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High Schools | SOUTHERN SECTION FOOTBALL REPORT

Lakewood's Confidence Intact

November 21, 2002|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

Losing rarely inspires confidence, but then again, most teams don't have to play Long Beach Poly every season.

Lakewood (8-2) will play host to its first Southern Section football playoff game in 19 years Friday, opening its gates for perennial power Los Angeles Loyola (7-3) in a Division I first-round matchup.

Coach Mike Christensen said his players shouldn't be nervous about their performance in the playoffs, especially after their strong showing three weeks ago in a 28-12 loss to Long Beach Poly, the division's top-seeded team and its three-time defending champion.

"We played Poly really well," Christensen said. "The score might be a little misleading, but we had five turnovers in the game and we haven't done that all season."

The Jackrabbits clung to a 7-6 lead before pulling away during a four-minute stretch of the third quarter, when they scored 14 points off two turnovers.

"Maybe if we play them again, we might have a chance at beating them," said Jason Leggett, a senior running back whose school records for rushing yardage (1,737) and touchdowns (23) helped Lakewood rebound from its 1-8 record last season.

He carried the Lancers to a second-place finish in the Moore League, rushing for 223 yards and three touchdowns despite suffering a mild ankle sprain in a 28-17 victory Friday over Long Beach Millikan, his former team.

Leggett left Millikan after his sophomore year because he said he didn't foresee much playing time in the Rams' wing-T offense.

Christensen said Leggett would be "100% ready" for Friday's game.

"We've been getting better as the season goes along," Leggett said. "We haven't played our best though. Our best is yet to come."

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San Gorgonio gave retiring Athletic Director John Powell an early going-away party, winning the San Andreas League title for its first football league championship in 30 years.

"The school and the community are thrilled about winning it outright," said Powell, who was a third-year assistant coach the last time the Spartans won a league title.

Powell said the tough competition San Gorgonio faced over the years kept league championships out of reach. The Spartans moved from the powerful Citrus Belt League to the San Andreas League 10 years ago, but the competition remained solid.

"People ask me why it has taken so long to win another league title," Powell said. "Well, we've had some outstanding competition over the years. There's no mystery to it. They were a little better than we were."

San Gorgonio (9-1) didn't get much of a break in the Division V playoff pairings, drawing a first-round visit on Friday from Corona Santiago (6-4), the at-large qualifier from the Mountain View League, and its formidable quarterback Bernard Jackson.

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The Southern Section will begin using Spaulding footballs in all its playoff games during the next four weeks, said Rob Wigod, the assistant commissioner in charge of football.

The section entered a business partnership with Spaulding 18 months ago, which requires teams to use the company's ball for all playoff games except tennis, water polo and baseball.

Because the agreement was being negotiated during last season's fall playoffs, Spaulding footballs were available only for the division championship games and use of them was not mandatory.

Wigod said such business partnerships are a major source of revenue for the section.

"We have not raised our [member schools'] dues since 1984," Wigod said. "Business partnerships and championship revenues account for 89% of our revenue."

Spaulding balls were used in the Division I game last season, when Huntington Beach Edison quarterback Tommy Grady threw for 268 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-28 loss to Long Beach Poly.

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Wigod said he was irritated to read several comments in a San Bernardino County newspaper from coaches whose teams did not receive at-large berths into the playoffs.

Some coaches griped when three teams from the Serra League were awarded at-large berths in Division I, along with Edison, which finished 4-6 but won one game by forfeit.

Another coach was upset Corona Santiago (6-4) was given an at-large berth in Division V rather than his 7-3 team.

Wigod suggested coaches pay more attention to the strength of schedule and quality of victories, rather than simply won-loss records.

"Santiago won three of its last four games, beat [Lake Elsinore] Temescal Canyon and [Temecula] Chaparral, both playoff teams from strong leagues, and comes from a league that produced the top-seeded team [Corona Centennial]," he said.

"It's kind of disappointing to get blasted like that."

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Glenn Thompkins at Rialto Eisenhower and Doug Dubois at Moreno Valley Canyon Springs are two young coaches who have been extremely successful this season.

Thompkins, 26, led the Eagles to a 5-0 Citrus Belt League record after an 0-5 start in his first season. Eisenhower began its turnaround by beating title favorite Redlands, 19-14, in the league opener.

Eisenhower plays host to Anaheim Servite in a Division I game on Friday.

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