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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Redlands East Valley QB Ronnie Fouch

Fouch Erases Doubts at Redlands East Valley

By Martin Henderson, Times Staff Writer
November 17, 2006

Ronnie Fouch says he has "heard a lot of stuff." Can't pinpoint it, doesn't know the particulars, isn't worried about where it came from.

Real or imagined, the Redlands East Valley quarterback says "a lot of people doubted me … a lot of people said I wasn't going to be as good as last year."

So Fouch came into his senior season, he says, with a self-inflicted chip on his shoulder.

"I don't know the specifics," he said, "but I played like people doubted me."

What's to doubt? Fouch has been mostly brilliant in his three-year varsity career, during which he has thrown for 6,340 yards and 73 touchdowns with only 15 interceptions.

Even as a sophomore, when all he was supposed to do was hand the ball off to Nathan Acrey and not make mistakes, he made an impact with what has become his signature trait: Poise.

"We had a huge offensive line and a good running back," said Redlands East Valley Coach Kurt Bruich. "In our second game, we're down two touchdowns to Murrieta Valley with 1 minute 35 seconds left, and Ronnie puts us in the end zone twice. Score, onside kick, score. We went, 'Man, this kid is for real.' "

Fouch has led Redlands East Valley to victory six times with touchdowns in the final minute, and four times he has led the Wildcats to scores in the last minute before halftime.

"Ronnie has a gift," Bruich said. "He's never rattled. Nothing bothers him. He's a clear thinker when the game's on the line, and I think that's what makes him special.

"There are a lot of kids who can throw like he can, who can do what he does. But as a big-time quarterback, you have the complete package. The poise that he brings, I've never seen it before."

That poise will be tested again tonight, when Redlands East Valley, 7-3 overall, plays at Temecula Chaparral (8-2) in the first round of the Southern Section Inland Division playoffs, a game that pits Washington-bound Fouch against Chaparral's Oregon-bound running back, Talmadge Jackson.

The winner will be matched against top-seeded Corona Centennial (10-0) in the second round, provided the Huskies defeat Alta Loma as expected.

"I'm not finished yet," said Fouch, who stands 6 feet 2 inches, weighs 195 pounds, and carries a 3.7 grade-point average in his core classes. "I want to win CIF. I haven't won a playoff game as a starting quarterback. I just want to go out there and win four more games."

Fouch has never won a playoff game because during his sophomore season he was matched against the great Lakewood defense that included linebacker Luther Brown.

Fouch missed the playoffs his junior season after he suffered a separated shoulder against Colton in the league finale. Senior backup Mike Stadler guided the Wildcats to a first-round upset of Santa Margarita in Division I before losing to Anaheim Esperanza.

This season, Redlands East Valley was a major disappointment early on. It lost three of its first four games, the last a 48-25 setback to Redlands in the Smudge Pot game. It determined the Citrus Belt League champion. The Wildcats haven't lost since.

"We wanted to win the CBL and that was the championship game," Fouch said, "but we didn't want to base our whole season on the Redlands game.

"Coach Bruich told us to pick our heads up, fly under the radar, and show everybody what you've got at the end. Now our goal is to prove what we've got in the playoffs.

"That loss brought everyone together."

It was a reality check for a team that was 10-1-1 last season and came into 2006 with great expectations.

"Before the season, the team wanted to be undefeated, and we thought we were the best," Fouch said. "We had a lot to learn. We weren't invincible. It showed anybody can lose, anybody can win. We committed to working hard.

"After the game against Redlands, coach set the goal to win 10 more games in a row. So far, we've won six. That was a big turning point for our team."

Bruich says 14 starters or key substitutes were missing in September.

As for Fouch's personal agenda? He and Bruich agree that while he has been better this season than last, he hasn't had the benefit of two Division I college receivers, Isaiah Burel (Idaho State) and tight end Lance Evboumwan (Arizona State).

Last season, Fouch passed for 2,379 yards and 34 touchdowns with only four interceptions. This season, he has completed and attempted fewer passes (136 of 236), but has thrown for more yards, 2,481, with 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

"We've been running the ball more effectively this year," Bruich said. "Last year, we didn't even consider running it. Ronnie's passing less, but his yards per completion is higher.

"I don't think he's a phenomenon anymore. This is kind of what people expect."


martin.henderson@latimes.com

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