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High Schools | CITY SECTION FOOTBALL REPORT

Fremont Sizes Up Tough Crenshaw

October 30, 2002|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

Fremont has sailed along on calm seas so far this season, outscoring opponents, 341-43, in rolling to a 7-0 record and the No. 12 spot in The Times' Southland rankings.

But the Pathfinders know the Coliseum League waters will get choppy with a showdown against Crenshaw on Friday afternoon.

Both teams reached the City Section semifinals last year, and, recently, their yearly meetings have been intense affairs.

Last season, Fremont defeated the Cougars, 27-19, at home but later had to forfeit the victory because the Pathfinders had used an ineligible player. Crenshaw won, 35-7, in 2000 and 21-0 in 1999.

"It's a real good rivalry right now," Fremont Coach Pete Duffy said. "I think Crenshaw's main rivalry is still Dorsey and ours is probably still Locke, from a neighborhood standpoint, but we've had some real good games in the last few years."

Before the season, Fremont was a near consensus among City coaches as a contender for its first major-division title in 42 years.

The Pathfinders have standouts on defense and offense, including two-way player Mark Bradford at receiver and defensive back, running backs Milvon James and Eric Jones, quarterback Michael Beach and a tough defense led by 6-foot-6, 290-pound defensive tackle Thomas Herring.

But Fremont has yet to be tested, other than a 16-10 victory over San Pedro in the third week this season.

Duffy said he purposely schedules weaker nonleague opponents to keep his talented-but-thin squad from wearing out before league play begins.

"I feel a little better about this year's group because of the number of guys coming back," he said. "But we've got to prove it on the field."

Crenshaw has a deceiving record at 4-3, 2-0 in league. The Cougars' victories have been by an average of 35 points and the losses have been to two undefeated teams, Woodland Hills Taft, No. 6 in The Times' rankings, and No. 2 Mission Viejo, and to San Pedro, 7-6.

"They don't really have a glaring weakness," Duffy said of Crenshaw. "They're fast, they're strong, they're big and they're well-coached. You can't just show up and be competitive with them."

One of the better individual battles will be waged between Bradford and Crenshaw defensive back Daymeion Hughes.

"I'm looking at this as one of the biggest games of the year for us," Bradford said. "It's one of our biggest tests."

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Other league battles with first place on the line on Friday include:

* Gardena (5-2, 2-0) at Banning (4-3, 2-0) in the Marine League. The Pilots will look to avenge a 14-0 loss last year at Gardena.

* Roosevelt (6-1, 2-0) against Garfield (4-3, 2-0) at the Coliseum in the Eastern League.

* North Hollywood (5-1, 1-1) at Van Nuys Grant (5-2, 2-0) in the competitive Sunset Six League, whose winner may not be decided until the last week of the season.

* Sepulveda Monroe (2-4-1, 2-0) at Sylmar (5-2, 2-0) in the Valley Mission League. Another upset by Monroe would make it three victories in a row.

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Bob Francola has given all sorts of motivational speeches in 17 years as coach at Granada Hills Kennedy. But this season, he's having trouble knowing what to say to turn around his winless team. For a tradition-rich program that has been to the playoffs in all but three years under Francola, the Golden Cougars' 0-7 record is startling.

"This is a first for us," Francola said. "It's definitely new territory. We're just trying to survive it."

With only five returning starters from last year's team that reached the Invitational final, Kennedy struggled with a difficult nonleague schedule against teams that are a combined 27-8. But the last three defeats have been truly disheartening.

The Golden Cougars have lost to Granada Hills, Van Nuys and Reseda by a combined 14 points.

"We've had a couple of games where we lost one when we fumbled the ball as we're going in for a touchdown," he said. "And then Friday night [against Reseda], we run a punt back for a TD at the end of the game and it's called back on a clipping penalty.

"That's how it's been. We seem to find a way to make the wrong play at the wrong time."

Kennedy's last losing season was 1992. In 1991 and '95, the Golden Cougars were 11-2 and 12-1 and reached the City semifinals both years.

"These kids are continuing to come to practice and work hard," Francola said. "They're aware of the tradition."

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Another team in danger of not making the playoffs is Harbor City Narbonne. The Gauchos (1-6, 0-2) are facing a must-win situation Friday against San Pedro.

First-year Coach Manuel Douglas hoped a tough early-season schedule that included Long Beach Poly, L.A. Loyola, Venice and Bellflower St. John Bosco would get the Gauchos ready for the Marine League.

Instead, they have lost by three points in overtime to Carson and by 12 to Wilmington Banning.

San Pedro (3-4, 0-2) can also use a victory. The loser will be out of the league title race and could be looking at a spot in the Invitational playoff bracket.

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City top 10: 1. Taft (7-0); 2. Fremont (7-0); 3. Birmingham (5-2); 4. Carson (5-2); 5. Venice (6-1); 6. Roosevelt (6-1); 7. Banning (4-3); 8. Crenshaw (4-3); 9. Gardena (5-2); 10. Franklin (6-1).

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