STIMAN: INDIANS ARE NOT NO. 3; COACH SAYS HART BETTER THAN THAT.
Hart High's football team is ranked third in the state. Valencia coach Brian Stiman thinks that might be too low.
``Who knows exactly how good they are,'' Stiman said. ``I know I'd much rather play somebody else in the championship beside them. It's too bad they don't get a chance to play Long Beach Poly or Concord De La Salle. I've seen those teams play, and Hart can definitely play with both of them.''
Lofty praise, but the Indians have proved special.
Hart drilled St. Francis 34-14 in the semifinals, earning a chance at its second consecutive title and third of the 1990's.
``We are going to have to play as well as we have all year defensively to stay in the game,'' Stiman said. ``You're not going to score a lot of points on them, so if you get down by two touchdowns, you are in trouble.''
The Indians' defense isn't too shabby either.
``On defense they are one of the best, if not the best, we have seen,'' Stiman said. ``They have so much speed.''
And up front they have bulk with Evan Allen, Peter Dubsky and Chris Frome.
The linebacking corps is another strength.
``Pat Norton should be playing on Sundays,'' Stiman said. ``We have no clue how to block him. We went to the game (Friday) night and he looks bigger.''
Hart presents several dilemmas for the Vikings, who lost 42-21 in the regular season. But the Vikings present their own challenges for the Indians.
``I went to their game against Saugus,'' Hart sophomore running back Tim Gregory said, ``and they showed in that game that they want to go all the way. They are a really tough team, so we know we need to have a good week of practice to get ready for them.''
Said Norton: ``What happened in the first game or any other we have played them doesn't matter. This is for the championship, so we know they will be ready and we will too. It's going to be a good game and I can't wait.''
Saturday's championship appearance will be the fourth this decade for Hart.
The team lost the championship game in 1994 and won section titles in 1995 and 1998.
Season to remember: It ended suddenly and somewhat ugly, but after the sting wears away, Saugus can look back on the 1999 season with fondness.
The Centurions accomplished two things no previous team had since it opened in 1976: the 10-win season and the semifinal appearance.
The team loses several key players including Brett Draimin, Nels Jensen, David Parker, Corey Pearson, Nathan Steele and Brent Ybarra; but returns defensive standouts Jared DePaiva, Charlie Kasmar, Matt Kurowski, Anthony Pascarella and Dusty Titzel.
The offense will need a new quarterback and running back, but the defense should be as strong as this year's.
Injury report: It was feared that Valencia senior lineman Grant Roth might have suffered a cracked rib or a punctured lung in Saturday's semifinal victory against Saugus, but hospital tests proved negative, and Roth is expected to play Saturday against Hart.
Ray Cassaday had to leave the game late when a face mask penalty left him with a sore neck, but Cassaday also will play Saturday.
``Grant had nothing broken and after a few days to relax he will absolutely be ready to go,'' Stiman said.
The home team: Valencia has been designated as the home team for Saturday's game at College of the Canyons, although the Vikings play their home games at Canyon High and Hart plays at COC.
``It doesn't really mean much,'' Stiman said. ``Other than we get the bigger side of the stands.''
PHOTO Valencia coach Brian Stiman says Hart's defense has enough speed to be able to contain running back Manuel White.
Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer