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ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Sherman Oaks Notre Dame football team taking road trip

The Knights will take on Spring (Texas) Klein Oak on Monday night at Dallas Cowboys Stadium as part of the Kirk Herbstreit Challenge.

September 07, 2009|ERIC SONDHEIMER | ON HIGH SCHOOLS

It's the 30th season of coaching football at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame for Kevin Rooney, so it's only fitting that he take his team on its first out-of-state trip to the place where high school football means everything, Texas.

Today at about 5:30 p.m. Pacific time, you can turn on Fox Sports West and watch the Knights take on Spring (Texas) Klein Oak from the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium as part of the Kirk Herbstreit Challenge.

"It's an honor to be invited because we don't have to pay anything, and to play in that stadium is a great opportunity," Rooney said.

Notre Dame's players know all about "Friday Night Lights" and Texas' obsession with football. It would be great if someone showed up with a surfboard just to let the Texans know that the Californians have arrived and intend to prove they can play football and surf at the same time.

"It will be a fun experience," offensive lineman Ben Gottschalk said. "You hear all the hype, and we have to play our game. They think Texas football is greater than California football."

This is a test for Notre Dame and its spread offense, led by the reigning Gatorade state player of the year, quarterback Ryan Kasdorf.

But the Knights have a secret weapon -- their offensive line. Four of the five starters return, and that could be a decisive factor. Give Kasdorf time, and he'll find a way to move the ball and put up points.

"As a group, we know if we protect our quarterback and make great blocks for the running back, the team will follow," lineman Daniel Munyer said.

Added Gottschalk: "We had all of last year to mold and mesh. It's up to us to set the tempo. We have to be ready to go."

Rooney said the line play would be important.

"They need to step up and be better than they were last year," he said.

Notre Dame won't have much time to enjoy its trip. The team returns Tuesday morning and must prepare for a challenging Saturday night game on the road against Marmonte League title favorite Moorpark (1-0).

The real deal

Staying behind in Sherman Oaks is freshman quarterback Kelly Hilinski, who made an impressive high school debut last week for the Knights, completing 16 of 23 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns in a freshman team win over Orange Lutheran.

Hilinski is 6 feet 5 and supposed to be the next top quarterback produced by private guru Steve Clarkson. I say the hype is legitimate. Hilinski has a fantastic arm, and now it's all about maturing, improving and learning the game. A year on the freshman team at Notre Dame ought to prepare him for varsity in 2010. And he might help attract a bigger crowd to freshman games the rest of the season.

Summer matters

It's mind-boggling to me how many people don't think that summer passing tournaments matter. In fact, they are an excellent way to spot the fall's next stars.

All summer, one of the best two-way performers was junior Nelson Spruce of Westlake Village Westlake, and sure enough, he came through with a big performance in his season debut, catching five passes for 233 yards and four touchdowns against Paso Robles.

Impact kicker

Senior Kyle Steffes of Lancaster Paraclete made field goals of 50 and 48 yards, had four kickoffs end up as touchbacks and had punts of 49 and 43 yards on Friday.

Inland Empire showdown

After this week, it should be clear which team is the best in the Inland Empire. Corona Centennial is playing host to Temecula Chaparral, and Norco is traveling to Los Angeles Crenshaw.

Rushing sensation

Don't bet against Stanford-bound Anthony Wilkerson of Tustin leading the Southland in rushing. In his first game, he rushed for 354 yards and scored six touchdowns in a 56-28 victory over La Palma Kennedy. That came close to breaking the school single-game rushing record of 379 yards set by DeShaun Foster in 1997.

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eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter.comlatsondheimer

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