San Diego High represented one of the best football coaching jobs in the state, but was John Perry all in?
Perry ruminated that the 1925 season, which ended in a bitter, 13-6 loss to Covina in the CIF championship game, was too long and a reason his club had let down in the title game.
That apparently was why Perry’s started practice a week later this season and moved the start of practice from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Perry also had been delayed because he was attending a summer school football class in Los Angeles taught by USC coach Howard Jones.
Key Cavers (clockwise from upper left): Bert Ritchey, John Donohue, Eddie Moeller, Tony Mason, Captain Cy West (center).
Despite Perry’s seeming detachment, the Cavemen appeared ready to make another strong run.
Superstar halfback Bert Ritchey was back for his third varsity season, joined by tackle Cy West, and several other holdovers from the 10-1 team of the year before.
Players were moving up from coach Gerald (Tex) Oliver’s B team, which defeated Huntington Park, 13-6, for the 1925 Southern California championship.
And there were incoming sophomores from Roosevelt and Memorial, teams which played for the championship of the city junior high league in ’25.
After a 27-0 victory in the opening game against the San Diego State Frosh, the Hilltoppers lost sight of the end zone. They scored three touchdowns and 29 points, total, in seven Coast League contests.
The Cavemen dropped back-to-back road games at Long Beach and Whittier but still finished with a 6-2 record.
Perry’s 52-14-5 achievement in seven seasons would not seem raise any doubt about his future as coach.
But the afternoon San Diego Sun newspaper published a story Nov. 19, 1926, the day before the Hilltoppers’ last home game against South Pasadena, that declared Perry was out as coach:
“A complete rearrangement of the coaching staff at the San Diego high school has taken place, and will go into effect at once, it was made known today.
“John Perry, who heretofore coached varsity football, becomes supervisor of physical training and director of school athletics, but will have no coaching connections with the various teams.
“John Hobbs, assistant grid coach to Perry, and in direct charge of the second team, is now head coach of the Hilltop varsity football team.”
The timing of the no-attribution, no-byline article was curious, with two games remaining on the schedule. It looked as if Perry was being removed from his position and given a highfalutin title of reduced significance.
NOTHING TO IT?
San Diego principal Glenn Perkins reacted with a non-denial denial the next day in the scrambling, morning San Diego Union:
“For two years there has been serious consideration of appointing Perry physical education director in charge of all athletics and naming Hobbs mentor of the varsity football squad, but to date that has not been done and it is hardly likely that it will be affected until next fall, if at all,” said Perkins.
Perkins added that “Should the position ‘director physical education’ be created Perry can have it if he chooses and undoubtedly Hobbs will be named varsity football coach.”
Perry responded with a flowery no comment and Hobbs ducked the issue. “How could I assume control of the varsity football team now when I have called varsity basketball practice for Monday afternoon?” said Hobbs.
SUN STORY ON THE MONEY
The Sun article may have been premature but Perry did step down later and become a P.E. coach and head of the athletics department. He would stay away from football until starting the program at the new Hoover High in 1930.
The Sun also was correct about the “rearrangement” of the coaching staff.
Hobbs became head football coach and remained in charge of basketball. Dewey (Mike) Morrow began a legendary career, replacing Perry as baseball coach, and Glenn Broderick took over the track program.
The 1927 Russ yearbook editor’s vision of San Diego High coaches (clockwise from top): John Perry, Dewey (Mike) Morrow, John Hobbs, Glenn Broderick.
ARE THEY ON SAME PAGE?
Despite the loss to Whittier, the Cavers still were in the Coast League title hunt when they went to Long Beach, where a controversial play prompted Perry to protest the game.
Principal Glenn Perkins a day later would say there would be no protest.
Trailing, 3-0, Perry told referee Arthur Badenoch, the head coach at Inglewood, that San Diego end Schoettler was going to “hide out” near the Cavers’ sideline on the play following the third-quarter kickoff.
The stratagem worked, John Donohue teaming with Schoettler on a 65-yard scoring pass play.
Uh oh! Penalty flag.
Badenoch had noticed a Long Beach player offside on the kickoff, according to press reports. The referee asked San Diego captain Eddie Moeller if the Hilltoppers wanted the penalty or the ball.
Moeller took the ball. San Diego lined up and Donohue and Schoettler combined to apparently put the visitors in front, 6-3.
Badenoch nullified the play. The whistle had not been blown to begin play after the referee and Moeller, the San Diego captain, had discussed options.
COACH LOOKS BACK
Twenty-five years later, at a San Diego homecoming, Perry had a different recollection.
“It worked okay, for (Schoettler) caught the ball and scored in spite of the fact that he was detected by Long Beach,” Perry told George Herrick of the Evening Tribune.
“However,” Perry added, “our enthusiasm was dampened when the umpire announced Long Beach had called time out. It was the only time in my 31 years of coaching that I ever protested a game.”
The coach recalled that the Cavers tried the play again, but a Long Beach defender deflected the pass into the hands of a teammate, who ran 50 yards for a score in Poly’s 10-0 victory.
TRANSFER RED FLAGGED
Two weeks into practice, the Cavers’ stock went up when quarterback Jimmy Meeks and end Laurie Hall transferred in from Hollywood High and were reported to have moved into San Diego’s enrollment district.
