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Eric Sondheimer ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Recruiters will flock to Serra

October 11, 2008|Eric Sondheimer

There's no need to inspect the expense accounts of USC Coach Pete Carroll or UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel to figure out the epicenter of their recruiting battle over the next two years.

They'll be hanging out at Gardena Serra, a 300-student all-boys school that's stocked with football talent.

With apologies to Long Beach Poly, Westlake Village Oaks Christian and Mission Viejo, Serra is the school with a group of skill-position players who rank as can't-miss college prospects.

On Friday night, the unbeaten Cavaliers (5-0), ranked No. 23 by The Times, showed off the best junior defensive back-receiver on the West Coast in Robert Woods.

All Woods did in a 49-13 rout of Woodland Hills Taft was catch a 15-yard touchdown pass, return an interception 45 yards for a touchdown, return a punt 70 yards for a touchdown, make another interception and recover a fumble.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, October 12, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
High school sports: Eric Sondheimer's "On High Schools" column in Saturday's Sports section referred to Gardena Serra as an all-boys school with an enrollment of 300. It is coed, with an enrollment of 600.

Serra Coach Scott Altenberg said he has at least eight "definite" college prospects, and the two drawing the most attention are Woods and sophomore receiver George Farmer. Both have scholarship offers from USC and UCLA.

Woods is a 6-foot-1, 180-pound physical specimen who's recognized for being a complete player on and off the field. He gave up Taft's only touchdown of the first half when burned on a long pass play, but he more than made up for his mistake in the third quarter with consecutive interceptions.

"He's just a special kid," Altenberg said. "He has all the physical talent, but he's really smart. He's the quarterback of our defense, and offensively, we want him to touch the ball."

Then there's Farmer, who caught a 31-yard pass and batted down a pass from his cornerback position when Taft tried to throw deep. Trying to outrun Farmer is an act of futility.

"He's unbelievably fast," Altenberg said. "He's big, thick, almost 200 pounds as a sophomore, has size 15 1/2 shoes and he flies."

As if those underclassmen aren't impressive enough, Serra has a 6-3, 210-pound sophomore defensive end in Jason Gibson.

"He's a freak athlete," Altenberg said. "He already runs a 4.5 40."

There's also junior cornerback-running back Domonique McGee, another speedster.

Serra's four "slam-dunk" senior college prospects aren't bad either. Safety Anthony Carpenter has scholarship offers from Nebraska, Washington State and Oregon State. Quarterback Ted Landers is 6-5 and improving. Defensive lineman Sione Tuihalamaka is 6-3, 275 pounds and "is having an unbelievable year," according to Altenberg.

Running back Carl Winston is averaging close to eight yards a carry.

Serra lost to Oaks Christian, 44-7, in the second round of the Northwest Division playoffs last season, and the players hardly hide their feelings about wanting another chance to play the Lions.

A win over City Section power Carson earlier this season, 21-19, gave Serra a boost in confidence.

"We felt we could beat Carson, but actually doing it was a big step for us," Woods said.

As for Altenberg, he is trying to provide a welcome mat for anyone who's interested in offering one of his players a scholarship even though his loyalties rest with UCLA.

His father, Kurt, caught the winning touchdown pass in the 1965 UCLA-USC game, and Scott brags about being a UCLA season-ticket holder "since I was 2 years old."

But he's always had a warm relationship with Carroll, and one of his former players, DaJohn Harris, is a second-year freshman defensive tackle for the Trojans.

"I let them make up their own mind," he said of his players.

It all means there are going to be lots of Trojans and Bruins supporters paying close attention to Serra over the next few years.


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