Above: Duarte’s Tim Starr,Left, with Maurilio Lopez on Wednesday November 19, 2008, in Duarte. (Staff Photo by Keith Birmingham)
Longtime friends Lopez, Starr bolster Duarte’s lines
By Miguel A. Melendez
DUARTE – Seemingly, they were separated at birth.
Tim Starr is the eldest, and his younger sisters look up to him.
Maurilio Lopez is the youngest of two whose sibling is an older sister.
When Starr and Lopez met in seventh grade, little did they know they’d started a relationship that would turn into more than just friendship.
“More like brothers,” Starr said.
When they’re not spending time with friends bowling or taking dates to the movies, Starr and Lopez are anchoring the offensive and defensive lines for Duarte High School.
The seniors endured and overcame what felt like an injury-marred season to return just in time to help the Falcons go on a momentum-fueling run.
Duarte overcame an 0-4 start to finish 5-5 overall, but more importantly finished 5-1 in Montview League play.
The Falcons hope to transcend that momentum when they take on L.A. Baptist on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division playoffs.
Starr and Lopez, both 17, became friends while attending school at Northview Intermediate and both moved up to Duarte’s varsity squad their sophomore seasons.
They went through the ups and downs together and both point to their sophomore season as the best season yet.
That year, Duarte went undefeated in Montview League play to win the league title and advanced to the semifinals of the playoffs.
This season, however, included a rough start.
For starters, Starr pulled his left hamstring just before the start of fall camp.
Lopez hurt his back after weightlifting and felt the lingering effects, missing all of Duarte’s nonleague games. Five times he went for medical clearance and five times was told he was not ready to go.
To add insult to injury, the Falcons suffered consecutive losses to Ayala, Monrovia, Pomona and South Hills, the makings of a bleak season.
Two games into league, Starr rolled his right ankle and missed the Workman game, played sparingly against Bassett, but returned healthy against La Puente to hand the Warriors a 48-0 defeat.
When Starr and Lopez did play together (against Sierra Vista, Gladstone and La Puente) their presence certainly was felt. They opened holes for elusive running back Jordan Canada, who has rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“He’s a good kid,” said Starr of the junior running back. “He’s always thanking us and giving us our love when he scores.”
Though Starr and Lopez have never seen their name in the newspaper, they see it indirectly.
“Whenever we see Canada’s name in the paper we know we’ve done our job,” the 6-foot-2, 285-pound Starr said.
“Just like when Chris Harris played here,” Lopez said.
Harris was last year’s league MVP and is now starting at receiver for Utah State.
“As long as (Canada’s) name is in there, that’s fine with me,” Lopez said.
While on the offensive line, Starr and Lopez line up next to each other. Eddie Agundez, the senior center, Ryan Haase and Ryan Cranford lend a big hand, too.
Despite a slow start and injuries early in the season, Starr never lost faith.
“I couldn’t let our season go down like this,” he said. “We stayed positive, and since the beginning our goal is to win a CIF title. That remains our goal.”
Starr and Lopez credit first-year offensive line coach Donte Palmer for his insights and loose style of coaching.
“He changed our mind set,” Starr said.
“He taught us to play a lot smarter and made the sport a lot of fun,” said Lopez, a towering presence at 6-3, 300 pounds.
Starr and Lopez want to attend a school where they can continue to play football.
“Anywhere where I can play free,” Starr said.
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