1927: Foothillers Bring Championship to Grossmont

Grossmont’s Southern California Minor Division football championship for schools with less than 1,000 students was achieved following a series of competitive and administrative struggles.

Coach Ladimir (Jack) Mashin’s Foothillers defeated Calexico High, 9-0, on the Grossmont gridiron to complete an 8-0-3 season that included a championship in the San Diego County League.

With a 4-0-2 league record and 2-0 nonleague record behind them, the Foothillers opened the playoffs with a 14-7, semifinal victory over the Oxnard Yellowjackets, Holly Partin scoring the winning touchdown on a 13-yard run as the gun sounded to end the game.

The championship was to be decided at El Centro’s Central High, Grossmont taking on the Calexico Bulldogs. But after four hard-fought quarters the teams were tied 0-0.

The San Diego Sun noted Grossmont's playoff game.

The San Diego Sun noted Grossmont’s playoff game.

Grossmont had a chance to win in the closing seconds, but Partin’s field goal attempt from the 15-yard line, on a sharp angle, “failed to clear the crossbar by less than an inch,” according to Charles Savage, The San Diego Union reporter who had made the four-hour trek across the Laguna Mountains to the Imperial Valley locale.


“A heavy rain fell during the entire contest,” Savage wrote.“Officials were forced to abandon the required playoff rule at the end of sixty minutes of play because of darkness. This arrangement calls for five plays by each team, with two points going to the eleven making the most yardage.”

Grossmont’s 12-8 advantage in first downs was not a factor.

Savage also noted that darkness had descended upon the Imperial Valley and that players and spectators could not follow the action in the game’s closing moments.

Instead of being declared co-champions,   CIF Southern Section rules decreed that the teams  should play again. Mashin and Calexico coach Ed Covington both announced that SCIF officials would be requested to fix a playoff date.

“It is probable that the battle will be replayed in the San Diego stadium next Saturday,” Savage wrote.

“Not so fast, my friend,” or words to that effect, were uttered by Calexico’s Covington. Five days after the game a site for the rematch had not been selected.


Long Beach Poly principal Harry J. Moore was the official who coordinated the SCIF Minor Division playoffs.

On Monday, two days following the 0-0 deadlock, Moore notified Mashin that the contest could be played at Grossmont “or any field the Foothillers selected,” according to The San Diego Union.

But Covington protested that the previous game, having been played at El Centro Central (approximately five miles from the Calexico campus) was on a neutral field and that Calexico should be the home team in title game II.

Covington’s argument was specious, but Moore waffled.

Long-distance telephone calls flooded the lines from La Mesa and the Imperial Valley into Moore’s office.  Finally Moore declared that the rematch could be played on the “neutral” Navy Field in San Diego or at San Diego’s City Stadium.

Both venues would be favorable to Grossmont.

The Foothillers argued that they already had made arrangements for a home game, prepared their playing field, and had sold tickets.


Grossmont finally prevailed on choosing of the site, then defeated the Bulldogs before a large crowd on the Foothillers’ field.

Holly Partin was the scoring star for Grossmont.  He kicked a 25-yard field goal in the first quarter and fielded a Calexico  punt and raced 60 yards  to a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Grossmont had a 10-1 edge in first downs and was 2 for 4 on passing attempts, while Calexico did not complete a pass in seven attempts.

Grossmont’s season had begun with the Foothillers scrambling for a game when Mountain Empire dropped out of the County League four days before the eight-game, round-robin league schedule was to begin.

Rumors swirled that the Redskins, who participated in the league in 1926, were going to bail.

The Union reported days before that “coaching gossip” indicated the Campo school did not have enough players or suitable talent to compete.

Grossmont filled the open date at the start of the season and scored a 13-0 victory over the San Diego High B team.


Mashin coached two other undefeated teams during his 25 seasons as head coach at the school which overlooks the El Cajon valley from its perch near the Grossmont summit, hard by Interstate 8.

