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ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

Kylie Fitts of Redlands East Valley grows into key defensive player

Once tiny and scared, the junior lineman relishes his role of going after ball carriers and making plays for the Wildcats, who are seeded No. 3 in the Inland Division playoffs and will face Norco on Friday.

November 17, 2011|Eric Sondheimer
  • Redlands East Valley defensive end Kylie Fitts is one of the reasons why the Wildcats are considered a favorite for the Southern Section Inland Division title this season.
Redlands East Valley defensive end Kylie Fitts is one of the reasons why… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

At 6 feet 4, 250 pounds, with 4.7 40-yard speed and a relentless drive to pursue ball carriers, Kylie Fitts of Redlands East Valley appears to be the perfect fit to create havoc on defense.

"He's such a beast," Coach Kurt Bruich said.

As the stakes get higher, Fitts elevates his own performance.

"Going out there, with all the fans and all the pressure, I just love the whole atmosphere," he said.

The Wildcats are 10-0 and seeded No. 3 in the Inland Division playoffs. They open with a first-round game Friday against Norco at Redlands.

It's hard to imagine that Fitts was once tiny and afraid of playing football.

At 7, he joined a youth team to play tackle football.

"I was really scared," he said.

His father, Matt, recalls, "He was a little timid and he had kind of a traumatic experience."

During the first practice, Fitts almost quit.

"I got hit really hard," he said. "I started crying and wanted to leave."

But he knew quitting wasn't an option. His father had played at Cal State Fullerton, and two older brothers also played the sport.

"It was a family thing," Fitts said.

He wiped away the tears and started to learn the sport.

"By the second year, I broke out," he said.

And when he was 12, he started growing and growing.

"He started getting some size and knew as long as he was the hammer and not the nail, it wouldn't hurt as much, and he started hammering people," Matt said.

Fitts is a 16-year-old junior, has a 3.5 grade-point average, has scholarship offers from UCLA and Boise State and is even learning how to dance. Yes, his fellow defensive linemen are teaching him the Haka, about which the Samoan players are very proud.

"The whole team does it before and after games," Fitts said. "I kind of stay in the back."

OK, so he's a little shy about his Haka dance moves, but as he has shown in football, he knows how to learn the right moves.

Oh, say, can you see . . .

The City Section has a rule that teams in all sports must be present when the national anthem is played before a sporting contest. The only problem is there's no penalty for missing the national anthem, and lots of football teams have been leaving the field before the playing.

John Aguirre, assistant City Section commissioner, said he intends to ask the National Federation of State High School Assns. if a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct can be assessed for missing the national anthem. If not, then the rule probably will be eliminated from the City Section rule book, Aguirre said.

Watch out, that could be an issue for the 2012 presidential debates.

The game of the year

Santa Margarita lost in overtime to Anaheim Servite, 43-42, last week, and Eagles Coach Harry Welch said, "It was truly an amazing game."

As for why Servite decided to go for two points instead of a conversion kick to tie the game in overtime, Servite Coach Troy Thomas said, "I was ready to go home one way or another. I had enough of Harry."

Don't be surprised if the two teams get a rematch Dec. 10 at Angel Stadium in the Pac-5 Division championship game.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATSondheimer

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