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Playoff loss keeps Villa Park motivated

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

VILLA PARK - Last season, Villa Park was perfect for 12 weeks. The Spartans rolled through the Crestview League and won their first two playoff games by multiple touchdowns. But La Habra ended Villa Park’s quest for its first CIF title since 1977, beating the Spartans, 42-21, in the semifinals.

Eight months later, Villa Park's players are still upset about the loss.

“It was a big-time letdown,” said quarterback Nick Sipe. “It's just a feeling that all of us that were on that team last year don’t want to have again.”

Sipe threw for 2,842 yards and tossed 31 touchdowns last season to become one of the 14 Spartans to make the All-Crestview League team, and yet the loss to La Habra left Sipe and his teammates looking for ways to get better.

“It's definitely motivating,” Sipe said. “It was a terrible feeling that we don’t want to feel again.”

Among the key returners for Villa Park is last year's Crestview League player of the year, John Stamos. Stamos, who was also on the All-County and All-CIF teams, racked up 139 total tackles and rushed for 495 yards at fullback.

“It’s always tough having that last loss,” Stamos said. “We look at that game, and (we want) to fix those mistakes so we don’t make them this year.”

Villa Park coach Dusan Ancich recalled the La Habra game as one where "a lot of the stuff we did was self destructive. Whether we got penalties, dropped pass or a missed tackle."

Ancich said he wants his players to focus on eliminating those types of mistakes this season.

“We expect to win league and our goal is to win the CIF championship," he said. "We have to be playing for a ring.”

SIPE HEADED TO PURDUE

Sipe is part of another outstanding class of senior quarterbacks in Orange County.

He received numerous offers, including ones from Boise State and Colorado State, but he committed to Purdue in June.

“It’s just a place I could see myself going for the next four or five years,” Sipe said. “I liked the area and the campus. It kind of felt like home.”

Sipe spent the offseason trying to add strength to his 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame and on improving his efficiency.

“He’s a big-time player,” Ancich said. “There is a reason he has a scholarship offer from Purdue.”

Sipe is rated as a three-star recruit by ESPN, 247, Scout and Rivals.

STAMOS CONSIDERING SERVICE ACADAMIES

In recent months, Stamos has landed offers from Army, Navy, Fresno State and Nevada, as well as a handful of FCS schools.

“When I got my first Army ofer I looked into it more,” Stamos said. “I liked the opportunity after football and after I graduate.”

While Navy and Army are his top two choices now, Stamos is in no hurry to commit.

“He’s one of those guys that if he goes to Annapolis, you know he’s going to make it because he’s made for that,” Ancich said. “To some guys that’s scary and intimidating, but he just sees it as a challenge.”

DARSO MOVES TO OUTSIDE

Last season, Shane Darso earned all-league honors playing inside on the defensive line while weighing 290 pounds.

After losing 60 pounds and increasing his strength in the weight room, Darso has moved to defensive end and will see some playing time at fullback this season.

“What's amazing is how much faster he got,” Ancich said. “He is the top d-end in Orange County. He power cleans 325 (pounds), runs a 4.8 40. He hits like a truck and he’s probably the most intimidating kid on our team.”

Asked how his transition to offense is going, Darso said it helps having a Big 10-caliber quarterback to work with.

“He makes it easy for everybody,” Darso said of Sipe.


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