An apparently routine CIF playoff loss by another San Diego-area team loomed when Sweetwater took possession after an Anaheim punt late in the third quarter, trailing in a first-round game, 7-0.
What followed was legend.
What Red Devils quarterback Wayne Sevier remembered, before he passed away in 1999, was “twenty-four plays, eighty-three yards, seven first downs, six measurements and a flea flicker on fourth and twenty-four.”
What halfback Gilbert Warren remembered years later was the pregame warm-up: “We were on the field when they came out. The line of players never stopped coming. They must have dressed eighty guys.”
What Sweetwater coach Tom Parker told Phil Collier of The San Diego Union after the game: “Anaheim tried to wear us down by platooning. We only have 5 capable substitutes. The amazing thing about the touchdown drive is that the kids didn’t panic.”
What was obvious was the Red Devils were outnumbered and severely lacking in pedigree. Anaheim annually was one of the outstanding teams in Southern California.
The Colonists’ innovative coach, Clare Van Hoorbeke (190-49-10 from 1950-72), may indeed have outfitted more than his varsity team.
Maybe Van Hoorbeke was hoping to invoke some intimidation before an expected victory by the Sunset League power which was 2-0-1 in the postseason against San Diego teams since 1953.
HISTORY NOT ON THEIR SIDE
Sweetwater had been to the playoffs in the medieval CIF period of 1923 and ‘26, and then waited 34 years before the 1957 club qualified again and made a quick exit in a 31-7, first-round loss to San Diego.
Anaheim was making its sixth appearance in the eight years since Van Hoorbeke became coach.
But the Red Devils, with pluck and grit, advanced to the next round after a 7-7 tie.
Sweetwater won on a CIF rules tie breaker, having a 14-8 advantage in first downs, similar to 1955, when San Diego moved on after a 20-20 tie with Anaheim.
By Parker’s count, Sweetwater ran 69 plays to Anaheim’s 32, but it played from behind after Rick Sheffler roused the 8,000 La Palma Stadium patrons with a 78-yard touchdown run near the end of the first half.
Some game notes from The San Diego Union, Anaheim Bulletin, and San Diego Evening Tribune:
- The score remained 7-0 until Warren pierced Anaheim’s eight-man line for nine yards to Sweetwater’s 29 on the last play of the third quarter.
- As Phil Collier described, Sweetwater stayed on the ground and advanced to Anaheim’s 45-yard line, where Sevier passed 15 yards to Mike Fogelsong.
- The Red Devils went back to their running game, moving to Anaheim’s 15, but a holding penalty pushed the visitors back to the 30.
- At this point, with about five minutes remaining, “The National City club unloaded their secret weapon,” reported the Anaheim Bulletin.
- On fourth down and 23 Sevier handed off to Fogelsong and took off downfield.
- The 180-pound Fogelsong was known as the “Frisco Freight”. An administrative mixup forced Fogelsong to sit out the 1957 season after he transferred from a school in San Francisco.
- Fogelsong rolled to his right and then threw a pass across the field to Sevier, who made a leaping catch at the Colonists’ six-yard line.
- Game officials signaled for the down marker and chains. The Red Devils made a first down, by inches.
- Warren ran three yards to the three, but on the next play Sweetwater was penalized for off-side (false start) and sent back the 8.
- Sevier threw incomplete and on third down passed again to Leslie Pearson in the end zone.
- Another incompletion but Anaheim’s Glen Herbel was cited for pass interference.
- First down, Sweetwater.
- Jerry Hotham wedged into the end zone from the one on the next play for a touchdown with about two minutes remaining in the game. Warren held for the point after and Sevier booted the conversion for a tie at 7-7.
- Sweetwater held the ball for almost 10 minutes, negotiated 80 yards in an unheard of 24 plays, made at least six first downs, with officials’ measurements on almost every one.
- Wayne Sevier’s recollection wasn’t exact, but as Gil Warren said of his old friend, “Wayne’s memory was great. He even remembered a pass I dropped.”
- Sweetwater was not out of the woods.
- Anaheim threatened by advancing from its 34 to Sweetwater’s 28 but quarterback Dennis Vollom’s fourth down pass to the end zone was incomplete.
- Ball Game.
CENTRAL COAST POWER
Sweetwater won a coin flip and was awarded a home game for the quarterfinals against the San Luis Obispo League champion Santa Maria Saints, 10-1, with only a 26-14 loss to Bakersfield in their opening game.
