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High Schools | SOUTHLAND FOOTBALL REWIND

No Easy Ride in Serra League

October 21, 2002|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

It took the opening week of Serra League play for the six schools to show why the new and enhanced league is considered the toughest in California.

League favorites Los Angeles Loyola and Santa Margarita lost their openers, demonstrating the depth and balance of a league that is only four years old but already establishing traditions unlike any other.

Bellflower St. John Bosco, which had been playing the role of league cellar-dweller, registered its most significant league victory by defeating Santa Margarita, then No. 7 in The Times' rankings, 28-23.

The Braves (4-2, 1-0) held the Eagles (5-1, 0-1) to three points on two drives inside the St. John Bosco 10-yard line and capitalized on the scrambling ability of quarterback Joseph Souza, who ran for three touchdowns.

At East L.A. College, Santa Ana Mater Dei put a 28-10 whipping on Loyola, which was making its debut in a league that expanded from four to six teams this season with the addition of the Cubs and La Puente Bishop Amat.

Mater Dei was ranked No. 14 and Loyola No. 2 at the time, but the outcome didn't feel like an upset, considering the way the Monarchs (5-1, 1-0) dominated on offense and defense. Rafael Rice rushed for 151 yards and the Mater Dei defense limited Cub starting quarterback Adam Gonzalez to 24 yards on two-of-10 passing.

"The character's starting to come and the pride is starting to come," said Mater Dei Coach Bruce Rollinson, whose team has made huge strides since almost losing to Orange Lutheran in the season opener. "We're going to keep working hard and continue to improve."

Anaheim Servite is playing so well right now that the Friars have already established themselves among Southern California's best. The Friars toppled Bishop Amat, 37-20, to improve to 6-0, their best start since 1988.

That was also the last year Servite beat rival Mater Dei. The challenge of getting back to that level is one reason why Friar Coach Larry Toner covets membership in this league.

"I like the demands that the schools put on their people," Toner said. "Every week, it's physically and mentally exacting. And I like the tradition of the rivalries. It makes the games interesting for us."

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There was a buzz in the Long Beach Veterans Stadium crowd Thursday night, and the source was unmistakable.

Huntington Beach running back Patrick Harrigan came into the Sunset League opener against Los Alamitos with 1,252 yards in five games, an average of 250 yards per contest, tops in the Southland.

The biggest question was whether he could sustain his success against the Griffins, No. 5 in The Times' rankings. Harrigan answered with an emphatic 48-carry, 310-yard performance in a 42-21 loss.

"He's good," said Los Alamitos safety Randy Estes. "He's a hard back to take down. If you come up without any enthusiasm, he's going to run you over. We just had to bring it hard every time."

Harrigan had been largely unknown before the season. A tough runner with good instincts, he said he hasn't drawn much interest from colleges despite his string of great performances.

"I'm not sure what will happen," he said. "Only God knows what will happen. I'm just thankful that I can be out here every week doing what I have to do for my team."

Harrigan had 194 yards by halftime, but the Griffins made some adjustments and shut out the Oilers in the second half. Los Alamitos Coach John Barnes didn't seem that impressed with the running back's performance.

"They got beat by 21 points, so it doesn't make any difference to me," Barnes said.

*

San Clemente is feeling good about a couple of bad snaps that almost cost the Tritons dearly late in their 28-20 victory over Mission Viejo Trabuco Hills.

The first poor snap came with three seconds to play on a potential game-winning, 30-yard field-goal attempt. Triton holder Matt Mitchell picked up the low snap, rolled right and threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Cheyne Verhagen.

"We call that play a fire drill," San Clemente Coach Eric Patton said. "Matt starts yelling, 'Fire! Fire! Fire!' and the four eligible receivers go out into a route."

The high extra-point snap deflected off Mitchell's hands into the hands of kicker Chris Miller, who threw to Aubrey McCravey for a two-point conversion.

Patton said Triton center Brian De La Puente, suffering from a back ailment, is one of the best snappers he has coached despite the rough night. He will continue to handle the snapping duties.

*

Two years ago, Encino Crespi finished 0-10. This season, the Celts are off to a 5-1 start, and second-year Coach Troy Thomas is not only performing admirably as a coach but also as a new parent. Son Houston was born Oct. 7.

"[Troy] changed all the diapers at the hospital," said his wife, Stacey. "He was good, surprisingly."

Another coach learning about changing diapers is L.A. Fremont's Pete Duffy, whose wife gave birth to a son, Anthony Joseph, Oct. 8.

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Times staff writers Eric Sondheimer, Eric Stephens and Peter Yoon contributed to this report.

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