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Double Play

Reed provides plenty of highlights for Temple City on offense and defense

October 26, 2002|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

Desmond Reed plays like the superhuman creation of some madcap video game programmer. The two-way standout from Temple City High seems to have the vision of an eagle and the acceleration of a cheetah.

He makes an impact on nearly every play and possesses the intangibles that make his coach wish he could sign him to a 10-year contract.

"Watch this," Temple City Coach Mike Mooney says, tapping his finger on a two-inch image of Reed on a television screen. A moment later the wide receiver makes two downfield blocks to spring a Ram running back for a touchdown.

"This is the thing that separates him from the other superstars," Mooney says. "He does the little things. He never takes plays off."

Mooney then hits the fast-forward button to another highlight, in which Reed comes across the field from his free safety position to make a touchdown-saving tackle.

"He never gives up," the coach says. "He's always competing."

Finally comes the piece de resistance, a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the first play of the season.

"He's always going forward," Mooney says. "There's no wasted movement."

Other coaches in the Rio Hondo League wish they could confine Reed to a television screen or the insides of a video game console, but they're stuck with him for the rest of this season, until the senior signs with a major Division I college and starts playing on Saturdays.

They must contend with one of the most versatile players in Southern California, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound mighty mite who holds six school career records, among them 31 interceptions, 3,204 yards receiving and 13 punt and kickoff returns for touchdowns.

"Any time he's on the field, he's a threat to make something happen," says Steve Garrison, coach of undefeated league rival Monrovia.

There are several multitalented two-way players -- among them Steve Smith of Woodland Hills Taft and Mark Bradford of Fremont, both of whom play receiver and defensive back -- but Reed plays in the relative obscurity of the Southern Section's Division X.

Performances like his Friday against South Pasadena have assured he didn't remain a secret for long. In a 49-14 victory, Reed scored a school-record six touchdowns -- three rushing and two on fumble returns after he took the opening kickoff 90 yards for a score.

In the first quarter, he had the kickoff return, made two interceptions and ran 95 yards for a touchdown after stripping the ball from South Pasadena's running back.

Reed finished with 111 yards rushing in 14 carries and was on the field for 84 of 108 plays before leaving the game with 8 minutes 51 seconds left. He rested only during kickoffs, punt coverage plays, field-goal tries and extra-point attempts.

After Temple City had improved to 4-3 overall, 2-0 in league, Reed grabbed a chunk of turf as a keepsake and explained, "I was just excited to come out and play."

The only four-year varsity player in school history, Reed has been making big plays since arriving on campus for a summer passing league. After playing cornerback exclusively as a freshman, the next season Reed was made a receiver in Mooney's spread offense and he began returning kickoffs and punts.

"We needed to have this guy on both sides of the ball," Mooney explains.

Last week, Reed added a new line to his job description: running back. In an effort to free Reed from the constraints of double- and triple-coverage he faced as a receiver, Mooney put his star in the backfield and had him carry 21 times for 123 yards and a touchdown. Reed also made three receptions for 86 yards, returned a punt 35 yards for a touchdown and returned one of his two interceptions 75 yards for another score.

Reed is as easygoing off the field as he is electric on it. "I just like to have the ball in my hands," he says. "Whatever I can do to help the team is best for me."

He does more than just make plays for the Rams. Reed leads by example in the weight room, where he bench presses more than any other player, and in team drills, nearly all of which he wins. He also organizes team dinners on Sunday nights.

"He's a leader," says senior lineman Chris Datolla, another two-way player who has known Reed since their youth football days. "He tries to do things to make us closer."

Reed earns the respect of his teammates by always going full bore when the ball goes to someone else and never sulking when his team is not performing well. The only negative trait that Reed might engender in his teammates is jealousy.

Here's a player with a 41-inch vertical leap who can run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. He possesses tremendous vision when it comes to spotting holes and maintains perfect balance while making cuts. On defense, he has a preternatural ability to break on the ball and go for the interception at precisely the right moment.

And he can seamlessly shift into overdrive on kick returns.

"He doesn't have blazing speed," Mooney says, "but I've never seen anybody who goes from standing still to full speed as fast as he does."

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