EAGLES FLY WITH GRIFFIN QUARTERBACK HAS CHAMINADE ON VERGE OF WESTERN DIVISION TITLE GAME.
What an impact Ryan Griffin has made for Chaminade High of West Hills after transferring from Loyola of Los Angeles.
The 6-foot-4 junior has blossomed into one of the Southland's top quarterbacks, passing for 3,128 yards and 31 touchdowns heading into Saturday's 7:30 p.m. Southern Section Western Division football semifinal against visiting Dominguez of Compton (11-1).
His crisp passes, deft pocket feel and impressive footwork have helped Griffin evolve into one of the San Fernando Valley's few quarterbacks to surpass 3,000 yards, but there's a lot more to him.
``The best thing about Ryan is how great his composure is for a high school kid,'' coach Ben McEnroe said. ``It's crucial, too, because he just doesn't get rattled. He understands the game and what to do schematically. You don't see that too much in high school kids because most try to do too much or more than they have to do. Ryan understands.''
For the first time in a long time, Griffin has the local football landscape believing the Eagles can win their first football title. It has been 20 years since Chaminade reached its only final, losing 13-10 in 1986 to Woodbridge of Irvine in the Desert Mountain championship.
Chaminade is one step away from having another shot at high school football's ultimate trophy, but it's a big step. The last we heard from Dominguez, the Dons defeated Notre Dame 41-14 in last year's Div. III championship to break Notre Dame's 35-game winning streak.
``You just need to make an environment where you expect to win, and it's definitely changing around here,'' Griffin said. ``I really like it here.''
Griffin actually saw a bit of the Dominguez-Notre Dame game last year, as he took the field a short time later at Home Depot Center in Carson as a late call-up for Loyola, which won the Div. I title. Because he lives in Ventura County, the 90-minute commute each way to Loyola eventually took its toll, and because Griffin knew a group of Chaminade players from childhood, he figured it would be a good fit to switch schools.
Griffin is the X-factor for a school longing for football respect.
``There's definitely more leadership and confidence than we've had during the past few years,'' said senior Aubrey Smith, who has 75 receptions for 1,344 yards and 20 touchdowns. ``We're hoping to keep on winning to put us on the map. Our goal is to win the championship.''
The Chaminade-Dominguez matchup should prove especially interesting because of the contrast in styles. Chaminade loves to pass the football, and Dominguez runs a conservative wing-T.
One thing they have in common is a tenacious defense. That's why it will be vital for Chaminade blockers Garrett Hershey, Alex Tanious, Derek Mohl, Sean Davies and Taylor Toomey to control the line of scrimmage and give Griffin time to find an open receiver. If that happens, perhaps Chaminade can pull off an upset.
The winner faces either West of Torrance or St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs in the final next Friday. But that's a long way off for Chaminade, a program that has no choice but to take things one step at a time.
In Griffin, the Eagles have a confident leader in a crucial position to make a difference. That's not a bad place to start.
(661) 257-5218UNDER THE HELMET
Birmingham of Lake Balboa is embracing the pattern.
Eagle Rock is hoping the tendency continues.
And Verdugo Hills of Tujunga is looking to continue its latest trend.
The three local teams still remaining in tonight's City Section playoffs each need one more victory to reach next Friday's championship games at the Coliseum.
For Birmingham and Eagle Rock, it's a familiar setting. For Verdugo Hills, it's a coveted arena.
Birmingham, which won its first City title in 1963, has since won championships in 2002 and 2004. The West Valley League champion Patriots (9-3), the top seed in this year's Championship Division, are looking for the cycle of excellence in even-numbered years to repeat itself when they play host to Coliseum League runner-up Crenshaw (9-3) at 7 p.m. in onesemifinal contest.
The winner faces Carson (9-3) or SanPedro (11-1) in the City final.
San Pedro recorded a 21-14 Marine League victory Oct. 27 in the teams' first meeting.
Birmingham defeated Coliseum League champion Dorsey of Los Angeles 38-25 during the regular season and recorded a 29-0 quarterfinal victory over the league's third-place team, Locke of Watts.
Crenshaw, the defending City champion, hasn't faced Birmingham in the postseason this decade. But the Cougars have had success against West Valley opponents, defeating Chatsworth 48-10 in the opening round of this year's playoffs following a 20-14 victory over Taft of Woodland Hills in last season's final.
Although Birmingham is the lone remaining area team in the final four in the Championship Division, top-seed Verdugo Hills and No. 2 Eagle Rock are on a collision course to meet in the Invitational final.
Eagle Rock's path appears to be more daunting, since the Eagles (11-1) are facing Northern League rival Marshall of Los Feliz (10-2) for the fourth time in 60weeks.
Eagle Rock, the defending Invitational champion, defeated the Barristers 36-35in last year's final on Jeremy Camacho's 11-yard touchdown pass to Josh Jovanelly as time expired.
The Eagles also recorded a 37-29 regular-season victory last year over Marshall and posted a 35-7 win Oct. 6 over the Barristers, the last time their defense surrendered a touchdown before Wilson of El Sereno scored in last week's 34-6 quarterfinal loss.
Only one other time in the teams' past seven meetings has the final outcome been by more than 10 points, a30-17 Marshall victory in 2001.
Eagle Rock, 31-6 the past three seasons, has won 10 consecutive games since a 20-14 loss Sept. 8 to Canoga Park.
Verdugo Hills (12-0) might have been expecting a rematch with Sunset Six League rival Canoga Park tonight, but the Hunters suffered a 22-7 quarterfinal loss to Garfield of East Los Angeles (11-1).
The Dons will look to continue one of the area's most impressive turnarounds, winning 19 of their past 20 games in the past two seasons after combining for 16victories from 2000-04.
Should Verdugo Hills and Eagle Rock meet next Friday in the Coliseum, itwould mark the first time the schools would meet since 2002, a 29-7 nonleague victory for the Eagles.
-- Erik Boal
4 photos, 4 boxes
(1) Chaminade's Ryan Griffin has thrown for 3,128 yards and 31 TDs this season.
David Sprague/Staff Photographer
(2) Aubrey Smith
(3) DELANO HOWELL
Alex Collins/Special to the Daily News
(4) DARRELL SCOTT
Hans Gutknect/Staff Photographer
(1) TONIGHT'S PLAYOFF PREVIEW
(2) THE BIG MATCHUP
DELANO HOWELL vs. DARRELL SCOTT
- Kevin Connelly
(3) PEERLESS PROGNOSTICATION
(4) UNDER THE HELMET
- Erik Boal