Pathfinder quarterback Michael Beach on the game's first play and the Cougar defense controlled a high-scoring Fremont offensive attack.

"A lot of times the offense may not be doing so well and we as a defensive unit have to be the ones to not make any errors and stop teams from scoring," Mebane said. "Defense wins games. If we play hard every play and give 100% as a team, we'll be successful."

Mebane is in an enviable position for a high school football player. He is taking a trip to California on Saturday and is deciding on the other recruiting trips. USC, UCLA, Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Oregon State have all made scholarship offers.

Mebane's diligence in the classroom made it easy to lure the attention of recruiters. He finished his junior year with a 3.5 grade-point average and has scored 980 on the SAT. Those numbers can be just as good as the 4.7 clocking in the 40-yard dash.

Mebane said he knows similarly talented players who didn't pan out because they didn't follow through in their studies.

"I talk to them, ask them questions and learn from their mistakes," he said. "Academics come first, then sports. My parents prefer that I graduate and get my degree and then think about going to the NFL."

Joyce said her son is simply fulfilling his responsibilities.

"My kids have always known that they had to get good grades in order to play sports," she said. "An education is important for them, especially in this day and age. Back when I was going to school, you could get a decent job coming out of high school and you didn't have to go to college.

"Nowadays, you need at least a degree for a good job, especially if you're a young black male. I'm glad that their dad and I took a strong stand on getting an education."

The Mebanes have always put religion and their family first. Which provide stability that their youngsters can lean on.

The support structure extends to the field. Walter Mebane Jr., Brandon's older brother, was an All-City Section lineman at Crenshaw two years ago and played in the 1999 championship game against Carson.

Walter, who is a freshman at L.A. Southwest College, routinely tapes his brother's games and offers constructive criticism. It is a close relationship and football is an integral part of that.

"I've always looked up to my brother," Mebane said. "He always tells me to look at this year like it's my freshman year in college. Try different things, don't do the same thing on every play."

Now Brandon Mebane hopes to put the Cougars in the same position that his brother did three years ago. It is his responsibility. It is the team's responsibility.

"It's all about team ball and doing whatever it takes to win," he said. "Football is not a one-man sport. Golf is. In football, you have to work together. That's a must."

*

No game had more impact on the playoff seedings than Woodland Hills Taft's 30-6 victory over Lake Balboa Birmingham.

The Patriots, seeded sixth as the West Valley League runner-up, probably would have been seeded first with a victory, but a runner-up can be seeded no higher than fifth. The Toreadors, finalists last season, were seeded first.

Birmingham may have the toughest road with a potential quarterfinal matchup against Crenshaw on the road. Assuming the Patriots get by Van Nuys Grant in the first round and then the Cougars, they could face second-seeded Carson in the semifinals.

"It's a tough bracket," Birmingham Coach Ed Croson said. "We just have to play whoever is put there ahead of us."

*

Taft receiver Steve Smith moved into second place on the state's all-time receptions list with 237. Smith caught eight passes against Birmingham to move past James Dunn, who had 230 for Santa Monica St. Monica from 1996-98.

Former Newbury Park star Leodes Van Buren holds the state record with 269 from 1990-93.

*

City top 10: 1. Taft (10-0); 2. Carson (8-2); 3. Venice (8-2); 4. Crenshaw (7-3); 5. Birmingham (7-3); 6. Roosevelt (9-1); 7. Franklin (9-1); 8. Gardena (7-3); 9. Sylmar (8-2); 10. San Pedro (6-4).

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