In all the hoopla surrounding the perfect season and #1 ranking in the state for St. Bonaventure, little attention was given to the team who faced them in the CIF Southern Section Division IV championship game. Moorpark (Calif.) High School won their league, ahead of Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park, and amassed a 10-3 record heading into the CIF title game on a streak of three straight playoff wins by a total score of 87-17. With more and more teams in Southern California gearing themselves with high-octane passing offenses (e.g. Newbury Park's 4,109 passing yards vs. 781 rushing), Moorpark maintains a grind-it-up ground game. The Musketeers racked up 3,427 yards rushing the ball in 2005, with their top two running backs combining for nearly 2,900 yards and 7.2 yards per carry.
"We've pretty much always had a smashmouth offense," says junior offensive tackle George Halamandaris. "But it was an up year for us. We had two really special running backs, and we had a good line."
Starting two seniors and three juniors, the Moorpark front five were an eclectic group. Halamandaris manned the right tackle position at 6'7" and 280 pounds (he is 295 today). The Musketeers' left tackle stood at 6'0" and 200 pounds.
"Our offensive line was kind of like a staircase," Halamandaris laughs. "Our running is pretty balanced, but I had more of a power position."
The success of the Moorpark line collectively, as well as that for Halamandaris individually, is credited to two things: Moorpark's weight room and their offensive line coach. Instructing the linemen is John Kidder, a former Crespi High School and UCLA (1983-87) lineman.
"My coach played offensive tackle at UCLA for four years. We listen to what he says," Halamandaris explains. "I'm picking up on the footwork, and taking in all of his knowledge."
"We have a pretty good weight room, too, so I've gotten stronger," he adds. "Our weight room is pretty new, and it rivals what some smaller colleges have."
Edging closer to 300 pounds, Halamandaris is well put-together and owns a long frame - "lanky" in his words. He stands at 6'7" and owns an 81-inch wingspan. An asset in blocking, those long arms make work that much harder in the weight room, though he is currently up to 300 pounds on the bench and a 350-pound squat.
"I'm built well, and that allows me to stay quick," he offers. "I'm gaining a lot of flexibility and better form, which is helping my squat."
Moorpark is not one of the 'name' programs in Southern California, and Halamandaris is still a relatively inexperienced football player. He picked up the sport only in eighth grade, while he has been a basketball player all his life. But his towering frame combined with strong run blocking on his junior film started to put him on the Pac-10 radar this spring. He has been recruited the most by Stanford, Cal, Oregon and USC. He has visited the hometown Trojans, and during his spring break last month, Halamandaris made a swing to visit Cal, Stanford and Utah.
On Tuesday of last week, Stanford made a splash with Halamandaris' first scholarship offer. He could have asked for nothing better.
"I talked with Coach [Tom] Freeman, and he said that I had an offer, which was pretty exciting," the recruit recounts. "I thought about it for a while. Once I got the written offer, I looked it over and got the OK with my parents. I called Coach [Walt] Harris on Monday and committed. He was really happy about it and congratulated me. I sent texts to Coach [Nate] Nelson and Coach Freeman, and they congratulated me."
"I've always wanted to go there, and it was a good match," Halamandaris says of his quick trigger for the Cardinal. "It's not like I just committed to them because they were my first offer. Stanford is where I have always wanted to go."
"I saw enough of the campus that I felt I can fit in," he continues. "I met some players, and the guys are all personable and nice. Nate Nelson and Anthony Gabriel showed us around, and we loved the campus. I like the way Coach Freeman coaches, too. When you do something wrong, he lets you know."
"They're reputable for their academics," he adds. "Stanford is one of the best schools in the nation. I want to probably study business or engineering, and they are one of the best schools in the nation for both."
This makes the fourth straight year that Stanford has landed a lineman as their first verbal commitment, with all four coming during the recruits' junior years and three of those coming on the offensive line. Cardinal commits prior to the summer and fall are more rare than at other schools because of the University's admissions application process. Most applications for prospective football student-athletes are read during their senior year, with some coming during the summer. For Halamandaris, this public commitment is a bold leap of faith.
"It's still not 100% that I can go to Stanford, but I hope that I will be accepted," he says. "I have a 3.9 (weighted) and a 1770 on the SAT. I'm taking it again in June, but I did score a 600 on the verbal, which the coaches were happy about because they said that Admissions pays a lot of attention to that."
Halmanadaris boasts a strong transcript as well, with AP history plus honors courses as a sophomore and currently AP English and physics to go with honors precalculus in his junior year.
"Hopefully other recruits will see one guy who took the chance on committing to Stanford before he was admitted, and they will want to follow," the new commit comments. "It's a great campus, and they have the best academics. And Walt Harris is the right guy who has the program headed in the right direction."
George Halamandaris is Stanford's first verbal commitment in the 2007 recruiting class, and we will have more on the towering tackle still to come.
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