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Where Eagles Dare PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 18 October 2012 03:11

Chaminade Has Finished Second In The Mission League The Past Two Years But Looks Ready To Be The Champion If It Can Defeat Harvard-Westlake


Two For The Road- Chaminade running back Terrell Newby and defensive back Donovan Lee will need to be at the top of their games when the Eagles battle Harvard-Westlake for sole possession of first place in the Mission League on Friday, Oct. 19

The book on Building A Football Program is a constant one. There are no shortcuts, no quantum leaps. It is a timeconsuming process where defeat is experienced more often than victory.

In fact it's hard to tell what is more agonizing: being on the verge of a breakthrough, or have it continue to be tantalizingly out of reach. For Chaminade High, it is the former.

The Eagles have spent the past threeplus seasons building under Ed Croson to this point. Since the 2009 season, Croson's first as head coach, Chaminade has been steadily constructed and crafted as a team, developing chemistry and camaraderie along with skill, trust and toughness.

But are the Eagles ready to be a champion? That question will go a long way toward being answered this Friday, Oct. 19. Chaminade goes on the road to play the Harvard-Westlake in North Hollywood. The Eagles and Wolverines are both 6-1 overall, and 2-0 in the Southern Section's Mission League. The winner takes a big step toward displacing two-time defending league champion Gardena Serra.

The tension that will build for the game was not yet in evidence early this week. The Eagles' Monday practice was busy and involved but there were no coaches, with veins bulging out their necks or foreheads, screaming about focus and dedication at every little minor mistake.

There's a difference between teaching and lecturing. There's also a difference between practices being useful instead of drudgery, a concept Croson brought with him to Chaminade from Birmingham. "We came into a situation that was less than perfect and similar to when we first started at Birmingham," said Croson, recalling his arrival here.

"Birmingham had won three games in two years and a bunch of kids had left. Here was a similar situation – a bunch of kids had left, and when we started, our spring ball began with 18 kids and 13 coaches. After the first practice I told the coaches, some who I had brought over from Birmingham, 'I'm sorry I brought you guys over here. We're not going to win a game.'"

Instead of no wins, the Eagles were 7-5 overall in 2009, finished third in league and reached the quarterfinals of the Southern Section's Western Division playoffs. In 2010, the Eagles go 11-2, finish second in league, and reach the Western Division semifinals. Last year, the Eagles were 10-3, second in league, and again reached the Western Division semifinals. Both times in 2010 and 2011, however, Serra edged out Chaminade for the league championship.

"When you're starting out, the big boys are going to push you around," Croson said. "It took us awhile. We had a pretty good first year, made the quarterfinals. So we got some kids that decided football was fun. Then we won 11 games the next year, 10 last year.

"I think the first thing you have to do, it has to be fun. Our coaches are real positive guys, and we have a pretty good sense of humor about what we're doing. Our practices aren't very long, and they're pretty upbeat. They're short but active; there's always something going on.

And our coaches are good instructors, and positive people. [The players] have fun and we have fun. But the kids have to want to be there. This is hard work, and you don't have to be a football player in this day and age."

Still, hard work and belief needs a payoff. For Chaminade, that was beating Serra back on Oct. 5. For seniors like running back Terrell Newby, getting past the Cavaliers was the kind of boost the Eagles have been looking for.

"It meant a lot," Newby said "We anticipated going in and winning, because the last two years we hung with them. We knew this was our shot and we had to get it this year, especially for me and the other seniors.

We had to get it this year." Newby's seasonal statistics were not available because all of the Eagles' offensive numbers were accidentally erased from the coaches' computers, and are being recounted. But there's no denying his role as heart and soul of the team.

"A special guy," said Croson, who coached Milton Knox, the all-time leading Los Angeles City Section rusher, at Birmingham. "He's got offers all over the place…he can go wherever he wants. He is very fast. He's a good kid. And tough, too."

In this day and age most running backs like a single digit uniform number. But when Newby transferred to Chaminade from Montclair Prep during his freshman year, he asked for number 34 for a special reason.

"One of my life idols is Walter Payton," Newby said. "My dad's from Chicago and he talked about Walter Payton. We have some things in common; we share the same birthday (July 25). I really respected him as a man and as a person off the field. On the field he was so tenacious; I try to emulate that. I wear 34 in his honor." Croson said he understood the connection.

"He has that 'I'm not going down' kind of attitude that Walter Payton had," the coach said. "Now, nobody's going to say their kid's Walter Payton, know what I mean? But for high school, he has a lot of those characteristics." The Eagles have other talented players. Defensive back Donovan Lee may only be a junior, but Croson is quick to praise his abilities.

"He's just a football player; he makes plays. He's a great corner, and a great return guy with 'football' speed. He's not as fast as Newby, but he runs away from people. And he has great field vision," Croson said Lee and the Chaminade's secondary will be challenged by the Wolverine's high-octane passing game. Harvard- Westlake quarterback Chad Kanoff has passed for 2,388 yards and 32 touchdowns, with only two interceptions. Three receivers – Clinton Hooks, Julian Shabahang and Chris Sebastian—have at least 500 reception yards and six touchdowns.

"They have a phenomenal quarterback. Their passing game is really good," Lee said.

"We're gonna have to be on top of it in the secondary. They run a lot of spreads, about 80 percent. (Kanoff) has a really quick release and his receivers run very good routes to find open pockets."

Maybe a year or so ago, Lee and Newby would already be nervous about the upcoming game. But both believe the Eagles' current level of preparation has them ready.

"We've grown so much, since we've gotten so far but have nothing to show for it. It's driving us this year," Lee said "We don't want to just get to the end, we want to go all the way in, and come back with some hardware."

"We look at them as another opponent we have to play, but a lot of things hang in the balance," adds Newby. "They're the only team other than us who hasn't lost a league game. So we realize what's on the line each game. That's imbedded in our minds. We definitely know what the stakes are going in."

Of course the season doesn't end on Friday. Chaminade will finish with St. Francis and Cathedral. Harvard-Westlake will finish with Cathedral and Serra. There's still time to mess things up the either team is not careful down the stretch.

Which is why Croson won't let the Eagles' ego soar even if they win.

"It's still one week at a time," he said. "We're not counting them up. We tell the kids, don't count anything. It's one game at a time. And I think they did a good job of that last week against St. Paul. I don't think they were looking ahead to Harvard-Westlake.

"On Friday I'll remind them to play hard. And play our game. This is about us. We [now] feel we can play with anybody."

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 October 2012 03:14

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