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High Schools | Eric Sondheimer

Spring Football Still Has Promise, and Promises

June 01, 2003|Eric Sondheimer

A smorgasbord of spring football notes, quotes and opinions from across Southern California:

At the Ventura County combine, Coach Jon Mack of St. Bonaventure again put on a public display of charm that made people wonder if he has a future kissing babies as a politician.

Mack has never met a college coach he didn't like. He's the ultimate schmoozer. It's almost as if he has an alarm fastened to his shoes that starts beeping whenever it senses a college recruiter nearby.

He'll do just about anything to get his players noticed, and his enthusiasm has helped more than 15 St. Bonaventure athletes receive college scholarships in the last five years.

"He says the right things and has a game plan," said one college coach.

Added Sherman Oaks Notre Dame assistant coach Jeff Kraemer: "Jon goes above and beyond the call of duty in getting his kids in front of college coaches."

The big question at the combine was who had more energy, Mack, shaking hands and hugging recruiters, or his 3-year-old son, Justin, who was running around in the bleachers wearing a Superman outfit.

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All Tahj Mowry wants to do over the next seven months is play high school football at Westlake Village Westlake, so he's not thinking about acting, and his many fans who see him in movies and on the "Smart Guy" television series on the Disney Channel might want to give him a break.

He'll be a senior running back. He ran a 4.65 40-yard dash

at the Ventura County combine.

"I just love football," he said.

Last year, after a game against Santa Paula, he had to give his jersey to a teammate as a diversion to escape a group of girls seeking autographs.

The school bus had to be halted because the autograph seekers wouldn't get out of its way.

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Los Alamitos figures to be the top-ranked team in Southern California and maybe No. 1 in the nation this fall. Its top spring and summer priority is breaking in new quarterback Jimmy Barnes, the son of Coach John Barnes.

Jimmy is a 6-foot-4 junior-to-be who's 19-1 as a quarterback directing the freshman and sophomore teams.

"He's a big, strong-armed kid who throws the ball real well," his father said. "He has a pretty good understanding of the offense but needs lots of reps."

The good news is, despite Jimmy's inexperience, Los Alamitos is so strong at other positions that he'll have plenty of support.

"This is a good year to have a young quarterback," John Barnes said. "The best thing about Jimmy is he doesn't have to shoulder a load."

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The wraps are coming off quarterback Jason Forcier at Santa Ana Mater Dei.

"We're going to throw the football," Coach Bruce Rollinson said.

Forcier had a solid sophomore season, but his maturity and development should allow for a more wide-open attack. The Monarchs still intend to use a veer option offense to take advantage of Forcier's athleticism, but more passing opportunities are expected.

"The arm strength has improved, but what's most impressive is he understands and reads [the] defense quickly and has more velocity on the football," Rollinson said.

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The strong keep getting stronger. That's the trend in high school football. Despite new transfer restrictions that begin this fall, players are still transferring to top programs by simply moving.

The latest example is promising sophomore quarterback Josh Portis, who transferred from Redondo Beach to Long Beach Poly.

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A linebacker who keeps looking faster and stronger with each week of practice is Andrew Schantz of Canyon Country Canyon.

"He's right up there with the best [I've had]," Coach Harry Welch said. "He's as fast as a lot of Division I backers right now and is incredibly strong."

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Chris Owens played in only three games at quarterback for Thousand Oaks last season, then was sent to the sideline because of eligibility questions regarding his transfer from Simi Valley Grace Brethren.

He has become an intriguing 6-2 left-handed college prospect who was clocked this spring running a 4.5 40-yard dash.

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Somebody should pass out name tags in the South Coast League. Four of the six schools have new football coaches: Bobby Hughes at Dana Point Dana Hills, Jason Negro at Mission Viejo Trabuco Hills, Brett Paton at Lake Forest El Toro and Chi Chi Biehn at Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley.

Eric Sondheimer can be reached at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com.

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