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Eric Sondheimer / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Croson family walks a fine line

September 12, 2008|Eric Sondheimer

Every day, Lake Balboa Birmingham Coach Ed Croson is learning how to proceed on a sensitive subject: Being both the father and coach to his football team's starting quarterback, his son, Morey.

"That's the hard part, drawing the line between dad and coach," he said. "On the field, he's a model kid. . . . You get home, I got to chase him off the phone. I've got to chase him to eat. I've got to wake him up."

The dynamics of a father coaching his quarterback son can produce a compelling backdrop. Every discussion is subject to speculation, and every decision is open to interpretation.

"It's hard for him to escape me," Croson said. "I have to be careful. I want to hang out with him at lunch, but he has his friends."

They used to drive together to and from school until Morey was given a car late last semester, but their relationship seems to have been strengthened by working together on the football field.

"Whenever he tries to coach me or says something, I listen 110% because I know he's telling me something important," Morey said.

One of their toughest moments came last season, when the coach decided to start a senior, Exavier Johnson, at quarterback after his son led the team to an upset of Long Beach Poly in the second game of the season.

Johnson had been injured, giving Morey the chance to step in. But his father had warned, "I told him, 'You're going to have to leave no doubt in those games, and if you win over the seniors, you'll win the spot.' "

When he put Johnson back into the lineup, Morey said he "took it in stride."

"I understood," he said. "I felt at times I was better than Exavier and proved myself in three or four games."

Tonight, Birmingham will face host Encino Crespi in a televised matchup that the Patriots lost last season, 20-6, their only defeat in a season in which they won a second consecutive City Section Championship Division title.

Last week, Morey passed for 231 yards with two interceptions and rallied Birmingham from a 29-14 deficit before losing to Garfield, 29-28.

"He's just so much more comfortable," his father said. "His mechanics are better. He's got a lot more on the ball. We expect him to have a great year."

Morey has gone from 5 feet 11, 150 pounds to 6-1, 165 pounds. He said he has known how to run Birmingham's one-back offense since he was 9. He and his father discuss football so much that his mother banned football conversations at the dinner table.

"Once we start talking about football, it's kind of a two-hour thing, and we can keep going," Morey said.

Topping Birmingham's 13-1 season a year ago will be difficult, but the coach is motivated to do something for his son.

"I'm probably putting more pressure on myself to have a great year because of him," Croson said. "I want it to be a great year for him and his friends."

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Two punts don't make a season, but junior Tyler Drees of Anaheim Esperanza made a huge impression with punts of 46 and 47 yards against Corona Santiago.

His hang time was excellent, and he looked like a major-college prospect.

"He's booming the ball," Coach Bill Pendleton said.

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Transfers aren't limited to high school basketball. Marmonte League football is back into the transfer game. In 2003, Westlake Coach Jim Benkert faced the wrath of fellow coaches when quarterback Rudy Carpenter arrived from Newbury Park.

This season, Moorpark's new quarterback, Brian Blechen, came from Royal. Newbury Park's new quarterback, Jake Geringer, came from Oaks Christian.

Agoura's starting linebacker, Justin Cudworth, came from Calabasas, and another linebacker, Lucky Radley, arrived from Taft via Crespi.

Westlake's starting receiver, Nick Isham, came from Oaks Christian via Chaminade.

Charlie Wegher, the coach at Agoura, says he has picked up four transfers in 15 years. "It gets to the point if I turned kids away, they'd end up right down the street," he said. "It's frustrating."

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eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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