Mashin had posted a 121-65-23 record for a winning percentage of .650 when he retired from the position after the 1947 season. When he passed away in San Diego at age 92 in 1987 Mashin’s career as a football coach and game official was almost forgotten.

Known as the “Fox of the Foothills,” the kindly Mashin also was track and field coach at Grossmont and developed teams that battled mighty San Diego High and other Coast League and City Prep League powers for league and Southern California supremacy.

In the 1950s Grossmont distance runners and field event competitors were among the best in the country.

Mashin and his wife, Virginia, for many years a math teacher at Kearny, had met when both were on  staff at Grossmont. They traveled internationally, attending several Summer Olympics. At behest of the U.S. State Department, Mashin coached Pakistan’s 1956 Summer Olympics team.

The Fox still was coaching and developing top-flight shot putters in his seventies.

Mashin’s widow died in 2005. She and her husband left much of their estate, almost $2 million, to the Grossmont Union School District, San Diego Education Fund, the San Diego Hall of Champions, and their alma maters, Purdue University for her and Montana State for he.


Relations between San Diego High and its Coast League counterparts were viewed with suspicion.

Evening Tribune columnist Ted Steinmann wondered whether the league’s Northern entries were trying to “freeze out” the Hillers, not notifying them of recent league meetings, and creating an embarrassing situation surrounding the appointment of game officials for the Hilltoppers’ home game against Glendale.

Steinmann wrote that three days before kickoff league president Harry G. Moore of Long Beach Poly  asked San Diego principal John Aseltine to appoint officials from those available in San Diego.   At game time four Los Angeles-area officials showed up.

The San Diego officials “gracefully bowed out after learning to their surprise that the Los Angeles group had been appointed two weeks in advance,” Steinmann wrote.

Steinmann’s report was at odds with that which was reported by The San Diego Sun, which noted two days before kickoff that game officials were coming from a Los Angeles-area association.


San Diego High principal John Aseltine issued a statement saying that Coast League officials took no action to oust the Hilltoppers during a league meeting Dec. 6 at Whittier, but Aseltine hinted of a new direction for his school.

“We are strongly considering the proposition of becoming a free-lance school next year (it did not),” said Aseltine, who spoke in concert with his director of athletics and former head football coach, John Perry.

Clockwise from upper left: Hilltoppers Alfred Ritchey, Virgil Haulman, Henry Landt, John McRae, Ashley Joerndt.

A few traveling Hilltoppers, clockwise from upper left:  Alfred Ritchey, Virgil Haulman, Henry Landt, John McRae, Ashley Joerndt.

Travel time and travel expenses were cited.

Sitting south and alone in  the “Border Town”, San Diego and its league partners were dogged by distance from 1923-49, the years the Hillers were  in the league (not counting the travel-restricted World War II period).

The San Diego Sun pointed out that each school year the Hillers travel more than 100 miles each way for at least three games in all four major sports, football, basketball, baseball, and track and field.

In addition, all  swimming, tennis, and wrestling meets were held at northern schools in the 1926-27 school year, The Sun reported.

“And when northern league members come to San Diego we must split the gate receipts on a fifty-fifty basis,” said Aseltine.

In another move, the CIF said the annual state playoffs were being canceled.


Realtor Oscar Cotton, whose promotional vision led to the creation of the San Diego Convention and Tourist Bureau, urged San Diegans to “Go North”, touting the advantages of buying and building on 60-foot residential lots priced from $150 to $350 in Chesterton, an area in the undeveloped Kearny Mesa.

Completion of the Sixth Street Extension had created an artery to what became Ulric Street and the Chesterton and Linda Vista areas. Chesterton also was accessible from “the inland paved highway, Camp Kearny Boulevard”, later known as Linda Vista Road.

The Sixth Street Extension exists today as that snippet of Sixth Avenue, north of University Avenue, that connects with State 163 (and former U.S. 395) into Mission Valley.


