1929: New Sheriff(s) In Town

San Diego High had a new football coach for the third  season in a row and was challenged for supremacy for the first time by a team not from Long Beach Poly or other Coast League rivals.

Coronado High, across San Diego Bay, flexed some muscle.

John Perry left coaching after the 1926 season and was succeeded by John Hobbs in 1927 and Mike Morrow and Charlie Church in 1928.

The new Hilltop coach was John Harold (Hobbs) Adams, a former standout USC lineman fresh from Monrovia High who played on Perry’s 1920 and ’21 San Diego High teams (in 2013 Adams was a second-team lineman on the all-time, all-San Diego County high school squad).

Hilltoppers won with Adams at helm.

Hilltoppers won with Adams at helm.

Adams’s arrival at San Diego ushered in an era of success rivaling that of coaches Bill Bailey and Duane Maley in later years.  The Hilltoppers were 41-11-3 during  Adams’s tenure, which ended after the 1934 season, when Adams accepted a assistant coach position at his alma mater, USC.

Adams’s first team at San Diego posted a 6-1 record, beaten only by archrival Poly 20-13 in a Coast League showdown.

After that game Coronado coach Amos Schaeffer “challenged” Poly. Under a Southern California Interscholastic Federation rule, Coronado, a Group B (minor) school, could challenge a Group A (major school).

Media described the process and similar other midseason challenges as “playoffs”. In reality they were more like midseason “bowl” games, but their results probably contributed to how the actual playoff picture would evolve.

Nov. 9 had been set aside as a date for challenge games open to all schools.


The CIF Southern Section struggled to  have a structured playoff format. Four teams, beginning play in a semifinal round, eventually were selected by Commissioner Seth Van Patten, after the schools agreed to participate.

The Islanders, with Frank (Toady) Greene and Johnny Lyons leading 15 outmanned teammates, took the fight to mighty Poly, leading 7-6 with eight minutes to play before bowing 20-7 in front of 7,000 spectators at Poly’s Burcham Field.

Interestingly, the Los Angeles Times described a “courageous” Poly team, apparently the underdog, that came from behind to defeat the heralded and “classy Coronado eleven”.

Greene ran often and far for Islanders.

Greene ran often and far for Islanders.

The trans-bay squad finished with an 8-1 record, scored 415 points, and dominated the Southern Prep League, also known as the “County” League.

Greene set a standing state record with 11 touchdowns and 14 points after touchdown in a 108-0 victory over Sweetwater and held the school scoring record with 164 points for more than 70 years. J.T. Rogan, playing in 11 games,  broke Greene’s record in 2003.

Greene’s running mate, quarterback Johnny Lyons, played only 7 games but had 15 touchdowns and 92 points.  Both players  went on to Tulsa University.  Greene played for the Chicago Cardinals of the NFL.

Speculation was that San Diego and Coronado would meet in a postseason game for city bragging rights, but an SCIF rule and prior scheduling by the teams prevented a showdown.

The only question was how many points Coronado would score, with Greene (left) and Lyons (right) leading the way.

The only question was how many points Coronado would score, with Greene (left) and Lyons (right) leading.

Prep squads not in the SCIF playoffs were barred from playing beyond Dec. 1. Announced schedules were chaotic, opponents often changing on days’ notice and games routinely canceled.

San Diego had agreed to play games with Phoenix High and Tucson High of Arizona after finishing runner-up to Poly in the Coast League and Coronado was rumored to be going into the Southern Section Group B playoffs.

None of those game scenarios transpired. Nor did a Nov. 9 San Diego High challenge to Fullerton, which instead played Brea.  A San Diego challenge to Covina also fell through.


Evening Tribune writer George Herrick  took a veiled shot at the rival The San Diego Sun:

“Published reports to the contrary, there will be NO game this season between the elevens representing the high schools of San Diego and Coronado,” wrote Herrick, who quoted officials of the schools as “categorically” denying a story in the city’s other afternoon newspaper.

San Diego coach Adams was supposed to have fanned the flame, allegedly declaring that he would “sick his team on the whole bunch of Coronado players, with the coach thrown in.”

Herrick helped cool a potential controversy, pointing out that “although noted for his impulsiveness, Adams claims he was misquoted.”

The Cavers and Islanders could have met on Nov. 9, since Coronado coach Schaefer, in attendance at the Oct. 26 Poly-San Diego game in City Stadium, had informed Herrick he would challenge the Poly-SDH winner.

They called him Cotton because of his "cotton top".

They called him Cotton because of his “cotton top”.


Irvine (Cotton) Warburton has been honored as one of San Diego High’s all-time athletes, known throughout Southern California as a champion 440-yard runner, having won the state championship with a time of :49.6 in the spring  and leading Hobbs Adams’ team in the fall with 10 touchdowns in seven games.

Warburton went on to become an  All-America at USC and, like other Trojans athletes, went into the film industry.  He won an Academy Award for cinematography in 1964 for Mary Poppins.


