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High Schools

Sticker Shock

Los Alamitos' Estes rarely misses a tackle and delivers hits that change games -- as he did in last year's Division I final

September 06, 2003|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

Randy Estes of Los Alamitos knows first impressions can be difficult to shake.

Estes made himself indelible at the beginning of last season's Southern Section Division I championship football game, leading the kickoff-coverage team down the field against Santa Ana Mater Dei and then punctuating the play with a jarring tackle.

The collision seemed to reverberate throughout Edison Field and sent the Monarchs into an irreversible tailspin.

"It set the tone," said Estes, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior who also plays safety and running back. "You could tell that Mater Dei didn't have as much confidence as they did when they came in."

The Griffins went on to win their first Division I title, 41-14, leaving awe-struck expressions on many of the nearly 15,000 fans in the stadium. It wasn't long before they were looking ahead to this season, with eight players being recruited by Division I colleges.

But there's no doubt who is considered the crown jewel. Not just at Los Alamitos, but in the entire Southland. In fact, Estes has been projected as one of the top five high school players in the nation by some recruiting services.

What makes him stand above others is his nose for the ball and ability to consistently knock opponents off their feet. Whether it's meeting a tight end shoulder to shoulder, tripping up a running back who's trying to bounce outside or catching a wide receiver from behind, Estes never seems to miss a tackle.

"Randy has always been like that," said his father, Randy Estes Sr. "He throws his whole body in there. I told him not to do that all the time, but I've never seen him miss a tackle. There have been times when he has ended up on his back, but the other guy always ended up falling on top of him."

Estes began his high school football career at his father's alma mater, Long Beach Poly, winning Division I titles his first two years before transferring to Los Alamitos.

Estes contributed as a freshman, tackling former Los Angeles Loyola High and current UCLA player Matt Ware on the opening kickoff of the championship game, won by the Jackrabbits, 16-13.

He moved into a starting role during his sophomore season, one game after Long Beach Poly lost to Concord De La Salle in a contest between the nation's top-ranked teams. The Jackrabbits went on to repeat as Division I champions, but disappointment with the new coaching staff convinced Randy Estes Sr. to transfer his son to Los Alamitos.

"I knew [the new Poly staff wasn't] ready for prime time," he said. "They should have beaten De La Salle, they should have shut them out."

Randy Sr. also hoped Los Alamitos would provide a better social environment for his son.

"He wanted a better place for me," said Randy Estes. "Different people, a different place for me. My dad thought it would be better."

Estes was the perfect fit for the Griffins, not only solidifying their defense, but also giving Coach John Barnes another option out of the backfield. Estes proved himself to be a stellar special teams player, both on returns and coverage. Among his favorite plays last season were kickoff returns for touchdowns against Huntington Beach Edison and Huntington Beach.

Estes is expected to make even bigger plays this fall, but those closest to him agree that a difficult academic schedule and the rock-star treatment awarded big-time college recruits will represent even bigger challenges.

"The only thing that can prevent Randy from being a great college player would be Randy," Barnes said. "His skill level and size and toughness and God-given ability are all there. He has it all."

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