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High Schools | FOOTBALL REWIND

San Clemente Goes From Credible to Formidable

October 06, 2003|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

It's four weeks into the season, and teams are starting to round into form.

Perhaps no team showed that more than San Clemente, which scored the upset of the weekend with a 53-35 victory Friday over host Corona Centennial.

Centennial, then-ranked No. 4 by The Times and No. 11 in the state, had no answer for a San Clemente squad that began the season ranked No. 11 by The Times but lost its first two games. Two fumbles led to San Clemente scores, but Coach Matt Logan admitted, "They kicked our [rears]."

The Tritons' performance indicates they are a credible threat to rival Mission Viejo's dominance in the South Coast League. The teams meet Oct. 31. At that point, Mission Viejo will likely be going for its 36th consecutive victory.

"Some teams are fast starters, some need more work," said San Clemente Coach Eric Patton. "We really needed to get to the point where we could run the Fly [offense]. We made some personnel changes, and it took that amount of time to make those adjustments. It was like we exploded."

The Fly is a misdirection offense with three running backs and a man in motion. San Clemente (2-2) had run it only a handful of times before the Centennial game.

Patton said a discipline problem with one of his backs prevented the Tritons from breaking out the Fly in the opener against Huntington Beach Edison, a 26-21 loss, and a bruised knee to running back Cheyne Verhagen prevented them from using it the following week against Fountain Valley, a 28-7 loss. Both of those teams catapulted into the top 25 with their victories, and San Clemente dropped out.

But the 53-point effort against Centennial was epic. The Tritons set a school record with 560 yards. Verhagen rushed for 159 yards and Kevin Fortin rushed for 114. John Jay Verhagen, Cheyne's brother, is the third back in the backfield.

All that rushing opened the Triton passing game. Quarterback Cole Bergquist had his best game, completing 11 of 14 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns, and receiver Steve Melton caught seven passes for 197 yards, breaking by one yard the school record held by Trevor Insley.

"It was one of the biggest wins in San Clemente history because of the disparity in their ranking and our performance to date," Patton said. "We upset [Anaheim] Esperanza in 2000 and I thought that was one of the biggest wins, and San Clemente was one of two teams to beat [Santa Ana] Mater Dei in the South Coast League in the 1990s, but this is right up there with that, equal to that, or maybe even better than that."

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Venice and Dorsey have established themselves as the teams to beat in the City Section.

Venice defeated West Valley League favorite Granada Hills, 28-0, and Dorsey defeated Eastern League favorite Roosevelt, 48-8. Dorsey has allowed only 21 points in four games after losing a shutout Friday with nine seconds left.

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Kevin Harris, a senior fullback and team leader at San Gabriel, is in stable condition eight days after suffering multiple gunshot wounds at a house party in Los Angeles.

Harris' girlfriend, Anna Vasquez, 16, was killed by gunfire after an altercation broke out and two Hispanic males, appearing to be gang members, armed themselves and started shooting, according to the LAPD. Another male was also injured.

"Kevin is most definitely not in a gang," San Gabriel Coach Keith Jones said. "He's not that type of kid. By the grace of God he was spared any major physical damage."

Harris was wounded in a leg, and a bullet passed through his upper torso into his colon, missing his heart by an inch, said Jones, who has visited his star player several times.

"He's up, he's walking, he's eating food and slowly getting better," Jones said. "The doctors are saying he's still not out of the woods, but he's improving on a daily basis. Every time I see him, he looks 100 times better than the previous time."

Jones said San Gabriel's 48-0 victory Friday over El Monte Mountain View was the biggest in his six years as a coach because of the emotional attachment.

The Matadors haven't reached the playoffs in his tenure, but they improved to 4-0 for the first time under Jones.

Harris requested that his teammates play in memory of Vasquez, his girlfriend of three years. Harris's best friend, Andy Soto, wore Harris' No. 5 jersey and, despite an ailing knee, had 142 all-purpose yards.

Quarterback Frankie Bernard passed for 331 yards and three touchdowns.

"We have played tremendously in the prior three games, but collectively, it was the best we had played," Jones said. "Without a doubt, our thoughts were, 'Let's play like Kevin plays.' The kids dedicated themselves to be like Kevin."

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