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High Schools | CITY SECTION REPORT

Banning Staying on Course With Veer

September 25, 2002|ERIC STEPHENS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The veer option is alive and well at Wilmington Banning High, which has essentially run it for three decades.

Making it go this season are running backs A.J. Tuitele and Patrick Perry, who have helped the Pilots to a 2-0 start heading into a nonleague matchup Friday against No. 9 Manhattan Beach Mira Costa.

Tuitele had 131 yards in a 48-8 victory over Locke. Perry, who missed the opener with flu, ran for 182 yards in 12 carries and Tuitele added 132 on the ground in a 28-7 victory over North Hollywood last week.

Against North Hollywood, Banning's running game was so dominant that quarterback Damian Satete attempted only six passes, completing one for 20 yards.

"We've got a passing game," Tuitele insisted. "But if we don't need to throw the ball, we won't. This is Banning. You run the ball."

Perry said he and Tuitele make it difficult for defenders to focus their containment. If the defense totally commits to the option pitch, Perry said, Satete is just as likely to keep the ball and take off.

"I think we've got great confidence in each other," Perry said of Tuitele. "I know he's working just as hard as I am. When he's doing well, it motivates me to do just as well."

Coach Ed Lalau said the two players give his team an edge--it's the Pilots' first 2-0 start since 1991--but he is just as quick to credit his offensive line: Tusi Bird, Dominic Satete, Roberto Gonzalez, George Garcia, Tony Mendoza and tight end Jose Garcia.

"We've been blessed to have great backs and great linemen over the years," Lalau said.

Tuitele, a standout free safety who has committed to Oregon, said this week's regionally televised game against Mira Costa and coming games against Santa Fe Springs St. Paul and Loyola will give the Pilots a true sense of how good they can be.

"We can't make this game any bigger than it already is," he said. "We all know Mira Costa is no joke. From here on out, it's just a question of how bad do we want it."

*

South Gate began the season with the possibility of playing all its games away from home because its stadium was undergoing a retrofitting project to meet earthquake codes.

First-year Coach Ed Cantu tried to prepare his team over the summer by having shirts made that read "Road Warriors."

Contract negotiations with developers delayed completion of the project until December, at the earliest.

But the Rams learned last week they will play a regular home schedule beginning Friday against Locke, thanks to former South Gate mayor Henry Gonzalez, who helped convince the city to donate portable bleachers for the school's use.

The bleachers will be set up on the dirt track behind the Rams' side of the field as well as behind the end zones.

"It's huge for the kids," said Cantu, a former defensive coordinator at Bell. "They're very enthusiastic about the game. I certainly hope that it can inspire us more than the last two games."

South Gate is 0-2 but can at least look forward to a true homecoming game next month.

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Anthony Dickson took a circuitous route back to Van Nuys Grant for his junior season. His coach, Bill Foster, couldn't be happier.

Dickson has rushed for 381 yards in victories over Manual Arts and San Fernando.

Foster believes his talented running back is capable of big things.

"We watch this guy work out every day at practice and he's as good as they come," Foster said. "No question, we'd like to see him run for 2,000 yards."

This spring, Dickson moved in with relatives in Arizona, but returned to the area a short time later. He enrolled at Lake Balboa Birmingham in May but attended summer school at Grant.

As a sophomore, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Dickson ran for 1,386 yards.

"I think we'd have been OK without him," Foster said. "But a kid with that kind of talent can make you a pretty good team."

*

Harbor City Narbonne's first-year Coach Manuel Douglas isn't discouraged by his team's 0-2 start, particularly because it has one of the toughest nonleague schedules in the section.

The Gauchos have been defeated by Venice, which figures to contend for the Western League title, and by Loyola, No. 2 in The Times' rankings.

Mistake-filled first halves proved costly, because Narbonne outscored both opponents after intermission.

This week, Narbonne plays host to No. 1 Long Beach Poly.

"We've got to be the best 0-2 team around," Douglas said. "At least we'll be battle-tested when league starts."

*

In addition to Mira Costa-Banning, another interesting intersectional matchup this week is Dorsey playing No. 7 Santa Margarita at Saddleback College.

The Dons can make a major statement for the section with an impressive showing Friday night. Don't expect, however, to see Santa Margarita playing at Dorsey next season; the arrangement is for only one game.

Coach Paul Knox said he will no longer schedule top Southern Section teams if the deal is not reciprocal.

"We won't take on another team without a home-and-home [arrangement] from here on out," he said.

*

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

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