Warburton earned unofficial all-Southern California first-team honors, the only San Diego-area athlete in the first 11.  St. Augustine’s Blas Torres was  on the second team, and Coronado’s Frank Greene on the third team.


Out of the loop was St. Augustine High, coached by Herb (Duke) Corriere. The Saints were without a league affiliation and virtually without a country.

The Saints’ motto could have been “Have team, will travel. Expenses negotiable.”

They school at 32nd Street and Nutmeg also played by its own rules.  San Diego High graduates Blas Torres and Harry Jones were standouts on this year’s squad, which posted a 7-3 record against teams from all over, several of which were not on the schedule Corriere announced in September.

Itinerate St. Augustine played three games in eight days: Nov. 8 at Yuma, Arizona; Armistice Day, Nov. 11, at Ontario Chaffey, and Nov. 15 versus L.A. Cathedral.

There were 13 high schools in San Diego County, population approximately 210,000. Julian, Mountain Empire, Fallbrook and Ramona did not field teams. Others playing varsity football were Point Loma, La Jolla, Oceanside, Sweetwater, Grossmont, Escondido, and Army-Navy Academy.


Escondido principal Martin Perry convened a meeting of Southern Prep League honchos to protest a 6-6 tie with La Jolla. An apparent winning Escondido touchdown was disallowed by referee Glenn Broderick, who penalized the Cougars for having too many men on the field.

An enthusiastic Grape Picker (a name also attributed to almost anyone from the Northern community as a salute to  the area’s favorite fruit)  came off the bench to celebrate the touchdown before the play was whistled dead.

Perry and his coach, Harry Wexler, appealed on the basis that the offending player had not interfered with the game action and was yards away from the play.

Appeal denied.


Approximately 13,000 at City Stadium watched Long Beach Poly overcome San Diego, 20-13,  with two late touchdowns the day after the stock market crash and earn the Coast League championship and trip to the playoffs.

Poly defeated Huntington Park 7-6 and met Santa Barbara, 2-0 winner over Fullerton, for the SCIF Group A championship, the Jackrabbits outrunning the Golden Tornado 14-6.

Santa Barbara coach Clarence Schutte announced early in the week of the championship that the ‘Tornado might have to pull out because several players came down with the flu.

The Los Angeles Times , quoting SCIF boss Seth Van Patten, reported the next day that the game was on and that if Santa Barbara did not show the contest would be ruled a forfeit.

Coincidentally, the flu “outbreak” was revealed about the time that Northern school big wigs were told the championship would be played at Poly’s Burcham Field. Wrigley Field in Los Angeles and the Memorial Coliseum were unavailable.


The Cavemen, or Hilltoppers, take your choice, scored all of their 27 points in the fourth quarter of a shutout at Army-Navy.  Hobbs Adams played  his reserves in the first three quarters.

Was the San Diego coach worried about blowback from earlier in the decade?

This was the first game between the teams since 1922. Adams was a member of John Perry’s 1920 squad that hung a 130-7 defeat on the Warriors. Two seasons later Army-Navy was on the short end of a 106-6 score.


San Diego’s Class B team, coached by Glenn Broderick, defeated Whittier, 33-7, for the Southern California championship…a few days after the stock market crash Tom Salisbury, a key player for the Hilltoppers, briefly quit school because of “financial difficulties”…another player left the team after choosing a haircut over practiceSan Diego’s bus trip to Alhambra necessitated an overnight stay in Santa Ana…Oceanside coach Glenn Wilson announced during the season that the school henceforth would be known as the Pirates… Oceanside opened in 1904 but did not play football until 1926…located in Pacific Beach, Army-Navy had unveiled a new turf playing field a week before the San Diego visit when Covina was the opponent…approximately 500 students boarded a passenger train to Santa Ana, where a crowd estimated at 5,000 saw San Diego score what was termed an upset win, 6-0, that knocked the Saints out of a possible tie with Poly for the Coast League championship… Poly’s record was 4-0-1. San Diego was 4-1, and Santa Ana 3-1-1… an estimated 15,000 was on hand at Peabody Stadium when St. Augustine scored a touchdown with 20 seconds remaining for a 12-12 deadlock with favored Santa Barbara… the Golden Tornado’s Johnny Beckrich returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a game-ending touchdown and 18-12 victory…  Coronado gridders were presented  gold footballs at an awards banquet attended by more than 300 persons in the Hotel del Coronado…a turnout of 70 invited guests at San Diego Athletic Club, including the  superintendent of schools and other civic honchos, honored the Hilltoppers at their season-ending awards dinner…coach Hobbs Adams declared that San Diego would play a 12-game schedule in 193o, with games already lined up with Phoenix, Los Angeles High, and Fullerton…small schools Whittier and South Pasadena left the Coast League and helped form the Foothill League with Pasadena Muir, Burbank, Monrovia, and the new Glendale Hoover…Fullerton and Covina were expected to take their places, but Fullerton and Long Beach Wilson joined…explosive Coronado scored 13 points in the first 13 seconds of a 52-6 win over Grossmont….

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