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High Schools | FOOTBALL REWIND

Teams Find New Life in League Play

October 20, 2003|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

The rhetoric typically goes, "It's time to put up, or shut up."

Clearly, there were several teams over the weekend that put up, most notably Santa Ana Mater Dei and Santa Fe Springs St. Paul.

Their less-than stellar nonleague records didn't matter when push came to shove and league play began.

Mater Dei's poor start -- the Monarchs lost their first three games, albeit to No. 7 Orange Lutheran, No. 2 Mission Viejo and No. 3 Riverside North -- seems a faint memory after it beat then-No. 10 Bellflower St. John Bosco, 24-17, on Friday in a Serra League opener.

Mater Dei Coach Bruce Rollinson said the lessons his players learned from the three losses were evident.

"We were able to deal with adversity that we imposed on ourselves a lot better, and Bosco struggled," Rollinson said. "They might have underestimated us a bit, but that wouldn't be hard to do."

One wonders if a little momentum is all the Monarchs (3-3) need for a title run. Mater Dei plays host to Los Angeles Loyola on Saturday, and Rollinson told his players after their most recent victory that if they lose their next game, they haven't gained anything.

Similarly impressive was St. Paul, which lost two of its first three games but beat then-No. 11 Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, 24-21, in the Mission League opener on Thursday. For all intents and purposes, that was for the league championship as Notre Dame has won 10 of the last 11 titles.

St. Paul scored 11 points in the final 74 seconds to beat Notre Dame, including a 47-yard field goal from Randall Reynoso with 18 seconds left.

It was an effort that wasn't lost on longtime Coach Marijon Ancich of St. Paul.

"We had some tough games in the early season and weren't clicking on all cylinders," Ancich said of losses to No. 14 Santa Margarita and No. 5 Long Beach Poly. "That win bonded the whole team and got us in the mental frame you need to survive."

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Birmingham, defending City Section champion, isn't favored to repeat with three undefeated teams -- Venice, Los Angeles Dorsey and Gardena -- standing in the way, but the Patriots (3-3) showed a champion's heart in their 28-24 victory over Granada Hills (4-2) on Friday.

Birmingham's game-winning drive against West Valley League contender Granada Hills was capped by Brian Stuart's one-yard touchdown run with 29 seconds left.

The Patriots, whose losses have come to Times-ranked teams Newhall Hart, Valencia and Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, trailed, 24-7, in the second quarter.

"Hopefully it will prove to our team that it's never too late and that you never give up," Birmingham Coach Ed Croson said.

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The statistics of the week belong to Jesse Ramirez of Schurr, who rushed 53 times for 418 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-28 Almont League victory over previously undefeated San Gabriel.

"Our offense is single back or a long I [formation] with two blocking backs in front of him, and it works out that he's probably going to carry it," Coach Mike Mayoral said. "I didn't know he had 53 [carries] until after the game."

The state record of 55 is held by Larry Ned of Moreno Valley Rancho Verde in a 45-38 victory over Perris in 1996. Ned gained 440 yards and scored five touchdowns.

The national record for rushing attempts is 72, by Russell Gunter of Andalusia (Ala.) Straughn in 1989.

"He'll never get that record," said Mayoral, whose team rushed 67 times and passed five times against the Matadors.

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James Waite had the performance of his life Friday in the most emotional game of his life.

The senior fullback led Temecula Linfield Christian to a 32-28 victory over Murietta Calvary Chapel by rushing 34 times for 207 yards and four touchdowns, the last with 25 seconds left in the game.

Today, Waite's younger brother, freshman Chris Waite, is scheduled to undergo surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor. The Waites found out about Chris' condition last week, which created the kind of stress that kept James up at night.

"Given the circumstances, we didn't really know what to expect," Coach Chris Fore said. "He'd gone through a pretty crazy, emotional week. He's an emotional kid. We knew he'd explode or not be focused on football, and we wouldn't have blamed him. We were expecting a great night, or we were going to get a second-string kid in there."

Waite, who rarely fumbles, fumbled on the first drive. "We were wondering at that point, 'Is this a night when he's just not ready to play football,' " Fore said.

"He came off and said, 'Coach, it's not going to happen again. I'm ready to play.' I saw a fire in his eyes like I had never seen in three years coaching this kid."

"There's been an outpouring of support for the family," Fore said. "Doctors are very optimistic. It will be a surgery they've done many times, then it's just a matter of chemotherapy, and [Chris] might be back in school in three or four weeks."

*

Los Altos quarterback Daniel Sandello threw touchdown passes on the Conquerors' first two offensive plays, providing scores of 54 yards to Tau Alo and 44 yards to Travis Brown. Sandello finished four of six for 162 yards. On Friday, Los Altos, ranked No. 1 in Division VI, plays host to Covina South Hills, ranked No. 1 in Division VII.... One of the more notable weekend performances was by Long Beach Cabrillo. It lost only 24-7 in its first meeting against Long Beach Poly..... Terrell Jackson scored six touchdowns in Corona Centennial's 54-6 Mountain View League victory over Riverside La Sierra. He now has 87 rushing touchdowns, a Riverside County record.

Staff writers Eric Stephens and Eric Maddy contributed to this report.

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