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St. Bonaventure-Oaks Christian Might Be Affected by Day Fire

September 22, 2006|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

They've waited more than a year to play this game.

The players have been profiled in national publications, the matchups have been analyzed and its meaning dissected, but now they may have to wait a little bit longer.

Smoke from the Day fire, which is in its third week of charring the Ventura County backcountry, could threaten postponement of the much-anticipated nonleague football game between Westlake Village Oaks Christian and Ventura St. Bonaventure scheduled for tonight at Ventura High.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District put out a special smoke advisory Thursday that warned "concentration of fine particulates may reach the unhealthy-for-sensitive-groups level or higher" in areas affected by smoke.

Hazardous air conditions Thursday forced school districts to postpone or cancel athletic activities in the area, including the football game between Canyon Country Canyon and host Lancaster. The game was canceled when school officials were unable to make arrangements to reschedule it Saturday, Lancaster Coach Jeff Cortez said.

Jon Mack, St. Bonaventure's football coach, said Thursday that a final decision on the Seraphs' game against Oaks Christian would be made by the schools today.

If and when the game is played, there will still be plenty of questions, such as, can Jimmy Clausen take a hit?

Clausen, the talented Oaks Christian quarterback who has committed to Notre Dame, has thrown 105 touchdown passes in his prep career. He has lighted up defenses incapable of keeping up with his receivers, and he looked like a million bucks in passing league games over the summer.

"They kicked our butt," Raul Lara, Long Beach Poly coach, said about Oaks Christian's summer success. "But in a game, I'm coming after him. There's no way I'm letting him take a five-step drop, a seven-step drop, and let him throw the ball where he wants to."

And the game against St. Bonaventure is far from a passing league game. It's Oaks Christian's first game against an elite opponent that is used to this level of competition.

Newhall Hart Coach Mike Herrington believes that St. Bonaventure, ranked No. 1 in the Southland by The Times, has more pressure on it than fifth-ranked Oaks Christian. He compared it to when his team played then-untested St. Bonaventure for the first time in 2002.

"They had nothing to lose and we had everything to lose," Herrington said. Hart won that game, 31-6.

St. Bonaventure has already proved itself against quality opponents. Oaks Christian hopes a victory over the Seraphs will give credibility to its 33-game winning streak, the longest active streak in the state.

Oaks Christian (2-0) had a bye last week and had two weeks to prepare for this game, which may be played tonight before more than 8,000 fans. The game, which has been sold out for weeks, is to be televised live at 7 by FSN West.

St. Bonaventure (3-0) has won 27 games in a row and is coming off a 21-14 victory over Canyon Country Canyon, which opened the season as The Times' top-ranked team.

Any game plan against Oaks Christian, whose winning streak has come against largely nondescript opponents, will include putting pressure on Clausen. His quick release should come in handy against a defense that includes linebackers Blaine Irby, who has committed to Texas, and Ryan Panapa and defensive back Mike Williams.

Clausen has completed 17 of 26 passes this season with eight touchdowns.

The onus falls on St. Bonaventure to prevent the big play, which has become an Oaks Christian trademark.

The Lions have nine Division I college-caliber players on their team, so if the Seraphs manage to stop Clausen, they still have to contend with running back Marc Tyler, who has committed to USC.

Times staff writer Eric Sondheimer contributed to this report.

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