Sweetwater principal Allen Campbell correctly called tails in a three-way telephonic hookup with the principal from Santa Maria and CIF commissioner Ken Fagans at Fagans’ office in Los Angeles.
Santa Maria, which had surprised Santa Barbara, 35-19, in the first round and which boasted 144-point scorer Manuel Jones, was a slight favorite and took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter.
The slow-starting Red Devils stormed back to win, 27-7, as Warren gained 71 yards in 11 carries, caught 4 passes for 51 yards, intercepted a pass, and punted three times for a 33-yard average. Fogelsong gained 70 yards in 10 carries.
VIKINGS SAIL TO WIN
Sweetwater was given another home game for the semifinals against 10-0-1 Santa Monica, a tradition-laden powerhouse that had been the home team for its first two postseason victories.
The Red Devils now were hailed as the Cinderella team of the playoffs, a surprising survivor to the Round of 4, especially in light of San Diego’s early departure in a 26-18 loss to Long Beach Poly.
Principal Allen Campbell ordered temporary bleachers at Hudgins Field and almost 7,000 persons jammed the National City campus.
Santa Monica quickly moved to put an end to Sweetwater’s fairy tale hopes.
The Vikings raced to a 28-7 halftime lead and were ahead, 34-7, in the third quarter as writer Phil Collier described a “grass-level fog” that enveloped the field.
The beach city squad kept the Red Devils at a distance, winning, 34-20, amid the echoes of the Vikings’ cheering squad.
“Push ‘em back! Push ‘em back! Push ‘em back to TJ, to TJ!” exhorted the Santa Monica yell leaders.
Tijuana, in Baja California, Mexico, was about 14 miles south of the Sweetwater campus.
ANOTHER BIG GAME
Sweetwater’s drive to the Metropolitan League championship went through Escondido, where the host Cougars had won 22 straight regular-season games and shown no falloff after exiting the weaker Avocado League.
Ralph Inzunza’s fourth-quarter pass interception and five-yard return at 7:15 and with his team trailing, 14-9, positioned Sweetwater for a six-play, 71-yard touchdown drive that overcame the Cougars, 16-14, before an overflow crowd of 5,500 persons.
Gilbert Warren led the Red Devils with 70 yards in 13 carries, caught 4 passes for 81 yards, punted four times for a 31.5 average, and returned an intercepted pass 51 yards with 3:04 left in the game to preserve the victory.
Wayne Sevier and Gil Warren played on coach Don Coryell’s first San Diego State teams in 1961-62 and each was bent on a coaching career.
Sevier was head coach at Sweetwater in 1965-66 and a special teams coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, Chargers, Redskins, and Los Angeles Rams in a 25-year NFL career.
Warren coached 28 seasons at high schools in the South Bay, winning championships in 1968, ’94, and ’96 at Castle Park. Warren’s 216 career victories rank fifth all-time in San Diego County.
Sweetwater had 14 first downs to Santa Monica’s 13 and outgained Vikings, 290-218, although the visitors had 206 yards rushing to the hosts’ 96…Mike Fogelsong gained 71 yards in 15 carries against Anaheim…the stats were as close as the score…the Red Devils rushed for 162 yards and passed for 50…Anaheim had 186 yards rushing and 25 passing, Sweetwater holding a 212-211 advantage…Tom Parker was 38-24-4 as head coach from 1954-60…”Tommie” Parker was a halfback at Hoover in 1942, played at San Diego State, and also served as trainer for the annual summer College Prep All-Star game in San Diego…Sweetwater’s 21-7 victory was Claremont’s first regular-season loss in four years…the Red Devils voted to work out Thanksgiving Day instead of taking a holiday before the Anaheim game…Parker was almost prescient before the Colonist contest: “We have a chance against this club, a good chance, if we play to our maximum potential. Anything less than that won’t be good enough”….Wayne Sevier, Mike Fogelsong, Gil Warren, Joe Meeker, Max Freetley, Leslie Pearson, Ron Grimes, David Hoffman, Larry LeGrand, Jim Arnout, and Albert Belmontez were Sweetwater’s starters…the “capable” replacements Art Graham, Richard Clifton, David Nenow, Ralph Inzunza, and Jim Feeler, rounded out the Red Devils’ essential 16-man playing roster…