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High Schools | CITY REPORT

Wilson's Patino Living His Dream

October 01, 2003|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

As an elementary- and middle-school student, Chris Patino played on Pop Warner football teams, but he preferred to hang out at the football field of nearby Los Angeles Wilson High whenever its varsity team was practicing.

He would wait until practices ended, long enough to engage some of the players who were milling about in a game of catch. Patino dreamed of being the Mules' starting quarterback.

The dream came true last season, when Patino replaced starter Steven Martinez, who suffered a concussion in a Week 2 game against Sun Valley Poly.

Much to Patino's surprise, Coach Eddie Martinez immediately called for a pass play.

"I was so nervous," Patino said. "I threw it into the ground."

The junior is more on target these days. He is fast becoming one of the more prolific passers in the City Section.

Patino is coming off a 420-yard, three-touchdown performance in a 33-19 victory over Alhambra. The previous week, he threw the ball a school-record 44 times, completing 30 for 375 yards and four touchdowns in a 30-15 victory over Poly.

"During the game, I just try to make things happen," Patino said. "It's not until after the game that our statistician tells me what I did."

Patino is only 16, but he knows being the quarterback at Wilson is something special.

Ron Cuccia is something of a prep legend, setting several state records and leading the Mules to 42 consecutive victories and three consecutive City 3-A championships in the mid-1970s. Steve Clarkson, who immediately followed Cuccia, is considered one of the top signal-callers in section history.

The school has retired each of their numbers, posting them on a wall above the football field's bleachers. "I look at them before every [home] game," Patino said. "It gives me inspiration."

Martinez, in his 10th season as Wilson's coach, is quite familiar with his newest quarterback. He helped coach Patino in youth football and has known his family for decades.

The skill that Martinez said impresses him most is Patino's ability to shake off a poor decision. His two successful outings followed a season-opening loss to Roosevelt, during which he threw four interceptions.

"He throws an interception and he has the same look as when he's thrown a touchdown pass," Martinez said. "He's a quiet kid. Sometimes I want him to be more vocal."


Another quarterback, senior Oscar Gonzalez, has helped Bell to a surprising 2-0-1 start. Gonzalez has teamed with an improved group of skill players to help the Eagles average 34.6 points.

Last year, Bell averaged 12 points and never scored more than 33.

"We've got some skills kids for a change," Coach Tony Perez said. "Oscar has really stepped it up. He had a good summer. We won a passing tournament and made the semifinals in three others."

The Eagles have high hopes this season. Last year, they finished 2-7-1 but lost three games in overtime, including one that went three series of alternating possessions.

"The kids are encouraged," Perez said. "We weren't satisfied with our performance last year."


After finishing 2-8 in 2002, Marshall is 3-0 for the first time since 1982 thanks to quarterback Marcus Hammond and running back James Wilson. But Coach Andy Moran says he has been most impressed by the play of the Barristers' defense.

Leading tackler Denis Lemus has two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and a fumble recovery, and lineman Sarkis Boyadjian has seven sacks.

"We could not stop our offense all summer," Moran said. "But we've been giving up only 60 to 70 rushing yards a game. We've just got a bunch of kids who know their roles."

Other early season surprises are University (2-0-1), Reseda Cleveland (2-1) and Los Angeles (3-1).


The teams in the Valley Mission League are having a rough go of it. After three weeks of nonleague play, the six teams -- Sylmar, Granada Hills Kennedy, San Fernando, North Hills Monroe, Van Nuys and Reseda -- have a combined 2-15-1 record. Sylmar and Monroe have the only victories.


City top 10: 1. Venice (3-0); 2. Dorsey (3-0); 3. Granada Hills (3-0); 4. Gardena (3-0); 5. Crenshaw (2-1); 6. Birmingham (1-2); 7. Roosevelt (3-0); 8. Fremont (2-0-1); 9. San Pedro (2-1); 10. Carson (2-1).

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