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ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Midseason report: After 5-0 Crenshaw, it's a fierce battle for No. 2 in City Section

And over in the tough Sunset League, 5-0 Edison and defensive tackle Luke Gane provided the season highlight thus far in the climax to their 36-29 double overtime win over Mater Dei.

October 09, 2009|ERIC SONDHEIMER | ON HIGH SCHOOLS

For those who don't understand the magic of high school sports, let me tell you about a phone conversation with Huntington Beach Edison defensive tackle Luke Gane after his team's 36-29 double-overtime victory against Santa Ana Mater Dei last week.

He was the player who broke through the middle, along with teammate Steven Malone, to tackle Mater Dei's Jordan Allen for a one-yard loss on fourth down from the five-yard line to end the game. To hear the thrill and excitement still present 72 hours later spoke volumes about what a teaching moment it was.

Gane said his coaches called for an all-out blitz.

"I did what the coaches taught me," he said. "If I had done it my way, I wouldn't have gone through. I would have done a head fake or dived. I just shot my gap."

He grabbed Allen from above and Malone hit him from the feet.

"It was fourth and inches," Gane said. "It was epic. You wish for that your whole life, teammates rushing onto the field."

It was Edison's fifth consecutive victory, and after watching more than dozen games during the first five weeks of the football season, it was the most memorable moment to see so much emotion, toughness and teamwork coming through.

Here's my midseason report:

* Los Angeles Crenshaw (5-0) has the best overall talent, and its five consecutive wins against quality Southern Section opponents probably hasn't ever been duplicated by a City Section team. "They have an unbeatable group of guys," said former Birmingham Coach Ed Croson.

* There's going to be a fierce, all-out, anything-goes competition in the City Section -- for second place. Carson, Narbonne, Venice, Woodland Hills Taft and Dorsey are the teams to watch to see who ends up playing Crenshaw at the Coliseum for the City Division I title.

* The comeback player of the year is 6-foot-4 senior quarterback Jake Basmagian of West Hills Chaminade. He gave up football as a junior. Croson persuaded him to return this season. In the season opener, he was intercepted four times. By week four, he completed 10 of 14 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns against Canyon Country Canyon. "Oh, man, I think he's a Division I guy," Croson said.

* The best transfer student has been quarterback Trevor Olson of Los Angeles Cathedral. He arrived from Colorado and has passed for 1,304 yards and 16 touchdowns.

* The performance by receivers has exceeded expectations. There have been the unknowns stepping forward: Nelson Spruce of Westlake Village Westlake, Chris Kearney of Dana Point Dana Hills and Jackson Liguori of North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake. And there have been the veterans at their best: Geno Hall of Crenshaw, Jeff Trojan of Edison, Victor Blackwell of Mater Dei, Robert Woods of Gardena Serra and Anthony Jefferson of Cathedral.

* The best player not playing in Los Angeles is running back Deontae Cooper of Perris Citrus Hill. Committed to Washington, he carried the ball an astonishing 60 times against Temecula Great Oak, gaining 412 yards. He has rushed for 1,082 yards and scored 13 touchdowns.

* The best group of linebackers has been the Mission Viejo trio of Zach Hoffman, Tre Madden and Nick Dzubnar. These guys seem to never be happy leaving the field unless they have a couple of scrapes on their elbows or knees. When it comes to toughness and competitiveness, they're in a class by themselves.

* The kickers keep thriving. Tyler Hadden from Whittier California has made all seven of his field-goal attempts, with a long of 47 yards. Mychal Kabeary of Palm Desert is seven of eight. Wes Feer of Chino Hills is six of seven with a 54-yarder.

* The most underrated player is receiver-defensive back Darien Johnson of La Puente Bishop Amat. He has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, returned a punt for a touchdown, returned an interception for a touchdown and caught a couple touchdown passes. "He's unbelievable," said St. Bonaventure Coach Todd Therrien.

* The best big-play defense has been Los Alamitos, which has created 15 turnovers in five games.

* The top candidates for coach of the year at midseason are Edison's Dave White, Moorpark's Tim Lins and Fountain Valley's John Shipp.

* The toughest league is the Sunset, with Edison (5-0), Fountain Valley (5-0), Los Alamitos (5-0) and Newport Harbor (3-1) leading it.

* Finally, the game program that is heavy enough to be used as a dumbbell is the 172-page program put out by Bishop Amat. It says, "Blue collar attitude," on the cover, and you would need to be a blue-collar worker to be strong enough to pick it up.

--

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATsondheimer

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