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Golden League Regaining Its Value


In a world where only playoff success counts, the name would have been changed from the Golden League to the Tarnished Brass League based on its lack of postseason punch in recent seasons.

Once a premier place for football, the Antelope Valley-based league stumbled and tumbled to a 14-21 record in playoff games since 1996, including a 3-12 playoff mark from 1998-2000.

Postseason performances from Golden League teams were almost as poor as the mittens-and-parka playoff weather in Lancaster, where temperatures in November dip to lows of 38 degrees on average. The only playoff guarantees were brisk hot chocolate sales at the concession stands.

But in the sunny days of September, the league has rarely looked more golden than now. Three weeks into the season, Antelope Valley, Palmdale and Highland highs are a combined 9-0, and while the nonleague competition hasn't been overwhelming, there again might be late-November games in the frigid fall milieu of a Golden League school.

"The Golden League hasn't gotten a lot of respect in the last few years," Palmdale Coach Jeff Williams said. "It's important to get it back."

Antelope Valley has had the most successful past and most noteworthy start this season, running its triple-option offense with results that haven't been seen since Jermaine Lewis rushed for 2,511 yards in 1995. Lewis went on to play at UCLA.

The play of quarterback Johnny Walker, last season's Golden League player of the year, has some people calling this one of the top Antelope Valley teams in Coach Brent Newcomb's 25 years as coach.

Newcomb is cautious.

"You've got to win in November," he said. "If you don't win in November, you're not going any place. It's still October."

Antelope Valley appeared in consecutive Southern Section Division II championship games, defeating Newhall Hart in 1994 and losing to the Indians in 1995, but struggled in recent seasons.

"Lancaster opened in 1997 and a lot of guys went from our [attendance] boundaries over there," Newcomb said. "It took us a little while to recover after that."

Palmdale has not needed any time to recover from last season's unexpected run to the Division III semifinals. The Falcons scored a 32-16 upset over Alta Loma Friday, with a ground game that features LaRon McIntyre and Sean Edwards.

"It goes in cycles like that," said Williams, in his 12th season. "It's good to be on an upswing."

Highland opened 3-0 for the first time in eight years, relying heavily on running back Kris Theus, who has rushed for 385 yards.


It's a good idea to avoid misquoting North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake Coach Greg Gonzalez--he'll call you on it.

Gonzalez has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia and used to be a sports reporter for The National, among other newspapers.

He covered Pacific 10 Conference football and the Anaheim Angels before the short-lived newspaper folded, then briefly bounced around as a freelancer before entering coaching at Montebello Cantwell Sacred Heart in 1992.

Gonzalez, in his first year as head coach at Harvard-Westlake (2-1), has seen media coverage from just about every angle: He was a receiver-defensive back at Columbia from 1983-85, during the Lions' 44-game losing streak, an NCAA record for futility at the time.

"As a player in college, I always thought the media didn't understand," Gonzalez said. "Reporters didn't have a real appreciation for the human cost during the streak. They'd come in, ask how it felt to be losers, and leave."

(Prairie View A&M broke Columbia's record, losing 80 consecutive games from 1989-98.)


There's bellowing over an official's call in Montebello.

Montebello led Pico Rivera El Rancho on Friday, 14-9, in a nonleague game that had less than 10 seconds left. What happened in those final seconds has angered Montebello coaches.

"We were robbed," Coach Bill Drulias said.

El Rancho had the ball at the Montebello 40 and called for a trick play. The El Rancho quarterback pitched the ball to the running back, who handed it off to a receiver on a reverse. The receiver then appeared to throw the ball back to the quarterback, who fell on the ball because it was thrown too short. The play was initially ruled a lateral, the clock kept running and time ran out.

The head referee overturned the call and determined the play was an incomplete pass, to the chagrin of Montebello coaches, who drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty. The ball was moved to the Montebello 25 and a final play was allowed.

El Rancho scored on a pass and won, 15-14.

Montebello fell to 0-3, although the coaches' tempers have only risen after seeing videotape of the play.

"The quarterback was standing five yards back from the thrower and had to go chase down the throw. He was about seven yards deeper than the receiver," Drulias said. "It wasn't even close to being a forward pass. The video shows it."

The Southern Section does not review games that are disputed because of a referee's call, unless it is determined that a referee acted with unfair bias toward a team.

"We're not one to change judgment calls made on the field," Southern Section spokesman Thom Simmons said.



*--* Not So Golden Combined Southern Section playoff record of Golden League teams in the last six seasons: 1996 Division II 5-3 1997 Division II 3-3 1998 Division III 1-4 1999 Division III 1-5 2000 Division III 1-3 2001 Division III 3-3


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