William and Ida Church made history.  They were the first husband and wife in the history of the San Diego Courts system to sit on the same jury.

The Churches were on the panel  trying Hazel Blair, charged with selling beer.

Blair failed to appear as the trial began.  Her sister advised the court that Blair was suffering from “chills and fever”, and her trial was postponed.


The Evening Tribune reported  that students at San Diego High who lost their books or failed to pay for them would be given a “dishonorable dismissal from school”.


The need for a new high school on the “East side” was evident when  enrollment at Woodrow Wilson Junior High, 37th Street and El Cajon Boulevard, jumped from 1,300 to 1,650.

Hoover High would come along in three years, with Wilson principal Floyd Johnson moving on as principal of the new school.

2 FOR 1 

San Diego offered “bargain day” at the Stadium, a football doubleheader on the final Saturday of the season.

Lathrop Junior High of Santa Ana played Memorial Junior High of San Diego in the opening game, followed by old rivals Santa Ana and San Diego in the nightcap.


San Diego coach John Hobbs announced that the Hilltoppers would use the “huddle system” before plays against  Santa Ana.

Ashley West usually barked signals for the Cavers from his quarterback position but Hobbs opted for  more  security as far as which play the Cavers would employ.

Santa Ana coach Tex Oliver was a former coach at Memorial Junior High.


Say it ain't so, Joe. Pirates winless.

Say it ain’t so, Joe. Pirates winless.

Grossmont footballers John Cornelius and Walter Barnett went on to long careers in administration…Barnett was Grossmont’s principal from 1959-76…Cornelius was boss when El Cajon Valley High opened in 1955…Grossmont playoff opponent Oxnard was coached by former Coronado mentor John Nichols…John Perry, who had stepped down as coach at San Diego but remained on the physical education staff, welcomed some 600 students to the first annual interclass handball doubles tournament…Oceanside coach Joe Reynolds promised to field a “much better team” in 1927… Oceanside was 0-8 and scored 6 points; it was 1-6-1 in 1926…Coronado picked up Brawley as an opponent after Mountain Empire dropped out of the County League… an estimated crowd of 3,000 at Coronado watched the Islanders win 6-0 and avenge a loss in the 1926 playoffs…San Diego High’s Class B team defeated Alhambra’s lightweights,  71-0…San Diego’s game with South Pasadena was switched from Saturday to Friday, allowing  Hillers coaches  to scout Santa Ana, their next opponent… Point Loma completed 15 of 16 passes against Sweetwater…the Pointers-Red Devils game was one of 10 scoreless ties involving San Diego teams… La Jolla erected bleachers for 500 spectators for the Vikings’ game with Sweetwater…Kendall (Bobo) Arnett scored all of San Diego’s points in a 13-9 loss at Pasadena on a touchdown and 35-yard field goal… Monrovia, the opponent for St. Augustine in the last game of the season, was coached by former San Diego High standout and future Cavers coach Hobbs Adams… Whittier came into the game with the Cavers with a team average of 190 pounds, making the Poets the largest high school team in the country, according to The Union… Poly defeated Pasadena 6-3 for the Coast League championship before 10,000 fans at Long Beach’s Burcham Field…Fullerton defeated Santa Maria, 20-13, for the Southern California championship… San Diego High finished the season in Arizona, helping Phoenix Union dedicate its new campus stadium and dropping a 7-0 decision to the Coyotes…almost 1,000 students marched the night before, rallying for the “interstate game”…tackle Gordon Cox was named Captain at Sweetwater…Cox would become the Red Devils’ head coach in 1943…Research by The San Diego Sun writer Nelson Fisher revealed that 40 San Diego High graduates had earned college football letters since 1914…thirteen schools, from  USC to California and Notre Dame to Centre, were represented…leading 49-0 at halftime, St. Augustine and South Pasadena Oneonta Academy agreed to eight-minute quarters for the second half…the Saints didn’t slow down with the final score 73-0….


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