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High Schools | CITY SECTION REPORT

Ratcliff Finds Way at North Hollywood

September 18, 2002|ERIC STEPHENS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Brad Ratcliff is savoring North Hollywood's 20-14 victory last Friday over Granada Hills for a number of reasons.

It was a rare victory for the Huskies over a traditionally solid program, and it adds some legitimacy to the Sunset Six League, which many consider the weakest in the City Section.

Sunset Six teams had a combined 8-19 nonleague record last season, and the league champion, Grant, was routed by Crenshaw, 48-6, in the first round of the playoffs.

"Our league is like the doormat of the City," Ratcliff said. "It was important for us as a Sunset Six team to beat a team from the West Valley."

It was also a personal victory for Ratcliff, who had a rough three-year stretch as coach at Granada Hills. A number of the school's better players transferred immediately after he was hired in the spring of 1995. He also had trouble keeping coaches from year to year.

His teams had a record of 3-27 and he resigned after the 1997 season. Ratcliff stayed on as a teacher at Granada Hills the next year before taking over the North Hollywood freshman-sophomore team.

Now in his third season as head varsity coach, he appreciates the job co-coaches Darryl Stroh and Tom Harp have done in restoring the Granada Hills program.

"It was very gratifying in that respect," he said of the victory. "I struggled at Granada for a lot of different reasons. I have no regrets. It was a very, very good experience."

Ratcliff said he thought his North Hollywood team could handle a stronger schedule because of its maturity. The offensive line--made up of seniors Jose Guillen, Hernan Sebastiani and Edwin Torres, the center, and juniors Joe Solis and Sammy Flores--averages 270 pounds and includes four returning starters.

Justin Tyler, who scored the game-winning touchdown on a three-yard run with 56 seconds left, teams with Marlon Lucky and fullback German Perez to give the Huskies an effective running game.

They will get a major test Friday when they play at Banning, which is coming off a 48-8 victory over Locke.

"I think the win over Granada made our kids believe in themselves a little more," Ratcliff said. "Banning is a tough team, but I think we've got a shot."

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San Fernando Coach Sean Blunt sensed something special was occurring when Carlos Velazquez took the ball at his one-yard line and broke into the clear. Bill Frazer, a longtime supporter of the Tiger program, sensed it too.

Velazquez broke a 40-year-old school record when he returned a kickoff 99 yards in the third quarter of San Fernando's 48-21 victory Friday over Mission Hills Alemany. Frazer, who carries a book that has all of San Fernando's records, quickly verified that the play broke the 98-yard return set by Bill Marsh in 1962.

"Any time you break a record that has been standing since 1962, that's worth noting and telling someone about," Blunt said. "The kid was real pumped up about it. The guys did a real good job of blocking in front of him and he did the rest."

Matthew Nevarez, whose brother, Ruben, threw for a school-record 2,856 yards last season, had a strong debut. The sophomore completed 13 of 17 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns.

"He did a phenomenal job," Blunt said. "That will help his confidence going into the next game."

San Fernando plays host to Grant on Friday.

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The City Section introduced an addendum to Rule 234 regarding the participation of an ineligible player in the postseason. Approved by the Interscholastic Athletics Committee in June, the rule states that if it is discovered that a team has used an ineligible player after the playoff seeding meeting has taken place, that team will remain in the playoffs but will be ineligible for the playoffs the next season.

City Section Commissioner Barbara Fiege said the rule change, which corresponds to a similar rule in the Southern Section, was prompted by the situation last year in which Westchester officials questioned the eligibility of a few Dorsey players after a loss to the Dons in the quarterfinals. Section officials ruled Dorsey out of the playoffs, but their decision was reversed a day later when it was determined the players were indeed eligible.

The rule will continue to penalize teams that use ineligible players but it will also serve as a deterrent to schools withholding information until they deem it best serves their interests, Fiege said.

Dorsey Coach Paul Knox, whose team withstood the distraction and won the title, said it is a fair solution.

"If they beat that team, they wouldn't say anything," Knox said. "But when you lose, all of a sudden you tell on them. Now you don't have that advantage."

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Damian Bryant stands only 5 feet 7 and weighs 165 pounds, but he'll have a big say in how well Palisades does this season.

The senior rushed for 287 yards in 40 carries and scored three times in the Dolphins' 28-14 victory over Reseda Cleveland on Friday.

"He's strong as a bull and he has a great work ethic," said Jason Blatt, Palisades' first-year coach.

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City top 10: 1. Taft (1-0); 2. Carson (1-0); 3. Fremont (1-0); 4. Dorsey (1-0); 5. Birmingham (0-1); 6. Banning (1-0); 7. San Pedro (1-0); 8. Crenshaw (0-1); 9. Venice (1-0); 10. Sylmar (0-1).

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