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FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: PASSING TOURNAMENT HIGHLIGHTED BY QBS.

Byline: Erik Boal Special to the Daily News

The eight-team field for La Canada and St. Francis of La Canada Flintridge's 7-on-7 passing tournament might not rival the collection of talent Nike put together Friday for its third annual event at USC's Howard Jones Field last week.

But La Canada coach Rich Wheeler and St. Francis coach Jim Bonds have assembled the strongest group they've ever had, led by Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks and Valencia, two teams that competed at the Nike event.

The tournament, which starts at 1 p.m. today and is scheduled to conclude about 9, consists of two pools. La Canada, Notre Dame, Thousand Oaks and Valencia in one pool and St. Francis, Hemet, Moorpark and Upland in the other.

Notre Dame and Valencia went 1-1 at the Nike tournament, with the Knights losing 26-6 to Mission Viejo in its opening-round game and beating Long Beach Poly 27-6 in a consolation game.

Valencia, led by Mississippi-bound quarterback Michael Herrick, won its first-round game against Springdale (Ark.) and Mitch Mustain, considered the top prep quarterback in the Class of 2006, according to Student Sports and Rivals.com. Herrick hit receiver Shane Vereen on the final play for a 44-38 victory.

Herrick threw four touchdowns in Valencia's semifinal game, but junior Jimmy Clausen had five scoring passes for Oaks Christian of Westlake Village, which won 36-28.

The best pool-play showdown Friday figures to be Valencia against Notre Dame, with Herrick and Notre Dame's Garrett Green - two of the state's best quarterbacks - squaring off.

--Junior achievement: Even with Mustain, Green, Herrick, Hart of Newhall's Tyler Lyon and Mission Viejo's R.J. Toman on top of their games at the Nike tournament, the quarterback that stood out most at USC was Clausen, who threw 12 touchdowns versus two interceptions in leading Oaks Christian to the final, where the Lions lost 26-20 to Hart.

``He really impressed me,'' said Hart defensive coordinator Rick Herrington, who coached Hart at USC while his brother Mike - the Indians' head coach - was with the other half of the team at a tournament in Claremont.

``He can throw the ball on a line 15 to 20 yards before the cornerback can get there, and that's what colleges are looking for.''

With his older brother Casey - a former Alemany of Mission Hills and Tennessee standout - watching from the sidelines, Jimmy picked apart opposing defenses by spreading the ball around to Marshall Jones, Chris Potter, Marc Tyler and Sean Wiser.

Clausen is using different technique than he did last year as a sophomore, when he led Oaks Christian to a 14-0 record and the Southern Section Div. XI title. This year Clausen is holding the ball higher, giving him a higher release point.

The change in mechanics, in combination with Clausen's already excellent arm strength and accuracy, make it easy to understand why Student Sports recruiting director Greg Biggins said Friday that Clausen might be the country's best quarterback regardless of grade.

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Photo:

Michael Herrick (7) hopes to lead Valencia to victory in the La Canada and St. Francis of La Canada Flintridge 7-on-7 passing tournament.

Kirby Lee/Special to the Daily News
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 22, 2005
Words:529
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