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High Schools | Eric Sondheimer

White Delights in Milestones

October 01, 2002|Eric Sondheimer

Rites of passage are important to teenagers. They don't forget their first dance, first kiss or first speeding ticket.

Two years ago, quarterback Brian White of Mission Viejo Trabuco Hills High achieved what he viewed as a meaningful milestone by beating his father, Mark, in a game of one-on-one basketball.

"That was an exciting day, a big accomplishment," Brian said.

Added his father: "I was gasping for air and he was laughing."

Mark was a starting linebacker at Bowling Green. He's a big man--6 feet 3 and 260 pounds. Since T-ball, he has been Brian's constant workout partner, coach and friend. He's the one who approved buying 10 footballs at $25 apiece and purchasing a net last summer so his son could throw the ball repeatedly to improve his accuracy.

All summer, Mark, 40, would try to intimidate Brian as if he were encountering a real linebacker.

"I'd chase him down so he had to learn to throw under pressure," he said.

The son wants to experience playing college football like his father, and he's going to get the chance.

White is a 6-5, 220-pound senior with a relentless work ethic that will open doors to his dream.

"He's by far the best I've coached in terms of being able to go on to the next level and be a success," said Trabuco Hills Coach Bill Crow, in this 36th year of coaching.

Last season, White rarely had time to throw. It was a weekly exercise in survival. After games, he'd come home battered and bruised.

"Sometimes it was tough telling where the black and blue was and where the skin tone was," Mark said.

White never lost confidence. He kept trying to get better. He knew that life as a quarterback requires taking hits and showing leadership in good and bad circumstances.

He committed himself this summer to raising his game. He threw over and over into the net.

"He'd throw balls until his arm fell off," Mark said.

He ran "net burners" in 90-degree temperature with his uncle, running back and forth across a tennis court, hurdling over the net even when he was exhausted.

He attended football camps at Washington, Ohio State and Colorado, determined to improve.

"I came away from each camp learning something different," he said.

White's early-season play for Trabuco Hills (2-1) indicates that his quarterback skills are rapidly improving.

In a game against Laguna Hills, he completed 17 of 22 passes for 281 yards and four touchdowns. Last week, he rallied the Mustangs from a 14-point, second-half deficit to tie Villa Park before losing, 31-24. He finished with 258 yards passing.

Most important, White didn't let a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown on the opening series affect him. He showed resiliency, patience and maturity. Afterward, even though he and his teammates received a loud, piercing lecture from Crow for mental mistakes, he was already looking forward to his next chance.

"I still have a lot of improvement to do," he said. "This game was a perfect example. I'm not perfect and neither is anyone else on this team. There's stuff we need to do."

It takes years of experience to play quarterback. Most are only good enough to play at the high school level because they can't cross the mental and physical barriers that separate high school from college.

Because of White's size, strength and athleticism, he has the physical makeup to play in college. He was a three-sport athlete until giving up baseball last season. And his father has been patiently preparing him for what he'll face in college, where everyone is good and no one succeeds by taking a shortcut.

That fateful day when White beat his father for the first time in basketball meant something. Everything changed. The boy was no longer a boy. The father was no longer the best athlete in the family.

A rite of passage was complete, with more to come.

Eric Sondheimer can be reached at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com.

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