Meeks had set a national record of :15.1 in the 120-yard high hurdles, finished second in the 220 lows, and anchored the Sheiks to a national record of 1:29.9 in the 880-yard relay at the state meet in Palo Alto the previous spring.
Meeks entered the opening game in the second quarter but was benched in the second half after he was penalized for “slugging” a San Diego State player.
Days later it was learned that Meeks and Hall had been bounced at Hollywood because they violated a state interscholastic rule by becoming members of a school fraternity.
Santa Ana, which filed a protest in 1925, claiming that Hilltopper Russ Saunders had boxed professionally, alerted Coast League bosses.
“We shall place our cards on the table and let league officials act,” said principal Perkins, who thought the rule was unfair and wasn’t sure it would hold up in a court of law.
Meeks and Hall were out.
SANTA ANA UNHAPPY
Tex Oliver, the ex-Hilltop B coach and track mentor, now was head coach at Santa Ana. The Saints still were unhappy about another protest apparently submitted by San Diego.
Santa Ana wanted Harvey Durkee reinstated. Durkee had played in a practice game in 1925 after not having completed a semester of attendance following a transfer from Huntington Beach.
The few minutes in the ’25 game was declared a full season by the Coast League after Durkee left school, then returned in February, 1926, and completed a full semester thinking he’d be eligible in the Fall.
Durkee and Santa Ana officials were told the player was out of eligibility. Perry also claimed that Durkee transferred without changing his home address and therefore would be ineligible for a full year.
Perry’s last game as coach and Oliver’s first against his former boss was a 9-7 success in overtime for the visiting Cavers, but there were no huzzahs from the San Diego media.
Wrote Charles Savage of the Union:
“…Oliver’s speedy Saints team reversed the San Diegans dizzy; battered their way through the heavy San Diego line for 15 first downs, and worked the ball within the shadows of the visitors’ goal five times only to lose the ball on fumbles.”
Savage ended with this zinger:
“The San Diegans didn’t display any more fighting spirit here today than they have at any time this season. In fact, their showing could not have been much worse. And San Diego has displayed some poor football this season.”
A Southern California championship in 1922, two Coast League titles in the league’s four years, and a .768 winning percentage since 1920 apparently were not enough.
Perry couldn’t be blamed for taking a step back.
STARRING RED GRANGE
The Pantages and The San Diego Sun newspaper invited members of the football teams of San Diego High, St. Augustine, and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot to a showing of “One Minute To Play.”
The silent movie (talkies still were a few years away) starred Harold (Red) Grange, the all-America halfback from the University of Illinois who had signed with the NFL Chicago Bears.
Grange, playing the role of “Red Wade”, shook off an injury, came into the game with one minute to play, and scored the winning touchdown.
When not punching each other, Coronado officials studied artist’s concept of bridge from San Diego to transbay island. The bridge was an idea whose time had not come.
SIGN OF THE TIMES
Politics in Coronado, the sleepy community across San Diego Bay, made for angry bedfellows.
The city auditor decked the city manager, twice, in a fist fight outside City Hall and then dropped the manager again a few days later in the street in front of the building after tempers flared during a contentious meeting of the town’s honchos.
All members of the fire and police departments either were fired by the Coronado board of trustees or resigned. The fistic proficient city auditor, was fired and the city recorder resigned.
A new city Marshal was appointed and said gentleman along with a trustee was sued for $25,000 for assault after expelling an angry attorney from the meeting.
The attorney, struggling with the two officials, claimed to have strained ligaments in his shoulder.
Typical of the Keystone Cops-like events was the firing in the morning of a police boss, who was reinstated in the afternoon…and then immediately resigned.
Captain Bert Rojas (lower left) and coach Cy Walton (inset) led Mountain Empire’s first football team.
Although he was in and out of games and hampered by a back injury all season, Bert Ritchey was second-team all-Southern California, perhaps a nod from the media selectors who chose Ritchey for a third-team spot despite Bert’s leading Southern California with 25 touchdowns in 1925…captain and tackle Cy West also earned second-team honors…Perry talked about scheduling a game for Christmas or New Year’s Day with Phoenix Union…this would have been at least three weeks after the season ended and did not happen…Mountain Empire had 12 males on campus in Buckman Springs, 20 miles east of El Cajon…11 were on the football team and the other was the coach, Cy Walton…378 Alhambra supporters made reservations on the steamship S.S. Ruth Alexander out of Los Angeles and arrived the morning of the Moors’ game with San Diego…Alhambra was coached by Charlie Church, who would briefly be the Hilltoppers’ boss in 1928…word from the North was that Church was scrimmaging his charges two hours a day and had taken the team on a two-week trip to the High Sierras in the summer…Point Loma and Mountain Empire, which opened in 1925, joined the County League as varsity members and Oceanside, fielding its first squad, made for an eight-team circuit..Escondido, 4-4 under first-year coach Amner Petty, posted its first nonlosing season since 1919 and its first league victory since 1921…Sweetwater was 7-0 in County play but dropped a 13-2 decision in the first round of the playoffs at El Centro Central….
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