2005-08-25 / Sports

Newbury Park’s offense expects to thrive with its multi-Jordan attack

By Kyle Jorrey jorrey@theacorn.com

MIRROR IMAGE—Newbury Park seniors Jordan LaSecla, left, and Jordan Cameron, right, say the Panthers have the weapons to become the Marmonte League’s most dangerous offense. Friends since childhood, the two three-sport athletes are determined to lead their team back to the postseason for the first time since 1999. MIRROR IMAGE—Newbury Park seniors Jordan LaSecla, left, and Jordan Cameron, right, say the Panthers have the weapons to become the Marmonte League’s most dangerous offense. Friends since childhood, the two three-sport athletes are determined to lead their team back to the postseason for the first time since 1999. Standing on the practice field Tuesday afternoon throwing passes back and forth to one another, Newbury Park seniors Jordan LaSecla and Jordan Cameron looked almost like one and the same player.

Without numbers and with their helmets revealing little else than each other’s curly locks sneaking out the back, the 6-4 LaSecla and 6-5 Cameron could have fooled even the most knowledgeable Panther fan with their similar physiques.

It’s these similarities, along with a shared desire to be the best in whatever sport they play, which have connected the two Newbury Park natives since childhood.

“(Cameron) and I have played together since we were young and we’ve always been close,” said LaSecla, the Panthers’ returning starting quarterback. “I mean, we look similar, we have the same name . . . stuff just clicked when we were younger. He’s always been the best basketball player and I’ve been the football guy.”

That difference is what caused the two friends to go in separate directions after their freshman years, if only for awhile.

While LaSecla continued in football, Cameron decided to take the year off to focus on his other two sports: volleyball and basketball. LaSecla was soon named the starting quarterback of the varsity football team and Cameron immediately became a starter on the basketball team—both were sophomores.

It might have stayed that way had it not been for LaSecla, who approached his longtime friend last September after the start of the football season to try and coax him back on the field, knowing Cameron’s size and athleticism would make him an asset to the Panthers’ pass attack.

“He and some of my other friends persuaded me to come out, and after watching the first game, I realized I missed football a lot and kind of wanted to play,” Cameron said. “Having (LaSecla) at quarterback was a big part of it. I knew I’d have one of the best quarterbacks around throwing to me and I thought I could help the team.”

In his first game back, the Panthers’ Marmonte League opener against Calabasas, the duo wasted little time in making the reunion official.

On the final play of the first half, LaSecla connected with Cameron on a 45-yard touchdown bomb that was more instinctual than it was technical.

“I was standing on the sidelines and (LaSecla) yelled my name and said, ‘Just go. Just go.’ So that’s what I did,” Cameron said. “So I went deep and he hit me in the back of the end zone. It was kind of lucky, but it was cool.”

LaSecla remembers the moment similarly.

“It was pretty exciting for us that my first pass to him went for a touchdown,” LaSecla said. “When he came off the field we were just laughing and having fun.”

The Panthers are hoping for a lot more of those kinds of plays this year as the team tries to build on a 5-5 season and return to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

With the addition of a fourth automatic playoff bid (see related story on page 32) and a healthy roster of capable athletes, it’s as good time as any.

LaSecla didn’t mince words when asked what we expects from the Panthers this season.

“We’re going to the playoffs,” the quarterback said. “Last year we missed it by one game, and now we’re ready.”

To get there, much of the responsibility will fall on LaSecla and the Newbury Park offense, which again will extend the field and throw the ball 40-plus times a game in head coach George Hurley’s spread attack.

After passing for 2,247 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, the third-year starter is ready to show Panther fans why the Newbury Park coaching staff has stuck by his side, and live up to what some see as big potential.

“I have a lot to prove to people, to scouts, to my coaches, to my teammates,” LaSecla said. “I’ve got to be able to prove to them that they can trust me. I feel the pressure, but I can handle it. That comes with the maturity and experience I’ve gained the past two seasons.”

If anyone has confidence in LaSecla’s abilities, it’s his head coach.

“He’s in a situation now where he’s cut down on the bad choices and the bad throws. He’s really matured into a very good quarterback,” Hurley said. “I’d be very surprised if he’s not the top passer in the league, if not in the county, because we’re definitely going to give him a chance to be.”

Improvement for LaSecla starts in the turnover department. He’s thrown a total of 40 interceptions the past two seasons (15 last year), far too many even considering his unusually high attempt count.

“This year coach (Gary Fabricius) and I have really worked on throwing the ball away or running with it when nobody is open,” LaSecla said. “It’s about knowing when to throw and when not to throw, and I think that’s something I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older.”

Despite his time away, Cameron also expects to be one of the best players in the area at his position, headlining a receiving corps that returns deep-threat Josh Baker (34 receptions, 15.7 yards-per-catch) and a slew of speedy newcomers.

His coach believes he has the ability to do so.

“Jordan (Cameron) is just an excellent an athlete. That’s why he succeeds in whatever he does,” Hurley said. “I expect both Jordans to be good as any other duo in the league.”

Cameron, who will also contend for a starting spot on defense, finished 2004 with 10 receptions—three for touchdowns.

It’s important to note that both Cameron and LaSecla are members of a dying breed of threesport athletes. Rather than focus their abilities on one endeavor (as many high school athletes do these days), the friends prefer to lend their talents to whatever team needs them.

Cameron is the shooting guard on the basketball team and an outside hitter with the volleyball team. LaSecla plays third base and pitcher, and is a forward on the basketball squad.

“I’ve always had so much fun in sports it’s hard for me to stay away from them,” said LaSecla. “Some people say it’s too hard to play multiple sports if you want to get into college, but I’m just trying to prove them wrong.”

Cameron, who’s already made a verbal commitment to play basketball for Brigham Young University, is of a similar mindset.

Even the risk of injury, he said, couldn’t keep him from his desire to help the Panthers return to the football glory they enjoyed in the late ’90s.

“I want to do everything I can to help this football team, and I know I’ll enjoy doing it,” Cameron said. “I’ll be going full speed ahead every play—I won’t hold anything back. I know this team has the potential to be really good, and I want to be a part of that.”

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