“They’ve got those two guys,” Montclair coach Rick Ward said, “But two guys can do a lot of damage.”
Those “two guys” on the Don Lugo High School football team are: defensive lineman George Uko (perhaps the most dynamic player to emerge from the Inland Valley in my three years here) and RB/FS Steven Bethley, a potential Pac-10 player.
A 6-foot-4, five-star defensive tackle who runs a 4.9 40 – he was 296 pounds at his last weigh in – Uko is rated the third best in the country at his position by scout.com. (He’ll play defensive end for Don Lugo) He has already received 19 scholarship offers.
“He’s getting recruited,” Don Lugo coach Rick Martin said, “by just about every school in the nation.”
Though they aren’t charted for defensive linemen, pancake blocks were a specialty of Uko during the the one Don Lugo game I covered last season. The poor offensive tackle assigned to him ended up flat on his back seemingly as often as Uko desired.
“George is one of those kids who God has graced with some rare talents,” Martin said. “Some kids think they know the game. He is all ears, very coachable.”
Bethley, a 6-foot, 200-pounder who averaged 7.2 yards per carry last season will serve as the primary ball carrier in Don Lugo’s three-pronged running attack. But he thinks he’s a better safety than a running back. He has received offers from San Diego State and Colorado State.
Bethley is being followed closely by several Pac-10 schools, according to Martin, who may offer him depending on his early-season performance.
While Uko and Bethley rival Rancho Cucamonga’s QB-TE duo of Greg Watson and Randal Telfer as the most highly recruited in the Inland Valley, Martin is counting on heavy contributions from the 10 sophomores he started last year.
“Last year,” Martin said, “was just a 10-game preseason for this year.”
The only pitfall for the Conquistadores, who finished fourth in the Mt. Baldy League last season, seems to be a passing game that totalled 446 yards ALL of last season. Martin’s ideal run-pass ratio of 50:50 seems a stretch but if returning starting QB Matt Montgomery can simply keep defenses honest, Don Lugo can lean on Bethley and a strong offensive line.
Said Chris Brown, coach of reigning Mt. Baldy League champion Chaffey: “Don Lugo thinks it’s their year.”