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A test for St. Bonaventure

October 10, 2008|Lonnie White and Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writers

Shortly after lunchtime today, a group of determined players and coaches will leave St. Bonaventure High in Ventura and travel south down the 101 and 405 Freeways, headed for a 7 p.m. date at Long Beach Veterans Memorial Stadium.

It's a long trip -- the drive could take two hours or more -- just to play a nonleague football game. Especially when the opponent is legendary powerhouse Long Beach Poly, currently 4-0 and ranked No. 2 by The Times, meaning there's a good chance the drive home will seem even longer.

But that's exactly the challenge St. Bonaventure Athletic Director Mike Gianelli wanted when he helped work out a deal to play Poly.

"We always try and schedule as many quality opportunities as possible to play outside our league," said Gianelli, who also has worked 11 years as an assistant for the football program. "Our players know this is a big game, but it was the same way in our last game" -- a 31-14 victory over Encino Crespi.

St. Bonaventure, ranked No. 3 by The Times, also has defeated Santa Margarita, Atascadero and L.A. Jordan.

But a win over Poly would boost the Seraphs to a different level -- into the mix for an invitation to the state bowl championship in the open division at season's end.

Todd Therrien, who has an 18-1 record as St. Bonaventure's coach, is hoping his offensive line can open holes for the Seraphs to run. ". . . That's the one thing on tape no one's established on them," Therrien said of a physical Poly defense that has given up only six points a game in victories over Northwestern Miami, Newport Harbor, Carson and Lakewood.

While the Jackrabbits are expected to rely primarily on running backs Daveon Barner and Melvin Richardson, the Seraphs feature four or five go-to players on offense, including USC recruit Patrick Hall, who scored twice and had 155 yards receiving against Crespi. The pick: Poly.

Other featured matchups:

No. 6 Anaheim Servite (3-1) vs. No. 8 Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (4-0)

Tonight at Cerritos College, 7:30

Whereas Servite has played Encino Crespi and Huntington Beach Edison, Notre Dame's last three opponents have a combined 4-9 record. "They're definitely the best team we've played by a long shot," Knights Coach Kevin Rooney said of the Friars. Servite Coach Troy Thomas said playing good teams helps his program "learn a lot," and the Friars hope they are adequately prepared to stop Notre Dame quarterback Ryan Kasdorf, who passed for a career-high 371 yards last week against Saugus. The pick: Servite.

No. 18 Los Alamitos (4-0) at Harbor City Narbonne (4-0)

Tonight at 7

The City Section is still seeking its first victory over a Southern Section power. A triumph over Los Alamitos could catapult Narbonne to the top of the list of City title contenders. "We're probably much more athletic than they are, but they're much more disciplined," Narbonne Coach Manuel Douglas said of the Griffins. Gauchos quarterback Josh Moten, a three-year starter who excels at passing and running, hopes to upstage Colorado-bound counterpart Clark Evans, another dual threat. The pick: Narbonne.

No. 23 Gardena Serra (4-0) at Woodland Hills Taft (4-0)

Tonight at 7

Serra might feature the best collection of skill players in Southern California. Receivers Robert Woods and George Farmer are being heavily recruited by Pacific 10 Conference schools, running back Carl Winston is averaging nearly eight yards a carry and quarterback Ted Landers has 11 touchdown passes with two interceptions. Serra's offense is averaging 44.5 points but could be tested by a Taft defense that is giving up only eight points a game. The pick: Serra.

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lonnie.white@latimes.com

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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