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Servite receivers aren't short on talent

Chris Nicholls and Rudy Guerrero each stands 5 feet 8, but they are valuable members of the Friars offense.

November 23, 2009|Eric Sondheimer
  • Servite receiver Chris Nicholls picks up yardage against Long Beach Poly and Aric Bundage in the season opener.
Servite receiver Chris Nicholls picks up yardage against Long Beach Poly… (Christine Cotter / Los Angeles…)

Call them Smurfs, call them Mighty Mouse or call them the best receiver duo under 5 feet 9 in Southern California.

Chris Nicholls and Rudy Guerrero of Anaheim Servite keep turning skeptics into believers by catching passes, scoring touchdowns and influencing games with big plays in a sport where small receivers are rarely in demand.

"I think they're special guys," Coach Troy Thomas said. "Most guys are not going to pick the short guys to be receivers, but they're competitive kids who play like they have something to prove. They're fun to watch. It's a special thing to see these kids who aren't big physically have a big impact on the game."

And no one can doubt what the 5-8 Nicholls and the 5-8 Guerrero have meant to Servite (10-1), seeded No. 3 in the Pac-5 Division playoffs. Nicholls has scored 20 touchdowns, including six on receptions. Guerrero has caught six touchdown passes and earned the big-play-of-the-game award three times from the coaches.

They're fast, versatile, have terrific hands and most important, they're fearless.

"The challenge for me being a smaller guy is using my speed and agility and finding a way to get it done," Nicholls said.

Added Guerrero: "We definitely try to prove people wrong."

You should see how much fun they have sharing a high-five.

"It's nice to do it with a smaller guy," Nicholls said.

And what about celebrating with 6-6 tight end Troy Niklas?

"That may not work out as good," he said.

What's clear is that quarterback Cody Fajardo has come to rely on his tiny receivers to deliver clutch catches. Though quarterbacks appreciate tall receivers, Nicholls and Guerrero have worked so well with Fajardo that only two of his passes have been intercepted this season.

"He's done a great job putting the ball right where it needs to be and where the defenders can't get it," Nicholls said.

Thomas, who was a 5-9 cornerback during his playing days at Encino Crespi, said he appreciates what his two seniors have accomplished.

"I'm a big believer in the underdog," he said. "I'm happy to see their hard work pay off."

Thomas has a saying, "It is not the size of the dog in the fight; it is the size of the fight in the dog."

Nicholls and Guerrero fit that description perfectly.

Rematch time

Servite has a rematch with Long Beach Poly in Friday's quarterfinals at Long Beach Veterans Stadium. In their opening game, Servite defeated Poly, 30-7. Both teams have improved, and the Friars won't be looking past the Jackrabbits.

"When you mention Long Beach Poly and high school football, they go hand and hand," Nicholls said.

Poly has received a boost from Kaelin Clay, a former receiver converted to running back. His speed has helped jump-start the running game.

QB of the future

I'm making the call right now. The top quarterback prospect in Southern California for the Class of 2011 will be Max Wittek of Santa Ana Mater Dei. The 6-4 junior has made steady progress all season.

He has a strong arm and possesses better mobility than former Mater Dei quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Matt Barkley. And on Friday night, in Mater Dei's 28-21 loss to La Puente Bishop Amat, he showed toughness and determination, two qualities he'll need next season and beyond.

Double-wing mania

For those who like the double-wing formation, Woodland Hills El Camino Real plays host to Sun Valley Poly on Wednesday in a City Section Division II quarterfinal game. The first team to complete a pass should be declared the winner.

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