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High Schools | Eric Sondheimer

This Isn't Just Any Senior Moment

September 09, 2003|Eric Sondheimer

Quarterback Patrick Cowan politely closed the gymnasium door in the face of an inquiring sportswriter during a walk-through of the offense before St. John Bosco High's season opener last week in Bellflower.

Cowan was obeying orders to keep the session private, but when he informed his coach about the identity of the person in the doorway, he was told, "What did you do? Go get him back."

It wasn't the best way for Cowan to introduce himself to someone who had come to see him play, but a couple of hours later, a smiling, apologetic Cowan made the most important impression of all, running for three touchdowns and passing for another in the Braves' 49-12 victory over Westchester.

A year ago, he was the backup quarterback who rarely played for a team that won the Serra League title. His brother, Joe, was the team's standout receiver and defensive back. Patrick spent more time giving him high-fives than taking snaps.

"It was hard not playing," he said. "It was frustrating at times."

Reserves have two choices: They can keep working hard to prepare for the day the coach turns to them or they can become bitter and inattentive.

Cowan, a 6-foot-5 senior, never wavered from the belief that his time would come.

"I did what the coaches told me to do," he said. "I didn't complain or talk behind the coaches' back. I kept my mouth shut."

All day before his first varsity start, Cowan could feel his stomach churning and adrenaline building. Then he went out and showed he has the instincts and arm strength to play quarterback.

On the opening drive, he faced a third-and-five situation from the Westchester 11-yard line. He went back to pass, rolled right, sensed the rush coming from behind, stepped forward, reversed himself and ran left into the end zone. With that one instinctive effort, Cowan demonstrated he had been paying attention last season.

"I'm just unknown," he said. "I just want to prove to people I can play and play to my full potential."

Coach Kiki Mendoza said he is confident Cowan has the talent to play quarterback after Cowan completed eight of 15 passes (including four dropped passes) for 95 yards and showed off his 4.6 40-yard speed against the Comets. The statistics weren't overwhelming but didn't tell the story of Cowan's accuracy and proficiency. Mendoza knew what to expect from practice.

"I think he's going to be a big-time player for us," he said. "I've been so impressed with his arm strength and ability to make decisions. The thing most impressive is his ability to run. He's starting to look a little bit like his brother. He's not as fast, but he's got some skill."

Cowan's brother is expected to redshirt this season at UCLA, so it will be Patrick's turn to take the family spotlight, proving that patience can pay off.

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As if Los Alamitos weren't already loaded with NCAA Division I prospects in football, it picked up another in kicker Brooks Rossman, a recent transfer from La Jolla Torrey Pines. In January, Rossman tied for the top spot among underclassmen in a national competition of 100 kickers run by former UCLA kicker Chris Sailer.

In his season debut last week for Los Alamitos, the Seal Beach resident was seven for seven on extra-point attempts. Sailer says Rossman has the ability to make 50-plus-yard field goals.

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Santa Ana Mater Dei might finally get some competition in boys' basketball from St. John Bosco in the coming years, thanks to a special freshman class.

Leading the way is 6-foot-11 Alex Jacobson, who could be a dominant shot blocker. But the best freshman is Daniel Hackett, who grew up in Italy. He's 6-5 and scored 42 points at a Nike camp in Switzerland during the summer. "He's unbelievable," Coach Randy Held said. Another newcomer is 6-6 junior Jan Burris, a transfer from Santa Monica St. Monica.

Eric Sondheimer can be reached at

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com.

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