NEW COACH GIVES AVHS A NEW LOOK PALMDALE IS STILL FAVORITE TO WIN DIVISION.
LANCASTER - There's never an easy way to go about replacing a legend, especially one as successful as Brent Newcomb was in his 34 years on the sidelines at Antelope Valley High of Lancaster.
Do you keep the same uniforms? Put out all the trophies and awards of your predecessor? Or would that seem like you're afraid to be your own coach and run your own program?
Jon Fleming had several months to think about these questions after he was hired to replace Newcomb this spring. The rookie coach wowed the Antelope Valley administration with his charisma and football acumen to become somewhat of a surprise pick over several more experienced candidates for the job.
And after a successful run through summer passing leagues, he has impressed his players.
``I like him a lot,'' said junior running back/safety Andre Crenshaw. ``Everybody's really excited about this season.''
Although most coaches in the league are picking Southern Section Div. III finalist Palmdale to repeat as league champions despite the graduation of seven key players, the most intriguing story in the league this season will play out on the sidelines at Antelope Valley.
Almost immediately, Fleming began to impart his style on the program. After decades of running the ball down opponents' throats under Newcomb, Antelope Valley has changed to a spread offense that will feature senior quarterback Mychal Bogan, Crenshaw and talented newcomer Randy Burton, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound wide receiver whom Fleming raves about.
They'll look a lot different, too. Gone are the red and white uniforms of the Newcomb era. In are flashy black and red jerseys that look like Atlanta Falcons uniforms.
But Fleming has also been careful not to wipe away Newcomb's legacy. In fact, he's made a point of showcasing it more prominently.
``When I was coaching at Pacific, we played a game at Nebraska one time and I remember walking through their weight room, seeing all the trophies and national championship banners and thinking how cool that was,'' Fleming said. ``So I've really tried to incorporate the history of this school by shining up the trophies and putting them out in the locker room so the kids can walk by them every time they come in.
``I think it's important for the kids to know the tradition of Antelope Valley High and be proud of it.''
How far all of this will go toward restoring Antelope Valley atop the Golden League remains to be seen. Palmdale went undefeated (5-0) in league play, outscoring opponents 175-20 on its way to the Southern Section title game. Lancaster (5-6, 3-2) upset Antelope Valley in Week 8 to edge the Antelopes for second place in coach Jeff Cortez' first year.
The league title race should come down to the same three teams this year. And while all the coaches in the league have picked Palmdale as the preseason favorite, many feel Lancaster could make a serious challenge.
Palmdale graduated several key players, including league MVP JaVonte Holmes (College of the Canyons), wide receiver Justin Shaw (Northern Arizona) and defensive back T.J. McKay (San Diego State).
Senior linebacker Jerry Milling had a breakout year last season, earning All-Southern Section honors, and seems ready to step into a leadership role this season after an ambitious offseason conditioning program.
With Milling at linebacker, the defense looks solid. The offense is more of a question mark. Junior quarterback Rodney Trimm gained valuable experience last season, when he was thrust into the starting role after Holmes injured his shoulder in Week 4. But without Holmes, Shaw and running back Adrian Jenkins (1,338 yards, 12 TDs), Trimm will play a bigger role.
Lancaster seemed to improve each week last year and after a solid summer, the Eagles have created some lofty preseason expectations with senior quarterback Bobby Thomas and senior running backs Roosevelt Monroe-Truitt and Domenic Cornelius (1,033 yards) leading their high-octane offense.
``Weeks 10 and 11 last season were just so much fun,'' Cortez said. ``The guys were coming together, playing hard for each other and had a positive experience in the playoffs. That's made all the difference this offseason. ... It gave them a taste of it and they all want more now.''
Although the top three teams look solid, the second tier will be dangerous. Quartz Hill coach Pat Degnan said he has the deepest team he's had in years and is excited about junior quarterback Calvin Culver, running backs Mike Brandenburg and Shaun Jackson and an offensive line led by junior left tackle Jaren Harrell.
Highland is an enigma after replacing coach Sam Vaiana late in the summer. But new coach Jim Root has been excited by the talent he's seen in the first few days of practice. Senior lineman Justin Todd (6-4, 285) is a college prospect and running back Kevin Guillory finished second in the 100-meter dash at the Golden League track championship.
Ramona Shelburne, (818) 713-3617
Antelope Valley High head coach Jon Fleming is trying to fill the shoes of his successful predecessor, Brent Newcomb. Fleming brings a spread offense to the run-based program.
Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Sep 5, 2004|
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